earlier dictionaries? was [b-hebrew] Offend/dealt corruptly - chet bet lamed (nehemiah 1:7)

Harold R. Holmyard III hholmyard at ont.com
Tue Jun 22 18:18:31 EDT 2004


Dear Karl,

Your work may have many helpful, innovative 
qualities, such as comparing synonyms. But your 
thinking about XBL strikes me as immature so far. 
I just spent nearly a year doing five hundred OT 
word studies. I know that these lexicons do not 
necessarily borrow from one another. There are 
treasures of independent work and many resources 
available now. When you go off on your own, 
ignoring the results of everyone else with XBL, 
perhaps underestimating homonyms and polysemy, 
and apparently paying little attention to cognate 
studies, I have no real grounds for confidence. 
In _The Dictionary of Classical Hebrew_, for 
example, XBL with the meaning of "act corruptly" 
has over a column of references, including 
post-biblical ones. If you don't somehow include 
that meaning, you strike me as a person who is 
not thinking correctly. If DCH were alone, there 
would be more wiggle room, but DCH has findings 
that match those of HAL, TDOT, TWOT, NIDOTTE, 
BDB, and Accordance. Who wants to consult a 
reference work that gives only part of the story? 
I would seriously reconsider what you're doing 
with XBL and other such entries.

Certainly, lexicons are liable to error. Our 
knowledge grows. We make individual and 
collective errors and false assumptions. But 
lexicons are also a storehouse of the collected 
knowledge of humanity with regard to ancient 
words. You talk about "earlier lexicographers," 
but many of the reference tools are recent. With 
XBL, you are not only ignoring the lexicons but 
also the translations and commentaries.

I don't know what you do with XBL in the 
following verses, but NIV may not agree with you:

Is. 13:5 They come from faraway lands, from the 
ends of the heavens - the LORD and the weapons of 
his wrath - to destroy the whole country.
Is. 32:7 The scoundrel's methods are wicked, he 
makes up evil schemes to destroy the poor with 
lies, even when the plea of the needy is just.
Is. 54:16  "See, it is I who created the 
blacksmith who fans the coals into flame and 
forges a weapon fit for its work. And it is I who 
have created the destroyer to work havoc;
Mic. 2:10 Get up, go away! For this is not your 
resting place, because it is defiled, it is 
ruined, beyond all remedy.
Job 17:1 ¶ My spirit is broken, my days are cut short, the grave awaits me.
Job 34:31  "Suppose a man says to God,  'I am guilty but will offend no more.
Song 2:15 Catch for us the foxes, the little 
foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that 
are in bloom.
Eccl. 5:6 Do not let your mouth lead you into 
sin. And do not protest to the [temple] 
messenger,  "My vow was a mistake." Why should 
God be angry at what you say and destroy the work 
of your hands?
Neh. 1:7 We have acted very wickedly toward you. 
We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws 
you gave your servant Moses.

HH: And XBL seems to mean "destroy" in Aramaic as well:

Dan. 2:44 ¶  "In the time of those kings, the God 
of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never 
be destroyed, nor will it be left to another 
people. It will crush all those kingdoms and 
bring them to an end, but it will itself endure 
forever.
Dan. 4:23 ¶  "You, O king, saw a messenger, a 
holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, 
'Cut down the tree and destroy it, but leave the 
stump, bound with iron and bronze, in the grass 
of the field, while its roots remain in the 
ground. Let him be drenched with the dew of 
heaven; let him live like the wild animals, until 
seven times pass by for him.'
Dan. 6:22 My God sent his angel, and he shut the 
mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, 
because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor 
have I ever done any wrong before you, O king."
Dan. 6:26 ¶  "I issue a decree that in every part 
of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the 
God of Daniel.  "For he is the living God and he 
endures forever; his kingdom will not be 
destroyed, his dominion will never end.
Dan. 7:14 He was given authority, glory and 
sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of 
every language worshiped him. His dominion is an 
everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and 
his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
Ezra 6:12 May God, who has caused his Name to 
dwell there, overthrow any king or people who 
lifts a hand to change this decree or to destroy 
this temple in Jerusalem. ¶ I Darius have decreed 
it. Let it be carried out with diligence.

HH: What do you do with all these verses? 

				Yours,
				Harold Holmyard

>Are earlier lexicographers inspired in the 
>theological sense, that they never made any 
>mistakes? Yet, when I look at the dictionary 
>that I wrote, only a tiny minority of the 
>entries have different meanings than given by 
>earlier lexicographers (who sometimes 
>disagreed). The big change I made was to compare 
>lexemes with their synonyms where they could be 
>recognized.
>
>Secondly, I have a different philosophy of 
>lexicography, especially when it applies to 
>Biblical Hebrew: that the lexeme’s meaning, 
>hence its definition, is to be recognized by the 
>action it refers to, only secondarily by the 
>form that it takes. Even so, most of my entries 
>have the same or similar meanings as in earlier 
>lexica.
>
>Thirdly, whereever possible, I look for a 
>unifying meaning that ties all uses of a lexeme 
>together: root and derivitives. That is not 
>always possible. After all, a word may have 
>changed such that it looks as if it came from 
>one root, when it actually came from another. Or 
>a word could originally have been a loan word 
>with a pronunciation that makes it appear that 
>it is related to one root, when it isn’t. To try 
>to find a unified meaning, I go through each 
>occurance of a word in Tanakh asking if, in each 
>context, does it give a semantically 
>recognizeable and consistant meaning where all 
>uses share the same root definition.
>
>Where there are synonyms, I tried to find where 
>they differ in meaning. Not always easy.
>
>One problem is the small corpus we have written 
>in Biblical Hebrew with its large number of 
>hapax legomai words, idioms and phrases.
>
>One of the few words where I differ from earlier 
>dictionaries is in the meaning of XBL, where I 
>see no need for a definition including to offend 
>or deal corruptly. It has many derivitive 
>meanings, but they all go back to a root meaning 
>referring to knotting up or tying up. For 
>example, giving birth comes from the idea of 
>labor pangs, which are the contractions 
>(knotting up) of the muscles. Sailors have a 
>reputation going back to ancient times for their 
>skill with knots. A loan is something that one 
>is tied to, even though this is not a physical 
>knot. And so forth.
>
>I looked at earlier dictionaries, I just don’t agree with them all the time.


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