[b-hebrew] Iron sharpeneth iron? (Prov. 27:17)

Karl Randolph kwrandolph at email.com
Mon Jul 4 17:57:56 EDT 2005


I hate to throw water on you, but .....

The form YXD יחד could come from the following roots: XDD חדד, XDH חדה, XWD חוד, YXD יחד, it is the context that helps us decide which one. All of these roots are expressed as verbs in Tanakh.

YXD as a verb occures only twice (there is a third time listed in the concordance, but that is questionable) Genesis 49:6 and Isaiah 14:20. Both cases have grammatical constructs connected with the verb: in Genesis it mentions the locative sense (in their assembly) and in Isaiah the word “with”. Such a grammatical construct is lacking in both uses in Proverbs 27. While that is not proof against your friend’s understanding, it does weaken it.

The second word in the Proverb, BBRZL can either be a locative use, or instrumental. Seeing as iron, unlike an assembly, is a solid, the locative use is pretty much ruled out, leaving the instrumental. If the verb has the meaning of to join, where is the instrumental in the parallelism of the second half of the proverb? An implied instrumental use is there if the meaning of sharpen is used. Again that weakens your friend’s understanding.

The other two verbs don’t make any sense when used in this context.

While I am being cautious not to claim that your friend’s understanding is ruled out, I find it weaker than when the verb to sharpen is used.

Karl W. Randolph.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Luke Buckler" <biblical.languages at gmail.com>

> Thankyou for your replies, Karl, Bryan and Peter,
> It's exciting to hear that "iron in iron is united and a man is united
> to faces of his friend" could be a possible translation of Prov. 27:17
> (especially because it was one of my friends who suggested it - I
> didn't know he was quite so good at Hebrew!).
> Thanks again,
> Luke

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