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

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Mon Jul 4 20:20:45 EDT 2005

On 04/07/2005 22:57, Karl Randolph wrote:

>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.

(Note, Karl, that you cannot use this HTML notation for Hebrew 
characters in plain text e-mail. I don't know if you see any Hebrew 
characters above, but I don't.)

>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.

Karl, I don't know quite what you mean by "grammatical constructs" here. 
Not apparently what is usually called the construct state. In Genesis 
49:6 there is a sentence with a subject KBDY, no direct object, but a 
locative adverbial QHLM introduced with B-. In Isaiah 14:20 the 
construction is similar except that the second person subject is 
incorporated into the verb, the locative adverbial with B- is QBWRH, and 
there is an additional adverbial of accompaniment )TM "with them", hence 
"you will not be united to a grave with them". And in Proverbs 27:17 the 
construction is identical in the first half verse: subject BRZL, 
locative adverbial BRZL again with B-; in the second half verse the 
subject is )Y$, but B- is omitted before the locative adverbial PNY-R(HW 
is introduced, presumably for stylistic reasons and perhaps because the 
combination BPNY usually has connotations of hostility which are 
inappropriate here.

So I see no reason in the grammatical construction to rule out the verb 
YXD here. It is the Masoretic pointing which rules it out, as I pointed 
out before, for the verb YXD could not have patah in the first syllable 
(which is stressed), implying that this is not a verb at all but the 
adverb YAXAD "together". But oddly I cannot find a case of YAXAD, or the 
similar YAXDAW, with an adverbial meaning "together with".

>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, ...

This simply doesn't follow. It is quite possible to be joined or united 
with a solid - as has been suggested before, by magnetism or welding, or 
all kinds of other means of fixing two solid objects together.

>... 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? ...

Why does there have to be an instrumental? There is no instrumental in 
Genesis 49:6 or Isaiah 14:20.

>... 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.

Well, I tried to do a similar analysis for the meaning "sharpen", the 
verb XDD (or possibly XDH). If you are taking Proverbs 27:17 as Qal, the 
only other occurrence of the verb is in Habakkuk 1:8, and there is no 
instrumental adverbial there. The Hophal is found only at Ezekiel 
21:14,15,16, and again no instrumental adverbial. These are the only 
occurrences, except for the doubtful Proverbs 27:17. So your proposal 
that this is the verb in the Proverbs verse is by your own criteria 
seriously weakened (but not ruled out), because it is a unique 
construction of XDD (or XDH) with an explicit instrument.

Perhaps the root XWD makes sense here after all, for clearly this is a 

Peter Kirk
peter at qaya.org (personal)
peterkirk at qaya.org (work)

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