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

Karl Randolph kwrandolph at email.com
Wed Jun 29 16:00:02 EDT 2005


Since  ancient times it has been known that after sharpening a steel blade with a stone or pottery, that a final few swipes with a rod of steel would make it sharper. Further, regularly using said steel rod would help keep a blade sharp. (The “iron age” was born when the art of steel making was discovered, as iron was inferior to bronze, especially for weaponry.)

Looking at Proverbs 27:17, the B- prefix is often used to signify instrumentality. While YXD could come from either YXD to be together with, or XDD to sharpen (usually by grinding), what does it mean that steel is together in steel? That does not say anything. However, it does have meaning when read as “Steel is sharpened by steel, and (so) a man sharpens the face of his neighbor.” where human interaction is shown as a way for a person to become improved.

Interaction here has helped me both in communicating and in understanding Biblical Hebrew.

The choice of YXD or XDD comes down to which reading makes a message, and YXD doesn’t.

Karl W. Randolph.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Luke Buckler" <biblical.languages at gmail.com>
> Hello,
> I'm new to this list, and I know next to nothing about Hebrew, so
> forgive me if I'm rather ham fisted and dumb!
> My question is in regards to Pro. 27:17, which in all English
> translations, as far as I know, says something like this: "Iron
> sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" (that's from the ESV), or
> "Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his
> friend" (KJV).
> However, I've recently read a study that disputes the above
> translation and suggested that Prov. 27:17 doesn't say that, but
> rather something like: "iron in iron is united and a man is united to
> faces of his friend".
> The Hebrew sentence in question, without the vowels, is as follows: -
> brzl bbrzl yhd w'yš yhd pny r'hw
> The dispute is over the vowel points in Hebrew word that's translated
> traditionally as 'sharpens', or possibly as 'united'. Without the
> vowel points the Hebrew word is '  yhd  ', I think (sorry if that's
> not how the MCW puts it).
> So (if you could actaully follow that!), is it possible that Prov.
> 27:17 could be read as "Iron in iron is united and a man is united to
> faces of his friend"?
> Thanks
> Luke Buckler
> p.s. I might be able to give more information on this to help
> understand why "Iron in iron is united and a man is united to faces of
> his friend" is suggested, if neccessary.

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