[b-hebrew] leviral marriage

Vadim Cherny VadimCherny at mail.ru
Sun Oct 16 03:40:42 EDT 2005

> "I do think that 'verb lo l'isha' etymologically means something like
> concubine, or property-wise lighter than marriage."
> Just to make sure that I understand you. You believe that Sarah was not 
> Abram's wife (Gen. 20:12), nor was Rebekah Isaac's wife (Genesis 24:67), 
> nor was Rachel Jacob's wife (Gen. 29:28), nor was Jochebed Amram's wife 
> (Ex. 6:20), etc. Does the Scripture name a wife for any of these men?
> I don't believe that the Scripture ever calls Leah Jacob's wife? What was 
> her relationship to Jacob?

To begin with, I only present an opinion about 'verb lo l'isha,' not state a 
hypothesis or assert anything. The issue seems curious to me, that's it.

Now back to your examples.

In Gen20:12, Abraham is decidedly evasive. He explains why he told that 
Sarah is not his wife. It is only reasonable that he employs weasel phrase 
"like a wife." In other places, Sarah is his isha without l.

For Gen24:67, see my answers to Yigal. Though not entirely persuasive, they 
rise certain doubts. In the age of forty, Isaac must have been married 
already. He took Rivkah specifically to his mother's tent - not to his or 
his father's. Nothing indicates even a bit of ceremony. Note the sequence: 
he first took Rivkah to the tent, and only then he fall in love with her.
Another possibility is that archaic idiom acquired ceremonial sense. I 
compared that to Russian, "to take in the wives."

In Gen29:28 Rachel, of course, was Jacob's second wife, and thus 
"less-than-a-wife" sense is entirely plausible. I would say, 'verb lo 
l'isha' denotes a kind of marital inferiority, often associated with having 
several wives. Let us test the negation: is isha without l normally employed 
for a single wife?

In Ex6:20, the case is clear: Jochebed was Amram's aunt. There is a 
tradition that patriarchs and important figures followed the law even before 
it was given. Marrying one's aunt is, of course, a violation, and the writer 
consciously or not noted it.

On strictly linguistical grounds, note that l'isha is encountered with lo, 
thus seemingly forming an idiom which must have a certain shade of meaning. 
"Similar to a wife" meaning is both plausible, more or less consistent with 
lo l'isha contexts, and is consistent with l'noun usage as dative or (the 
related) comparative elsewhere.

Vadim Cherny 

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