[b-hebrew] Leviral marriage - prepositions & grammar

Vadim Cherny VadimCherny at mail.ru
Sun Oct 16 16:49:26 EDT 2005

Shalom Yigal,

Well, we need to define what is less than legal wife.
The strongest case, IMO, is leviral marriage. Consider Deut26:6: a child 
from leviral marriage succeeds in the name of the gone brother. If that was 
a normal marriage, he would of course succeed in his father's name. And such 
marriage is consistently referred as lo l'isha.

Next, take Sarah. From a cursory look, the only time she is called l'isha is 
when Abraham tries to explain why she is more of a sister to him.

Next, take Rachel. She was the second wife.

Next, take Ruth. Her marriage was--to avoid discussion of 

l'isha occurs idiomatically with lo. If preposition l would be simply a 
grammatical fluke, irrelevant and meaningless, that correlation would not 

A notion of similarity (approaching, but not reaching) which might be seen 
in 'verb lo l'isha' is fundamental to preposition l.


> Roman law forbade polygamy. This did not necessarily obligate citizens (or 
> kings) of client states, but Herod did his best to emulate Roman customs.
> As far as the Bible - you have not quoted a single example of l'ishah 
> unequivocally meaning anything "less" than a legal wife.
>>> Herod walked a fine line between Oriental despotism and Roman "rule of 
>>> law". A Roman could only have one wife at a time, so Herod was careful 
>>> to dispose of one before marrying anothe.
>> Other monarchs in the Roman world did not care. Polygamy, I think, had to 
>> do less with fine feelings than with the practical issues of inheritance 
>> and--in the case of kings--of regency. Also, common people would have 
>> find it difficult to provide for several wives.
>> I do think that 'verb lo l'isha' etymologically means something like 
>> concubine, or property-wise lighter than marriage. In time, it might 
>> acquire either colloquial sense, close to concubine, or archaic and 
>> ceremonial sense. Russian, "take into [the circle of one's] wives" became 
>> ceremonial. Both interpretations are meaningful in the case of Rivka, 
>> though each remains a more or less possible conjecture.
>> The point is, however, that the preposition l in 'verb lo l'isha' is 
>> meaningful; not just "became a wife" (instrumental), or "took a wife" 
>> (accusative), but perhaps, "took for a wife," "took similarly to a wife" 
>> or something like that, an idiom originally different from simple "took a 
>> wife." Since "verb lo l'isha" is an idiom, it seemingly does not prove 
>> instrumental case for l'nephesh in Gen2:7. I still assert that l is 
>> always dative, and hih l always mean that subject becomes close to the 
>> object, but not strictly an object; thus, similar to it.
>> Vadim

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