[b-hebrew] Flying or Darting in Isaiah 14:29 and 30:6

Karl Randolph kwrandolph at email.com
Mon Apr 10 07:57:46 EDT 2006


The more I get into lexicography, the more I 
realize that there are many words, particularly 
among those used fewer than five times in Tanakh, 
that are largely unknown as to their meanings. This 
is especially true of animal names, even as early 
as LXX, many animals that were extent when Tanakh 
was written were no longer found in Israel. I 
listed the case of NMR where published dictionaries 
were unanimous in claiming that it means "leopard", 
however in Jeremiah 13:23 it is mentioned as having 
stripes. Are there any leopards that have stripes? 
I have never heard of any.

Many of the animals are mentioned only once or in 
only one context in Tanakh, often in a context 
where they are listed with no explanation as to 
what sort of animal they are. We'll need to go to 
cognate languages or further for clues as to what 
animals are listed.

For example, http://www.rae.org/pteroets.html makes 
the claim that "flying" was added to distinguish an 
Egyptian creature from a locally known one that had 
the same name. "Archibald H. Sayce says that the 
Egyptian word seref means "flying serpent." An 
Egyptian origin for the word appears plausible 
since there is archaeological evidence and ancient 
accounts of the presence of flying reptiles there. 
Since the Israelites had lived there for many 
years, it is not surprising that they adopted the 
Egyptian name for them." In other words, "flying" 
was added to #RP (Egyptian loan word) to 
distinguish it from #RP (local word) referring to a 
different animal.

Other words in Isaiah 14:29 include NX$ which is 
related to the word meaning to divine. I have read 
ancient accounts of watching the movement of snakes 
for divination, so the connection makes sense.

CP( is a happax legomai. Is it the same creature as 
CP(WNY? There is no reason to say that it was.

None of these creatures were mythical nor creatures 
of fantasy. But what were they? Are our guesses 

In closing, I see no reason not to accept the 
literal readings of the verses.

Karl W. Randolph.

> ----- Original Message -----
> From: tladatsi at charter.net
> Hello,
> I think the contex  is still against a literial reading of *flying* 
> whether a pterosaur or a winged snake or a cockatrice.   In Isaiah 
> 14:26 the sequence of images and metaphors are there is a ordinary 
> snake (nakhach) which is a root (sheresh).  From this root grows a 
> stem or trunk, another ordinary snake (tsefa').  The fruit of this 
> root and stem is the *saraf m'ofef*.
> I read the sequence as ordinary snake (nakhach) gives rise to 
> ordinary snake (tsefa') gives rise to ordinary snake (saraf 
> m'ofef).  I do not see any pattern or logic that would lead to a 
> pattern of *snake - snake - flying snake*.   King Ahaz had just 
> died and the Philistines were rejoicing as Ahaz had been scourge to 
> them.  The image is that from the root of Ahaz (someone dangerous 
> to the philistines as a snake might be) would arise some just as 
> dangerous, his son (an other snake, even more dangerous) so don't 
> rejoice.   I would venture that the sequence is one of increasing 
> degree of deadlyness of the venom of the three snakes.  Saraf has 
> as its root the sensation of burning, as a snakes venom has.  So if 
> the reader / listener associate *saraf m'ofef* as the most venomous 
> of the three snakes, the sequence makes sense.  The aspect of 
> flying does add any extra danger.
> --
> Jack Tladatsi

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