[b-hebrew] "Mizan el zan" in Ps. 144:13

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Sat Aug 25 11:59:21 EDT 2007

Dear Yigal:

Sorry about the delay, but I have been thinking about your question.

On 8/23/07, Yigal Levin <leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il> wrote:
> Dear all,
> Ps. 144:13a reads "Our larders are full, producing 'mizan el zan'". This is my translation, attempting to render the Hebrew as literally as possible.
> I know that the precise translation of the word that I rendered "larders" is disputed, but I want to focus on the second part. The word "zan" appears only in this phrase, and maybe in 2 Chr. 16:14 (although I'm not convinced that it's the same word). Most translations understand the word "zan" as "kind" or "sort". Many commentaries cite "zan" here (and in 2 Chr. 16:14) as either an Aramaic or a Persian loanword. Indeed, in the targumim, "zan" is the common translation of the Hebrew word "min" - "species" (for instance, in Gen. 1:11 etc.). And so the unique phrase "mizan el zan" is understood literally "from kind to kind" and rendered "of all kinds" and the like.
> Accordingly, the verse is usually translated "That our garners may be full, affording all manner of store" (KJV); "May our barns be filled, with produce of every kind" (NRSV); "Our barns will be filled with every kind of provision" (NIV) and the like.
> However, the LXX does not. There, "mizan el zan" is rendered "ek toutou eis touto", apparently preserving a Hebrew "mizeh el-zeh" - "from this to that" or "from here to there".
> In the MT, the verse seems incomplete - the translations added the word "store", "provisions" and the like, but it's not there in the Hebrew.
> Finally, my questions:
> 1. Does anyone know of an Old Persian word "zan" or the like, that could have been borrowed by the Hebrew and the Aramaic as "species"?
> 2. Is there any other indication (presumably linguistic) that this psalm is late enough for such borrowing to have happened?
> 3. In any case, how do y'all explain the syntax of the Hebrew?
> Much thanks,
> Yigal Levin

Let's assume for a moment that it is the same word as used in 2
Chronicles 16:14, where we have more of a context to try to tease an
understanding out of it. Here it is used as a noun, plural, followed
by plural participle used as an adjective. This still doesn't give us
our meaning, but it narrows it down so that in Psalms 144:13 we are
dealing with a noun.

My understanding, and I could be wrong, is that the phrase "M-(noun)
)L (noun)" would best be translated into English as "all sorts of
(noun)". Are there other examples of such a construction in Hebrew?

Going back to 2 Chronicles, the context seems to indicate that ZN is a
type of spice, or a spice mixture mixed together for effect. From
reading history texts, it is my understanding that spices were
expensive in ancient times, thus to have a store room filled with all
kinds of spices, that indicated wealth. That fits the context of Psalm

Now which spice it is, we don't know, that has been lost. Forgotten
already by the time the LXX was authored, which is not surprising as
there seems to be several words that had been forgotten by that time.

If it were a spice, it is very likely that it was imported, and the
word ZN imported with its spice.

If they are not the same word in Psalms and Chronicles, then the above is moot.

As far as trying to date the text from linguistic clues, forget it, we
have so little data that any such attempt will be more influenced by
our presuppositions than by data.

Karl W. Randolph.

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