[b-hebrew] The 'Golden Rule of Hebrew Etymology'?

Isaac Fried if at math.bu.edu
Mon Feb 5 06:14:19 EST 2007


Dear Karl.
You say: “ברך (BRK) to kneel down (to) -> to bless, not only as a superior blesses an inferior, but also as a form of greeting and to gain honor”.
I wonder where you got all this (it appears to me suspiciously like a description of sir Lancelot’s knighting ceremony). I must say that I do not find even a shred of biblical evidence to suggest that the act of blessing involved any ritual of falling on the knees. In Genesis 48:14 we find a blind old man putting his hands on the head of his grandchildren, but kneeling, where does this come from?
In fact, I can hardly believe that for such a primeval (recall that in the beginning God blessed Adam and Eve and also the seventh day), delicate and spiritual act that has its origin in the heart and is carried out by voice or thought the bible would use such a crude imagery as a dubious social custom of falling on the knees before a superior.

In my humble, yet unwavering, opinion BRAKAH, ‘blessing’, has nothing to do with BEREK, ‘knee’. They are both different derivatives of the same root, which essentially means ‘to separate’, ‘to single out’, ‘to distinguish’.  

Kohler and Baumgartner should be lauded for avoiding in their great dictionary another related popular pseudo etymology, the one claiming that ברכה (BREKAH), ‘pool’, is so called because man and beast kneel at it to drink and wash.
Isaac Fried, Boston University

-----Original Message-----
From: K Randolph [mailto:kwrandolph at gmail.com] 
Sent: Thursday, February 01, 2007 3:16 PM
To: Isaac Fried
Cc: George Athas; b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] The 'Golden Rule of Hebrew Etymology'?

Using the restriction that words with a resh refer to aggregation or
dispersion, secondly that "the Hebrew root describes a material state,
not an ongoing act or process."

First of all, I disagree with the second point, for often the Hebrew
root only makes sense when understood as referring to an ongoing (or
finished) act or process.

Starting with the list as provided, getting as far as words beginning
with a dalet, I get the following:

אבר to soar, אגר  to gather in as a farmer brings in the harvest, אדר
to have splendor, אור to give light, אזר to gird about, אחר to delay,
אטר to restrict, prevent access to, איר NN, אכר NN, אמר to say, אסר to
tie to, to yoke, אפסר NN, אפר NN, אפשר NN, אצר to treasure up, ארב to
lie in wait, as in hunting, ארג to weave, ארגז NN, (ארה to nibble),
ארז NN, ארח to travel, ארך to draw out (time, measurement, anger), ארס
NN, ארע NN, ארץ NN, ארר to curse, ארש to become engaged (to be
married), אשר to make happy, to become happy, אתר NN,
באר to draw out (both literally and figuratively, as in drawing out a
meaning, explaining), בגר NN, בדר NN, בהר NN, (בור to dig out
(metaphorically, to search out) αλ), בזר to allot, בחר to choose, בכר
to be first born, בסר NN, בער to consume, in the sense of destroying,
making useless ⇒ to remove, to be useless, ignorant, בצר to gather
(grapes): to withdraw (from) ⇒ to fortify (making the enemy withdraw
from), בקר to look after, ברא to create, set up, ברג NN, ברד to hail,
ברה to be fed, ברז NN, ברח to pass through ⇒ to become a refugee, ברך
to kneel down (to) ⇒ to bless, not only as a superior blesses an
inferior, but also as a form of greeting and to gain honor, ברק to
flash, ברר to select out, removing the inferior, in the sense of
selecting out superior quality, among humans selecting for moral
quality, (בשׂר to report, often a good report), בתר to section, cut
into pieces
גבר to overpower, master, גדר to fence around, גהר to prostrate
oneself, גור to sojourn, live temporarily in a place: to be
intimidated, גזר to part off, sever ⇒ to part off words, hence decree,
גיר NN, גמר to make a secession once and for all, גער to rebuke, גפר
NN, גרב NN, גרגר NN, גרד to scrape, scratch αλ, גרה to provoke, as in
inciting, stirring up trouble, גרז to trim away, as part of dressing
stone, preparing lumber, גרט NN, גרל NN, גרם to gnaw, גרן NN, גרס to
grind down, גרע to diminish by plucking out (beards), removing, גרף to
mire down, גרר to grind by crushing, גרש to drive out, גשר NN,
דבר to sting, poke or injure with a sharp object??, to lay low as in
causing injury or death?? Ps 18:48, 47:4, 2 C 22:10: to express in
word or action, דגר to sit (on a nest), דהר to gallop αλ, דור to
cycle, make a circle, דקר to stab, דרא NN, דרבן NN, דרג NN, דרדר NN,
דרך to range about (as in walking), to place with others in a cause,
to put in line with a target, דרס NN, דרר NN, דרש to seek (for),

"NN" means Not Noted, i.e. not found as a verb in Tanakh. There are
quite a few of those. There are a few not from the original list
included within parentheses. A few of the words have what seem to be
homonyms, the second meaning following a colon.

For me, it's a real stretch to fit many of the words as either an
aggregation or dispersion. For example, what about to wait? to gnaw?
to consume? to make a cessation once and for all? to mire down? to
take a few examples.

Karl W. Randolph.


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