[b-hebrew] Genesis 32:32

Gary Hedrick garyh at cjfm.org
Wed Feb 28 01:04:04 EST 2007

     Brian, it's actually 32:33 in the Hebrew text.  It seems like this
would be going the long way around to issue a divine prohibition against
cannibalism.  Furthermore, such a prohibition would be superfluous in light
of all the detailed kashrut laws (although, come to think of it, there may
not be one that specifically says, "Don't eat each other").  More likely the
Soncino Talmud (Mas. Chullin 76a) is on the right track when it interprets
the Hebrew term gid hanasheh as "tendon."  The accompanying commentary
explains: "I.e., the Achilles Tendon, the name given to the aggregated
tendons in the distal part of the tibia. V. Gemara."  However, some of the
old Hebrew lexicons (like Thayer) identify it as nervus ischiaticus, or the
sciatic nerve.  Interestingly, this is one of the 613 mitzvot of traditional
Judaism (negative command # 183, where gid hanasheh is interpreted as "sinew
of the thighvein" - see
http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/613_mitzvot.html).  Some
rather obscure sources say this nerve or muscle was used in temple
sacrifices, but I don't know if that's really true.  In modern Hebrew, we
would think of the word naseh (as in ha-nasheh) as meaning something that's
hanging, lifted, or holding on.  So maybe it's a muscle or nerve that is
been displaced from around the hip socket and no longer functions like it's
supposed to.  Admittedly, this is difficult.  Whatever it was, we know it
caused Jacob to walk with a distinct limp from that time on.   


Gary Hedrick

San Antonio, Texas


-----Original Message-----
Dear listmembers;


Genesis 32:24-32 tells the odd little story of Jacob wrestling with 

God(?), and the last verse contains a reference, which, in English, is 

translated in various ways, among them "Therefore the children of Israel 

eat not of the sinew which shrank, which is upon the hollow of the thigh 

unto this day; because he touched the hollow of Jacob's thigh in the 

sinew that shrank."


What is the consensus about the original Hebrew meaning of this? Some 

have expressed the possibility (again, based on one English translation) 

that it may reference a prohibition against cannibalism. I didn't have a 

ready answer for them, not being a Hebrew scholar.


Best Salaams,


R. Brian Roberts

Amateur Researcher in Biblical Archaeology

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