[b-hebrew] The meaning of TAM in Gen. 25:27

Yigal Levin leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Thu Jul 12 02:22:33 EDT 2007

The word Tam is derived from the root TMM, and as a verb means "finished", 
"completed", "empty". It appears dozens of times in the Bible. Just a few 
are: Gen. 47:18, Josh 4:11, Lam. 4:22. As a noun or an adjective, also 
vocalized "Tom" it means "complete", "fulfilled" and also "wholeness", 
"integrity": such as in Ps. 25:21. A fuller form of the same word is 
"Tamim" - "whole", "complete", "perfect", both in the physical sense (such 
as many times in Lev. 3-5, in which the animals used for offerings must be 
"Tamim") and spiritually or metaphorically, such as Noah's being a 
"righteous Tamim" in Gen. 6:9, Abraham being told to "walk before [God] and 
be Tamim" in Gen. 17:1, or even God being Tamim in Deut. 32:4.

So Jacob, when compared to the rough outdoorsman Esau, was either "simple", 
"honest", "righteous" or "complete". Each of these words could have several 
different meanings in English as well. So what it comes down to, is looking 
at the wider context and trying to understand what the author meant when 
contrasting Jacob to Esau. Obviously, different commentators and translators 
will use different terms, because the picture Jacob differently.

Yigal Levin

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Calvin Lindstrom" <pclindstrom at yahoo.com>
To: "B Hebrew" <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Wednesday, July 11, 2007 6:18 PM
Subject: [b-hebrew] The meaning of TAM in Gen. 25:27

> For a number of years I have wondered about the translation of TAM
> describing Jacob in Gen. 25:27. In contrast to Esau, a hunter and man
> of the field, Jacob is described as being ISH TAM dwelling in tents.
> Is there justification for translating TAM as:
> ESV: quiet
> NET: even-tempered
> NKJV: mild
> Tyndale: simple
> new JPS: mild
> It seems that the translations define the word in an attempt to make
> a contrast with Esau make more sense than to translate the word based
> on how it is used in the rest of the Tanakh. James Jordan comments
> that translating the word TAM as it normally is used puts the story
> of Jacob and Esau into a different perspective than how the story is
> often told.
> Any comments would be appreciated.
> Calvin Lindstrom
> Church of Christian Liberty
> Arlington Heights, IL
> www.christianliberty.com
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