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

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Thu Jul 12 02:37:53 EDT 2007


This word seems to have no exact equivalent in English. While the
basic idea seems to be connected with completeness, there is also a
moral aspect of following the rules, making sure the I's are dotted
and the T's crossed. So while Esau was galavanting around having fun
on the hunt, Jacob was minding the business in the tents (after all,
father Isaac had inherited Grandpa Abraham's wealth, including
hundreds of slaves, there was plenty of administrative work to be

On 7/11/07, Calvin Lindstrom <pclindstrom at yahoo.com> wrote:
> 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

I agree with you that it makes more sense to translate it according to
how it is used in the rest of Tanakh. I did not know that it is
translated in these other ways that you list. The use of this term
according to usage as in the rest of Tanakh indicates that Jacob's
moral aspects were even then noticeable. That doesn't mean that Jacob
didn't have moral lapses, but it shows his wanting to wanting to
follow the rules and expectation that others do so as well. Notice his
reaction when he found Leah in his bed instead of Rachel.

Karl W. Randolph.

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