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

Isaac Fried if at math.bu.edu
Sun Jul 15 18:36:27 EDT 2007


By three routes we arrive at the meaning of TAM: By context, by  
family, and by the lack of an R---the Hebrew [also the IE languages?]  
marker of aggregation and dispersion. The near relations of the toot  
TMM [consisting of the two fundamental concepts or existence markers,  
AT-TA and AM-MA, by which we are able to relate TAM to the separate  
personal pronoun ATEM, 'you'] are DMM, [see psalms 107:29], ZMM, [see  
deuteronomy 19:19], SMM, CMM, [see Isaiah 47:2], $MM [see 2 Kings  
13:20]. Essentially they all mean 'solid, inert [not violently  
rushing, non aggressive, not belligerent], stable, grave, stationary,  
sluggish, tame, docile, quiet, kind, withdrawn, peaceful, simple,  
shy, mild, deliberate, innocent, harmless, non threatening,  
wholesome, compact, complete, perfect'.
TMM is also related to TMH, ,astonish, amaze, stun' as in Genesis  
43:33. The remarkable Hebrew word EMET, 'true, solid,  
stable' [opposed to RA, 'flimsy, shaky, fragile'] contains TM in  
reverse, as does MUT, 'die'.
TAM provides an interesting example of how Hebrew [as do, I suppose,  
all other languages] expresses the abstract  idea of 'nothing' [no- 
thing] in terms of the concrete idea of 'everything' [every-thing].  
If something is full, then no free space is left, and nothing can be  
added to it. Consider Genesis 47:18

וַתִּתֹּם, הַשָּׁנָה הַהִוא  
וַיָּבֹאוּ אֵלָיו בַּשָּׁנָה  
הַשֵּׁנִית וַיֹּאמְרוּ לוֹ לֹא- 
נְכַחֵד מֵאֲדֹנִי כִּי אִם-תַּם  

Here TAM is 'finished, exhausted, came to an end'. VA-TI-TOM HA-$ANAH  
means the year completed itself, came to a close, and consequently  
nothing was left of it---time was up. Consider also Psalms  37:19

סָפוּ תַמּוּ

where SAPU is from the roots SUP [related to SOP, 'end'] or SPH,  
related to the roots YSP, )SP, SPP, $PH. $P(, CPH, all of positive  
Such is also the word KALAH, 'finished, perished' from the root KLH,  
related to the root KLL, 'include', once more, of an entirely  
positive connotation.
Another example is the root )PS, related to )BS, as in Genesis 47:15

אָפֵס כָּסֶף

money is depleted, where depleted = de-plet-ed is the opposite of  
completed = com-plet-ed.

Isaac Fried, Boston University

On Jul 11, 2007, at 11:18 AM, Calvin Lindstrom 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
> _______________________________________________
> b-hebrew mailing list
> b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
> http://lists.ibiblio.org/mailman/listinfo/b-hebrew

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