[b-hebrew] Definite Article 7:14

Tory Thorpe torythrp at yahoo.com
Mon Jul 16 01:03:14 EDT 2007

On Jul 15, 2007, at 10:52 PM, Harold Holmyard wrote:

> HH: There's no biblical reference which indicates that "almah"  
> describes
> a married woman.

I supplied one unambiguous reference from The Song of Sol. You simply  
choose to deny it because of your theology. If I supplied another  
reference, you would undoubtedly deny that one as well and for the  
same reason.

>>> The Jews who translated the Septuagint in 200 B.C.E. or so evidently
>>> felt that the word implied a
>>> virgin.
>> False. The "Jews" who created the LXX did not restrict the meaning of
>> PARQENOS to physical virgins (cf. Gen. xxxiv 3). So you cannot say it
>> implies physical virginity in Isa. vii 14 even in the Greek version.
> HH: Yes, there are exceptional cases with PARQENOS, but the word
> generally means virgin...

But then the word evidently did not have this generic meaning for the  
Alexandrian Jewish translators working in the 3rd century BCE. What  
you said was that the "Jews" who created the LXX felt the word almah  
implied a physical virgin. The example from Gen. xxxiv 3 (and  
elsewhere) shows that you cannot make that deductive leap.

>>> In addition, the law of Moses required that women be virgins
>>> before they were married. This word seems to describe young  
>>> women, women
>>> before they were married. So one assumes that they were virgins.
>> What word are you talking about?
> HH: 'almah.

There is no law of Moses requiring women to be almahs before they  
were married.

> HH: The culture required virginity of the young women who weren't
> married. This word does not describe married women in biblical  
> times as
> far as we know.

Yes the word can, as I have shown.

>>>> "All modern scholars, however, agree that the Heb
>>>> [almah] merely denotes a young woman of marriageable age, whether
>>>> married or unmarried, whether a virgin or not."
>>> HH: True, but quite a number of scholars believe that the word,  
>>> while
>>> not strictly requiring virginity, would have been associated with  
>>> it in
>>> Israel.
>> The word almah simply connotes youth, as does the masculine form, in
>> the TaNaK. But saying that youth is associated with virginity, while
>> true in almost every culture, is not a given in one where pre-teen  
>> and
>> teenage marriages are the norm. A female or male Israelite is no
>> longer considered an elem/almah after a certain age, not necessarily
>> after marriage or after they have had sex (cf. BDB s.v. elem, "young
>> man," almah, "maid or newly married").
> HH: It is a given where death can be the penalty for a violation of a
> norm commanded by God. Israel was special in this regard.

Honestly, what are you talking about here? It is no violation of any  
pentateuchal code for a pre-teen or teenager to marry. Since the word  
we are debating connotes youth, an almah "newly married" (BDB) is  
still an almah. It refers to an age-group.

>>>> This sense is already in archaic BH where we see that the plural of
>>>> almah may denote a
>>>> separate category of young wives in the royal harem among queens  
>>>> and
>>>> concubines (Song of Sol. vi 8; cf. BDB s.v. almah, "maid or newly
>>>> married").
>>> HH: Nowhere does the Song of Solomon indicate that the women dubbed
>>> "almah" were part of a royal harem. The young women in Israel  
>>> could have
>>> swooned at Solomon the way that young women nowadays swoon at  
>>> Hollywood
>>> hunks or star athletes.
>> Then you would make the sixty queens and eighty concubines whose  
>> wives
>> in Israel?
> HH: Queens and concubines have a different position in society than
> 'almahs. So just because Solomon had queens and concubines in his  
> harem
> did not mean that he had "almahs" in his harem.

The context of Song of Sol. vi 8-9 clearly places the alamot in  
question in a similar relationship with respect to the king as queens  
and concubines, namely, they were all the king's wives. That does not  
mean alamot throughout the land of Israel were married women, or had  
the same status as the king's wives. The women of the royal harem in  
the ancient Near East held different ranks and Song of Sol. vi 8-9  
reflects that arrangement by listing queens first, concubines second,  
then alamot. For more on this I would recommend S. C. Melville's  
paper "Neo-Assyrian Royal Women and Male Identity: Status as a Social  
Tool," JAOS 124 (2004). Among other things, Melville talks about the  
younger women forming a specific subset of concubines (MI.ERIM.E.GAL)  
in the palace always hoping to change their status and rise higher in  

>> All of these women in Song of Sol. vi 8, i.e. "sixty queens, eighty
>> concubines, and alamot without number," were part of the royal harem;
> HH: You haven't supplied any evidence for that.

Well, you can pretend I didn't. The literary analysis of Song of Sol.  
vi 8-9 is evidence (queens, concubines, and alamot praise the maid of  
Shulem because she is the king's main love interest yet she was not  
like one of them, i.e. she was not a member of the royal household  
where one would expect the king to find his favorite); and the apt  
(albeit brief) comparison to the royal harem in the Neo-Assyrian  
period is more evidence. The whole point in enumerating sixty queens,  
eighty concubines, and alamot without number is to show that the king  
had access to this many wives, but instead loved the maid of Shulem.

>>> Since having two wives simultaneously was not God's ideal
>>> (Genesis 2), I do not want to saddle Isaiah with the assumption  
>>> of his
>>> being bigamous.
>> This is a problem for you the christian, not the preexilic
>> Torah-observant Israelite.
> HH: God allowed Israelistes to have more than one marriage, but it was
> not his ideal. God ordained the man and woman to unite in marriage. A
> woman does not want to unite with her husband's other wife.

Harold, your crucifix is showing.

> HH: Some translations agree with you: NRSV and CEV. I don't think the
> case is uncontestable that the verbs show that the woman was already
> pregnant.

The verbs very clearly indicate pregnancy at the moment Isaiah is  
speaking to Ahaz. I don't much care whether christian bible  
translations agree or disagree with that. Mastering the source  
language without having to depend or refer to a translation is a sine  
qua non for research.

Tory Thorpe

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