[b-hebrew] Definite Article 7:14

Harold Holmyard hholmyard3 at earthlink.net
Mon Jul 16 08:24:29 EDT 2007

Dear Tory,

>> 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.

HH: Your reference is far from "unambiguous." There are queens and 
concubines mentioned. Your assumption that alamoth were not virgins but 
members of a harem would make them wives or concubines. Concubines were 
not wives, so there is even less of a basis for thinking that "alamoth, 
the third member of a list in Song of Solomon, were wives. And if they 
weren't concubines, then the king of Israel would have been ruining any 
number of women ("alamoth without number") as wives for someone else 
without marrying them himself or relating them to himself legally. Your 
theory assumes the worst possible moral scenario.

HH: The Bible says that his many wives that drew Solomon away from the 
Lord. The Song of Solomon was written when he still had only 60 queens 
and 80 concubines. Later he had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kgs 
11:3). He was apparently young at the writing of the Song and had not 
acquired all these wives and concubines yet. You may be assuming that 
the "alamoth without number" constituted part of the 700 wives he had, 
but that is not a necessary assumption. If Solomon was married to a 
woman, then she was a queen, by definition. And the grammar of the verse 
you cite,  Song 6:8, does not require that the woman belong to Solomon. 
It would have been easy to use a possessive lamed to show that all the 
women belonged to Solomon, but the verse can simply be mentioning the 
sphere of women in Solomon's life that were either his or potentially 
available to him. It may be deliberately structured to avoid the 
assertion that they all belonged to him.
>>>> 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.

HH: The word PARQENOS is glossed as "virgin" in the lexicons. It 
regularly means "virgin." Dinah had been a virgin until this guy raped 
her. You seem to be trying to make an unusual case govern the meaning of 
>>>> 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: There is a law requiring unmarried women to be virgins. And alamoth 
were unmarried as far as we know.
>> 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.

HH: You have not shown that it refers to married women in biblical 
times. The women in Song of Solomon called "alamoth" were not married to 
Solomon. They seem to be young ladies who found Solomon attractive, just 
like young ladies find Matthew McConaughey attractive.

>>>>> "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.

HH: Violation of the pentateuchal code is not the issue. The word is 
never clearly used of married women in the Bible. You are saying that 
theoretically it could be. But that is just an assumption on your part 
until you provide a case where it was. To me the word seems to be used 
of young women before they married.

>>>>> 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.

HH: Song of Solomon 6:9-9 does no such thing. The sentence makes perfect 
sense the way it is translated in many Bibles, such as the NIV:

Song 6:8 Sixty queens there may be, and eighty concubines, and virgins 
beyond number;
Song 6:9 but my dove, my perfect one, is unique, the only daughter of 
her mother, the favorite of the one who bore her. The maidens saw her 
and called her blessed; the queens and concubines praised her.

HH: They were not the king's wives. If they had been, they would have 
been queens.

> 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 rank.
>>> 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);

HH: Nothing says the alamoth were part of Solomon's household. Nor does 
anything require that Shulamith was not.

> 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.

HH: Godless Assyria was not necessarily the same as Israel. The Song 
says that the Shulamite was foremost among the women available in 
Solomon's world, but the Song also implies that he married her at some 
>>>> 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: Genesis 2 shows God's ideal for marriage. And it is only obvious and 
>> 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.

HH: I know the source language, and there aren't any main verbs in that 
verse in the part where you are inserting a present tense. They have to 
be supplied. It is a prophecy he is giving, so it can refer to the 
future. By the way, the translators of these Bibles know the source 
language. I refer to the translations precisely because the men who did 
them were authorities in the language.

Harold Holmyard

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