[b-hebrew] Isaiah 30:14 description of a metal smith?

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Thu Nov 1 13:33:26 EDT 2007


On 11/1/07, Yitzhak Sapir <yitzhaksapir at gmail.com> wrote:
> On 10/31/07, K Randolph wrote:
> > I don't have a copy of HALOT, but if the following is any indication
> > of their quality, I probably should not waste my money getting one.
> Well, I obviously think that your analysis is mistaken, but I just offered
> the information as a nice gesture because I assumed you didn't have
> access to it.  I suggest you get one.  It's very useful as a reference --
> even (and perhaps especially) if you're going to disagree.  Like I said,
> I was just being nice.  Here are some general comments:
Thanks, I appreciate the gesture.

One advantage of getting it, even if I disagree with it, is that it
will help me verbalize the reasons I say what I say concerning Hebrew

> > > According to HALOT, this is a cistern, related probably (in the
> > > very distant past) to the root GBH/GBY "to collect."
> >
> > Talk about the etymological fallacy ....
> An etymological fallacy is the breaking down of a word into its
> etymology to derive the meaning.  This is not the case here, nor
> is the meaning "cistern" based solely on etymology.  The meaning
> is based primarily on early translations and the context.  It is only
> in retrospect that the etymology can be derived.
That's how I derive etymology. Unless I can see a connection from
meaning, even if a word has the same spelling, I won't combine it to
the same root.

One of the problems with early translations is that the earliest of
them, the LXX, was after a time when already some of the rarely used
terms were forgotten. So while we can use them as a guide, they are
not always correct.

Having said that, I admit that my first reaction to Isaiah 30:14 was
to understand GB) as "vat". The things that made me hesitate is that
by the time I reached that part of the verse, I already had a strong
suspicion that the verse is describing a blacksmith's shop, in a
blacksmith's shop water is not stripped or poured off from a vat but
kept there, and in Ezekiel it is used in connection with a river as it
empties into an ocean. The thing that settled it for me is the
remembrance (and I checked to make sure my memory was correct) that
salt water was used in tempering steel to harden it, thus the picture
is of a worker going down to a salt marsh to get salt water to bring
back to the smithy.

It was context that made me disagree with HALOT.

(I suspect I use "context" more than all other members of this list
put together.)

> > The picture given in Ezekiel is that this is connected with where a
> > river empties into a sea, in particular a salty sea (ocean). This
> > would be in a delta which usually has marsh lands typified with
> > brackish to salty water.
> >
> > > ...  The root X&P
> > > is related probably to Ug xsp "to scoop, pour water" and Arabic
> > > xasufa "to pour out water".
> >
> > This verb is used over 10 times in Tanakh, so its meaning is fairly
> > clear. It has the basic idea of removing, stripping off. At times it
> > is used where the object stripped off is not named, but understood
> > from the context.
> It is somewhat presumptuous to suppose that a certain word used
> so many times is used always with one meaning and not in one case
> in a secondary sense.

I have said this before, but in this context it bears repeating: I
have found in studying languages it is best to assume that words have
one and one only meanings. Unless there is clear evidence to the
contrary, we do not have homonyms. For some words, the semantic range
of meaning is narrow, for others wide. In cases where the semantic
range is wide, while it still has one unitary meaning in its original
language, it may be best to translate it using multiple words in the
second language, but that is translation, not definition.

Secondly, when we come across an example of a word used in the context
where the meaning is not clear, it is best to go with the meaning
derived from other contexts, unless it clearly does not fit. Then
either adjust the meaning found in other contexts to one that fits all
contexts, or if that is not possible, admit that here we deal with

> ....  The Hebrew Bible is only a small window to
> the complete language that was spoken.

> > NBL as a root refers to the action of becoming flabby, such as when a
> > plant loses turgidity and becomes flaccid. As a noun, it refers to a
> > flabby object, like a leather bag.
> Now that is getting close to sounding like an etymological fallacy
> (although it isn't yet there).
I already had the meaning, before I inferred the etymology.

> Yitzhak Sapir

Thanks again for the reference to HALOT.

Karl W. Randolph.

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