[b-hebrew] Genesis 12: 5: RK$

Isaac Fried if at math.bu.edu
Tue Nov 13 19:01:16 EST 2007

I would translate RKU$ of Genesis 12:5 as 'assembled possessions, or  
'mobile property' [German:  Möbel, Moebel], or 'transportable  
possessions'. In particular, the word does not appear to refer to  
owned land, contrary to its present day usage.The word is derived  
from the root RK$ through the insertion of the personal pronoun U =  
HU) for the thing itself. The presence of the letter R in the root  
implies that it refers to a material state of aggregation or  
dispersion. By the equivalence of the letters D, Z, T [Tet], Y, S, C,  
$, T [Tav], and then G, H, X, K, Q we obtain all the immediate  
relatives of RK$: RGZ, RG$; RXC, RX$; RKS, RK$, RKD
רגז, רגשׁ
רחץ, רחשׁ
רכס, רכשׁ
The NAB translates RAXA$ of Psalms 45:2 as 'stirred'. In the KJV it  
is 'overflowing', while Luther sees it as 'dichtet', namely, a  
variant of )R$, and )ARE$ET SPATAYIM of Psalms 21:3. In spoken Hebrew  
RAXA$ is mostly used in the sense of 'creep, crawl' as of a swarm of  
The root RKS in Isaiah 40:4 is 'collect or pile up' resulting in  
REKES, 'mound'. In spoken Hebrew the root is used in the sense of  
'hitch, knot, fasten, button-up'. Correspondingly RUKSAN is 'zipper'.
REKE$ of Micah 1:13 is 'team or group of beasts'.
"luxury commercial  goods [a pillow and a stool?]" is an added  
flourish of the imagination.

Isaac Fried, Boston University

On Nov 13, 2007, at 2:52 PM, JimStinehart at aol.com wrote:

> One of the keys to understanding the Patriarchal narratives is the  
> word  RK$
> ("rekush" or "rekuwsh") at Genesis 12: 5.
> In chapter 14 of Genesis, the word RK$ is used five times to mean   
> "booty",
> or "luxury goods".  Genesis  14: 11, 12, 16, 16, 21
> What really counts for us, however, is how  this same word, RK$, is  
> to be
> understood at Genesis 12: 5.
> (Elsewhere in the Patriarchal narratives, this word is  
> alternatively  spelled
> RKW$.  Gesenius views RK$ as  being a "defective" spelling.  But   
> at Genesis
> 12: 5, and in chapter 14 of Genesis, the spelling is RK$.)
> 1.  Here is the JPS1917  translation of Genesis 12: 5:
> "And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son,  and all  
> their
> substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had   
> gotten in Haran;
> and they went  forth to go into the land of Canaan;  and into the  
> land of
> Canaan they  came."
> Note the odd and ambiguous word used to translate RK$  there:   
> "substance".
> 2.  Not  surprisingly, the best explanation I have found of RK$ is  
> in BDB.
> Here is part of BDB's  explanation:
> "property, goods…gen. term for movable possessions of all  kinds… 
> Gn 12: 5;
> 15: 14….  esp. as booty Gn 14:  11,12,16,16,21"
> Booty, by its nature, consists of luxury goods.  Though RK$ is a  
> fairly broad
> and  somewhat ambiguous word, it fits luxury goods perfectly.  In  
> chapter 14
> of Genesis, RK$ clearly is  referring to luxury goods that are  
> functioning as
> booty.
> (BDB does say that RK$ is broad enough to include  livestock in  
> certain
> contexts.)
> 3.  Gesenius  is also somewhat helpful in explaining RK$ as  
> follows:  "that
> which is acquired, earned, hence  'substance', 'wealth'".
> RK$ brought from Mesopotamia to Canaan could be "wealth"  that had  
> been
> "acquired" in far-away Mesopotamia on a long caravan trip.  That  
> would fit the
> concept of luxury  goods that have been purchased in Mesopotamia  
> for the purpose
> of being sold in  Egypt.
> RK$ does not seem to fit at all well for inherited  property, or  
> family
> heirlooms, or necessities of life such as tents, etc.  The term RK$  
> conjures up an
> image,  rather, of something that has been "acquired" or "earned",  
> and that
> represents  "wealth" of an obvious and readily marketable sort.   
> Though RK$ is a
> broad term that can  potentially include "movable possessions of  
> all kinds",
> nevertheless one  specific type of item that fits the term RK$  
> particularly
> well would be luxury  commercial goods purchased in Mesopotamia for  
> re-sale in
> Egypt.
> 4.  Other  translators use the following English words for RK$ at  
> Genesis 12:
>  5:
> JPS1985:  "wealth"
> KJV:  "substance"  [The annotated  Zondervan KJV Study Bible makes  
> no comment
> as  to what such "substance" may have  consisted of.]
> English Standard Version:  "possessions"
> Young's Literal Translation:  "substance"
> Darby:  "possessions"
> American Standard Version:  "substance"
> Robert Alter:  "goods"  [with no comment in his long book as to   
> what such
> "goods" might be]
> E.A. Speiser:  "possessions"  [with no comment in his long book as  
> to  what
> such "possessions" might be]
> Gerhard von Rad:  "possessions"  [with no comment in his long book  
> as to
> what such "possessions" might be]
> Strong's says "goods, riches,  substance".
> 5.  Other than BDB's nice treatment, and the brief comment by  
> Gesenius, I
> have been unable to find any commentary on what exactly Genesis 12:  
> 5 is
> referring to when it says that Abraham and Lot brought their RK$  
> into  Canaan.
> 6.  I  view the RK$ at Genesis 12: 5 as consisting primarily of luxury
> commercial  goods.  As such, I see RK$ at  Genesis 12: 5 as having  
> a very similar
> meaning to RK$ at Genesis 14: 11, 12, 16,  16, 21.
> 7.  If Abraham and Lot brought luxury commercial goods with them to  
> Canaan
> from Mesopotamia, then we can figure out what is going on in the  
> first several
> chapters of the Patriarchal narratives.  These luxury goods would  
> have just
> recently been purchased in  Mesopotamia, on a one-time caravan  
> expedition to
> that far-away locale, for the  purpose of selling such luxury goods/ 
> RK$ in Egypt
> for a sky high price.  In my view, that is the main reason, not   
> any supposed
> beauty of 65-"year"-old Sarah, why Abraham is able to spend only a   
> very
> short time in Egypt, and then come back to Canaan from Egypt a  
> wealthy  man.  When
> Abraham gets back to  Canaan from Egypt, Abraham has gold and  
> silver, which
> were so very rare in  modest Canaan.  Virtually the only  realistic  
> way that a
> tent-dweller in Canaan could have any substantial amount of  gold  
> and silver
> is if that tent-dweller had managed to sell in Egypt luxury  goods  
> that such
> tent-dweller had acquired on a long and arduous caravan trip to   
> far-off
> Mesopotamia.
> "And Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife,  and all that he  
> had, and
> Lot with him, into the South.  And Abram was very rich in cattle,  
> in  silver,
> and in gold."   Genesis  13: 1-2
> No tent-dweller would come out of Egypt laden with  silver and gold  
> on the
> basis of having tricked a pharaoh as to the marital  status of the
> tent-dweller's wife age 65.  That makes no sense.  A much  more  
> realistic scenario is that
> Abraham sold in Egypt luxury commercial goods  that Abraham's  
> father's family
> had acquired for that purpose on a very long  caravan trip to far-off
> Mesopotamia.
> In my view, the key to understanding the opening  chapters of the  
> Patriarchal
> narratives lies in how we understand the key Hebrew  word RK$ at  
> Genesis 12:
> 5.  I see  RK$ at Genesis 12: 5 as primarily meaning, in context,  
> "luxury
> commercial  goods".  Importantly, this is quite  similar to the  
> well-recognized
> meaning of RK$ in chapter 14 of  Genesis.
> Jim Stinehart
> Evanston,  Illinois
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