[b-hebrew] Genesis 20: 1

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Wed Oct 10 08:10:55 EDT 2007

On 10/8/07, Jim Stinehart wrote:
> Yigal Levin:
> You wrote:  "[I]n this case, the construct "Arcah Han-negev" is a proper
> place-name: "The Land of the Negev".  So it cannot mean "south  of....".
> I disagree.  The Hebrew phrase "arcah he-negev" in Genesis 20: 1 cannot
> possibly mean  "The Land of the Negev", as you assert, for the following reasons.
> 1.  Suffix  "-ah"
> As you of course know, when a "he" is used as a suffix  ("-ah"), it means "
> to" or "toward".  It cannot be ignored, and it cannot mean "through".  Thus
> even if the rest of your wording of  Genesis 20: 1 were right, the phrase
> would be "to The Land of the Negev".  Note how that wording of yours does not
> make sense in Genesis 20: 1.  If  Abraham and Sarah went "to" the Negev Desert,
> they would not settle "between  Qadesh and S(h)ur" in the middle of the
> Sinai Desert.  Wrong desert.


You began this thread with: I would  like to know if my proposed new
of Genesis 20: 1 is grammatically  possible.

In that case, I really suggest you start with a Hebrew grammar book.

However -ah is a locative case in Hebrew.  My general impression is that it is
more often used with proper place names.  Thus, the word ?arcah would mean
"to the Land."  In Ancient Hebrew, the case of the first word in a
construct chain
took the appropriate grammatical case (nominative, genitive,
accusative, locative),
while further words took the genitive case, which dropped.

Thus, ?arcah hannegev is an indivisible construct chain that means "Land of
the Negev," most likely a proper name because it ("Land") takes the locative
case.  The construct chain can't be broken with a comma, and as a chain,
only the last member of the chain normally takes the definite article
-- but even
so, it still generally applies to all members of the chain.
Accordingly, "?arcah
hannegev" would mean "land of the desert" or more likely, "The Land of the
Desert."  If your question is whether the translation is grammatically
the answer is a resounding No.  Also, the Hebrew has a compound "between"
(something like 'either X or Y' but 'between X and Y' in this case), which you
seem to have broken in your translation.  Treating either the 'between X and Y'
or the construct chain as divisible units is not grammatically possible.

For that matter, Negev doesn't simply mean "South," it means "dry."  Its
meaning "South" is secondary, because the Negev ("Dry land") is to the
south of Israel and Judea.  Elsewhere other terms are used.  I think it is very
doubtful that "Negev" would be used to apply to anywhere but a dry area, or
specifically, an area north of Judea, and you would need to provide an example
where such a reading is obvious and unambiguous for you to make the step
forward and read this elsewhere (such as in this attempt at Genesis

Yitzhak Sapir

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