[b-hebrew] Genesis 15: 4: bowels/me'ah vs. loins/chalats
JimStinehart at aol.com
JimStinehart at aol.com
Fri Oct 19 11:22:09 EDT 2007
Rev. Bryant J. Williams III:
You raise a fascinating issue regarding Hebrew language when you write:
"Genesis 15 is quite clear that a child from Abram's (Abraham's) own body will
be born (vss. 1-6)."
Let me set forth the controversial issue here regarding the exact Hebrew
wording involved. And then perhaps the experts in Biblical Hebrew on this list
(perhaps including you?) can help us understand the precise meaning of two
different Hebrew words.
1. Jacob/"Israel" is promised, unambiguously, that his heir will come from
"'[K]ings shall come out of thy loins'". Genesis 35: 11
The Hebrew word used there for "loins" is "chalats": cheth
(het)-lamedh-tsade. (Strong's #2504)
That is an unambiguous Hebrew word that means "loins". Jacob could not adopt
a boy who was not Jacob's own blood descendant, because such an adopted boy
would clearly, and unequivocally, not be coming from Jacob's "loins"/chalats.
2. But when Abraham is promised an heir at Genesis 15: 4, the unambiguous
word chalats/loins is not used. Rather, here is what Genesis 15: 4 says:
"And, behold, the word of the LORD [YHWH] came unto him, saying: 'This man
shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own
bowels shall be thine heir.'" Genesis 15: 4
The word aptly translated there as "bowels" is me'ah: mem-ayin-heh.
(Strong's #4578) That Hebrew word literally means "intestines" or "stomach". A
good English translation, though using slang, might be "gut".
3. Why isn't Abraham unequivocally promised at Genesis 15: 4 that Abraham's
proper heir will come from Abraham's "loins"/chalats? Why is ambiguous (or
arguably ambiguous) wording used at Genesis 15: 4?
4. If Abraham's heir comes from Abraham's
bowels/gut/intestines/stomach/me'ah, does that imply that Abraham's heir may not be coming from Abraham's
loins? Does the word bowels/me'ah at least leave open the possibility that
Abraham may end up adopting a close male blood relative as his heir, who is not
literally Abraham's own blood son? If the author of the text wanted to rule
out the adoption alternative, why doesn't Genesis 15: 4 then refer to
5. In fact, I see Isaac as being Abraham's blood son. But the point I keep
making is that in my opinion, for many years Abraham himself was not quite
sure whether Isaac was Abraham's blood son or Abraham's adopted son. It may
well be that Abimelech never came near Sarah, but the text does not present
Abraham as knowing that.
6. I would greatly appreciate any help the experts on Biblical Hebrew could
give us as to the meanings of chalats vs. me'ah in Biblical Hebrew.
I myself evaluate those two words as follows. "Chalats" precludes the
possibility of Abraham adopting a close male blood relative as his heir. "Me'ah",
by contrast, leaves open (or may leave open) the possibility that Abraham
might end up adopting a close male blood relative as his heir, especially if
Abraham has first tried everything possible to sire a son the regular way by
Sarah, and Abraham makes sure his adopted son will in due course marry a blood
descendant of Abraham's father (such as Rebekah).
In sum, I myself see "me'ah" as being ambiguous on the blood/adoption issue,
whereas I see "chalats" as unambiguously being limited solely to a blood
7. Based on the precise (or imprecise) meaning of Biblical Hebrew, is it
significant, or irrelevant, that Genesis 15: 4 does not promise that Abraham's
heir will come from Abraham's loins/chalats, but rather says that Abraham's
heir will come from Abraham's bowels/gut/me'ah?
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