[b-hebrew] Genesis 15: 4: bowels/me'ah vs. loins/chalats

Bryant J. Williams III bjwvmw at com-pair.net
Fri Oct 19 13:31:21 EDT 2007

Dear Jim,

I refer you to TWOT, Volume 1, pp. 518-519, "M`H," by Victor Hamilton.

"The noun ME`eH is used thirty-two times in the OT, always in the plural, ME`IM.
The KJV most often retains the translation "bowels" but the RSV opts for a more
euphemistic translation unless the word is used in a passage with the literal
sense of the intestines.

The are three major ways in which the word is used. First, the word may be used
literally, to refer to one's internal organs, the bowels, the stomach." The
article refers to Ezekiel 3:3; 7:19; II Chronicles 21:15 (2x), 18-19.

"The second way in the ME`eH is used is to refer to the reproductive organs,
both mail and female. Hence, more than simply digestive organs are involved. We
are now thinking in terms of the reporductive system, the male and female sexual
apparatus (Gen 15:4; 25:23; Ruth 1:11; II Sam 16:11; 17:12; II Chr 32:21; Isa

"The third way in which ME`eH is used is in a figrative, metaphorical sense to
denote the seat of emotions." Dr. Hamilton then refers, again to Isa 63:15; Jer
31:20, and also to other similiar expressions referring to the emotions,
compassion, etc.

So, No, this is Moses way of using a synonym that God has used for the internal
reproductive organs.

Rev. Bryant J. Williams III
----- Original Message ----- 
From: <JimStinehart at aol.com>
To: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Friday, October 19, 2007 8:22 AM
Subject: [b-hebrew] Genesis 15: 4: bowels/me'ah vs. loins/chalats

> 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
> 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
> (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
> his "loins".
> "'[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".
> 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
> 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
> loins/chalats?
> 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.
> 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
> 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
> descendants.
> 7.  Based on  the precise (or imprecise) meaning of Biblical Hebrew, is it
> significant, or  irrelevant, that Genesis 15: 4 does not promise that
> heir will come  from Abraham's loins/chalats, but rather says that Abraham's
> heir will come from  Abraham's bowels/gut/me'ah?
> Jim Stinehart
> Evanston, Illinois
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