[b-hebrew] Was Pharaoh "Touched" or "Plagued" by God at Genesis 12: 17?

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Tue Aug 19 10:44:43 EDT 2008

Yigal Levin:
You wrote:  “We've already established that NG( has a wide range of meanings. 
 …Please stick to the meaning of the Hebrew.”
1.  The first way to try to ascertain the meaning of the verb NG( at Genesis 
12: 17 is to analyze the meaning of that verb the 6 other times it appears in 
the Patriarchal narratives.  In all 6 other cases, NG( as a verb in the 
Patriarchal narratives means:  “touch”:
Genesis 12: 17;  20: 6;  26: 11, 29;  28: 12;  32: 25, 32
(On 5 of those 6 occasions, NG(/nun-gimel-ayin/naga is routinely translated 
as “touch”.  Although such word is usually translated as “reached” at Genesis 
28: 12, it actually means that Jacob’s Ladder “touched” heaven;  Young’s 
Literal Translation duly translates it as “touching” there.)
Thus with the notable exception of Genesis 12: 17, which is the first use of 
this word in the Patriarchal narratives, the Hebrew verb 
NG(/nun-gimel-ayin/naga is routinely translated as “touch” in the Patriarchal narratives.
That suggests that the core meaning of NG( at Genesis 12: 17 is “touch”, 
since the same word on all 6 other occasions in the Patriarchal narratives means “
I realize that NG( in Hebrew usually connotes “a strong, meaningful touch”, 
and unlike the English word “touch” would rarely mean “a light, 
inconsequential touch”.  Nevertheless, having said that, the fundamental meaning of the 
Hebrew verb NG( is “touch”.
2.  Of greatest importance here, in my opinion, is to compare Genesis 12: 17 
to Genesis 32: 25.  As I see it, on both occasions YHWH applies “a mysterious, 
harsh divine  t-o-u-c-h, which has great meaning”, in the first case to 
Pharaoh (and Pharaoh’s household), and in the second case to great Hebrew Patriarch 
In order for us to recognize and remember that YHWH appears to be 
communicating to Pharaoh and to Jacob in roughly the same way, it is important to 
recognize and remember that the Biblical Hebrew verb is the same in both cases:  NG(. 
 That important Hebrew linguistic match is completely lost if NG( is 
translated at Genesis 12: 17 as “plague”, which incongruously recalls the great 
plagues that Moses calls down on Pharaoh and Egypt in the Book of Exodus, rather 
than properly recalling a divine figure “touching” Jacob at Genesis 32: 25, at 
the time when Jacob is divinely given the grand name “Israel”.
As I see it, both at Genesis 12: 17 and Genesis 32: 25 YHWH operates by means 
of “touching” Pharaoh or Jacob, that is, in my own attempt at a definition, “
a mysterious, harsh divine  t-o-u-c-h, that has great meaning”.
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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