[b-hebrew] elephants or ivory ?

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Wed Aug 20 13:41:10 EDT 2008

On Wed, Aug 20, 2008 at 6:58 AM, Yaakov Stein wrote:
> In Kings I 10:22 (and the parallel passage in Chronicles)
> we read that every three years Hiram sent Solomon

The reason one would argue that it is ivory is that the word
is easily analyzed as a compound -- $n and hbym.  The
first is the term for ivory elsewhere in the Bible including v.
18 of this chapter.  The second is very similar to Yeb, the
Egyptian name for Elephantine, as well as ?bw, the Egyptian
word for Elephant.  Perhaps it is also possible to draw a
connection with the root ybb, which in Hebrew means
lamentation of some form.  Onqelos translates the sound
of a shofar with this term in Num 10, and this seems to be
very much parallel to the trumpet sound of an elephant.  A
shrill cry very much like a trumpet might also translate the
word when it appears in the Bible as in Judges 5.  The
ancient translations also seem to translate this phrase -
"teeth of an elephant."

Rather, I would suggest that the verse be broken up as so:
zhb wksp [w]$n / hbym wqpym wtkyym
In other words, the verse originally spoke of both ivory and
elephants, and it was only later when the word hb as
"elephant" was so antiquated that it remained only in the
frozen term $nhb that it was reinterpreted in this verse with
this meaning.

Yitzhak Sapir

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