[b-hebrew] "Rope Imagery" in Biblical Hebrew

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Wed Dec 10 17:10:06 EST 2008


On Wed, Dec 10, 2008 at 6:41 AM, <JimStinehart at aol.com> wrote:

> "Rope Imagery" in Biblical Hebrew
> Let me follow up here on an excellent suggestion from Karl Randolph, of
> which
> I was previously unaware.  Karl asked about the Hebrew word MYTR.  The root
> of that word is YTR.

Is it?

The belief that all Hebrew words can be traced back to three letter roots is
a grammarian invention from centuries after Biblical Hebrew had ceased being
spoken. From a survey of the language, in reality there are many two letter
roots, a few four letter roots, through the majority are three letter roots.

But not all words can be traced back to any ¨roots¨. To insist that it be
done is to leave one open to the etymological error. There is no evidence
that MYTR, or even YTR, with the meaning of ¨cord¨, has any connection to
the known root YTR.

If Abraham came from an urban setting to become a wandering herdsman, it is
very likely that he took the word for tent cord from another language, as a
loan word, hence the reason there is no recognizable three letter root word
for it in the Hebrew language.

> 2.  Bearing in mind that Karl also warned us not to trust BDB, we can now
> also see how Hebrew grammarians, such as BDB, have gone wrong regarding
> this
> Hebrew word YTR.  BDB says that one meaning of YTR is "remainder, remnant
> (with
> implied inferiority in number or quality)".  Yet without batting an eye,
> then also gives the following alternative definition of what BDB sees as
> being
> the very same word, but having virtually the opposite meaning:
>  "superiority,
> excellency…Gn 49.3".  Where did BDB go wrong?
> The cognate language fallacy. That´s the belief that just because a word is
found in one language, it necessarily is found also in another, cognate
language. The number of recognizable loan words found in English from
cognate languages shows the fallacy of that teaching. The same thing is true
of Biblical Hebrew.

With that in mind, YTR is never used in Biblical Hebrew in the sense of
¨superiority, excellency¨, not in Genesis 49:3 nor any other verse.

> Word #1 is when YTR truly does mean "an inferior remainder" or "left over".

In Hebrew, it is never used as ¨an inferior remainder¨. Rather, in Hebrew,
it is used to refer to that which goes beyond, an overflow, more than
needed. Again another aspect of the cognate language fallacy, namely that
just because a word is found in two cognate languages, that does not mean
that they have the same meaning in both languages. Here it is similar, but
recognizably different.

> By following up on Karl's timely suggestion and not trusting BDB, we have
> made an important discovery that helps us understand the Patriarchal
> narratives.
> The first Hebrews greatly admired "rope", and had more than one word
> meaning
> "rope".

You could make the same case for English. We have several different words
for rope and several idiomatic allusions to rope, therefore rope must be a
very important concept in English. For me it isn´t, even though I use
several different types of rope in camping and sailing (words like sheet,
halyard, stay, ridgeline, etc), do you have a thing for rope?

One thing that rubs me, and I suspect many other people on this list, the
wrong way is your ¨we have made ...¨ Is this a royal ¨we¨? Or is this a
pedagogic ¨we¨ of the teacher talking down to his students? This is also the
language of a textbook, not a scholarly debate. Whence this superiority?

> Thank you, Karl, for helping us see how important and positive "rope" was
> to
> the first Hebrews, and how BDB completely blew the etymology of YTR at
> Genesis 49: 3-4.  The literal meaning of YTR (word #2) is "rope", but the
> early
> Hebrews equated both "rope" and YTR (word #2 only) with "excellence".
> Here I brought this up as a cautionary thing, meaning that you need to be
more careful. Instead, you did that common flight of fancy commonly known as
the etymological fallacy.

Again that superior plural ¨us¨ when referring to yourself.

> This is all in addition to what I am still planning to post about XBR vs.
> as showing an amazing amount of positive "rope imagery" in the language of
> Biblical Hebrew.  But it's a very welcome addition.  Very welcome indeed.
> Jim Stinehart
> Evanston, Illinois

Remember, XBR is never, repeat never, used in Biblical Hebrew in connection
with ropes.

Karl W. Randolph.

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list