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

Bryant J. Williams III bjwvmw at com-pair.net
Sat Dec 13 20:28:26 EST 2008

Dear Jim, Karl, et al,

I am just now replying after "officiating" six High School Basketball Games in
three days.

According to TWOT, Vol 1, pp. 420-421, YTR is used some 227 times in the Hebrew
OT for rest, remnant (one portion which is divided; smaller part in quality).
Yitron is "advantage or excellency," while Yoter is "more, better, advantage."

Page 421 lists "Yeter" cord, bowstring, tentcord, as being used 6 times in
Judges 16:7ff (Samson and Delilah), Psalm 11:2, and Job 4:21; 30:11. Metar is
"Cord, string, tentcords" found 9 times. Most of the occurences are with
reference ot the Tabernacle in Exodus 35. See also Isaiah 54:2; Jeremiah 10:20;
and Psalm 21:12(H 13).

Thus, it seems that the many texts in which this root appears needs to be taken
into account. It does NOT appear that the primary meaning of YTR meaning "rope,
cord, etc" is correct. It is listed as ROOT II of YTR, with derivatives being
"yeter and metar."

See also TDNT, Volume 4, pp 196-208.
Rev. Bryant J. Williams III
----- Original Message ----- 
From: <JimStinehart at aol.com>
To: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Thursday, December 11, 2008 6:51 AM
Subject: [b-hebrew] "Rope Imagery" in Biblical Hebrew

> Karl:
> You wrote:  “YTR is never used in Biblical Hebrew in the sense of ‘
> superiority, excellency’, not in Genesis 49:3 nor any other verse.”
> That was the key point of my post, in equating YTR/“rope” with YTR/“
> excellence”.
> Could you please give us your translation of YTR at Genesis 49: 3, and
> explain the reasoning for your translation?
> You seem to agree that on several occasions in the Bible, YTR means “cord”
> or “rope”.  If I understand your post, you also agree with me that YTR/“rope”/
> “cord” is not the same word as the YTR that means, in your words:  “that
> which goes beyond, an overflow, more than needed”.  But there our agreement
> as you then specifically assert that YTR at Genesis 49: 3 definitely does not
> mean “superiority” or “excellency”.
> At Genesis 49: 3, Reuben, who is Jacob’s firstborn son, is said to have YTR
> of dignity, and YTR of power.  YTR there cannot mean “that which goes beyond,
> an overflow, more than needed”.  No, in context Reuben is clearly being stated
> to have had a “natural superiority” as to dignity and power (which Reuben
> unfortunately subsequently forfeited).  Literally, Reuben had a “rope”/YTR of
> dignity and power, with “rope” in the Patriarchal world being synonymous with
> natural superiority, excellence”/YTR.  Reuben had a “natural superiority” of
> dignity and power by virtue of being Jacob’s firstborn son, but Reuben, alas,
> ended up forfeiting that natural position of preeminence by Reuben’s improper
> actions.
> Here are 10 standard translations of Genesis 49: 3, all of which back up my
> view of the case.  In order to focus the discussion, I have taken the liberty
> of typing in all capital letters the English word that the translator has
> chosen for YTR.  As far as I can see, all 10 translators see YTR at Genesis
49: 3
> as effectively meaning “excellency” or “superiority”.
> 1.  New International Version:
> "Reuben, you are my firstborn,
>   my might, the first sign of my strength,
>   EXCELLING [YTR] in honor, EXCELLING [YTR] in power.”
> 2.  English Standard Version:
> "Reuben, you are my firstborn,
>   my might, and the firstfruits of my strength,
>   PREEMINENT [YTR] in dignity and PREEMINENT [YTR] in power.”
> 3.  King James Version:
> “Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength,
> the EXCELLENCY [YTR] of dignity, and the EXCELLENCY [YTR] of power:”
> 4.  Darby:
> “Reuben, thou art my firstborn, My might, and the firstfruits of my vigour:
> EXCELLENCY [YTR] of dignity, and EXCELLENCY [YTR] of strength.”
> 5.  New American Standard Bible:
> “Reuben, you are my firstborn;
>   My might and the beginning of my strength,
>   PREEMINENT [YTR] in dignity and PREEMINENT [YTR] in power.”
> 6.  American Standard Version:
> “Reuben, thou art my first-born, my might, and the beginning of my strength;
> The PRE-EMINENCE [YTR] of dignity, and the PRE-EMINENCE [YTR] of power.”
> 7.  Jewish Publication Society 1917 [which in my view is often the best
> translation]:
> “Reuben, thou art my first-born, my might, and the first-fruits of my
> strength; the EXCELLENCY [YTR] of dignity, and the EXCELLENCY [YTR] of power.
> 8.  Jewish Publication Society 1985:
> “Reuben, you are my first-born,
> My might and first fruit of my vigor
> EXCEEDING [YTR] in rank
> And EXCEEDING [YTR] in honor.”
> 9.  Robert Alter:
> “Reuben, my firstborn are you—
> my strength and first yield of my manhood,
> PREVAILING [YTR] in rank and PREVAILING [YTR] in might.”
> 10.  E.A. Speiser:
> “You, Reuben, my first-born,
> My strength and first fruit of my vigor,
> EXCEEDING [YTR] in rank and EXCEEDING [YTR] in honor!”
>  “Excellency” or “excelling” or “exceeding” predominate as the
> translations of YTR at Genesis 49: 3.  There’s also “preeminent” and
> And one “prevailing”.  That all sounds like “superiority” or “excellency” to
> me.  In my opinion, the best English translation of YTR in the particular
> context of Genesis 49: 3 would be “natural superiority”.
> In your view, are all of these translations in error?  What does YTR mean at
> Genesis 49: 3, in your view?  Didn’t the first Hebrews, and doesn’t the
> language of Biblical Hebrew itself, effectively equate “rope”/YTR with
> superiority, excellence”/YTR?  That’s the point I’m trying to make.
> Jim Stinehart
> Evanston, Illinois
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