[b-hebrew] Interchange of L/lamed with R/resh in Biblical Hebrew

Isaac Fried if at math.bu.edu
Sun Jun 22 21:01:25 EDT 2008


Jim,

The letters L and R don't "interchange". In my opinion the letter L  
indicates elevation and the letter R dispersion/aggregation. Every  
Hebrew root containing the letter R refers to a material state of  
several bodies, such as (RM for a heap of grain versus (LM for  
something tall and massive.
Some jump on this supposedly L-R interchangeability to relate Hebrew  
and Indo-European words, for instance KAPTOR of Exodus 25:33 to the  
Latin word capitulum. See: Vernes, Maurice: Les Emprunts de la Bible  
Hebraique au Grec et au Latin, Ernest Leroux, Paris, 1914, pages 68-69.
Often, the substitution of R for another letter sharpens the meaning  
of a word otherwise obscure. Take for instance the rare verb (AQAD of  
Genesis 22:9, lamely translated by the NAB as 'tied up', and by the  
JPS bible as 'bound'. Obviously it is the opposite of (AQAR, 'tore  
away'.
See more in my book at www.hebrewetymology.com

Isaac Fried, Boston University

On Jun 16, 2008, at 12:04 PM, JimStinehart at aol.com wrote:

>
> Interchange of L/lamed with R/resh in Biblical Hebrew
>
> 1.  In connection with Isaiah 13: 22, Gesenius remarks:  “the  
> letter resh [R]
> being softened into lamed [L] as is frequently the case.”
>
> Is that comment generally accepted as accurate by modern scholars  
> of Biblical
> Hebrew?
>
> Apparently the most famous example of this phenomenon is Isaiah 13:  
> 22, where
> the two underlying basic words, one spelled with a lamed/L and one  
> spelled
> with a resh/R, are as follows:
>
> aleph-lamed-mem-nun/aLman = forsaken
>
> aleph-resh-mem-vav-nun/aRman = palace
>
> At Isaiah 13: 22, we see a feminine plural form, spelled with a  
> lamed/L:
>
> aleph-lamed-mem-nun-vav-tav
>
> But although the lamed/L would normally indicate “forsaken”, here  
> this word
> is often taken to mean “palaces”, as if the second letter was resh/ 
> R.  Or
> possibly there is a double meaning here, so that the word in  
> context means “
> forsaken palaces”.  Gesenius further notes in this context:  “i.q.
> aleph-resh-mem-nun-tav (which is itself the reading of some copies)”.
>
> 2.  Four more examples like this, with lamed/L being  
> interchangeable with
> resh/R in Biblical Hebrew in certain contexts, are set forth by  
> Aloysius
> Fitzgerald in “The Interchange of L, N, and R in Biblical Hebrew”,  
> in “Journal of
> Biblical Literature”, Vol. 97, No. 4 (Dec, 1978), pp. 481-488:
>
> (a)  At Job 6: 15-17, “understand… ayin-lm here as a dialectal form of
> ayin-rm”.  At p. 483.  Ayin-resh-mem means “heaped”.  Ayin-lamed- 
> resh, by
> contrast, “denotes ‘hidden from the mind so that one is unaware of,  
> unconcerned about
> an idea, activities, a situation or the like.’  The verb is never  
> used of a
> physical thing being hidden from the eyes of a beholder.”  At p.  
> 483.  Here,
> the snow is “heaped up”, rather than the snow being “unaware” of  
> some “
> situation”, or someone being “unaware” of the “situation” regarding  
> the snow.  This
> is not a “mistake” in the text, but rather the poet is deliberately  
> using
> ayin-lm as a dialectal form of ayin-rm.  “The poet used this  
> dialectal form
> because it fit the alliterative pattern of the colon l,l,l, which  
> answers the
> q,r,q,r pattern of the first colon.”  At p. 485.
>
> (b)  “The second instance, confirmatory of the first, of this  
> interchange [of
> lamed/L with resh/R] in Job 6 is found in v 25:  …Here nmrsw =  
> nmlsw….”  At
> p. 485.
>
> (c)   At Psalms 37: 34b-35, “mt-ayin-rh [should be] understood as  
> dialectal
> mt-ayin-lh.”  At p. 486.
>
> (d)  “There may be another instance of r for l in the same verse,  
> once again
> for the sake of alliteration.  …Ayin-rys = ayin-lys in Ps 37:  
> 35….”  At p.
> 486.
>
> 3.  The scholarly explanation of Aloysius Fitzgerald of this  
> phenomenon of
> resh/R and lamed/L sometimes being interchangeable in Biblical  
> Hebrew is as
> follows.  Regarding an interchange of resh/R and lamed/L in  
> Biblical Hebrew, this
> is an “interchange of consonants in poetic texts….  [W]hat the poet  
> is doing
> is using a dialectal form that fits better the sound-patterning of  
> his line.”
> At p. 481.
>
> 4.  Is this mode of analysis generally accepted by Biblical Hebrew  
> scholars?
> Could an author of Biblical Hebrew on occasion switch a resh/R with a
> lamed/L, for the sake of alliteration, and also possibly for the  
> sake of obtaining a
> double meaning?  Is resh/R a “dialectal form” of lamed/L and vice  
> versa?  If
> so, then we wouldn’t expect this phenomenon to be limited in the  
> Bible solely
> to poetry, would we?  Is Gesenius correct in noting “the letter  
> resh [R] being
> softened into lamed [L]…is frequently the case”?
>
> Jim Stinehart
> Evanston, Illinois
>
>
>
>
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