[b-hebrew] Directions with MIN

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Mon Apr 6 22:43:23 EDT 2009

On Tue, Apr 7, 2009 at 2:38 AM, David Hamuel wrote, responding to Charles Grebe:
>> When the preposition MIN is used with a direction like QEDEM (east) or TSAPHON
>> (north), how do you know when it means "direction from" or "direction towards"?

> Very simple. Context & grammar. See Waltke & O'Connor -- Biblical Hebrew Syntax, pp.212-214.

This can be read online at:

However, I think this doesn't answer the question.  Waltke & O'Connor,
don't include at all
a singular use of the word like in Gen 2:8.

Here comparing cognates is very useful.  If we look at Hebrew mn in
HALOT, we see that
cognates in other languages include mn but also others:
Old South Arabian: mn, bn
Phoenician: b, bn, mn
Ugaritic: b (which is used for both 'in' and 'from')
Phoenician bn is also a cognate of Hebrew 'b' 'in'.

So really, what we have is a very basic connection between 'in' and 'from'.
Compare also the Aramaic Balaam Deir Alla inscription.  Here we have:
wyqm bl(m mn mxr,
comparable to Hebrew wyqm bl(m bbqr.

We can also understand other verses using mn that we normally read as
'from' as saying 'in':
Gen 13:11 wys( lw+ mqdm 'And Lot traveled in the east.'
Gen 12:18 'And he advanced in there to the mountain in the east of Bet
El  and he set up
his tent Bet El in the west and the Ai in the east.'

So the difference that we see between b 'in' and mn 'from' is somewhat
artificial.  The
two words were very close in meaning and were used somewhat interchangeably.

See also:
Ziony Zevit, "The So-Called Interchangeability of the Prepositions b,
l, and m(n) in Northwest
Semitic." JANES 7 (1975), p. 103-12:

Gary Rendsburg, "Morphological Evidence for Regional Dialects in
Ancient Hebrew ," in W. R.
Bodine, ed., Linguistics and Biblical Hebrew (Winona Lake, IN:
Eisenbrauns, 1992), pp. 65-88.

Robert Althann, Studies in Northwest Semitic, p. 7- (he quotes
Rendsburg and Zevit around
p. 15, but the whole thing seems to be of interest):

Yitzhak Sapir

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list