[b-hebrew] Sorting senses of $M(

dana densmore danadensmore at hotmail.com
Sat Apr 11 23:55:25 EDT 2009

Dear b-hebrew listers,

I'm hoping that some of you might be willing to help me with a question about $M(.  

I am wondering whether it is possible to get a first approximation understanding of how to distinguish between the activities  of hearing, listening, and obeying, and some guidance in translation, possibly using binyan and/or the presence of a following preposition---B:, L:, or )L.

Of course the context is the main determinant, and one must start by carefully pondering that.  But there are places where the context doesn't unequivocally suggest a particular one of those senses, and interpretation must come in.  But a lot can seem to ride on those distinctions in the English and one wants a translation that doesn't send folks (including onself) galloping down the wrong road.

Of course those senses are inter-related and it's clear enough why the same Hebrew word would cover that range.  Indeed, the same overlap of sense is there in those English words.  But there are also at times significant distinctions in meanings and connotations of the English words.

One thing I'm wondering about is whether you all find in Tanakh a sense of "listen" in the English meaning of active listening, not just passive hearing, and distinguished from the use of "listen" as a synonym for "obey".  Does that sense appear in Tanakh, as you read it?  

For example, take the Ex.19:5 phrase )M $MW( T$M(W BQLY.   Are we dealing with "if you, listening, listen to my voice" / "If you really listen to my voice" ?  Or "If you really hear my voice"?  Or "If you really obey my voice"?  I've always leaned towards the first ("listen") in understanding this passage.  Hearing of course follows if we listen to a voice that is there, and obedience should follow (and is implied by the following phrase, "and guard my covenant").  But what activity is being described in the first part of the protasis ("if" condition) of Ex 19:5?

Thanks for any help you can give!!
Dana Densmore

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