[b-hebrew] addition and subtraction

Bryant J. Williams III bjwvmw at com-pair.net
Fri Dec 31 17:16:43 EST 2010

Dear Fred,

Strong #1674 = TWOT # 384, Vol. 1, p. 173, by Harold G. Stigers,
    "The root signifies a reduction of quantity of things or of social or
religious activities.
    The Israelites, during their bondage in Egypt,  were not permitted to lower
their production of bricks, even when forced to gather their own straw (Ex
5:7-8). The inevitable reduced count was attributed to idleness on their part
    Women were not allowed to marry outside their tribes if they were heirs to
property, in order to avoid diminishing the tribe's economic standing (Num 9:7).
The ordinances of God must not be diminished or added to in their smallest parts
that Israel might have the larger blessing (Deut 4:2; cf. Rev 22:18-19). The
many progeny promised to the faithful would be cut down if they turned away from
God (Ezk 5:11).
    Whereas Eliphaz accuses Job of repressing meditation before God and limiting
wisdom to himself, Job learns that God does not forsake (withdraw from) the
righteous, which widens his perspective. (Job 36:7).
    In the marriage relationship the rights of a secondary wife to food,
clothing or conjugal relations may not be diminished (Ex 21:10)."

Strong #3254 = TWOT #876, Vol. 1, pp. 385-386, by Paul R. Gilchrist,
    "yasap occurs almost two hundred times, mostly in the Qal and Hiphil (six
times in the Niphal). The LXX translates usually with PROSTIQEMI. No cognate is
found in Ugaritic.
    A very common usage of yasap is "to do again," as Gen 4:2, "And again, she
gave birth to this brother Abel" (cf. 38:5). In the case of Abraham taking
Keturah as wife, Gen 25:1 state, "Now Abraham had taken another [lit. added or
took again a] wife." Sometimes, especially with a negative particle, it is
translated "no more" as in the moving scene where Judah quotes Joseph, "Unless
your youngest brother comes down with you, you shall see my face no more" (lit.
you shall not add to; see Gen 44:23).
    The literal idea "to add" is clearly evident in Lev 27:13, 15, 19, 27 where
repeatedly Moses writes about the person who makes avow that "he shall add a
fifth of the value" if he should wish to redeem an object or property. The case
of Hezekiah also is to the point, where in response to his prayer, the Lord
promises, "I will add fifteen years to your life" (Isa 38:5). Rachel, in naming
her firstborn Joseph, prays, "May the Lord give me [lit. add to me] another
son." Both Isaiah and Rachel acknowledge that longevity and progeny are at the
sovereign discretion of God. In this connection observe Prov 10:27 "The fear of
the Lord prolongeth days." See also Prov 9:11.
    There is a negative note in connection with yasap. This the human ethical
problem of sin. It is first encountered with Pharoah, "But when Pharoah saw that
the rain and the hail and thunder ceased, he sinned again (lit. he added to sin)
and hardened his heart" (Ex 9:34). But this is the case even with the people of
God, as the recurring phrase "and the children of Israel did evil again (lit.
added to do evil) in the sight of the Lord" (3:12; 10:6, etc.). This heaping up
of something need not be totally negative. Psalm 71:14 quotes the psalmist as
saying, "I will increase thy praise" or as KJV "and will yet praise thee more
and more."
    Nevertheless, there are instances where a positive note is struck. The
incorporation of men into a society occurs several times. A striking episode is
the concern expressed by the Egyptians over the growth of the Israelite
population: "Come, let us deal wisely with them, lest they multiply and in the
event of war, they also join themselves to those who hate us and fight against
us" (Ex 1:10). The Psalmist prays, "May the Lord give you increase, you and your
children" (Ps 115:13).Cf. Is 14:1. One should note the similar NT usage in Acts
2:41, 47; 5:14; 11:24, where "believers were continually added to the Lord,"
i.e. the Lord was adding them to the church (passive rather than middle, "they
joined themselves"). There is in this connection, an eschatological hope in the
OT related to the doctrine of the remnant, i.e. "and the surviving remnant of
the house of Judah shall again take root downward and bear fruit upward, for out
of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and out of Mount Zion survivors" (II Kgs
19:30, 31). Admittedly this prophecy may have been fulfilled in part either
after Sennacharib's army was decimated or following the Babylonian exile,
nevertheless if the writer understands Rom 11 aright, the apostle Paul
confidently hoped for an even greater and more glorious fulfillment. (Nah 1:15
[2:1].) In similar vein, Jeremiah speaking of the regathered people of Israel,
says, "And their life shall be like a watered garden, and they shall never
languish again" (31:12). Note also Isa 52:1 where Jerusalem is called to awake,
"For the uncircumcised and the unclean will no more come into you" (cf. Rev
    yasap is frequently used as part of an oath, as for example, when Ruth
entreats Naomi not to force her to leave, "for where you go I will go, and where
you lodge I will lodge; your people will be my people and your God my God....May
the Lord do so to me and more also (lit. so may he add) if even death parts me
from you" (Ruth 1:17). Cf. also I Sam 3:17; II Sam 3:9, 19:13 [H 14].
    The phrase "to do so to me and more also" seems to involve ellipsis, which
may be understood when the expression is completed, such as "so may he add
curses upon me if." This is plausible when one reads in the treaties of the
nearby kings the list of blessings for obedience but longer list of curses for
disobedience or rebellion."

    You will notice that the both words are used in various legal, ethical and
cultural contexts. It is necessary to make that distinction. It is also
necessary to remember that when used in a legal context, that it is referring
NOT to man's laws, but the "written" Law of God as revealed to Moses. It is
based on God's character (See Tsaddiq and cognates).

Rev. Bryant J. Williams III

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