[b-hebrew] When did )NK in Amos 7:7f become interpreted as "plumb line"?

Yigal Levin Yigal.Levin at biu.ac.il
Fri Mar 23 11:25:42 EDT 2012

Hi Daniel,

Rashi, David Qimhi and Ibn-Ezra (10-12th centuries) all claim the word is similar to the Arabic and means either "lead" or "a builder's tool" - which I suppose would be a plumb line. 

BTW, even if the Akkadian does mean "tin", tin could have been used for the same purpose. Tin and lead are not all that different. Both were used to alloy with copper to produce bronze.


Yigal Levin

-----Original Message-----
From: b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org [mailto:b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Daniel Lundsgaard Skovenborg
Sent: Friday, March 23, 2012 4:44 PM
To: B-Hebrew
Subject: [b-hebrew] When did )NK in Amos 7:7f become interpreted as "plumb line"?


I recently became aware of some difficulties in the "traditional" interpretation of the word אֲנָךְ in Amos 7:7f. It is usually translated something like:
"… the Lord was standing by a plumb line (i.e. vertical) wall, with a plumb line in his hand …"

This is supported by the dictionaries which refer to cognate languages (אֲנָךְ is from Akkadian "annaku") where the word means "lead" or "tin", which gives the meaning "lead" and thus "plumb line" in Hebrew. Yet, Landsberger (JNES 24,285ff) has argued that the Akkadian word means "tin", not "lead".

There is much more to say about this issue, but what I want to ask you is how old the "plumb line" interpretation is.
The oldest I have seen is Luther (Bleischnur), but I guess he was not the one who came up with it. I have checked LXX (steel), Peshitta (following LXX), Targum (judgement), Vulgate (brick trowel) and the early Christian interpretations in "Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture" series (Origen and Ephrem the Syrian, both following LXX/Peshitta). (As for Ephrem, ACCS translates his quotation of Amos 7:8 "plumb line", but his exegesis makes most sense if you understand him as LXX/Peshitta.)

Do you know other sources before Luther that interpret אֲנָךְ as as a plumb line?

Daniel Lundsgaard Skovenborg

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