[b-hebrew] Ruth 1: 12 too old for a husband

Yigal Levin Yigal.Levin at biu.ac.il
Mon Jul 22 08:26:56 EDT 2013


I think that the main issue here is economic, not "self worth". Naomi is an old woman with no means of making a living. She has no property and can't really work, and in the patriarchal society and agrarian economy that was ancient Israel, this means that she is pretty much destined to be a beggar. The only way that she would have of ensuring that she would be supported would be to "catch a man" (even as a second wife), but at her age who would have her? So she tries to convince her daughters-in-law to leave her to her fate. Orpah (whose name means "back of the neck", as in "turning back", in Hebrew להפנות עורף) goes, Ruth stays.  

Yigal Levin

-----Original Message-----
From: Chris Watts [mailto:dekruidnootjes at eircom.net] 
Sent: Monday, July 22, 2013 3:20 PM
To: Yigal Levin
Cc: b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org; Jason Hare
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Ruth 1: 12 too old for a husband

Ok positive proof that my modern hebrew needs some serious negotiation.  I never meant 'too old to be a woman' but that is obviously what I wrote quite funny since this is how I would have said it in conversation and been laughed at.  (made a similar mistake in dutch many years ago when starting to learn - I ordered chips with hot peanut butter sauce and onions - I instead asked for chips and peanut butter sauce with lots of cows udders please!  instead of onions because the two words are only different by a single letter, and I pronounced that single letter obviously)

Anyway it seems that by the framing of the language a woman's self worth was heavily dependant upon being married?  This is important for me to understand because I am wondering whether naomi's lack of self worth here is expressed or whether this would have been the normal way of expressing a desire to be married?


Chris Watts
Ireland



On 22 Jul 2013, at 11:57, Yigal Levin wrote:

Hi Chris,

זקנתי להיות אשה would be "I am too old to be a woman", which is of course nonsense, because even an old woman is still a woman. A speaker of modern Hebrew would say something like אני זקנה מדי להיות עם איש, "I am too old to be with a man", since לאיש, "of/for a man" implies that the woman is possessed by the man, and while this reflects the situation in antiquity perfectly, it is not the way most couples in modern society like to express their relationship. Also, a speaker of modern Hebrew might prefer גבר instead of איש, since איש is often used for "anyone" generically, while גבר is used for "man" specifically. So להיות עם איש would sound like "to be with anyone", while להיות עם גבר, "to be with a man", would hint at a sexual relationship, which of course is exactly what Naomi is talking about.

Yigal Levin

-----Original Message-----
From: b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org [mailto:b-hebrew- bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Chris Watts
Sent: Monday, July 22, 2013 1:28 PM
To: b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
Subject: [b-hebrew] Ruth 1: 12 too old for a husband

The part of verse 12:  זקנתי  מהיות  לאיש  concentrating on the mem prefix.  Looking down my lists of how מן  is used I have presumed to fit it into the "Causal" category, (from arnold and choi ref heb syntax book).  Literally translated in idiomatic way:  "I am too old from being for a husband."  It's interesting to see how modern hebrew would say this:  אני זקן מכדי שאהיה לי הבעל  they have also that nuance of 'from' followed by the verb 'being'.  It is interesting to note that she does not say :
זקנתי להיות אישה



Chris Watts
Ireland



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