Monthly Archives: April 2015

Shortest Verses

There are a number of verses in תנ”ך that have only three words.  I am not counting here the introductions to Psalms which sometimes comprise only two or even a single word.  I’m also not counting verses that are entirely genealogies such as the first three verses of I Chronicles.

בראשית כא:ו
וישב יצחק בגרר

בראשית מג:א
הרעב כבד בארץ

ישעיה ב:יח
והאלילים כליל יחלף



גבור חיל

What does גבור חיל mean?

The phrase appears 42 times in eight different books.  In Job 21:7 the similar phrase גברו חיל appears.  In most cases, it seems to mean someone who has displayed military heroism, but sometimes it is not clear that it means an actual military hero.


Water Libations

In ספר שמואל there are two instances of pouring libations of water to הקב”ה, and in the spirit of ספר שמואל, once it is by Saul and the other time by David:

שמואל א ז:ו
וַיִקָּבְצ֣וּ הַ֠מִּצְפָּתָה וַיִּֽשְׁאֲבוּ־מַ֜יִם וַֽיִּשְׁפְּכ֣וּ׀ לִפְנֵ֣י יְדֹוָ֗ד וַיָּצ֙וּמוּ֙ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַה֔וּא וַיֹּ֣אמְרוּ שָׁ֔ם חָטָ֖אנוּ לַידֹוָ֑ד וַיִּשְׁפֹּ֧ט שְׁמוּאֵ֛ל אֶת־בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל בַּמִּצְפָּֽה:

שמואל ב כג:טו-טז
וַיִּתְאַוֶּ֥ה דָוִ֖ד וַיֹּאמַ֑ר מִ֚י יַשְׁקֵ֣נִי מַ֔יִם מִבֹּ֥אר בֵּֽית־לֶ֖חֶם אֲשֶׁ֥ר בַּשָּֽׁעַר: וַיִּבְקְעוּ֩ שְׁלֹ֨שֶׁת הַגִּבֹּרִ֜ים בְּמַחֲנֵ֣ה פְלִשְׁתִּ֗ים וַיִּֽשְׁאֲבוּ־מַ֙יִם֙ מִבֹּ֤אר בֵּֽית־לֶ֙חֶם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר בַּשַּׁ֔עַר וַיִּשְׂא֖וּ וַיָּבִ֣אוּ אֶל־דָּוִ֑ד וְלֹ֤א אָבָה֙ לִשְׁתּוֹתָ֔ם וַיַּסֵּ֥ךְ אֹתָ֖ם לַֽידֹוָֽד:

On the topic of water libations, see Moshe Benovitz’s article on the Schechter Insitute website.  He write “Mishnah Sukkah4:9 tells us that water was poured on the altar along with the wine each morning on Sukkot. Moreover, in discussing the design of the Temple altar, the Mishnah says that two basins were installed on the upper rim of the altar: one for the standard libation of wine and one for the Sukkot water libations. This is surprising, in light of the fact that water libations are nowhere mentioned in the Torah, with reference to Sukkot or any other day.”  It is interesting that he does not mention either of  these instances in Samuel where there is mention of water libations in Na”KH – though admittedly not in the Torah and certainly not in reference to Sukkot.

He continues “Their subsequent introduction at any point in the history of the first or second Temples would seem to be violation of the severe prohibition against unauthorized offerings….  it is the type of innovation that would have been controversial had it been instituted in Hasmonean times or earlier, a period in which many halakhic innovations, in the Temple ritual and in other areas of Jewish practice, were subject to vehement sectarian strife.”  He goes on to suggest an interesting and creative explanation for the origin of the water libations in the Temple on Sukkot, however, he does not explain why it would have been more accepted later – in Herod’s day – than in earlier times.

Also see this post


ללת and הלקח

This post is about two unusual forms in I Samuel 4:19

שמואל א ד:יט
וְכַלָּת֣וֹ אֵֽשֶׁת־פִּינְחָס֘ הָרָ֣ה לָלַת֒ וַתִּשְׁמַ֣ע אֶת־הַשְּׁמֻעָ֔ה אֶל־הִלָּקַח֙ אֲר֣וֹן הָאֱלֹהִ֔ים וּמֵ֥ת חָמִ֖יהָ וְאִישָׁ֑הּ וַתִּכְרַ֣ע וַתֵּ֔לֶד כִּֽי־נֶהֶפְכ֥וּ עָלֶ֖יהָ צִרֶֽיהָ

The first unusual form is ללת for ללדת.  Gary Rendsburg writes about this form in his article on Phonology in Biblical Hebrew in the Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics – the ד is assimilated.  Other examples he gives of the same phenomenon is אחת for אחדת and ידר for ינדר.  If memory serves me correctly, my teacher Jeff Tigay taught that the word אמן is אמנת where the final ת has dropped out.  Not being a Biblical Phonologist, I don’t know to what extent this is a similar phenomenon.

The other unusual form is אל הלקח about which I have yet to find a good explanation.  Both the form הלקח and the combination with אל are unusual.  The form הלקחו appears again in I Samuel 21:7

וַיִּתֶּן־ל֥וֹ הַכֹּהֵ֖ן קֹ֑דֶשׁ כִּי֩ לֹא־הָ֨יָה שָׁ֜ם לֶ֗חֶם כִּֽי־אִם־לֶ֤חֶם הַפָּנִים֙ הַמּֽוּסָרִים֙ מִלִּפְנֵ֣י יְקֹוָ֔ק לָשׂוּם֙ לֶ֣חֶם חֹ֔ם בְּי֖וֹם הִלָּקְחֽוֹ