Let’s begin with a translation of this verse in Obadiah, where God is telling Edom that they shouldn’t have done various things. God kindly tells this to Edom before He obliterates them. Maybe we need an entire lesson just on biblical terms for destruction or obliteration. But not yet.
“And you shouldn’t have stood upon the ripping apart of the road, to cut off those escapees, and you shouldn’t have closed off/shut up those who remained in the day of distress/trouble.”
Yep, you got that right. Apparently we have another verse that doesn’t make full sense. But let’s go phrase by phrase, because that is what the text requires of us. But a thought crosses my mind at the outset; perhaps God is going to destroy Edom for various of his crimes, but doesn’t want to speak clearly on what they are. Sort of like a judge saying, “I commit you hereby to prison for ten years for XXXX. .. .” and static breaks up his voice.
The “ripping apart of the road” is the פֶרֶק, pereq. But it isn’t immediately clear what that means The only other appearance of the noun pereq in the Bible is in Nah. 3:1. Nahum is another prophet whose words only sometimes makes sense. The usual translation of it in Nah. 3:1 is “plunder” or “robbery.” But that would make no sense here. Well, the verb underlying it is פָרַק, paraq, which appears 10x in the Bible, and seems to mean anything from “torn/dragged/rend” to “deliver/rescue” or “break.” Maybe we need some time with the verb. . .
Let’s look at paraq for a bit. Actually, there is clarity in Gen 24:40 where it appears. “You will break/shatter (paraq) his yoke (עֹל, ol) from (though the Hebrew is really “from upon”) your neck” (צַוָּאר, tsavvar). Necks are important in the Scripture, as you can place necklaces around them or fall on them in affection. I suppose you could also wring one or two, but I don’t think there is a Biblical word for “wring,” though we have “strangle” (חָנַק, chanaq), a very rare word that carries with it also the notion of “suffocation.” Let’s add it to the cart.
Ok, other appearances of paraq. It appears twice in the Ex. 32 narrative where people tear off their gold so that Aaron can make a golden calf. They “broke off/tore off” (paraq) their golden (zahab, which we have seen) earrings (נֶזֶם, nezem) which, thankfully, were on their ears (אֹזֶן, ozen), and they brought them to Aaron. Later in the chapter we have people giving up their gold and Aaron actually “throws” (שָׁלַךְ, shalak) it into the fire, and presto, it becomes a “calf” (עֵגֶל, egel), which elsewhere is called a “molten” (מַסֵּכָה, massekah) calf. The word for “molten” is derived from the verb for “pour out” (נָסַךְ, nasak), which is what you have to do with boiling liquid metal to make such a calf. Eleven words so far.
So, I guess we understand why pereq has been translated “crossroads,” because it is at the “tearing off” of the ways, but we have to work pretty hard to get there. Well, two more words from Obadiah 14 call for detailed attention: “escapee” and “shut/close.” The Edomites apparently stood at the parting or ripping apart of the ways and cut off (karath, a familiar word) the escapees. A “fugitive/refugee/escapee” is a פָלִיט, paliyt. It is a very useful word taken from an extremely useful verb. But before we get to that verb, we note in Josh. 8:22 that we have paliyt combined with sarid (שָׂרִיד, a "survivor" or “remnant”), thus yielding “escapees” and “survivors.” Well, back to the verb, which is palat (פָלַט, “escape/deliver”). God delivers (palat) people from “contentions” (rib, which we have seen) of “people” (am) (II Sam. 22:44). We have seen all these words! The Psalmist sometimes would love his soul (nephesh) to be delivered (palat) from wicked folk (rasha). We know all these, too! We see how much progress we are making in the language. In addition, sometimes we see in the Psalms that the author is asking for deliverance, and we know both of the verbs that he uses (palat/natsal).
Yahweh “helps” (עָזַר, azar) people and delivers (palat) them; “he shall deliver (palat) them from the wicked (rasha) and save (יָשַׁע, yasha) them because they take refuge (chasah, which we have studied) in him” (Ps. 37:40). My hope is that some verses of Scripture are gradually becoming less daunting because of our method of learning the vocabulary.
One more word in Obadiah 14 worthy of attention is סָגַר (sagar, “close/shut/isolate). Its 91 appearances take us on some interesting journeys. It is interesting to note first of all, that translations of this part of Obadiah 14 have given diametrically opposing meanings depending on how you take the verb. Is Edom excoriated because she “delivered up” the survivors or because she “shut them up/enclosed” them? We wish we could have had a correspondent at the scene asking the Edomites what they actually did to the survivors, but that tape has mysteriously vanished. So, all we have are the words.
Sagar often appears with deleth (“door,” which we have seen) and that makes sense. People tend to shut doors after they have gone through them. We see that is Gen. 19:6; but first Lot went out (יָצָא, yatsa) of the door. But another synonym for deleth is pethach, which we saw in our consideration of Abraham meeting angels in Gen. 19. Well, people are closing gates/doors in Mal. 1:10 or Ezek. 46:12 (where shaar is used for gate—notice the trifecta of deleth/pethach/shaar for gates and doors). Interestingly, Amos uses sagar three times, but it is usually rendered “deliver,” though the word is used in the Hiphil, which may make a difference. But we are getting into the squishiness of translation now. . .Just one other reference with several new words. In Is 24:22, “they” will be “gathered together” (אָסַף, asaph) “with a gathering” (אֲסֵפָה, asephah, hapax) of prisoners (אַסִּיר, asir; which is itself derived from the verb (אָסַר, asar, “to bind/imprison/tie”) in the pit/cistern (בּוֹר, bor) and will be shut up (sagar) in that prison (מַסְגֵּר, masger, which obviously is derived from sagar).
So, this essay has neatly yielded another 23 or so new words, words that are now starting got make our learning of the language actually enjoyable. Though we have an occasional hapax, that hapax is sometimes easily understood. But the journey goes on.
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