Returning to "o"
The first two lessons in this course focused on the little word o, and my point was that this word was actually a most powerful word in building vocabulary because it linked concepts that generally were synonymous or belonged in the same universe. Thus, for the “cost” of one little word, o, we really got three or more words. I decided to return to that word today in “mid-course” to show that there are other words, beyond what we did, that are linked in the Bible.
We begin with a strange encounter in II Kings 13:19 between a man of God and a royal figure of Israel. The man of God is instructing him on what he should do. “And he was angry (קָצַף, qatsaph) and said, ‘You should have struck (nakah) five (חָמֵשׁ, chamesh) or six (שֵׁשׁ, shesh) times (pannim). . .” The first appearance of qatsaph in the Bible is when Pharaoh is upset with two of his servants and tossed them into prison. “Two” is שְׁנַיִם (shenayim) and the officers are סָרִיס (saris), which often is also rendered “eunuchs.” The two officers who were going to be tossed in prison were the chief (sar) cupbearer (מַשְׁקֶה, mashqeh; as we recall, the verb for drinking is shaqah) and the chief baker, where the verb אָפָה, aphah, describes the process of baking. But the “or” here separated “five” and “six” and led us into interesting journeys.
In I Kings 8:46 we have discussion of an enemy (oyeb) who is either far off or near. The word for “far off” is רָחוֹק (rachoq) built off the verb רָחַק, rachaq, which means “to be a good way off” or “to be far off.” It can be particularly powerful when used in prayer, where the suppliant asks God not to be “far off” (Ps. 35:22). But to be near is qarob, which we have already seen. Thus, we have had the “right/left” or “good/evil” or “brother/father” or “silver/gold” contrasts, and we add to it the “far off/nearby” contrast.
In II Sam 3:35 we have David uttering an oath, an oath that he will not eat bread until the sun goes down. The verb to “swear” or “take an oath” is שָׁבַע, shaba, a word that looks like the word for “seven” (sheba), differing only with one vowel. The oath that he takes would prohibit him from “tasting” (טָעַם, taam) either bread (lechem) or anything else (מְאוּמָה, meumah) before the sun (שֶׁמֶשׁ, shemesh) goes down (bo).”
We have a wild list of words connected by o in I Sam. 2:14. This is the largest collection of words having to do with pots or pans in such a short space in the Bible. Mostly people just hurdle over these lists, but let’s pause and consider the pans and kettles of the Bible. The verse describes the bad behavior of the sons of Eli. They would “hit/thrust” (nakah) things into a “pan/pot/basin/laver” (כִּיּוֹר, kiyyor) or a “kettle” (דּוּד, dur) or a “cauldron/kettle” (קַלַּחַת, qallachath) or a “pot” (פָרוּר, parur). The kiyyor appears 22x and mostly appears in other descriptions of equipment at the altar that King Solomon was building (I Kings 7), and in that passage we have basins of large capacity that are described. The dur only appears 6 other times and is usually translated “basket” in them (Jer. 24:2; Ps. 81:6), so the precise contours of what this word means aren’t clear. The qallachath only appears elsewhere in Mic. 3:3, where it talks about “flesh/meat” (basar) in this cauldron/kettle. Finally, a parur only appear elsewhere in Jud. 6:19 (something in which broth is cooked) and Num 11:8, a vessel in which something is boiled or baked. This kind of language work can, at times, be frustrating, especially when these words aren’t accompanied by nice, historically-accurate pictures, but sometimes that is all you have to go on. . .the words.
In Deut. 29:18 we have a few o’s connecting words with which we are familiar (such as ish/ishshah) but then we have the words “family” and “tribe” separated by the o. A “family” is a מִשְׁפָחָה, mishpachah while the tribe is שֵׁבֶט, shebet, which can also be a “scepter/rod/staff.” Perhaps the most familiar verse in which shebet appears in the Bible is in Genesis 49:10, where the shebet “will not depart/turn aside” (verb is סוּר, sur) from Judah. . .
Also in Deuteronomy (24:14) is the law in which oppression of hired servants is described. “You shall not oppress (עָשַׁק, ashaq) a hired servant (שָׂכִיר, sakir).” We have already seen in Jonah multiple appearances of sakar, which related to the “fare” which had to be paid. So, we see that the combination of those consonants takes us into that world. Let’s continue on with the riveting story of the hired servant. You shall not oppress a hired servant “who is poor (עָנִי, ani) and needy (אֶבְיוֹן, ebyon).” It is a wonderful hendiadys that is easy to memorize. Don’t oppress such a poor person, whether he is from a brother (ach) or from a “sojourner/stranger” (גֵּר, ger) who is in your land (erets) within your gates (shaar).
Deuteronomy provides us with some other interesting combinations. The reader is warned strictly not to “worship/serve” (עָבַד, abad; this differs from another abad, beginning with an aleph, which means to “destroy”) other (אַחֵר, acher) gods, nor to worship (shachah) either the sun (shemesh) or the moon (יָרֵחַ, yareach) or all the hosts/army (צָבָא, tsaba) of heaven.