Last Essay on o
We are having so much fun seeing how o links or connects words that are related to each other that it is hard to stop, but let’s make this the final one in which we use o to show this. One of the fascinating things we are discovering is that the Bible has its goodly share of lists of relatively rare things or things that can’t easily be identified just by the word itself. We saw that with pans and pots; we will see that with various kinds of soothsayers or wizards or certain kinds of people disqualified from the priesthood. So, let’s dive into a few more o-connected words in the Pentateuch.
Let’s begin with a list of blemishes that disqualify a person from the ability to offer sacrifices in Israel. There was no Israelites with Disabilities Act that enabled lawyers to bring a claim on behalf of maimed but disqualified individuals who wanted to serve as priests. Just as the offering had to be without blemish, so did they. The purpose of part of this lesson is to show how that is the case.
Leviticus 21:18 begins the list of disqualifying categories. No person who has a “defect/blemish” (מאוּם, mum) shall come near (qarab; i.e., to offer sacrifice). Neither a “blind” (ivver, which we saw in the first lesson) or a “lame" (פִסֵּחַ, pisseach) or “set apart/disfigured” (חָרַם, charam) can offer them. The word charam here is interesting because it is the word elsewhere used for utter destruction or “the ban.” This passage is the only one I know where the translation “disfigured” is given. Perhaps the person here was in some way excluded/banned because of bad conduct or bodily disfigurement from childhood, and this word was meant to describe his continuing inability to serve. Who knows? Back to our list: “or deformed” (שָׂרַע, sara). Our problem is that sara only appears thrice in the Bible. One other time is in a Levitical context (22:23), which speaks about a seh or shor that has this condition; the third occasion probably means “to extend” (Is. 28:20). One English translation has “anything too long” for sara, We are obviously dealing with two types of deformity of limbs here, but we have no clear picture as to what they are.
Verse 19 talks about a man with a “broken foot” (שֶׁבֶר, sheber (from shabar, which we have seen) and regel) or a “broken hand” (sheber yad). Verse 20 continues with a “hunchback” (גִּבֵּן, gibben, a hapax) or a “dwarf” (daq). What is interesting is the word daq really means “thin” or “very small.” I suppose that “dwarf” is a reasonable translation, even though the word really emphasizes gauntness (describing, for example, the cows coming up out of the Nile in Pharaoh’s dream—Gen. 41:3). I don’t think there was a “little people’s” advocacy group in ancient Israel or they would have been all over this text. We continue: or someone with some kind of “confusion” in the eye (תְּבַּלֻּל, teballul). The word is a hapax, which usually takes away some of our confidence in translation. But it is derived from the verb בָּלַל, a fairly common verb meaning to “mingle or mix (ingredients)/confuse (tongues).” This “confusion” in the eye is most likely some kind of astigmatism that made the person either unattractive to look at or distorted his vision. But, again, we don’t know and it is likely that they didn’t have the precision in medical knowledge to describe a condition with great accuracy.
We are not done. Also excluding a person is an “eczema/scab” (גָּרָב, garab). The KJV calls this a “scurvy” and another dictionary goes with “itch,” but this must have been a highly disfiguring scab. We then go on to “scabs/scurf” (יַלֶּפֶת, yallapheth). I won’t repeat the last category here, since it consists of two hapaxes which, at this juncture, don’t repay learning. But the message of verse 18 is repeated in verse 21—that anyone with these defects cannot approach God to offer sacrifice. The two verbs for “approach” are qarab, which we have seen, and nagash (נָגַשׁ), which is new.
Let’s leave blemishes and defects and retreat a chapter to Leviticus 20. The last verse (v 27) says that an ish/ishshah who has an ob (אוֹב, “familiar spirit” or is a “medium”) or yiddeoni (יִדְּעֹנִי, “wizard/one who knows” or “familiar spirit”) shall be put to death. “They shall stone them (רָגַם, ragam) with stones (אֶבֶן, eben). You wonder if there were clear signs differentiating various of these persons in Israelite history. Fifteen new terms so far.
Leviticus 18:9 talks about uncovering nakedness (ervah, which we have seen) of various types of people. “You shall not reveal/uncover (galah) the ervah of your sister, the daughter of your father or the daughter of your mother, whether born (מוֹלֶדֶת, moledeth; from יָלַד, yalad, “to bring forth”; we have seen yeled) at home or born (moledeth) elsewhere/outside (חוּץ, chuts).
We will conclude with a passage from Numbers 19:18, which speaks about how to purify a tent in which a dead body has been discovered. A clean (tahor) person shall “take (laqach) hyssop (אֵזוֹב, ezob) and dip (טָבַל, tabal) it in water and then sprinkle (נָזָה, nazah) it on the tent (ohel) and on all (kol) the vessels (keli) and upon the persons (nephesh) who were there or on the one who touched (נָגַע, naga) a bone (עֶצֶם, etsem) or the one killed (חָלָל, chalal) or the dead (muth) or a grave (קֶבֶר, qeber). Each one of these last words is worthy of a full exploration. . .