Proverbs 1:26 and Words Flowing From It
I have been going through vol. 1 of my “Learning Hebrew” series, a three-volume set of Biblical Hebrew words I wrote some time back, ,pausing on nearly every word to follow it in its various appearances in the Bible. Today the word is “calamity” (אֵיד, ed). It appears 24x in the Bible, with most of them in the “calamity” books—Job, Jeremiah, Psalms, but it appears 3x in Obadiah 13. In order to “build” our Hebrew words today, I could either work through Obadiah, stopping and admiring the architecture of the text, or use the word as it appears in verse 13 and follow it in some of its other 21 appearances outside of Obadiah. Let’s do the latter. As with the essays, I give the dictionary word for the phenomenon, rather than the form that appears in the text.
Beginning with Proverbs 1:26
In Prov. 1:26 we have Wisdom speaking, “I will laugh at your calamity (אֵיד, ed); I will mock when your terror comes.” Other words to learn: “laugh” is שָׂחַק (sachaq), which appears 36x, but it appears also as צְחַק (tsachaq) 13x, especially in Genesis. So Abraham “fell (נָפַל, naphal) on his face” (פָנִים, panim) in Genesis 17:17 and then "laughed (tsachaq) and then said in his heart (לֵב. leb). . ." You see how we could rapidly lose our anchorage in Proverbs by following up on naphal or leb or panim, and there will be time for deeper exploration of all of those words, I think, but we have to keep close to the text of Prov. 1:26.
Well, we got started on this journey through Prov. 1:26, so let’s return there. The next word to focus on is “mock,” which is לָעַג (laag), which appears 19x, but is great to use as a hendiadys with sachaq/tsachaq. Perhaps the most famous use of laag in the Bible is Jer. 20:7, where the Prophet laments that “everyone” (כֹּל, kol) mocks him all the day (yom). We have the interesting appearance in Jer 20:7 also of the noun form of mockery שְׂחוֹק (sechoq), which appears 15x in the Bible, so our laag/sachaq concepts appear together once again. Once we have two ways of saying something, we are empowered in our study of language. We aren’t confined to sachaq/tsachaq when we are thinking about laughing, but we are brought into a rich world of laag and its relatives. Then, if we actually know English, the language into which we want to render things, we are potentially in a situation to give some magic to our work. So far, we have about nine new words.
Let’s give one or two more examples of laag. Psalm 80:6 talks about how God has “placed a strife for our neighbors and our enemies laugh among themselves.” A few word take us on our journey. The word for “strife” is מָדוֹן (madon), which is derived from the verb din (דִּין), a frequently-appearing verb meaning to “contend/judge/strive.” If we wanted to go down the “strife” route, we could have scoffers, and other words for “contention” and “whisperers,” but we will restrain the enthusiasm, because we need to return to “enemies” (אֹיֵב, oyeb). These enemies, Ps. 80:6 tells us, laugh (laag) among themselves. Neh. 2:19 speaks about how someone laughed us to scorn and “despised” (בָּזָה, bazah) us. Interestingly, in Neh. 2:19 we have a lot of names. these names are included in the list of Hebrew vocabulary words in Strong’s, so they also count for us. Let’s learn a few of their names: סַנְבַלַּט (Sanballat) and טוֹבִיָּה (Tobiah), who is called a “servant/official” (עֶבֶד, ebed) and גֶּשֶׁם (Geshem) the Arab (עֲרָבִי, Arabi). It is interesting that the name geshem is also the word for “rainstorm,” which implicates another huge area of life.
Well, we can’t really end this essay without returning to Prov. 1:26 and reflecting more on what is there. The last words of Prov. 1:26 is “when comes your dread/terror.” The verb for “come” is the simple בּוֹא (bo), but terror/dread is pachad (פַחַד). The three consonants also can become the verb פָחַד, “to be in dread.”
So, we are still at the place, with our rather rudimentary knowledge of Biblical Hebrew vocabulary, that creating about twenty-two more words from one verse and its “permutations” is not only possible, but fun. Yet, these aren’t just throw-away words or unrelated words. One can go back, read the verse and then “reconstruct” the Hebrew language from them. Much better than “lists” of useful words. Now we have Prov. 1:26 in our mind, and then the ways that those words are used elsewhere. Total words in three days: almost 100.