A Detour on Chagar
I had so much fun writing on another verb meaning “to clothe” (labash), that I thought I would focus on the more specific verb meaning “gird on” (chagar), which is what you can do with clothes, or a sword, or lots of other things.
Getting to Chagar
In Ex. 29:8-9, Moses is given instructions to bring Aaron and his sons (ben) near (qarab) and clothe them (labash) with tunics (kethonah). Then, in verse 9, the “clothing” continues. Moses is told to “gird” (chagar) them with אַבְנֵט (ebnet, “sash/girdle”) and also put on them “hats” (מִגְבָּעָה, migbaah). The word for “hats/caps” is seemingly derived from something that means “high” or “elevated,” which is where the caps should be. It only appears 4x, so we are privileged to learn it here.
Chagar appears 3x in Judges 18 (vv 11, 16, 17), but this time it is in a context of war and what people would wear in combat. Jud. 18:17 says that five (chamesh) of the men (anashim) who had gone (halak) to spy out (רָגַל, ragal) entered (bo) there (sham) and they took (laqach) the carved image/statue (פְסִיל, pasil) and the ephod and the תְּרָפִים (teraphim) and the molten image (massekah), and the priest (kohen) stood (natsab) at the entrance (pethach) of the gate (shaar) and six (shesh) hundred (מֵאָה, meah) men armed/girded (chagar). By the way, while we are on numbers, we should introduce a few we haven’t seen: eight is שְׁמֹנֶה (shemoneh) [oh, a “year” by the way, is שָׁנֶה (shanah)] and nine is תֵּשַׁע (tesha).
It would be great if we had the chance to go more deeply into ragal, “to spy out,” because it obviously is related to regel, feet. The word is used many times in the Joseph story, as Joseph, in disguise, accuses his brothers of being spies. In one poignant exchange (Gen. 42:31), the brothers say they are “honest” men. Interesting that the word for “honest” here is כֵּן, ken, which means “thus, so,” but also means “real, genuine, honest.” “We are honest (ken). The word for “we” is emphatic (and new!): אֲנַחְנוּ, anachnu. Eleven words as we begin this essay, though we really don’t have any more time for spying right at this moment.
Let’s return to chagar and its appearance in other verses. In I Sam. 2:18, we have the endearing story of little Samuel who “ministered” (שָׁרַת, sharath) before Yahweh as a child (naar) wearing/girded with (chagar) an ephod (ephod) of linen (בּד, bad). As we continue to read, we run into a verse like Gen. 39:4, where sharath appears, and we see we know all the words except one. We know “find” (matsa) and “grace” (chen) in his “eyes” (ayin). Joseph served (sharath) and his boss “made him overseer” (פְקַד, paqad, “to appoint/place in charge”). The noun form of exercising oversight is פְקֻדָּה (pequddah), which appears 31x in the Bible. We can’t pause on “service/ministry” here, though it would be a delightful detour I am sure.
In II Sam. 3:31, David is speaking with his general Joab. We know the first seven words of the sentence, though we have to infer David (דָּוִד) and Joab (יוֹאָב). But then it says, “Tear/rend (קָרַע, qara) your garments (beged) and gird yourself (chagar) with sackcloth (שַׂק, saq) and mourn (סָפַד, saphad) before Abner (sorry, don’t want to get an extra word for his name!). And King (melek) David followed after (halak achar) the bier (מִטָּה, mittah; the word also means “couch or bed”). I think “mourn” (saphad) would be another great word for an essay. . .
In II Sam. 21:16, we have the description of one of the sons of Rapha, who doesn’t get his own word here, and it describes the spear with which he girds himself. We have some unusual words, but that is no reason to ignore them. The son of Rapha had a “spear” (קַיִן, qayin) and the weight (מִשְׁקָל, mishqal; note this is derived from the useful verb “to weigh” (שָׁקַל, shaqal); and the most familiar word of the triad regarding weight is sheqel, שֶׁקֶל, the measure of weight) of the spear was three hundred shekels (the three is שָׁלוֹשׁ, shelosh, which is new) of bronze/copper (נְחשֶׁת, nechosheth). We have already seen nechusah for “bronze/copper,” and it is the same word, but Strong’s gives two entries, and we will take both! Greedy for words!
Finally, we can turn to a Psalm, a royal one at that, where the king is being urged to gird (chagar) his sword (chereb) upon (al) his thigh (yerek). For he is a “mighty one” (גִּבּוֹר, gibbor) who has glory (hod) and majesty (hadar). The last two words bring us full circle to the words of Job 40:10. Twenty-eight words today.
We begin to see that for all the linguistic diversity of Biblical Hebrew, that we eventually circle around to the same words, and very similar concepts. When we get all the words down, then we will just have to get their individual forms mastered, and the tenses of verbs, and the role of particles, conjunctions and temporal words, and then the language will begin to fall into place. But in my judgment, vocabulary is the key. Develop it well; develop it broadly; be able to recall it; put it together with other words in contexts and then you will see that your mastery grows, little by little. Don’t worry about full comprehension at this point. Sometimes the text will even elude the most accomplished of scholars. But once you learn the words, you are in a great position to go in for the “kill.”