Finishing on Haphak
The slow consideration of haphak in several passages, and then seeing how it links with other words and thus yields their meaning to us, is a delightful way to learn Hebrew. We not only enter into the individual words, but we see them at work in the Biblical stories, stories which now become more familiar to us.
Let’s begin today with haphak’s appearance in I Sam. 4:19. In order to get the context, we will retreat to 4:18. Eli gets the news that the Israelites have lost in battle; and this makes him faint, twist his neck, fall and die. Sometimes (and rather more frequently than you might imagine), there is nothing but bad news for the people of God.
4:18, “And it was/came to pass (hayah) in his making mention (zakar, “to recall”) the ark (aron) of God, then Eli fell (naphal) from upon/off (al) his seat (כִּסֵּא, kisse) at the side (interestingly, the word is yad, literally “hand”) of the gate (shaar) and his neck (מִפְרֶקֶת, miphreqeth) was broken (shabar) and he died (muth) for (kiy) the man (ish) was old (zaqen) and heavy (כָּבֵד, kabed, from כָּבַד, kabad, “to be heavy, weighty, grievous”) and he judged (shaphat) Israel forty (arbaim) years (shanah).”
Before moving back to I Sam. 4:19, where haphak actually appears, I want to think about kisse, the “throne/seat.” Perhaps the most famous passage where that word appears in the Bible is Isaiah 6:1, where Isaiah has a vision of the Lord sitting on the divine throne when King Uzziah has just died. Indeed, God is sitting (yashab) upon the throne (kisse). But two new words come out of this verse. When it says that God’s “train filled the temple,” we have the word שׁוּל, shul, which means the skirt or hem of the robe. Shul appears 11x in the Bible, often in describing the hem of the high priest’s robe (Ex 28:33, 34; 39:24, etc). Sometimes the word is used to describe the garment of God’s people that will be stripped off or removed in judgment. Second, in Is. 6:1 we have the statement that God’s train/skirt filled the “temple” (הֵיכָל, hekal). Hekal appears 80x in the Bible and would be a good noun to explore in detail.
The word translated “neck” (miphreqeth) is a hapax, and the verb standing behind it is paraq (10x) which we have seen, and which occupies the verbal space of breaking or tearing something apart. Its interesting that the noun-form of the word is not the process of tearing but is perhaps the thing that often did get torn in an encounter—the neck. The word for “heavy,” describing Eli, is the same word translated “severe” (to describe a famine) or “sorrowful” (lamentation). The verb, kabad, can be translated “to be glorious/weighty.” This is another verb of real significance in the Bible that invites further consideration.
I Sam. 4:19 gives us the verse where haphak appears: “Now his (Eli’s) daughter-in-law (כַּלָה, kallah), the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant (הָרֶה, harah) about to be delivered, and when she heard the news (shemuah, which we have seen) that the ark (aron) of God was captured/taken (laqach), and her father-in-law (חָם, cham) and her husband (ish) were dead, she bowed herself (כָּרַע, kara) and gave birth (yalad) for (kiy) her labor pains (tsir) had come (haphak, “turned”) upon her.”
A few comments on the words. kallah (appears 34x) is often translated as “bride” but frequently is daughter-in-law. Strong’s online dictionary suggests it comes from כָּלַל, kalal, which only appears only twice and means “to be perfect” (Ezek. 27:4, 11). In both cases in Ezek. it appears in the phrase “perfecting/perfection of beauty” (יֱפִי, yophi). Perhaps that helps to explain the unusual but memorable phrase in Ps. 50:2, “Out of Zion (צִיּוֹן, tsion) the perfection (מִכְלָל, miklal) of beauty (yophi) God shines forth (יָפַע, yapha).” MIklal is also “rooted” in kalal. It looks like like “shining forth” and “beauty” are also related.
It’s interesting that father-in-law is cham as is “warm” (חָם, cham) though “warm” is also chom, so the difference is merely the placement of the vowel. Maybe this denotes the “warm” relationship with father-in-law or, perhaps, things got “hot” between the couple and dear old dad. Never know. Cham is also the spelling of the son of Noah. And then the verb kara, “to bend over/bow down.” It appears in the great poem in the Balaam story, in Num 24:9, where the phrase “he bends down (kala), he lies down (shakab) as a lion (אֲרִי, ari). This sounds like it was taken from Gen 49:9 and even Gen. 4:7, where there is the combination of three verbs: kara, shakab, and rabats, all relating to bending/couching/lying. In those passages, with parallelism, there is another word for lion: לָבִיא, labiy’. Take a deep breath, for we have about 15 new words so far.
Back to haphak. There is an appearance in I Sam. 10:6, the wonderfully attractive passage about Saul’s manifesting prophetic signs after the Spirit of God has come upon him. We have two new words here: “The Spirit of Yahweh will successfully advance (צָלַח, tsalach) on you, and you will prophesy (נָבָא, naba). . .” There follows a description of how he will become a new man. The LXX didn’t quite know what to do with the tsalach (nor did I, frankly, in my translation), because it normally means “to prosper” or “to be successful” (Gen. 24:40; 39:23; Deut. 28:29, etc). So that is why I stressed that in my translation, though the LXX used the verb translated “jump upon.” The verb naba (“to prophesy) appears 114x in the Bible but, interestingly, its first appearance is not until Numbers. A “prophet” is a נָבִיא, nabi, fascinating institution in Israel to study.
Let’s conclude our treatment of haphak today with an appearance from I Ki. 22:34. It has the interesting phrase translated in the KJV as “at a venture” (that is, someone drew a bow “at a venture”), and so that is how I remember this passage! In any case, we have a “man (ish) who drew (מָשַׁךְ, mashak) a bow (qesheth) at a venture/at random (תֹּם. tom) and struck (nakah) the king (melek) of Israel between (ben) the joints (דֶּבֶק, debeq) and between (ben) the armor (שִׁרְיוֹן, shiryon) and he told his chariot driver (רַכָּב, rakkab), ‘Turn around (haphak) and take me out (yatsa). . .’”