Words for Trembling
We saw in the previous lesson that the verb raash means “to shake” or “quake” or “tremble,” but we didn’t look at the appearance of the noun, רַעַשׁ (also raash, “quaking/shaking”). It is the word for “earthquake” in the Elijah narrative (I Ki. 19:11, 12) and in several other appearances. For example, Amos 1:1 dates his prophecy to two years before the earthquake. “The words (dabar) of Amos (עָמ֔וֹס) who (asher) was (hayah) among the sheepherders (נֹקֵד, noqed—the word is a rare one, only appearing elsewhere in II Ki. 3:4). . .two years (shanah) before the earthquake (raash).” The noun raash appears with its friend rogez in Job 39:24, the eloquent section of God’s inquisition of Job. “With fierceness/quaking/trembling (raash) and rage (rogez) he devours (גָּמָא, gama) the land (erets) and he doesn’t stop (אָמַן, aman) because of the sound (qol) of the trumpet (shophar).” The only problem with my translation is that aman really doesn’t mean “stop.” It means to “confirm” or “believe” or “make firm” or “establish,” and so getting to “stop” is a bit of a stretch, but that’s probably where we need to go. With this one problem with Job, you think that maybe we should just leave him alone, but raash also appears in Job 41:29. Leviathan’s power is celebrated: “Clubs/darts (תּוֹתָח, tothach, an OT hapax) are considered/regarded (chashab) as straw (קשׁ, qash) and he laughs (sachaq) at the quaking/threat/rattling of javelins (כִּידוֹן, kidon).” It is such beautiful poetry, if only we could figure out what he is fully saying. . . I like the notion of “rattling” of javelins, since it captures the meaning of raash, and “threat” seems a bit too domesticated. By the way, I love the trifecta of words describing swords/javelins, etc. in I Sam. 17:45, when David and Goliath are mutually tormenting each other: “(You, Goliath come) with a sword (chereb) and with a spear (חֲניִת, chanith) and with a javelin (kidon), but I myself (anoki) come (bo). . .”
Nahum is a prophet of obscurity, despite the fact that there are those who love him. In 3:2, he speaks of “the voice/sound (qol) of a whip (שׁוֹט, shot) and the sound of rattling (raash) of wheels (אוֹפָן, ophan) and of clattering (רָקַד, raqad) of chariots (מֶרְכָּבָה, merkabah).” 13 new words today so far. All of them are somewhat hard or rare.
I will conclude my treatment of raash by returning to Ezekiel, the prophet of wheels (the word ophan appears 10x in Ezek. 1 alone!), when he speaks about something other than wheels. In 3:12-13 we have, “And the spirit/wind (ruach) lifted me up (nasa) and I heard (shama) behind (achar) me a voice (qol) quaking (raash) and great (gadol): Blessed (barak) is the glory (kabod) of Yahweh from his place (maqom). And I also heard] the voice/sound (qol) of the wings (kanaph) of the living creatures (chay) that touched (נָשַׁק, nashaq—the word means ‘to kiss,” which actually is a powerful word here, even though it is always translated “touched”) one (ishshah) to the other (achoth, literally “woman to sister”) and a voice (qol) of the wheels (ophan, wow! even wheels here!) beside (עֻמָּה, ummah) them and a thunderous (raash) great (gadol) sound (qol).” It sometimes is so satisfying to know almost all the words and to be able to read the idioms and see the vividness of the original text.
Let’s change gears and move to another word: hamah. It is a memorable verb because it captures the idea of sound but includes sounds all the way from growling to an uproar. Let’s begin, however, with a few related nouns that present the sense of sound/murmur or even wailing. No one really knows what the hapax הֵם (hem) means, but perhaps is is a moaning, though the context it appears in Ezek. 7:11 it seems to have to do with wealth or possessions. Then, the word הָמוֹן, hamon, means, in the first instance, a “noise” or “murmur,” but by the time we get to most appearances of the word (it appears 83x) it means “crowd” or “multitude,” which is perhaps what multitudes do. Another hapax, derived from hamah, is הֶמְיָה, hemiyah (“noise”/‘music”; Is. 14:11).
But let’s return to the verb. It appears 34x, many of which appearances are in the Psalms and Isaiah. Let’s begin with a vivid and somewhat difficult verse from Is. 17:12, “Alas/Woe (hoy) the multitude (hamon) of many (rabim) people (amim) who make a murmur/noise/roar (hamah); the seas (yam) roar (hamah). And the noise/roar (שָׁאוֹן, shaon) of nations (am) like the rushing (shaon) of mighty (כַּבִּיר, kabbir) waters (mayim) that rushes (שָׁאָה, shaah).” Thus, we have an incredible richness of “roaring” language which is quite useful to know, even if it seems a bit awkward when it is presented with such intensity. Hamah appears several times in the Psalms. In 39:6, we have, "Surely (ak) every person (ish) walks around (halak) like a shadow (צֶלֶם, tselem); surely (ak) in vain (הֶבֶל, hebel, which means “idols” or ‘vanity” or “breath,” but it stresses the emptiness of things) they roar/murmur (hamah). One heaps up (צָבַר, tsabar) and doesn’t know (yada) who (miy) will gather (asaph).” In Ps. 42:5; 11; 43:5, which is really the same refrain said three times, hamah is probably best rendered “become disturbed/growl.” Ps. 77:3 has a rich array of verbs, “I remembered (zakar) God (elohim) and was in an uproar (hamah). I complained (siach) and my spirit (ruach) becomes faint (עָטַף, ataph).. . “Finally, Song of Solomon 5:4 says, in its graphic eroticism, “My beloved (dod) put/sent (shalach) his hand (yad) by the latch (חוֹר, chor) and my innermost being (מֵעֶה, meeh) became aroused (hamah) for (al) him.”