The second session of the Hebrew Café’s reading group on the 25th of November was a success. We hope the pace and the information was suitable for those joining us.


Some issues that were discussed:

V.7. חֲזַ֖ק וֶאֱמַץ. Both forms are imperatives. The root אמ׳׳ץ has two meanings and two different paradigms in modern Hebrew. The biblical meaning, “to take courage” follows the pattern here, אמ׳׳ץ with the meaning to complete or shut has the imperative 2ps form אֱמֹץ though this meaning is usually expressed with Binyan Piꜥel. עצמתי את העינים can also be said אימצתי את העינים but this is rare and very literary. The origin of this meaning seems to be Aramaic.


לִשְׁמֹ֤ר לַעֲשׂוֹת֙ This use of שמר is noted in Gesenius, HW, 1387 as „achtsam u. genau ausführen“ (implement something with exactness and attentively) especially in conjunction with עשה.

Gesenius, HW stands for W. Gesenius, Hebräisches und Aramäisches Handwörterbuch über das Alte Testament, 18. Aufl. Berlin 2013. This is my favorite dictionary to peruse and I recommend it as a supplement to Clines, HALOT, and Kaddari (to be found here:


אַל־תָּס֥וּר The root סו׳׳ר in Paꜥal means turn aside or retreat. For the Hanukka season (December 7th–15th, 2023), it is appropriate to mention the song: באנו חושך לגרש. The children exclaim סוּרָה חֹשֶךְ הָלְאָה שְׁחוֹר. On this song written shortly before the establishment of the State of Israel in Kibbutz Kovesh seeבאנו_חושך_לגרש. The whole phrase means “do not deviate from it (the Torah) to the left or the right”.


V.8. לֹֽא־יָמ֡וּשׁ (The scroll of this Torah) “shall not cease” from you. This jussive expresses a desire. See Gesenius, Grammar, §109.


On לְמַ֙עַן֙ תִּשְׁמֹ֣ר לַעֲשׂ֔וֹת see above.


תַּצְלִ֥יחַ אֶת־דְּרָכֶ֖ךָ The form דְּרָכֶ֖ךָ is surprising. It could be a defective spelling for דְּרָכֶיךָ. In fact, the Masora notes this. First the circula above the word signifies that a masoretic note for this is in the margins.

The masoretic note reads ג׳ חס׳ and has a 13 referring to the apparatus at the bottom of the page. ג׳ stands for 3x and חס׳ for חסר defective. The note essential means “one of the 3 occurrences of this word spelled defectively.” In order to find the occurrences you will need to consult the apparatus at the bottom of the page:

This Mm stands for Masorah Magna, and the companion volume to the BHS, Gérard E. Weil, Massorah Gedolah. Rome: Pontifical Biblical Press, 1971, can be consulted to facilitate finding the references. In the Masorah Magna itself, the references are often cryptic and highly abbreviated. Weil has merely added the chapter and verse for ease of use. As the note indicates, it is entry 605 in the subsection the book of Joshua.

Entry 605 from Weil, Masorah Magna, p. 73.


From this we learn that the masoretes pointed this consonantal spelling as if it were plural in these three passages. The Masorah, which lacks the book, chapter and verse of the citations, cites merely part of the relevant verse under the assumption that the reader knows the passage by heart. The critical apparatus in the BHS reads: mlt Mss Lxx Targum, all of which attest the plural “ways”. Though it is not clear whether the Lxx had the Vorlage דרכיך or read it as plural despite the defective spelling. The BHS prints the reading of Codex Leningradensis, which also agrees with Codex Aleppo. In order to determine exactly which manuscripts attest the reading דרכיך, one needs to consult the Kennicott and Ginsburg bibles. Gesenius weighs another option: the noun should be singular and it was erroneous to point as if the yod was ommitted. See Gesenius, Grammar, §91k. Despite this critical assessment from Gesenius, the Masoretes were probably basing the pointing on an existent reading tradition, due to reluctance to change the consonantal text, they added the note on the 3 occurences. The astounding accuracy of the Masorah Gedolah should not be overlooked or underestimated.


V.9. The root ער׳׳ץ occurs 15x in the Hebrew Bible: “be terrified, dread”.


וְאַל־תֵּחָ֑ת חת׳׳ת occurs 47x and has the meaning “be dismayed, be terrified”. The glosses are attempts at rendering the words into a fully different language, the context and, in some cases, the etymology should shape the shades of meaning intended and understood in the ancient world.


Ponder the form תֵּחָ֑ת. Can you identify it?

It is the Nifꜥal, imperfect 2s form. תִּסַּב from סב׳׳ב and תִּמַּס from מס׳׳ס are analogous, the pointing in תֵּחָ֑ת affected by the guttural, for which the Hiriq is lengthened and the pausal position, for which the patach is lengthened. Cf. the paradigm of סב׳׳ב in Gesenius, Grammar, p. 518.


V.10. וַיְצַ֣ו is the apocopated form of וַיְּצַוֶּה. The tendency of ל׳׳ה verbs is to drop the ending ◌ֶה. See Gesenius, Grammar, §57k. The dagesh forte has been dropped because this can occur when certain consonants have a Scheva mobile (שווא נע). The meneumonic SQiNeMLeVY points to the consonants that undergo this change. Gesenius, Grammar, §20m points out that the lack of a strong vowel makes doubling the letter less conspicuous, and therefore frequently omitted. A good overview can be found here:


שֹׁטְרֵ֥י הָעָ֖ם The exact function of these officials is obscure, even the dictionaries cannot agree. HALOT, which is based on KBL, writes: “it is uncertain whether the sbst. originally meant ‘scribe’ (Gesenius-Buhl Handw.) in Hebrew, or ‘record keeper, organising officer’ (KBL).”

I will let scholars of the Ancient Near East discuss the meaning, the LXX is clear: τοῖς γραμματεῦσιν τοῦ λαοῦ seem to envisage the officials of Ptolemaic Egypt, who, especially in Egyptian administration, were, for the most part, literate scribes serving as secretaries. Village scribes had many duties among them: “administration of the land and the processing of petitions.” (Verhoogt, Menches, 1997, 67) and see L. Criscuolo, Ricerche sul komogrammateus nell’Egitto tolemaico, Aegyptus 58 (1978), 3-101. Though scribes did sometimes hold other offices, which could more or less enforce laws, the policing was done mostly by Phylakitai, thus the LXX translator probably did not understand the officials here as having policing duties.


V.11. לְרִשְׁתָּֽהּ is the infinitive construct form of לָרֶ֫שֶת with a suffix pronoun. The omission of this word in the LXX is probably due to stylistic considerations (M.N. van der Meer, Formation and Reformulation, Leiden, 2004, 222f.)


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