Cutting Corners

Don’t. You’ll miss things. If you don’t use Brown Driver and Briggs Hebrew Lexicon or one in the hardcopy, then you are missing things. Just had one of those moments with Genesis 33. Jacob it talking to Esau in those wonderfully detached, wonderfully ironic words of verses 10 and 11. Verse 10 ends with the verb whose triliteral root is resh, tsade, he. If you look it up on BDB you’ll see on the lower right of the page the triliteral root resh, tsade, het. Small, small difference. The former means please and the latter means murder.

I just stumbled on that using BDB, but if I hadn’t, how would I have known? Only if I were really fluent in Hebrew.

I think it speaks of the coolness of mind, the new detachment and wisdom of Jacob after his encounter. The episode with Esau is full of ironic parallels, and Jacob’s inflexible formality. He does not trust Esau and is no longer buoyantly overconfident as he was at the beginning of 32 before being punctured by the report of his messengers. I think chapter 36 vindicates Jacob’s procedure in 33. And I see a pattern: now that he’s a prince with God will it go to his head as it did with Levi and Simeon in 34? With Ruben in 35?

Anyway, it is curious how the form of the verb in 33:10 drops the he. Which is why I was looking generally in the dictionary. Wish I had a book of Hebrew morphology on hand to figure out if it was a guess as to which meaning to take or if the vowels give away the root.


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