Members“Building”

In an extraordinarily well-conceived article on snippets from biblical Hebrew (First Fruits of Zion, Nov-Dec 1997, issue 52), Rimona Frank—an Israeli with a very good command of Hebrew, as well as English—compares two words from the root bet-resh-khaf: brakha (blessing) and the seemingly ‘lowly’ berekh (knee).

By Dov Chaikin |
ultra orthodox wall
An ultra orthodox Jewish man walks by the Old City walls in Jerusalem, where a plamtree is casting it's shadow. October 09, 2010. Photo by Miriam Alster/FLASH90 Photo: Miriam Alster/FLASH90

She concentrates specifically on the latter, drawing attention, i.a., to Genesis 30:3: “…she will bear a child on my knees, that I also may have children by her” [NKJV].

There, and in the similar incident recorded in Gen. 16:2, the concept “may have a child” appears in the Hebrew as ibbaneh—אבנה—literally, “I will be built”. Bearing in mind that the very first commandment in the Bible is “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28), bearing children thus connotes building a family—and being built thereby. The idea of ‘constructing’ a family is also implicit in Exodus 1:21, where it is recorded of the God-fearing midwives that God “provided households for them”—a literal translation from the Hebrew reading that God “made them houses” (KJV).

The midwife’s (birth) stool mentioned in that context (v. 16) is avna’yim— אבנים ,derived from evven—אבן) stone). In Psalm 118:22 we read about a certain stone that the builders did not want: “The stone (אבן (rejected by the builders (ha-bonnim—הבונים (has become the chief cornerstone”.

The concept of...

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