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...

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