Skip to main content

Full text of "Notes to Sirach XLIII. 20 and XL. 12. ‮צינח רוח צפון ישיב וכרקב יקפיא מקורו‬"

See other formats


Early Journal Content on JSTOR, Free to Anyone in the World 

This article is one of nearly 500,000 scholarly works digitized and made freely available to everyone in 
the world by JSTOR. 

Known as the Early Journal Content, this set of works include research articles, news, letters, and other 
writings published in more than 200 of the oldest leading academic journals. The works date from the 
mid-seventeenth to the early twentieth centuries. 

We encourage people to read and share the Early Journal Content openly and to tell others that this 
resource exists. People may post this content online or redistribute in any way for non-commercial 

Read more about Early Journal Content at 
journal-content . 

JSTOR is a digital library of academic journals, books, and primary source objects. JSTOR helps people 
discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content through a powerful research and teaching 
platform, and preserves this content for future generations. JSTOR is part of ITHAKA, a not-for-profit 
organization that also includes Ithaka S+R and Portico. For more information about JSTOR, please 



mpo M^ap' 1 apiai yw pax nn wx 

De. Taylob's interpretation of this passage (in the Jewish Qtjab- 
TEBLY Review, X, 471 sq.) has the advantage that it does justice to 
the text without any alterations or conjectures. But the proof that 
the LXX took the word 3p"i in Job xiii. 28 to mean "skin-bottle," 
does not alter the fact that the word was misunderstood in that 
passage, and that it is an Aramaic word which Sirach would not 
have used, because it does not occur in holy writ. But apart from 
this, the possibility of the word having been used by Sirach in that 
sense is disproved by the incongruity of the expression. You can 
collect liquids in a skin-bottle, but you cannot make them freeze 
to it. 

All other attempts to explain the passage are objectionable because 
they attribute most incongruous similes to the poet, besides having 
recourse to violent alterations of the text. The reading is correct 
beyond doubt, even Smend has nothing to say against its accuracy. 
Bacher's suggestion to read Vp'Ol (J. Q. R., IX, p. 552) is inadmis- 
sible, because the alteration is gratuitous, and the simile would 
become improbable. Schlatter, p. 48, inserts his conjecture 3[pn]31 
into the text ; but it is just the passage in Job x. 10 which proves 
that Sirach would not have employed the congelation of milk as 
a metaphor of the power of the frost which hardens all water. 
NOldeke conjectures from the Greek translator that these must have 
been l"Pp31 in his copy. But the absence of any particle of com- 
parison in Ka\ nayr](T(Tai KpvaraWa <i<f>' v&aroc proves that there was 
no 3 in his text. I am of opinion that he had an abbreviated word 
in his text, namely 'p">31, of which he made np")31 instead of 3p"01, 
and which he translated xpuoraXXoy (cf. Israel Levi in Revue des 
Ittudes Juites, XXXIV, 14). The passage must certainly not be trans- 
lated et comme se durcit la boue, both the words and the metaphor 
are against it '. 

1 Isr. Levi, L'Ecclesiastique, Paris, 1898, p. 75. 


The phenomenon which Sirach wishes to describe is the sudden 
metamorphosis of the liquid into the solid state, the moveable into 
the rigid. It is therefore necessary that the metaphor he would 
employ should be something symbolizing firmness and hardness. 
It is known how easily a 1 is sometimes misread for a , in Hebrew 
writing, and this at once disposes in our passage of all that the 
metaphor demands. God causes the cold north wind to blow, and 
he causes the springs 1 to become rigid like a winepress — 3p*31. 
The icy surface of the spring resembles the smooth, hard bottom 
of the vat of the winepress. The springs, which formerly moved 
joyfully between their banks, have now become like so many wine- 
presses by the frost of the north wind. The striking aptitude of 
the simile is obvious, and the probability of the suggestion is 
clear from a poetical point of view. But it is, besides, supported, 
firstly by the Greek translator, and secondly by several parallel 
cases in the Hebrew original. In the immediately following verse : 
ffnp^ D'D HDJJC ?D , the translation runs : eVi irao-av avvaymyriv 
vbaros KaraXva-ei, the translator's copy had evidently had dip* which 
he misread as D" 1 ?'' = KarnXvo-ei 2 . Another obscure passage in Sirach 
also receives light from the assumption that the letters 1 and * were 
sometimes interchanged. The introduction to the description of the 
glorious rising of the sun has at its very beginning the following 
stumbling-block : HD3 imiO JTaD EW. It is true the marginal 
note 1J1NS3 clears the way, but how can we explain the troublesome 
irr«3 of the MS.? I think that one of the MSS., from which the 
various readings of our Sirach text took their origin, showed TO 
instead of 1DKV3, which again was turned into the enigmatical VT1X3. 

The letters , and 1 ought to be utilized as clues for the solution 
of several difficulties in the text of our translator. His translation 
of xxxix. 1 6 p'SD" 1 1]"IJD *pii? ?31 by (cal nav npocrTnyua iv Katpa avrov 
Harm can be understood at the first glance. His text had the 
abbreviated written word "US which he misread as , 1S instead of 
completing it into "pttf. Again, in xl. lib ODD bx DVIOO lEW 
was turned into Kal anb vbdrtov «r 8aKa<j(Tav avaKafinrei. : the case is 
simply that he misread "*D ^N ''DD for '"ID bti 'iDD of his text. 
In the same way I see the reading of his text through the break 
in chapter xlii. 3 b. There K"1 iTTIJ is rendered KXrjpovonias fralpap. 
Now, the C was in all ancient MSS. usually written with only two 
heads when occurring at the end of a word, and was thus easily 

1 I assume that the original copy had 'mpo which must be completed 
into rmipn. 

2 Cf. Levi, 1. c. 74. 


mistaken for a V- The translator read JH1 for K*!. A clinching 
proof for the frequent confusion of the two letters caused by the 
writing is afforded also by xlviii. 13 b, where ~W2 K"Q3 TWIDDl 
is rendered ko\ £v kgi/xt/ctci eirpo(f>r)Tcv(rev to owfia airoii : here it is 
evident that N , 33 was read for K"03 . 

This confusion of the vowel letters of the original text of Siracb 
was not of rare occurrence, especially of the letters , and 1, which 
were of almost identical shape in the old writing. We need only 
think of the substitution of mm for the tetragrammaton, where thus 
11 and 1 appear as quite identical. But I will add one other example 
which will solve a riddle of the Greek translation. Verse xL 12 has 
not, unfortunately, been preserved in the Hebrew original. What 
then may have been the stumbling-block in the text by which the 
translator was tripped up ? For such nonsense as nav bS>pov xa\ dducia 
i£akci(f)6!i<T(Tai cannot have been written by Sirach. Why should 
the gift be destroyed ? How can the innocent gift be synonymous 
with injustice ? I do not doubt but that the copy before the trans- 
lator was written "ipE-'l 1K> ?3. Our poor Hebraist read this as 

ipen ^ bo 1 . 

But the verse xliii. 20 is also syntactically unexceptionable. flJ^X 
*2X mi is not bad Hebrew, certainly not as Isr. Levi, I. c. 74, assumes. 
Instead of the adjective— in this case the cold north wind — a sub- 
stantive joined to the final word in status constructus is used, quite 
in accordance with a nice syntactic usage in Hebrew. Thus Genesis 
iii. 23, instead of a " flaming revolving sword " we have 3inn DH? 
rDSnnCfl, and instead of the "fulminating weapon" we read in 
Nahum iii. 3 J"p;n p~Q. So also here, instead of the "cold north 
wind" we have in unexceptionable Hebrew |1SV im WS. 

Sirach keeps faithfully to Biblical Hebrew in other passages also. 
Thus, in xli. 3 he has TplPI H1CD Iran ?N, quite after the pattern of 
Vn Drp "WtDil, Prov. xxx. 8. Strange enough, no translator has 
hitherto noticed this. In modern usage the verse says : "Do not be 
afraid of thy assured death." 

Altogether, Sirach is so full of biblical reminiscences, and applies 
quotations to such an extent, that passages from the Bible must be 
constantly referred to for the purpose of elucidating his tropes and 
expressions. Thus, he says, xliii. 20 c CD *1CJ?D ?3 ?]}, only because 
it reminds us of the expression D'D TluJ?' 1 D'HH 7]} of Ps. civ. 6, a fact 
of some weight in the explanation and justification of an expression 
which may otherwise appear strange and questionable. 

In the same way it seems to me that the expression xlii. 4 m?C 

1 This disposes of Levi's explanation in R. &. J., XXXIV, 43 sq. 


ffnn pvT COB', which the Variants prove to be the correct reading, 
is established by a Biblical reference. The TpmXaa-icos of the Greek 
translator, who is slavishly followed by the Syrian, is a desperate 
shift, which does not hold good against the readings n7lE> and ITW. 
His copy had undoubtedly the abbreviation 'w, which he could 
not complete into anything except the unmeaning B>w. But Sirach 
wrote without doubt m?K>, and intended to imitate therewith a 
classical passage of the Bible. He thought he was allowed to form 
an expression BW m^C? in imitation of DW EHJ 1JD01 of Deut. 
xxxiii. 14. This parallel would secure the reading as meaning "the 
shooting out of the beams of the sun." 

David Kaufmann.