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II SAMUEL 23 : 6-7 

These two verses contain unmistakably deep-rooted corrup- 
tions, which render their meaning uncertain. In consequence 
translators and commentators from the earliest times to the pres- 
ent day have ventured all manner of hypothetical and uncertain 
emendations, too many to be recounted in a brief notice. 

It is clear that in the poem or psalm the author contrasts the 
righteous ruler and the beneficent and productive effects of his 
reign, and his consequently happy state, with the uselessness of 
the unrighteous and their eventual destruction. Cf. Psalm 1. 
V. 4 seems to liken the righteous king to the warm, life-giving 
sun, which causes the herbage to sprout forth from the earth. 
Verses 6-7 by contrast liken the unrighteous to the unproductive 
and almost useless thorns of the wilderness. 

I believe that one main difficulty lies in insufficient apprecia- 
tion of the point of comparison of the unrighteous with thorns. 
Thus H. P. Smith says {International Critical Commentary, 
Samuel, 383), "The worthlessness of the thorns is seen in the 
fact that no one cares to gather them." In contrast to this I 
recently came across the following interesting passage, which 
suggests a simple and very plausible explanation of these two 
verses : ' ' One does not have to go far to reach the wilderness. 
It is any uncultivated place. It is the pasture for flocks, the 
wild of rocks and short, thorny bushes. The thorns are gathered 
every other year to build fires in the lime-kilns, where the abun- 
dant lime-rock of the country is burned. When the men gather 
them for the lime-kilns the thorns are piled in great heaps with 
heavy stones on them to hold them down. When needed the 
heap is pierced with a long pole and carried over the shoulder 
as on a huge pitchfork" (Elihu Grant, The Peasant of Palestine, 
35f.). From this it appears that the thorns of the wilderness 
are gathered every other year to be burned in great fires, and 
that, for obvious reasons, they are not taken in the bare hand, 
but are carried on and handled by means of long poles. 


Now the suggestion of H. P. Smith, that ITO V H'? 'D at the end 
of V. 5 should be transferred to the beginning of v. 6 with a slight 
emendation tliere, has been generally accepted, as also the read- 
ing "IDIQ for ^JJD, and also the omission of jlDtJ'D at the end of 
V. 7. In V. 7 }^'7D' is very difficult, if not altogether impossible, 
and the suggested emendations, many of them very radical, have 
been as numerous as the translators and commentators them- 
selves. Therefore one additional proposed emendation, far 
slighter than the majority, may not be amiss. For N'^O' I 
would read N'73* (or n'73*). and make this verb a denominative 

from ''pS. in the sense of "to be equipped (with an instrument 

or utensil)." I must admit that I have been unable to find the 
word used in this sense in any Semitic language ; yet I cannot 
help feeling that the form and meaning are not far-fetched nor 
impossible. I would suggest therefore the following reconstruc- 
tion of the two verses, with only a very limited, in fact quite the 
minimum, number of textual emendations: 

Qrr'?:D -i3io pp3 '^^''^n 'ja in'ov* ab '3 
ii3")^* f]i"ic^ ^ii2^ n'jn f j;i '?nn a'yy 

But the unrighteous are not productive ; 

They are like the thorns of the wilderness altogether. 

For they cannot be taken by the hand ; 

And if a man would handle them. 

He must be equipped with iron or a wooden pole. 

And in fire they must be burned. 

For in*OV* in the sense, "to cause to sprout," "to be pro- 
ductive," without a directly expressed object, cf. Deut. 29:22; 
just as the thorns of the wilderness are unproductive, yield no 
fruit of immediate use and value, so, too, the unrighteous; and 
in direct contrast to the productiveness and beneficence of the 
righteous ruler, v. 4, 

"They cannot be taken by the hand"; just as the thorns of 
the wilderness cannot be handled freely, but wound the hand 
that touches them, so, too, the unrighteous, inp' used imper- 
sonally, unless we should read lllp' • 


"And in fire they must be burned" : hardly a reference to the 
late, theological conception of the fires of Gehenna as the end of 
the unrighteous, but rather still the comparison with the thorns. 
Just as these are good for nothing but to be burned, and leave 
naught behind but useless ashes, so, too, the unrighteous are fit 
for nothing but to be consumed and leave naught behind them. 
Thus the comparison of the unrighteous with the thorns of the 
wilderness runs through the entire two verses, and brings out 
most graphically the contrast with the righteous king of the first 
half of the poem. 

Julian Morgenstern 

Hebrew Union College 


In the prototype of Gehenna, Heb. ge-hinnom (ef. RE* 6, 
421, 12)^ Hinnom is generally supposed to be a proper name. 
Both the Valley of Hinnom and the Kidron valley seem to have 
been ancient burial-grounds. According to 2 K 23 : 6 the graves 
of the children of the people (i. e. the common people; cf. Jer. 
26: 23) were in the Kidron valley, and (^ has for the Valley of 
Hinnom in Jer. 2 : 23 ; 19 : 2.6 the rendering iroXvav^piov, a 
burial-place for many {cf. 2 Mace. 8:4 and IJG° 308, n. 2). 
In Jer. 31:40 we find after ue-kol ha-'emq, the whole Valley 
(of Hinnom) the addition hap-pegarim ue-had-ddsn, the dead 
bodies and the offal (JBL 35, 322, below). The explanation 
given in GK § 127, g, is unsatisfactory ; we must insert before 
hap-pegarim the preposition Hm, with = despite; cf. 'im-ze, 
Neh. 5:18 and Arab, ma' a hada (WdG 2, 164, D). <g has 
€^ IkXcktHv Xl0(i>v, and i^ may be a mistake for iv {cf. koI iv too-ovto) 
TrXrjdu, in summa copia; Heb. he-kol zot, GB" 80'', below). 
According to Cornill (g- may have read ahanim for desanim, 
and hahHrim for pegarim (for the confusion of b and p cf. JBL 
35, 280). It should, of course, be abanim bahurot, but bahurot 
may have been written hahur' (JBL 34, 81). Has-seremot {(& 
acrapyjfjtmO) might be explained to mean dumps ^= places of deposit 
for offal and rubbish; it could be a transposition of semerot or 
semarot, a feminine form of semarim, lees, dregs (JSOR 1, 91, 
1. 5) in the sense of waste or worthless matter, sweepings, refuse; 

' For the abbreviations see vol. 36 of this Journal, p. 75.