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Full text of "צֵר וְצֹנֶה in Malachi ii. 12"

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n;&1 "Ig in Malachi ii. 12 



IN verses 10 ~ M of the second chapter of Malachi, the Prophet 
is denouncing the faithless among the children of Israel. 
After making mention of the renegades, who have cast off 
the religion of Yahwe and joined themselves to foreign gods 
(vs. 11 ), he proceeds (vs. 12 ) : " Whoever does this, may Yahwe 
cut off his whole family from the tents of Jacob!" that 
is, let not a man of his posterity be left to enjoy the bless- 
ings of the chosen people. 

There is no doubt that this is the meaning of the verse ; 
the only difficulty is in the phrase JliS) "IS, which must be 
equivalent to "every individual." The word "IS, as 
otherwise known, means "waking," and seems to be the 
participle of "IIS; Song of Songs S 2 : "IS ^b) W "}% "I 
sleep, but my thoughts are awake." The literal translation 
of MJSl "IS might therefore seem to be, "the one who is 
awake and the one who answers." But it is not possible to 
make a suitable phrase out of these materials, as is generally 
admitted. There is no such correspondence in meaning 
between " waking " and " answering " as is demanded by 
the context here, if the phrase is to have any point at all. 
The reading T§ (cf . the Greek translation, &>? = *1S) is 
worse than that of our Massoretic text, as I attempted to 
show in my article, "The Prophecy of Malachi," in this 
Journal, vol. xvii, 1898, p. 5. At that time I proposed 
emending the text to F|3?l ^1^» " May Yahwe cut him off 
root and branch," and this rather desperate suggestion 
has been approved by Marti in his recent commentary (JDas 
Dodekapropheton, 1904). 


But the comparison of a parallel in old Arabic usage has 
led me to change my view, and I now believe that the Mas- 
soretic reading !"BS1 "IS is the correct one, though the word 
"15 must be given a new translation. The Arabic phrase 
is found in the story of the Ayesha scandal (>iUilf) as 
narrated in Ibn Hisam. Ayesha tells how the party went 
away without her, and how she, returning to the camping- 
place, found it deserted (ed. Wiistenfeld, p. 732, line 7 f.): 

^3-^2j! do vjUttf $) £'<> ,J^ JUi Uj /-£«OlJI J' CiOto-jJ 

qJjJ\ ; "So I returned to the encampment, but there 
was not a human being (lit. one who called and one who 
answered") there ; the people had gone." This is certainly 
a very natural proverbial phrase to use in speaking of soli- 
tude taking the place of social life. Not a voice is heard ; 
there is no one to begin a conversation nor any to respond. 
And the Hebrew phrase is the equivalent of the Arabic, 
if we suppose that *1S is a verbal noun with the meaning of 
T9& (Riphil participle), "the one who begins (lit. arouses 
or starts) the conversation, and the one who answers." 
There is in fact no difficulty in the way of supposing that 
the verbal noun "IS has here the active signification. Aside 
from the fact that the Qal of the verb "IIS occurs once in the 
Old Testament (Job 41 2 ) with the transitive meaning "to 
stir up," the use of such a noun of the simplest form to 
correspond to a verb which is regularly used in a derived 
stem has in it nothing unusual. The familiar example of 
TS and TS>"I is only one of many which could be given. 
Jerome and the Jewish tradition which he followed were 
on the right track with their magister (i.e. " the one who 
arouses or incites"). They saw that the meaning in this 
context must be active, not stative. As for the choice of 
the word "13? for this particular phrase, while it is true that 
a verb with the root-meaning suscitare, provocare, is very 
well suited for such an idiom as this one, yet the reason for 
the selection was undoubtedly the fact that the initial letter 
of the word is S. Alliteration is always at a premium in 
such phrases. 


The Massoretic text of Mai. 2 12a , then, is right as it stands, 
namely, 2pW ^fiKfc np) 1? TtS^[ "T&K Wt& TTSV nn??; and 
the translation is : " May Yahwe cut off, for the man who 
does this, both the calling one and the answering one 
out of the tents of Jacob ! "