Bible Word Studies (Greek)

In a post reviewing an intermediate grammar the reviewer notes the authors’ guidance towards the exercise:

  1. Prioritize Synchrony over Diachrony – here the importance of contemporary meaning and semantic shift is highlighted, along with the dangers of the etymological fallacy (i.e., thinking the history of a word’s meaning has any necessary link to the word’s current meaning – it doesn’t).
  2. Do Not Confuse Words and Concepts – the danger here is that not every instance of a word refers to the same concept (e.g. “bank” meaning side of a river vs. “bank” meaning financial institution), and not every instance of a given concept is prompted by the same word (e.g. “speech” and “oration” both refer to one concept of public speaking).
  3. Do Not View Word Study Tools as Inerrant – Jackpot! I loved to see this. Lexicons are not infallible.

Furthermore, the reviewer himself recognizes the treacherous path of simplistic lexical reports:

  1. Usually scholarly word studies are terrible, woefully incomplete or flawed and thus entirely unhelpful.
  2. Pastors tend to do them, usually very poorly, and often draw far-flung and erroneous conclusions.

Call me a skeptic. I call myself a lexicologist. Now, lexical semantics can get pretty complicated and abstract in a hurry. There is a swathe of approaches, each with its own range of terms. That said, it is important to have conceptual clarity and precision when talking about word meaning precisely because it is a slippery thing.

For the full review and source:

Delilah, the Israelite

George Athas is Dean of Research at Moore Theological College, Sydney. Here is a post of his where he analyzes this account in the Book of Judges. I believe his post highlights how sometimes readers of the text (me included) take certain things for granted. I, along with most readers assume too much from a story we think we know without taking the time to carefully consider the text. The bible tells us to meditate upon God’s word and to search it out for our benefit. I believe Dr. Athas’ article is very reasonable and ‘rings true.’ It is easily understood and well argued.

via Samson and Delilah (the Israelite Woman) — With Meagre Powers

samsonIn the book of Judges, we encounter the mighty Israelite judge, Samson. He is perhaps best known for his herculean strength. Yet, he is also known for his weakness for women—especially Philistine women. His relationship with Delilah, often portrayed as a sneaky seductress, was his undoing. She coaxed him into divulging the secret of his strength: his long braids of hair. Though they were the symbol of his devotion to God, they were also his “Achilles’ heel.”

But was Delilah a Philistine?


Throughout the ages, she has been portrayed as a Philistine. Indeed, she takes her place alongside the other Philistine women in Samson’s life. His wife (for all of a week) was a Philistine girl from the town of Timnah (Judges 14.1–2). Samson also visited a prostitute in Gaza, which was one of the five towns of the Philistine ‘Pentapolis’ (Judges 16:1). But was Delilah actually a Philistine too?

Let’s look at the evidence.

First, unlike the other two women in Samson’s life, the biblical text never identifies Delilah as a Philistine. All it says is that she was “in the Valley of Sorek” (Judges 16:4). Where was this valley? Was it in Philistine territory? Well, not quite. The Valley of Sorek begins in the highlands, a few miles from Jerusalem. It twists and turns westwards, descending down into the foothills (the “Shephelah”). At this point, the valley formed the border between the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. It keeps descending until it eventually hits the Coastal Plain, which is where the Philistines lived. At that point the land flattens out—it is a plain after all. The seasonal stream that runs through the valley continues across the Coastal Plain and eventually hits the Mediterranean. If the biblical text is referring to this seasonal stream, then Delilah could have lived anywhere along its course—from the highlands of Judah to the Mediterranean coast.


But the biblical text makes a particular statement that means Delilah could not have lived by the Sorek stream on the Coastal Plain. Judges 16:5 tells us that the Philistine leaders “went up” (Heb: ויעלו) to Delilah and paid her to trick Samson into revealing the secret of his strength. That is, they ascended into the hills in order to reach her. This means she was most likely not in Philistine territory. If she was, she was at best on the very edge of it.

Yet, if Delilah was a Philistine, why do the Philistine leaders not simply command her to trick Samson? Why do they each pay her 1100 pieces of silver to do the deed? Since there were five Philistine rulers from the five Philistine centres (Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, and Gath), that’s probably 5500 pieces of silver! Would not the threat of death by a direct authority be enough? Why are they so willing to empty their coffers for her, but never once empty their scabbards?

samson-et-dalila-1949-05-gSome modern depictions of Delilah portray her as the opportunist seductress, who uses her wiles and lack of scruples to make a quick buck. Some view her as a prostitute making a bit of extra cash while tricking her trick. Of course the Philistine leaders would pay for her services! Why, perhaps she even once serviced them? But Delilah was not the prostitute whom Samson visited in Gaza along the coast. Delilah didn’t live in Gaza! She lived up in the hills in the Valley of Sorek. And the biblical text never so much as implies that she was a prostitute. It seems that, as with Mary Magdalene, Delilah has been mistakenly thought of as a hustler when she wasn’t!

So if Delilah wasn’t a wily seductress or an opportunist prostitute, how did she come to have a dalliance with Samson? The biblical text simply states that she was a woman in the Valley of Sorek with whom Samson fell in love (Judges 16:4). This was Samson’s own home territory. He grew up in Zorah, Eshtaol, and Mahaneh Dan (Judges 13:2, 25)—all sites on the northern side of the Valley of Sorek. Samson simply fell for a local girl. Perhaps she was a Danite woman, since this territory was associated with Dan for a time. Or perhaps she was an Ephraimite woman, since the area was also associated with Ephraim.

Moreover, Delilah didn’t hatch the scheme to trap Samson. She did not approach the Philistine leaders, like Judas did with the Jewish leaders when he agreed to betray Jesus. She was not agreeing to trap the nemesis of her own people. Rather, the Philistine leaders “went up” to her and enticed her with a princely sum—1100 pieces of silver from each of them—to put theirnemesis in chains. The exorbitant amount they paid her makes sense if they were asking her to betray one of her own—a leader of her own people, no less!

Samson unwittingly foiled the whole scheme to capture him three times. Rather than being tricked, he himself tricked Delilah (and the Philistines sponsoring her). On each occasion, the Philistines waited to pounce on him. And just when Delilah thought that Samson’s strength had left him, she called out, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” (Judges 16:9, 12, 14). This doesn’t sound like the cry of a Philistine woman in Philistine territory referring to her own countrymen. Perhaps if she referred to “guards” or “soldiers” or even “men,” we might suspect that Delilah was herself a Philistine. But to Delilah, the would-be captors of Samson were “Philistines”. They were other—people to be referred to by their ethnicity as different to “us.”

Evidently Samson didn’t make the connection between leading Delilah on and the sudden appearance of pouncing Philistines. So on the fourth occasion, Samson finally revealed the secret of his strength to Delilah. We’re told that it was because she harangued him constantly until he told her (Judges 16:16–17). If Delilah was a Philistine, perhaps Samson would have seen through the whole situation. Telling her the truth of his strength would have seriously endangered him. But he seems to trust her, albeit after considerable nagging, probably figuring that there can be no harm in revealing the secret to a fellow Israelite. Once he does, though, Delilah the Israelite betrays him. She summons the leaders of the Philistines to “come up” once more into the hills (Judges 16:18). They capture him and then “bring him down” to Gaza.

There is one further tantalising possibility that may suggest Delilah was an Israelite. We meet Delilah in Judges 16 when the Philistine rulers each agree to pay her 1100 pieces of silver for Samson. After Samson’s death, in the very next chapter, we are introduced to an Ephraimite (and therefore Israelite) man named Micah who steals 1100 pieces of silver from his unnamed mother (Judges 17:1–2). The correspondence with the sum paid to Delilah is uncanny. And coming immediately after the Samson and Delilah narrative, we are led to wonder whether this unnamed woman is, in fact, Delilah. The unnamed woman’s husband is never mentioned. Is it because he is dead? Is it because the woman was never married and had a son out of wedlock? Is Micah the son of Samson born to Delilah the Ephraimite after Samson’s death? Interestingly, this Micah narrative dovetails with the story of the migration of the Danite tribe (to which Samson belonged) from its land around the Valley of Sorek to land in the far north near Laish/Dan. It is, therefore, a fitting epilogue to the narrative of Samson the Danite. The fact that the woman with 1100 pieces of silver is not named means we cannot be sure that this is Delilah. Perhaps the 1100 pieces of silver are simply a thematic association that helps explain the placement of the two chapters (16 and 17) within the book of Judges. But the placement and narrative contexts are very suggestive.

mhicid5aktakjow6j_jivtaIn any case, it seems we have been treating Delilah as a Philistine, when she is actually an Israelite. She is not a conniving professional seductress, but a local girl who betrays a leader (albeit a very flawed one) of her own people. She was more traitor than temptress. In that way, she is perhaps the antithesis of Jael, wife of Heber, who causes the downfall of Sisera in Judges 4. This would be in keeping with the upending of Israel’s fortunes throughout the book of Judges and the portrayal of Israel’s descent into chaos. Delilah is still a sinister figure, but for perhaps slightly different reasons to what we previously thought.

Jewish Rabbis and Gen. 3.15

Here is an illuminating study highlighting some history of how Rabbis approached Gen. 3.15 and Gen. 4.1. I knew that Gen. 4.1 was a reference back to the Promise in 3.15 but didn’t know all the issues of the grammar. HaDavar Ministries has a good discussion as to her statement: “I have gotten a manchild, The Lord” in 4.1:

A “Targum” was an explanation of the scriptures by the Rabbis much as a commentary is to a written Christian work. Also, when this article mentions “accusative” it refers to the *case* of word-form languages. As far as I know, most languages are word-form in their logic as opposed to English, which has as its logic: word-order. So, in English: Jack kissed Jill, we know who the subject and direct object are by the order the words appear relative to each other. Whereas, in a word-form language, the order of the words have much less relevance. Instead, the word-form language will change the form (spelling), add a suffix or prefix, or in certain ways denote to the reader (or hearer) what place the word has in the sentence. So, the accusative case of the word denotes the direct object (the direction of the verb).


Genesis 3:15 is taken as Messianic by these rabbinic authorities.

  • Rabbi David Kimchi:

As Thou wentest forth for the salvation of Thy people by the hand of The Messiah the Son of David, who shall wound Satan, the head, the king and prince of the house of the wicked.[1]

  • Midrash Rabbah(23):

Rabbi Tanchuma said in the name of Rabbi Samuel, Eve has respect to that Seed which is coming from another place. And who is this? This is the Messiah, the King.[2]

Dr. Alfred Edersheim in his classic work, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (appendix 9), mentions additional rabbinic opinions supporting the understanding that Genesis 3:15 refers to the Messiah.

This well-known passage is paraphrased, with express reference to the Messiah, in the Targum Pseudo-Jonathan and the so-called Jerusalem Targum. Schottgen conjectures that the Talmudic designation of “heels of the Messiah” in reference to the near Advent of the Messiah in the description of the troubles of those days may have been chosen partly with a view to this passage.[3]

Dr. Edersheim’s remark is confirmed by Franz Delitzsch in his work, Messianic Prophecies in Historical Succession, with the addition of a Messianic link to one of the midrashim.

The Palestinian Targum testifies that in Gen. iii.15 there is promised a healing of the bite in the heel from the serpent, which is to take place “at the end of the days, in the days of the King Messiah.” In the Palestinian Midrash to Genesis (Bereshith Rabba xii) we read: “The things which God created perfect since man sinned have become corrupt and do not return to their proper condition until the son of Perez (i.e. according to Gen. xxxviii. 29, Ruth iv. 18 ff. the Messiah out of the tribe of Judah) comes.”[4]

Additional Messianic links are revealed by Joseph Samuel C.F. Frey in his two volume work, Joseph and Benjamin.

Our ancient Rabbis, as with one voice, have declared that by the seed of the woman, who was to bruise the head of the serpent is meant the Messiah. You know as well as I, their common saying, “that before the serpent had wounded our first parents, God had prepared a plaster for their healing; and as soon as sin had made its entrance into our world, the Messiah had made his appearance.” Hence both the Targums, that of Onkelos, and that of Jonathan, say “that the voice which our first parents heard walking in the garden, was the Memra Jehovah, ie. the word of the Lord, or the Messiah, who is always meant by this expression;… In the Targum of Jonathan, and that of Jerusalem, it is said, “the seed of the woman shall bruise the head of the serpent, and they shall obtain healing, or a plaster for the heel, (the hurt received by the Serpent,) in the days of Messiah the King.”[5]

It is self-evident from these references that our understanding of Genesis 3:15 as a prophecy of the Messiah falls within the Jewish frame of reference. It is not a position dreamed up by some non-Jewish missionary intent on deceiving gullible Jews into forsaking their people and their religion. The Messianic impact of this prophecy is very clearly seen by the rabbis.

However, there is more significance lurking in Genesis 3:15. Eve’s understanding of Genesis 3:15 is revealed in her remarks found in Genesis 4:1 regarding the birth of her first son.Genesis 4:1 reads, (literally), “I have brought forth a man – Jehovah.” Most versions do not translate Genesis 4:1 in this manner.

The translation issue circles around the little Hebrew word “et.” this little word can be either an accusative particle indicating the definite direct object or it can be a preposition. Prepositions are placed before certain words to form a phrase that indicates a relationship such as in, on, by, etc. Most translators evaluate the word as a preposition and therefore translate the verse, “and she said,’I have gotten a manchild with the help of (et) the LORD.’”[6] This translation decision, or very similar renderings, are found in the New American Standard Bible (NASB), New Living Translation (NLT), New International Version (NIV), Revised Standard Version (RSV), English Standard Version (ESV), King James Version (KJV), American Standard Version (ASV), New King James Version (NKJV) and Tanakh versions.

Two Aramaic paraphrases of Genesis 3:15 make this decision as well.

And Adam knew Eve, his wife, and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, “I have acquired the man from before the Lord.”

And Adam knew Eve, his wife, and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, “I have acquired the man from before the Lord.”

In spite of the translation decision of these standard translations and two Targumims, we believe evaluating “et” as an accusative particle is the better position. Why would such a minority position be a better position to take? There are a number of reasons


The first reason is found in the context in which the word is found. The accusative particle is used five times in verses one and two of Chapter 4. It is not seen in the English translation because its function is to identify the direct object of the sentence. It is not a translatable word. A literal rendering of verses 1 and 2 into English will enable the non-Hebrew reader to understand the context.

Now the man knew (et) Eve his wife, and she conceived and gave birth to (et)Cain, and she said, “I have gotten a manchild (et) Yahweh.” Again, she gave birth to his (et) brother (et) Abel. And Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.

Genesis 3: Rabbinic Support

When we look at the context, we see that the name Yahweh falls right in the middle of consistent constructions. The four proper nouns Eve, Cain, Yahweh, and Abel along with the common noun brother are all preceded by et. In four of the constructions, et is properly rendered as a particle indicating the direct object of the verb. Only in the case of the proper noun, Yahweh, have the translators chosen to render et as a preposition. Consistency in translation would dictate a consistent usage of the word et. It is better to take the word consistently as an accusative particle and translate the verse, “I have gotten a man – the Lord” because this rendering does not violate the pattern of the context.

Rabbinic Agreement

Another support for this position is found in of the Targumim, Targum Jonathan. Targum Jonathan to Genesis 4:1 reads:

And Adam knew his wife which desired the Angel, and she conceived and bare Cain, and said, ‘I have obtained THE MAN, the Angel of Jehovah.’[8]

In this rendering, the translator rendered the proper noun Yahweh with the substitute phrase “The Angel of the Jehovah.” In addition, no preposition such as “with the help of” is utilized. Et is rendered as an accusative particle indicating that the direct object of the verb is “The Angel of the Lord.”

In addition, supporting insight is found in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary.

The evidence from the versions (LXX, dia tou theou; Vul., per deum) suggests that the accusative sense of “I have brought forth a man, the Lord,” was not acceptable to the early translators, and they avoided that sense by means of a free translation. The modern translation “with the help of the Lord” (NIV)… is not attested elsewhere in Scripture.[9]

The comment that evaluating et as a direct object indicator was not acceptable to early translators is substantiated by rabbinic comments in Bereshith Rabbah xxii. 2.

WITH THE HELP OF (ETH) THE LORD. R. Ishmael asked R. Akiba: ‘Since you have served Nahum of Gimzo for twenty-two years, [and he taught], Every ak and rak is a limitation, while every eth and gam is an extension, tell me what is the purpose of the eth written here?’ ‘If it said, “I have gotten a man the Lord,’” he, replied,’ it would have been difficult [to interpret]; hence ETH [WITH THE HELP OF] THE LORD is required.’[10]

The point of the exchange between Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Akiba is the evaluation of et (spelled ETH in the Soncino Midrash Rabbah). Rabbi Ishmael clearly understands the implication if et is evaluated as a direct object indicator. If et is a direct object indicator, then Eve is stating that she believes she has given birth to God or a God/man. Concerned about this implication, he asks the advice of Rabbi Akiba. Rabbi Akiba clearly understands the implications as well and acknowledges this by replying that if et is evaluated as a direct object indicator, “it would have been difficult [to interpret].” In other words, that sense would not be acceptable to rabbinic theology and therefore et must be evaluated as a preposition. As a result, the free translation [WITH THE HELP OF] THE LORD is the required translation.

The little particle et is significant enough in Genesis 4:1 to cause a bit of controversy. The context favors evaluating it as a direct object indicator. However, those who cannot accept the implications of the context and that evaluation are forced to evaluate the particle differently even though the outcome is a free translation rather than a literal translation.

Dr. David L. Cooper summarizes the issue.

In Genesis 4:1 – the statement of Eve when Cain, her first son, was born, “I have gotten a man even Jehovah.” She correctly understood this primitive prediction but misapplied it in her interpreting it as being fulfilled in Cain, her son. It is clear that Eve believed that the child of promise would be Jehovah Himself. Some old Jewish commentators used to interpolate the word “angel” in this passage and say that Eve claimed that her son was “the angel of Jehovah.”[11]

The significance of this exercise lies in the fact that Eve thought she gave birth to a supernatural deliverer, a Divine Messiah, a God/man. This insight is the significant fact lurking in the background of Genesis 3:15. In Genesis 3:15, God is promising that a supernatural deliverer will and devastate Satan. Eve understood the prediction in precisely those terms. Her mistake was in thinking that her son, Cain, was that supernatural savior.

In approximately 700 BC, Isaiah would predict the coming of the supernatural deliverer when he was given the revelation of the virgin birth. The supernatural deliverer would be Emmanuel – God with us. This prediction was realized in the actual birth of the supernatural deliverer, the God/man, Yeshua HaMashiach. With that comment, we move into the next segment of our study, the fulfillment in Yeshua.

  1. ^ “How to Recognise the Messiah,” Good News Society, p. 5
  2. ^ Ibid.
  3. ^ Edersheim, A. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (electronic ed.), p.689
  4. ^ Delitzsch, Franz., Messianic Prophecies in Historical Succession, (Eugene, Wipf, and Stock Publishers, 1997), p. 39
  5. ^ Frey, Joseph Samuel, C.F., Joseph and Benjamin, (Jerusalem: Keren Ahvah Meshihit, 2002), p. 154-155
  6. ^ The New American Standard Bible, (La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1977).
  7. ^ Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, (Deutsche Bibelgessellschaft Stuttgart) 1990.
  8. ^ “How to Recognise the Messiah,” p. 5
  9. ^ Gaebelein, F.E. Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), p. 63
  10. ^ Soncino Classics Collection: The Soncino Midrash Rabbah, (Chicago: Davka Corp.)
  11. ^ McDowell, Josh., Evidence that Demands a Verdict, (San Bernardino, CA: Here’s Life Publishers, 1972), p. 145

Hurtado Engages Wright

I’ve now uploaded the pre-publication form of my essay in a recent volume engaging N.T. Wright’s massive two-volume work on the theology of Paul, my essay focusing on Wright’s claim that the theme of “YHWH’s return to Zion” functions as “the catalyst” for Christology in the New Testament. The upload is available here. I’ve mentioned […]

via YHWH’s “return to Zion” — Larry Hurtado’s Blog

A fascinating discussion covering christology (be sure to click the first link)