Hi!!! Thank you for following so far.
A brief recap.
ʻÊ-zer means ‘help’ and is the same word used to depict the help of God all through the Hebrew Bible. ʻÊ-zer comes to relieve and unburden. An ʻê-zer does not come to be a friend or a companion. Kə-neḡ-dōw is a prepositional phrase used as a form of adjective to qualify the noun ʻê-zer, one which, this time around occurs only just once in the entire scriptures. Unlike lə-ḇad-dōw that occurs numerous times in the Hebrew Bible, kə-neḡ-dōw is found only once in the entire Bible, here in Genesis 2:18, making its meaning not as easy to decipher, but at the same time revealing (or confirming) that whatever it was that God did was a one-time occurrence that never happened again in human history.
The root word of the phrase is neged, and it means to be in front of, to stand opposite of, face-to-face. Neged always depicts to be opposite and face to face. Keep this in mind, it will come in handy later. Neged is never used to depict one who is in front and backing the other. The frontal position depicted by neged is always a face to face position.
The prefix kə means ‘as’ or ‘like’, while the suffix ōw, of him. A word-for-word translation of kə-neḡ-dōw would therefore be, ‘like in front of him’, or ‘as face-to-face of him’, or ‘as opposite of him’.
Why did I come back to this?
Sometimes word-for-word translations suffice, some other times they just totally mislead. That is when the importance of understanding the language comes in. In this case, however, while we may not be Hebrew speaking, and there is still the fact that the phrase kə-neḡ-dōw is found nowhere else in the Bible, we do have the rest of the context of the passage to show us if what we have come up with so far is true indeed. This would therefore bring us to the next key words which I mentioned in the previous post. These other words are strong anchors to the procedure that was undertaken to produce ʻê-zer kə-neḡ-dōw. If we can tell what was done in vs. 21 and 22, we would also be able to decode further, or at least confirm what we think we already know of, the meaning of ʻê-zer kə-neḡ-dōw.
These other words we will consider are ’a-ḥaṯ miṣ–ṣal-ʻōt-ṯāw.
Vs.21 And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the human and he slept. And He took one (a-ḥaṯ) of his ribs (miṣ-ṣal-̒ō-tāw), and closed up the flesh underneath.
Vs.22 And the Lord God built the rib (tṣê-lā̒) which [was] taken from the human into women (̉iš-šāh); and [she] came towards the human.
’A-ḥaṯ miṣ–ṣal-ʻōt-ṯāw are the two Hebrew terms translated as ‘one of his ribs’ in Gen. 2:21. One is a word, the other a phrase
Let’s unpack them.
’A-ḥaṯ means one. God took one.
Miṣ–ṣal-ʻōt-ṯāw is a phrase with multiple words. Mi is a cognate of the Hebrew preposition mim which means ‘from’ (it is rendered as ‘out of’ in some cases).
Ṣal-ʻōt-ṯāw is the plural form of the root word ṣê-lāʻ.
Ṣê-lāʻ (STRONG’S H6763) is the word translated as ‘rib’ in the English Bible.
We have the traditional reading of verses 21 & 2 as,
“And the Lord God took one from the ribs…and the Lord God built the rib which was taken from the human into ‘is-šāh.”
That is, to make a mate for the first human, a mirror image of him that would help him, God took out a rib from his body…
Now, the traditional translation of the Hebrew word ṣê-lāʻ to the English word ‘rib’ should be just fine. Except… we cannot find any other place in the Hebrew Bible where it is translated just as such.
You see, the word ṣê-lāʻ is a moderately common word in the Hebrew Bible that appear about 40 times. But interestingly, in all of the places that ṣê-lāʻ (or any of its cognates) occurs in the Bible, none of it is translated as ‘rib’. As a matter of fact, if any one of them were to be translated as ‘rib’, the contexts of the passages would throw it right out, because it would be completely out of place. (You should look them all up on E-sword).
That’s strange, isn’t it?
Well, we do find another place in the Bible where an actual Hebrew word is translated as ‘rib’, in Daniel 7:5, but the word translated is a totally different word, ʻil-ʻîn. Even though some argument could be made that ʻil-ʻîn is of Aramaic origin—a language close to Hebrew—and thus yet another cognate of ṣê-lāʻ, it would be a loose argument indeed.
Then… there are four other occurrences of the word ‘rib’ in scriptures, found in 2 Sam. 2, 3, 4, & 20 (the story of Joab), and they are all translators’ interpolations. Ṣê-lāʻ does not appear in any of these verses (the story of Joab). Instead the Hebrew word there is ḥō-meš, and it means ‘belly’. The translators in the bid to make sense of the narrative added the word ‘rib’. It was not present in the original writimgs.
So, what then is the true meaning of ṣê-lāʻ?
I found 32 verses of the occurrence of this word in the Hebrew Bible, with 41 matches. I observed that all 41 matches can be grouped into four main categories. However, in all four categories, there is a common theme of a building or an edifice of some sort. And this observation reminded me of the second Hebrew word of the only two key words used in the Genesis 2 narrative. Remember yatsar and banah? Well, banah means to build.
I see a pattern; God takes out a ṣê-lāʻ from the first human to make the female human. Ṣê-lāʻ occurs only in contexts of buildings (banah), and in Gen. 2 we are told that the Lord God built (banah) the female human. I do not see these as coincidence. At all.
The four categories of the scriptural occurrence of ṣê-lāʻ.
- The Female-human; Gen. 2:21-22
- The Tabernacle; Exodus 25, 26, 27, 30, 36, 37, 38.
- King Solomon’s building projects; 1kings 6 & 7:3
- Prophet Ezekiel’s vision of a tour of a Temple with God; Ezekiel 41:5-11, 26.
To these four ‘building’ groupings above there are two exceptions found in 2 Sam. 16:13 and Job 18:12. In these two, ṣê-lāʻ is not used in a context of a structure or building, but a translation of ṣê-lāʻ to ‘rib’ would still not fit.
Let’s take a look.
2Sa 16:13 And as David and his men went by the way, Shimei went along on the hill’s side (ṣê-lāʻ)
Job 18:11-12 Terrors shall make him afraid on every side (sabiyb), and shall drive him to his feet. His strength shall be hungerbitten, and destruction shall be ready at his side (ṣê-lā)
Why do all these matter?
God is the one who used this word the most. He is the first Person to use the word ṣê-lāʻ in the Bible, in the Genesis 2 creation account, and it is the pattern of His usage—building an edifice—that all the other writers followed. The next time after Genesis when He uses the word ṣê-lāʻ, it is with respect to yet another edifice. This we find in the book of Exodus, when He gives Moses the heavenly pattern to follow to establish the first covenant of God with mankind, i.e. the first ‘church’. In the Exodus narrative, there is a clear and consistent pattern to the usage of ṣê-lāʻ. And also, very insightful. So insightful that it totally changed the game of gender equality for me.
What’s more, the Lord God also uses the words badad/le-bad which are equally found in Genesis 2:21. Again, I do not see that as co-incidence at all.
For this cause I would like us to look in the Exodus accounts very closely together to find out more about what God’s usage of ṣê-lāʻ connotes. This way we could find out what really happened in Genesis 2:21-22, and maybe also what the phrase ʻê-zer kə-neḡ-dōw means. The logic is this; if we can determine how ʻê-zer kə-neḡ-dōw was made, then we can know what ʻê-zer kə-neḡ-dōw means, and we can know how God made man and woman.
One thing is sure in all these, the traditional translation of ṣê-lāʻ to rib in Genesis 2:21-22 is not accurate.