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Hebrew Researches

By Jacob I. M. Falkenau.

(Continued from Issue #4)

Finally we derive from the latter periods of the Hebrew an additional proof for our statement, from a fact which has hitherto been considered a problem in Hebrew writing, but which can be readily explained and understood from the premises laid down. It is a fact, known to every Hebrew scholar, that in all the Hebrew writings subsequent to the Bible, the verb הֵחֵל is almost generally avoided, and on its place a new perfect verb תחל has been formed--of the bilateral חל with the servile letter ת-- and so in all the frequent occasions for its use, instead of the former, stands this latter in its Hiph'il species הִתְחִיל, "to begin." This strange radical innovation of the one and disuse of the other, will, by our premised definitions, become at once plain and necessary, with the single remark, that התחיל has been innovated and formed to represent--what החל* never did--the pure and simple idea of the very "to begin," either as a neuter or an active verb.

* Although we do not deny the ingenuity of our correspondent, we nevertheless do not see any convincing proof that the root of חלל, when regularly conjugated, as in Ezek. 28.9, may not have a different meaning from its irregular or כפילים form; or that it may not have in the Hiph'il a different signification from the Pi'el, and simply mean to commence, especially as we have no word for this idea, to our knowledge at least, in Hebrew. Certainly the derivative noun in Gen. 61. 21 and 63.20, et. al., can have no other meaning than simply "in the beginning." Our correspondent has overlooked too the passage in Isaiah 53.5, which has been rendered "wounded" by Dr. Sachs and Mr. Hochstadter in their different translations of that Prophet.

Derivations, such as חלל, a musical instrument with "holes," or, the dance attended by such "hollow" instruments, and the like others, the reader may himself easily explain, or else find this done by others; hence we have omitted them in this place as unnecessary.

Next to the root חלל stands קרא in our text, which, in common with its compound terms קרא שֵם and קרא בְשֵם follows now in the order of our definitions. The latter קרא שם differs equally and widely from both the former; and between these two extremes we have the verb קרא שם followed by the noun without the preposition; and in these various constructions the Bible presents a proper and nice distinction, founded upon a true principle, common to every language, which has not yet been noticed by our best lexicographers. Of the elementary difference between proper and common nouns, it might be said, that the object of the former has a name as its own, its property, and that of the latter has no name, but a word expressing its kind or sort; we ask of the former, what is its "name?" and of the latter, "what is it?" This very point constitutes the distinction between  and קרא שם, maintained in the Bible without exception. It says of a common noun קרא, "to call," and of a proper noun קרא שם, "to call a name." Instances of the former: Gen. 10.5, 8, 10; 2.23; Exod. 33.7; 1 Sam. 9.9; Isai 10.26; 14.20; 32.5; 35.8; 54.7; 58.13; 60.18; Hos. 2.18; Zech 11.7; Prov. 7.4; 14.21. To prevent misunderstanding, let us remark, that to a certain class of names, though proper nouns, the same consideration applies on account of their being formed by two or more separate words, partly consisting of a common noun, as Gen. 14.14; 21.31; Numb. 13.24; 32.41; Judges 10.4; 15.17; 18.12; 1 Sam. 23.28; 2 Sam. 5.9; 6.8; Isai 60.14; Ezek. 34.11; 1 Chron. 6.7.

The latter קרא שם, with exception of the instances enumerated, occurs on almost every occasion of "calling a name," and is thus too numerous in the Bible, and is too familiar to every reader, to need any special quotation here.

We may assert that our position will be found to be correct in every case where these phrases occur, if we bear in mind the two following considerations:

a. The simple verb קרא may signify calling a proper noun, when the word שם immediately precedes or follows the phrase, as then a reference of the one to the other can be easily understood, as Gen. 31.49; 35.18; Numb. 13.16; 32.42; Jos. 19.47.

b. When a proper noun is called by a foreign tongue, the thing becomes so obvious by that circumstance, that the simple verb קרא is sufficient, as Gen. 31.47; Deut. 2.11, 20; 3.9.

As a derivation from its primitive meaning, the term קרא שם denotes also, to get a name, to get reputation. Ruth 4.11.

Quite different from the preceding is the term קרא בשם; it implies no such action as to give a name, but on the contrary, supposes its object to be already in possession of a name, and denotes, to cal it by that name, to specify it, to nominate it for something, as, Exod. 31.2; 35.30; Josh 21.9; Isai 45.4; Ps. 49.12; Esther 2.14.

Both the terms are most strikingly elucidated in the two parallel-phrases:

Ps. 147.4: "He telleth the number of the stars," לְכֻלָם שֵמות יִקְרָא

Isai 40.26: "Lift up your eyes on high and behold who," &c. לְכֻלָם בְשֵם יִקְרָא

In the former the royal Psalmist speaks in praise of the Omniscient, "He telleth the number of the (innumerable) stars" — "He gives names (innumerable) to them all," שם יקרא; or in the plural שמות; but Isaiah takes the figure in another light, he presents the stars to his hearers, as a mighty heavenly host, a celestial army, arranged, numbered, and named every one, all marking out, "not one faileth," for the Lord "calls out every one by its name," בשם יקרא. The English version of Ps. 147.4, "He called them all by their names," needs indeed some alteration, as at present it neither answers for the term קרא שם, nor does it rightly render the meaning of the phrase "that the Lord alone knows to number and name the stars." It would do very well when transposed to the parallel-phrase, Isai. 40.26, where it would represent the original with much more perspicuity than the present translation.