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Critical Examination Of Genesis III. 16.

(Continued from page 103.)

Having Reference to the Employment of Anaesthetics in Cases of Labour.

By the Rev. Abraham De Sola, Lecturer on Hebrew Language and Literature, University of M’Gill College.

In making this assertion, we are aware that we may be charged with jumping at a conclusion not at all warranted, unless by the insufficient premises laid down; since it may be objected, although Gesenius may have meant by it “trouble,” which word he gives as one of the significations of עמל ngamal, “eager striving,” “giving occasion for labour,” (some of the received meanings of “trouble,”) still have many learned scholars, both Christian and Jewish, frequently rendered ngamal “sorrow,” as being the only applicable sense in certain passages; and, moreover, even Kimchi, himself, may have intended it to be understood in this sense when he explained the root עצב ngetseb by it.

To this latter supposition, with which only we have now to do, we reply, it is plainly impossible that Kimchi, in using עמל ngamal as one of the significations of עצב ngetseb, could have intended to convey by it any other idea than that of labour, for these reasons: First, Because of the eight, before quoted, scriptural passages which he cites; three, viz, Prov. xiv. 23; Isaiah lvii. 3; Prove. v. 13, are rendered “labour,” in the authorized version.* Here, then, we have the English translators of the Bible, themselves, bearing testimony, indirect and partial though it be, to the correctness of our views as to Kimchi’s meaning.

* It would be a task too long for our limits, though not a difficult one, to show that where the rendering of the authorized version differs from that of R. David Kimchi, other translators agree with him; e. g. Isaiah xxv. 3: “The Lord shall give thee rest,” מעצבך (mengotsbechah,) a. v. “from thy sorrow,”—but Cassiodoro de Reyna, the early Christian translator of the Scriptures into Spanish, (he styles himself “Primero interprete de los sacros libros,”) renders it “de tu trabajo,” i. e. “thy labour or toil,” like Kimchi. In this and other instances, we think it might easily be shown that Kimchi’s rendering is much more correct, and, so to say, more reasonable, than that of King James’s translators.

But we may be reminded that Kimchi gives the word יגיעה yegingha as well as עמל ngamal, for the signification of עצב ngetseb, and that he may have meant יגיעה yegingha to be applied to the three examples first referred to.

In reply to this, we have to remark, Secondly, <<195>>The eminent Hebrew grammarian, before citing those instances in which he says, עצב ngetseb means labour, expressly lays down those passages in which he believes the word to mean sorrow, anger, etc., the passages are, 1, Ps. cxxxix. 24; 2, Prov. x. 22; 3, Prov. xv. 1; 4, Isaiah I. 11; 5, Prov. x. 10; 6, Prov. xvi. 14; 7, Job ix. 28; 8, Ps. cxlvii. 3; 9, Ps. iii. 4. Kimchi, after quoting these nine texts, says, הרוגז והדאגה ענין כולם i. e., “the meaning of ngetseb, recurring in all these passages, is either anger or sorrow” (harogez vehadahagah). On comparing these nine examples with the eight before quoted, and the remarks of Kimchi on each, we think it will be readily admitted that if he had intended to teach us that ngetseb, in the examples 1, 5, 6, 7, 8 of the first quoted series means “sorrow,” he would, undoubtedly, have been careful to add them to the nine lately quoted examples, wherein, as he plainly tells us, ngetseb means sorrow or anger.

Thirdly, We have to state the words of Kimchi himself would be sufficient to show us what meaning he attaches to ngamal. On the second of the first quoted series of examples, viz., Prov. xiv. 23, “In all labour (ngetseb) there is profit,” he says, “The meaning of this is, that from all labour (ngamal) that a man does (sheyangamal adam) he shall acquire profit and distinction; for, through much labour (hengamal) he will attain exaltation (hamangalah),* riches, and dominion; but the labour (ngamal) of the lips [pratling] and toil (veyegingath) of [incessant] speaking, are but defects, and a falling off from excellence; even as the Scripture addeth, “but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury.”

* Kimchi seems to indulge here in a play on the words hengamal labour, and hamangalah exaltation.

Be it remarked, that the text upon which these observations are made, is one wherein עצב ngetseb is translated “labour,” by the English and other translators, and Kimchi uses the word עמל ngamal as an equivalent for, or synonymous with עצב ngetseb.

Now let us read ngamal in the Rabbi’s valuable comment, as signifying “sorrow,” and we shall quickly be obliged to ask, Does sorrow indeed procure to a man profit, distinction, etc.?—but let us understand it as labour, and we shall soon see the pertinence of Kimchi’s observations. Again, in giving the meaning of ngamal,† he says the meanings are יגיעה yegingha toil; טורח torach great or troublesome labour; and עול ngavel vanity—but he does not give an equivalent for sorrow among the number. Be these considerations sufficient to prove that, not hastily, but with what we deem satisfactory grounds, have we formed our con‑<<196>>clusion as to the meaning of ngamal, one of the significations of ngetseb as given in the “Sepher Hashorashim.”

† “Sepher Hashorashim.” Rad. עמל

But the fact that Kimchi, profound grammarian though he be, has derided the signification of עצב ngetseb and עצבון ngitsabbohn, in Genesis iii. 16, to be “labour,” is not the only reason, though it is one, why we cannot admit the words to mean “sorrow.” We have other reasons, our second we shall state thus: As “sorrow” is only the secondary or figurative meaning of ngetseb, its primary signification being “labour,” not עצב ngetseb, but some other word, expressive of no other idea but of sorrow or pain, would have been here used, had it been the inspired writer’s in­tention to convey “in sorrow thou shalt bring forth,” etc.

Once more, we must recall to the reader’s attention certain principles of Hebrew philology, in elucidation and support of our position. It is a peculiarity, more beautifully and more constantly appertaining to the Hebrew language, that to avoid the introduction of an infinite and useless number of words, certain words possess, besides the surprising variety of significations produced by etymological changes, a secondary metaphorical sense; thus we have ראש rosh the head, meaning a summit, a chief, beginning, principal part of anything, etc.; again, רגל regel, a foot; in the plural, רגלים regalim times, cum multis aliis. As examples of change of meaning in consequence of etymological variations, we may instance למד lammod, which expresses to learn, to teach, to be taught, a teacher, a scholar, etc., etc. The following, which we select from many, and which are, perhaps, the least pertinent among others we might adduce, are examples showing how both cause and effect may be expressed by modifications of the same root:—

לשון lashon a tongue (cause), and 2, speech (effect of using the tongue); עשה ngasoh to do (cause), מעשה mangaseh, a work, a thing done or made (the effect of doing).

Of the last class of examples do we consider ngetseb. The original idea of the word we take to be labour (cause), and its secondary, fatigue, exhaustion (effects of labour on the human frame), and by association, trouble, sorrow, pain, etc. We trust the reader will join us in not considering this notion either extravagant or far-fetched;—it may possibly be not even original with us,—we will not now stop to inquire; but, we repeat, labour must necessarily be the primary meaning of ngetseb, since there must be labour, bodily or mental, before there can be fatigue, which is so closely allied, if not synonymous with pain or sorrow.

(To be continued.)