‘To Eat’ or not ‘To Eat’: That is the Question
A printable version of Parts 1-3 of this demonstration is available here.
It remains to discuss eight cases with respect to which a consensus is lacking as to whether occurrences of the verb אכל are represented: Ezek 21:33; 42:5; Mal 1:12; Job 20:21; Gen 47:24; and Exod 12:4; 16:16, 18, 21.
eTregelles, eBDB, and Even-Shoshan (with a question mark) understand לְהָכִיל in Ezek 21:33 to attest the elision of medial א according to a well-documented tendency (GKC §68h-k; Ezek 21:33 is cited in §68i, where the possibility of a derivation from כוּל is also mentioned). They take לְהָכִיל to be a byform of לְהַאֲכִיל (note that רַאֲשֵׁי*>רָאשֵׁי in masoretic Hebrew). The alternative, which takes MT לְהָכִיל as derived from כוּל, seems forced in context (pace Greenberg, who fails to discuss the proposal לְהָכִיל = לְהַאֲכִיל). It is not surprising that Even-Shoshan counts לְהָכִיל among the occurrences of אכל. But he would have done well to also list it under כוּל, a derivation compatible with MT, with a cross-reference to אכל [fn 1].
eHALOT, if it understood לְהָכִיל in Ezek 21:33 to conceal as it were לְהַאֲכִיל with elision of medial א, would have so listed it. It does not. Alonso Schökel does not reference לְהָכִיל under אכל either. But in his commentary on Ezekiel, he notes that לְהָכִיל = לְהַאֲכִיל and translates accordingly.
A derivation of להכיל from אכל accords with the overall sense of Ezek 21:33. Bertholet proposed לְכָלָה in place of לְהָכִיל, followed by BHS. The Vorlage of OG Ezekiel, to judge by its εἰς συντέλειαν at this point, read thus. I doubt לכלה represents the original reading. It is easier to imagine להכיל, a difficult form, being corrected to לכלה than vice-versa. Of course, that one of the readings is derivative does not make it any less an example of ancient Hebrew than the other. In the lexicon of my dreams, sub לְכָלָה under כָּלָה, √OG Ezek 21:33 would be listed (√ for reconstructed Vorlage). Quite apart from this instance, and in light of words like מַכֹּ֫לֶת ‘foodstuff,’ a clear case of elision of medial א, the possibility that forms vocalized in MT as if from כוּל, כלה, or יכל derive on occasion from אכל must be kept in mind.
Several resources list יוֹכְלוּ in Ezek 42:5 as a form of אכל (eTregelles; Even-Shoshan; eHALOT, following BL §371r; AFAT). But is it? That one architectural feature ‘ate’ from other architectural features in the sense of ‘taking space’ from them is an otherwise unattested idiom in Hebrew. Zimmerli derives יוֹכְלוּ from יכל. In that case the form might be revocalized יוּכְלוּ and translated ‘reached’ (cf. Ps 139:6: לא אוכל לה ‘I reach it not’). But in Ezek 42:5 יוֹכְלוּ is followed by the phrase מֵהֵנָה ‘from them.’ The solution seems farfetched. eBDB’s proposal, following Ewald and Cornill who appeal to OG, makes better sense, but is far from compelling: read יוצלו [=] יאצלו ‘take away’ (for this meaning, see eHALOT ii אצל). An argument in favor of a derivation from אכל is the attestation of the Akkadian equivalent akālu in texts discussing architectural features with the same meaning suggested above. CAD, von Soden, and CDA all reference this usage. HALOT might have noticed, but did not. The citation of equivalent usages and phraseology in languages beyond Hebrew is an excellent feature of eTregelles, eBDB, and eHALOT. A systematic citation of relevant materials in Akkadian, Ugaritic, Aramaic, and other languages with respect to usages and phraseology in dictionaries of ancient Hebrew remains a desideratum.
בֶּאֱמָרְכֶ֗ם שֻׁלְחַ֤ן אֲדֹנָי֙ מְגֹאָ֣ל ה֔וּא וְנִיב֖וֹ נִבְזֶ֥ה אָכְלֽוֹ
By your saying: The Lord’s table is pollutable;
and its bounty, its consumption, treatable with scorn.
BHS does away with the (for us) awkward casus pendens construction by eliminating נִיבוֹ ‘its produce’ on which the following hangs. But if אָכְלוֹ is understood as a suffixed inf. construct (with VOT, but not AFAT), the grammar of the whole is plausible. If instead אָכְלוֹ is understood as a suffixed noun (OG, Hill, and most), the construction of which it is a part becomes inexplicably redundant. Targum Jonathan, Peshitta, and Vulgate paraphrase here. A text at variance with MT cannot be reconstructed from them.
Mal 1:12b is part of a sentence whose larger structure is easily overlooked.
כִּ֣י מִמִּזְרַח־שֶׁ֜מֶשׁ וְעַד־מְבוֹאֹ֗ו גָּד֤וֹל שְׁמִי֙ בַּגּוֹיִ֔ם
וּבְכָל־מָק֗וֹם מֻקְטָ֥ר מֻגָּ֛שׁ לִשְׁמִ֖י וּמִנְחָ֣ה טְהוֹרָ֑ה
כִּֽי־גָד֤וֹל שְׁמִי֙ בַּגּוֹיִ֔ם אָמַ֖ר יְהוָ֥ה צְבָאֽוֹת
וְאַתֶּ֖ם מְחַלְּלִ֣ים אוֹתֹ֑ו בֶּאֱמָרְכֶ֗ם
שֻׁלְחַ֤ן אֲדֹנָי֙ מְגֹאָ֣ל ה֔וּא וְנִיב֖וֹ נִבְזֶ֥ה אָכְלֽוֹ
Though from the sun’s rising to its setting, my name is great among the nations,
and everywhere incense and pure oblation is offered to my name;
Though my name is great among the nations, said Yahweh of armies,
you on your part profane it by your saying:
The Lord’s table is pollutable;
and its bounty, its consumption, treatable with scorn. (Mal 1:11-12)
The use of (repeated) כִּי and וְ to coordinate preposed adjuncts to a matrix (concession + assertion) is not surprising. The construction warrants further study.
No survivor to eat it.
WHM 4.2, AFAT, and WIVU concur in construing לְאָכְלוֹ as a suffixed infinitive construct. Mandelkern, Lisowsky, and Even-Shoshan construe it as the noun אֹכֶל with suffix. If שָׂרִיד is understood in the sense of ‘something left over,’ and the referent of the pronoun taken to be the wicked individual whose pride and fall is the chief subject matter of Zophar’s speech (so NRSV, REB, etc.), the construal makes sense. But שָׂרִיד elsewhere means ‘survivor,’ and the more probable antecedent to the suffix in question is יָגָע ‘gain,’ תְּמוּרָתוֹ ‘his trade,’ and בַּיִת גָּזַל ‘ill-gotten patrimony’ in 20:18-19. The logic of the passage supports this. One who accumulates wealth expects to enjoy it and pass it on to his heirs, but if he is a malefactor, neither he nor his heirs will ‘eat’ his gain. Instead he will have God’s burning wrath as food. Job 20:21 is part of a unit whose versification and text as preserved in MT seem off in a few instances. I would restore as follows:
מֵשִׁ֣יב יָ֭גָע וְלֹ֣א יִבְלָ֑ע
מֵ֯חִ֥יל תְּ֝מוּרָת֗וֹ וְלֹ֣א יַעֲלֹֽס כִּֽי־רִ֭צַּץ עָזַ֣ב דַּלִּ֑ים
בַּ֥יִת גָּ֝זַ֗ל וְלֹ֣א יִבֶנֵֽהוּ כִּ֤י׀ לֹא־יֵ֯דַ֣ע שָׁלֵ֣ו
בְּבִטְנ֑וֹ בַּ֝חֲמוּד֗וֹ לֹ֣א יְמַלֵּֽט אֵין־שָׂרִ֥יד לְאָכְל֑וֹ
עַל־כֵּ֝֗ן לֹא־יָחִ֥יל טוּבֽוֹ בִּמְלֹ֣אות שִׂ֭פְקוֹ יֵ֣צֶר ל֑וֹ
כָּל־יַ֖ד עָמָ֣ל תְּבוֹאֶֽנּוּ יְהִ֤י׀ לְמַלֵּ֬א בִטְנ֗וֹ
יְֽשַׁלַּח־בּ֖וֹ חֲר֣וֹן אַפּ֑וֹ וְיַמְטֵ֥ר עָ֝לֵ֗ימוֹ בִּלְחוֹ֯מֽוֹ
֯mtכְּחֵיל =a כ/מ confusion. ֯mt יָדַע assim to more frequent form. ֯mt עָמֵל assim to יַד֯.
mt בִּלְחוּמוֹ cause of error unclear; alt. לְחוּם = an otherwise unattested noun.
A bringer-back of gain,
he will not swallow it down.
One who prospers his trade,
he will not savor it,
for he crushed, left to die the poor.
Patrimony he stole, he will not build it up,
for he will not know relaxation.
Of his children, of his dearest,
none he will save,
no survivor to eat it.
For a reason his fortune will not prosper,
when his sufficiency is complete, distress will be his.
Let the full force of misery come upon him,
may it serve to fill his belly.
His burning wrath he will let loose on him,
may he rain it down on him for his consumption. (Job 20:18-23)
[החיל], a denominative Hiphil from חַיִל in the sense of ‘wealth, bounty,’ occurs, as such Hiphils tend to do, in both transitive and non-transitive senses. Kataphoric עַל־כֵּן constructions are attested elsewhere (Ps 1:5-6; Hab 1:4, in both cases picked up by כִּיv. בִּלְחוֹמוֹis a suffixed infinitive construct.
Tiny changes to MT Job sometimes suffice to restore it to intelligibility.
Exodus 12:4; 16:16, 18, and 21
eBDB sub Qal אכל contains the following note: “לְפִי אָכְלוֹ according to his eating, i.e. according to his needs in eating Ex 12:4; 16:16, 18 also v 21.” The four occurrences of אָכְלוֹ after לְפִי or כְּפִי are understood as suffixed inf. constructs, not as suffixed nouns as Even-Shoshan, eHALOT, and DBH have it. A comparison with other לְפִי idioms lends support to eBDB’s analysis. Note the following (discussion of minutiae in brackets):
לְפִ֣י׀ רֹ֣ב הַשָּׁנִ֗ים תַּרְבֶּה֙ מִקְנָת֔וֹ
וּלְפִי֙ מְעֹ֣ט הַשָּׁנִ֔ים תַּמְעִ֖יט מִקְנָת֑וֹLev 25:16
The proportionally greater the years [since Jubilee past], the more you shall increase its price; the proportionally fewer the years, the more you shall decrease its price.
[Both רֹב and מְעֹט are inf. constructs, as eBDB notes sub רָבַבv. רֹב is misconstrued as a noun in WHM, AFAT, and WIVU. For a non-pleonastic version of the idiom documented here, see Num 26:54.]
וּלְפִ֞י הֵֽעָל֤וֹת הֶֽעָנָן֙ מֵעַ֣ל הָאֹ֔הֶל וְאַ֣חֲרֵי־כֵ֔ן יִסְע֖וּ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל Num 9:17
Correlative to the lifting of the cloud from the tent, the Israelites would break camp following.
[According to a well-attested pattern (Joüon-Muraoka §167b), the double vav structure marks a correlation between two sentence constituents. Sad to say, a look at the Andersen-Forbes Analysis at this passage and two of Joüon-Muraoka’s examples, Gen 44:22 and Jer 18:4, reveals divergent analyses each time. The pattern I note escaped consistent tagging.]
לְפִ֞י מְלֹ֧את לְבָבֶ֛ל שִׁבְעִ֥ים שָׁנָ֖ה אֶפְקֹ֣ד אֶתְכֶ֑ם Jer 29:10
Relative to the completion of Babylon’s seventy years, I will take note of you.
[The construction headed by לְפִי and closed by שָׁנָה is noteworthy. A peek at AFPMA reveals a splendid analysis of syntactic structure sub loco. The construction is correctly tagged as a clausal immediate constituent on a par with the verbal predicator and object complement following. A study of like constructions is a desideratum. AFPMA makes it possible to establish a corpus of relevant cases.
Given that suffixed nouns after לְפִי or כְּפִי are also attested, Even-Shoshan, eHALOT, and DBH’s construal cannot easily be ruled out. Cf., e.g., לְפִי זַרְעֹו in Lev 27:16. In a case like this, a reliable reference tool would construe the expression one way, and note the alternative construal in parentheses.
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
In this post, I attempted to establish a corpus of occurrences of the verb אכל in the Hebrew Bible. I could not have done so to my satisfaction without the aid of both electronic and print resources. Along the way, I saw tangerine trees and marmalade skies. I had fun (no acid was involved). Of course, not everyone sees Hebrew as I do, through a looking glass.
For those of you who see Hebrew with unsmitten eyes, the trip into the fine details of אכל may have seemed more like a journey into the bowels of a vast and mysterious underworld. Relax, we have come to a provisional conclusion. Spewed out of the ordeal you are.
The corpus arrived at totals 814 occurrences. The precise contents of the corpus are not identical to those contained in any one of the resources that contributed to its constitution. Excluding errors, identified cases under dispute totaled 24. 22 out of 24 were assigned to the verb אכל, one to the noun אֹכֶל, and one אכל form was divided into two words.
The wealth of reference tools and databases available in electronic format was a boon for the purposes of the first installment of this word study. I am grateful to the people of Logos for their vision and persistence.
Error is not necessarily a bad thing. It has a place, as theologians say, in the divine economy. Felix culpa. Discrepancies among dictionaries of biblical Hebrew and the AFAT, WHM, and WIVU databases catch the eye, and compel a closer look at the data. In this word study, errors and discrepancies discovered in process became stepping stones in the development of a research strategy.
Along the way, my knowledge of specific texts was deepened. In my book, that’s Lucy in the sky with diamonds. If you, dear reader, have yet to explore the advantages of electronic resources for the purposes of serious study, it is time you do.
In future posts, other aspects of the verb אכל will be explored with the help of e-dictionaries of Hebrew, along with print and other e-resources.
It would be helpful if publishers of reference tools tailored their products to take advantage of the electronic format from the get go. Let’s take the example of HALOT, which is chock full of errors in both its print and electronic editions. The use of an interactive algorithm of community correction for the purposes of product improvement would be appropriate. An editor of Brill’s choosing might be designated to oversee the process. Or there might be an agreement allowing Logos to oversee corrections and additions to eHALOT. Truly useful reference tools such as CDA post addenda and corrigenda suggested by users online. One of the original editors oversees the process. CDA does not exist in electronic format, a crying shame, so the exercise is not nearly as user friendly as it might be.
I suggest taking things to a new level. As do many software firms, Logos offers continuous updates of its products free of charge to its customers. But it’s up to the original publishers, Oxford in the case of BDB, Brill in the case of HALOT, and Harrassowitz in the case of CDA, to market electronic editions of the reference tools they (also) publish on dead trees with a mechanism in place to facilitate the incorporation of addenda and corrigenda on a continuous basis. They ought to do so as a matter of principle.
In the electronic medium, vanilla-flavored errors a few of which I noted above ought to be fixable at any time. There was a time when students, pastors, rabbis, and professors worked together to produce reference tools with as few bloopers as possible between their pages. The preface of BDB names and thanks a long list of people who contributed comments and corrections. No wonder BDB is relatively free of error. Excuse my temerity in thinking that reference tools of the future, by virtue of being modifiable electronically on a continuous basis according to pre-established guidelines, have the potential of being more useful and more accurate than tools of the past.
 In passing, one cannot fail to register with disappointment that eBDB and eTregelles each contain a typo at this point. לְהָכִיל shows up as לִהָכִיל in eBDB; הָכִיל as חָכִיל in eTregelles.
 Tags might be added to AFPMA so as to facilitate the study of constructions of this and other types. As Andersen and Forbes note in their introduction to AFPMA, it remains a work in progress.