Friday, 3 April 2009

A snare has entrapped you ...

I've done a little digging around the suggestion in Rachel's comment on my earlier post, that Genesis 3:16 should be translated as, “A snare has increased your sorrow.”

The origin of this seems to be the 1921 work by the early Christian feminist, Katharine Bushnell, God's Word to Women, which is still in print.

According to an article by Pat Joyce on this site here, “Bushnell holds that the first section [of Genesis 3:16] should be translated “a snare has increased your sorrow . . .”

It continues,
She gets “snare” from the Hebrew word ARB (ARB) translated “ambush” and” liers in wait” or “in ambush” fourteen times in Joshua and Judges. [Actually, I counted twenty.]

The difference is between the two translations given below is only in the vowel signs.

HaRBeh, AaRBeh, "multiplying I will multiply," which is usually translated as I will greatly multiply your sorrow


HiRBah AoReB, "has-caused-to multiply a lying-in-wait.” Remember that lyer-in wait can also be translated an ambush or snare.
[Although in fact, as far as I can see, the KJV never translates it as 'snare', see also Swanson, J. (1997), A Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains.]

The problem is that the first statement in the argument is simply not true, namely that "The difference is [sic] between the two translations ... is only in the vowel signs."

The first transliteration should be not 2 groups of 3 consonants: HaRBeh, AaRBeh (where, following Pat Joyce, "Upper case represents the original Hebrew letter. Lower case represents vowel signs"), but (using the same convention) 2 groups of 4 consonants: HaRBaH AaRBeH. There is a Hebrew consonant (He) at the end of each word, not a vowel point.

The reason for this is straightforward: the first word is an infinitive absolute, which combines with the imperfect of the same verb to express emphasis - "multiplying I will multiply", cf "not dying you shall die" (3:4, translated, "you shall not surely die.")

The word 'ambush', however, as Joyce acknowledges, is 3 consonants: ARB. You cannot therefore (following Joyce) derive this from a conjectural re-pointing of ARBH into AoReB ("a lying in wait", "an ambush" or "a snare"), because you still have a 'spare' He: AoReBH.

I have checked this as thoroughly as I can, but others may wish to contribute.

(The Septuagint, incidentally, follows both the Hebrew as traditionally pointed and the English translations: Πληθύνων πληθυνῶ , multiplying I will multiply.)

John Richardson
3 April 2009

When posting your comments please give a full name and location. Comments without this information may not be posted.

1 comment:

  1. Foh's position I guess is the accepted conservative evangelical position today. I have been fairly persauded by it over the years. However, recently I came across another view that seems to me worth considering. It points out the parallel between the judgement on Adam and Eve. Both are condemned to frustration in their spheres of relative responsibility. The soil will frustrate Adam and Adam (the husband) will frustarte Eve. Rather than a prediction of Eve's distorting of her role (perhaps Foh's view is somewhat anachronistic) it is a statement of the divine judgement of frustration on all endeavour. Roms 8 reminds us creation is subject to frustration and we may see death itself as the ultimate frustration.

    I do not say this is right but I find it persuasive. The parallel with Adam certainly makes sense as does the wider theme of frustration.

    Worth considering.

    John Thomson Glasgow