Grace Theological Journal (1985) 67-89.

[Copyright © 1985 Grace Theological Seminary; cited with permission;

digitally prepared for use at Gordon and Grace Colleges and elsewhere]

 

ROSH: AN ANCIENT LAND

KNOWN TO EZEKIEL

 

JAMES D. PRICE

 

Extensive evidence from ancient Near Eastern .texts and from

normal Hebrew syntax supports the view that wxr  is a toponym in

Ezek 38:2, 3; 39:1. The syntactical support involves a detailed examina-

tion of instances where some scholars posit a break in a construct

chain. These hypothetical breaks are not convincing for several rea-

sons. Therefore, wxr in Ezek 38:2, 3; 39:1 should be translated as a

proper noun ("the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal" [NKJV]),

not an adjective ("the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal" [KJV]).

 

*   *   *

INTRODUCTION

AMONG Bible expositors, controversy continues over the translation

of the phrase lbAtuv; j`w,m, wxro xyWin; in Ezek 38:2, 3 and 39:1--

should the translation be "the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal"

(AV), or "the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal" (NASB)? The

controversy centers around the Hebrew word wxro is the word a place

name (Rosh) or an adjective (chief)?

There are two principle arguments denying that wxro is a place

name: a philological argument and a grammatical argument. The

philological argument states that the primary meaning of wxro, is

"head" as a noun, and "chief" as an adjective,1 and that the word is

unknown as a place name in the Bible, Josephus, and other ancient

literature. J. Simons, a noted authority on ancient geography, wrote:

 

       That in one or more of these texts a people of that name whose

home was in Asia Minor, is indeed mentioned, is not entirely disproved

but it is at any rate rendered improbable by the fact that the same

name can be discerned only very doubtfully in other (Assyrian) docu-

ments.2

 

1 BDB. 910-11.

2 J. Simons, The Geographical and Topographical Texts of the Old Testament

(Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1959) 81.



68                                GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

The grammatical argument states that the absence of a conjunc-

tion between wxro, and j`w,m, precludes wxro, from being a noun. William

Gesenius stated the applicable grammatical principle: "Contrary to

English, which in lengthy enumerations uses and to connect only the

last member of the series, in Hebrew polysyndeton is customary.”3

This means that Hebrew uses a conjunction between every word in a

series. On the basis of this grammatical rule Simons concluded, "The

reading j`w,m, (not j`wem,U) in both texts argues against a tripartite enu-

meration of peoples or countries.”4

These arguments have been convincing to many scholars and

have resulted in the retention of the AV reading in a number of

modern versions (RSV, NIV, NAB). Ralph H. Alexander represented

the typical response when he wrote, "The author does not consider

the word ros [sic!] to be a proper name in light of the syntax of the

Masoretic text and the usage of the term throughout the Old Testa-

ment and extra-biblical literature.”5

But on the other hand, many authorities accept wxro, as a top-

onym, and regard the grammatical problem to be of no consequence.

Among these are C. F. Keil,6 C. L. Feinberg,7 D. J. Wiseman,8 T. G.

Pinches,9 and standard lexicons.10 Also, several modern versions

translate the phrase "prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal" (ASV,

NASB, NEB, NKJV, Harkavy); and some even recognize the land of

Rosh in a reconstruction of the difficult Masoretic text of Isa 66:19,

"Meshech, Rosh, Tubal, and Javan" (NASB, JB, NEB). Thus, the

arguments against this translation may not be as convincing as some

think.

Those who support the view that wxro, is a toponym observe that

this use of ros is not entirely unknown in the ancient literature.

Pinches pointed out that the LXX translators must have known the

place, because they transliterated the word as a place name. He also

 

3 GKC, 154a.

4 Simons, Geographical and Topographical Texts, 81.

5 Ralph H. Alexander, "A Fresh Look at Ezekiel 38 and 39," JETS 17 (1974) 161,

n. 2.

6 C. F. Keil, Biblical Commentary on the Prophecies of Ezekiel, trans. James

Martin (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, n.d.) 2:158-59.

7 Charles L. Feinberg, The Prophecy of Ezekiel (Chicago: Moody, 1969) 219-20.

8 Donald J. Wiseman, "Rosh," The New Bible Dictionary (ed. J. Douglas; Grand

Rapids: Eerdmans, 1962) 1107.

9 T. G. Pinches, "Rosh," International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ed. James

Orr; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955) 4:2623.

I0 BDB, 912; William Gesenius, Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament,

trans. Edward Robinson (Boston: Crocker and Brewster, 1849) 955; William L. Holla-

day, A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids:

Eerdmans, 1971) 329.



PRICE: ROSH: AN ANCIENT LAND KNOWN TO EZEKIEL     69

 

noted references to the land of Rashi (= Rosh) in the Annals of

Sargon.11 Opponents of the view discount these references as insig-

nificant.

            Also, those who support the place-name view point to a much

more serious grammatical problem involved with regarding wxro as an

adjective--the adjective intervenes between the construct noun xyWin;

(prince of) and its genitive nomen rectum lbAtuv; j`w,m, (Meshech and

Tubal). This is a syntactic anomaly. Opponents of the view dismiss

the problem by observing that broken construct chains do occur in

Biblical Hebrew. Simons discounted the problem by stating, "The

translation of Eze. xxxviii 2.3 and xxxix 1 by “Gog, chief prince of

Meshech and Tubal' is grammatically difficult but cannot be said to

be impossible."12 But is is very doubtful that this problem can be

brushed off so lightly and that the ancient references to the land of

Rosh can be ignored.

This article demonstrates that Rosh was a well-known place in

antiquity as evidenced by numerous and varied references in the

ancient literature. The article also demonstrates that in Ezek 38:2, 3;

39:1 the absence of the conjunction with j`w,m, is inconsequential and it

is syntactically improbable that wxro, is an adjective. A logical explana-

tion is offered for the origin of the interpretation of wxr as an adjec-

tive. The conclusion is drawn that the best translation of Ezek 38:2, 3;

39:1 is "prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal."

 

PHILOLOGICAL ARGUMENTS

 

Rosh was a Well-Known Place

Rosh has not been recognized among the place names of antiquity

because scholars have failed to take into account the well known

phonetic shifts that occur within the Semitic languages. When differ-

ences in pronunciation are taken into account, I found the name

Rosh (or its phonetic equivalents) twenty times in five different

ancient sources without an exhaustive search.

 

Variant Pronunciations of Rosh

The word that means "head" as a noun and "chief" as an adjec-

tive is common to most of the Semitic languages, but its pronuncia-

tion varies. Due to the phonetic phenomenon known as the Canaanite

shift13 the word is pronounced ros in Hebrew and the Canaanite

 

11 Pinches, "Rosh," 4:2623.

12 Simons, Geographical and Topographical Texts, 81.

13 William S. LaSor, Handbook of Biblical Hebrew (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,

1979) 2:38, The Semitic /a/ shifted to /o/ in the Canaanite dialects.



70                    GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

dialects,14 but in the other Semitic languages it is pronounced as rasu

(Arabic),15 res (Aramaic),16 ris/resu (Ugaritic),17 and resu/rosu (Akka-

dian).18 The final vowel (u) is the nominative case ending; alternative

final vowels supply the genitive (rasi/ resi) and the accusative (rasa /

resa). Wherever the Semitic word for "head/chief" was used as a

place name, it is expected that it would follow the pronunciation and

orthography of the language in which it was used. That was true for

most place names that were derived from the meaningful Semitic

vocabulary.

 

Rosh was a Name

The word wxro, (ros or its phonetic equivalent ras / res) was not.

used exclusively as a common noun or adjective in the Semitic

languages. The word also was used as the name of persons and

places, and in compound names of persons and places. The use of

ros as the name of a specific land is demonstrated in the next sec-

tion. Rosh was the name of a son of Benjamin (Gen 46:21), and

Resh was the name of an Akkadian temple.19 Also, the word is found

in compound place names such as Resh-eni;20 and in modern Arabic

place names such as Ras Shamra, Ras Naqura, Ras el-Ain, etc.

Additionally, the word is found in many compound personal names

of antiquity, such as Rashi-ili,21 Resh-Adad king of Apishal,22 Resh-

beli father of Tubalit-Bini,23 Resh-Dumuzi,24 Resh-Ea,25 Resh-ili son

 

14 BDB, 910.

15 Ibid.. 910; the Semitic /s/ shifted to /s/ in Arabic.

16 Ibid., 1112.

17 Cyrus H. Gordon, Ugaritic Textbook (Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1965)

31.

18 Theo Bauer, Akkadische Lesestucke (Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 19,53)

3:29.

19 "Resh Temple" is found 9 times in Akkadian ritual texts according to ANET,

338, 342, 344, 345.

20 David D. Luckenbill, "Bavian Inscription of Sennacherib," Historical Records of

Assyria, vol. 2 in Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylon (reprint; New York: Green-

wood, 1968) 2: 149.

21 Mentioned three times by David B. Weisberg, Texts from the Time of Nebuchad-

nezzar, vol. 17 in the Yale Oriental Series: Babylonian Texts (New Haven: Yale

University, 1980) 17:63.

22 "The Sargon Chronicle," ANET, 266.

23 Stepheri D. Simmons, Early Old Babylonian Documents, vol. 14 in the Yale

Oriental Series: Babylonian Texts (New Haven: Yale University, 1978) 73.

24 Samuel I. Feigin, Legal and Administrative Texts of the Reign of Samsu-Iluna,

vol. 12 in the Yale Oriental Series: Babylonian Texts (New Haven: Yale University,

1979) 50.

25 Ibid., 50.



PRICE: ROSH: AN ANCIENT LAND KNOWN TO EZEKIEL      71

 

of Sulalum,26 Resh-Irra,27  Resh-Marduk son of Ipqu-Amurru,28 Resh-

Nabium,29 Resh-Shamash,30 Resh-Shubula son of Ibn-Adad,31 Resh-

Sin,32 and Resh-Zababa.33

 

Rosh Mentioned Twenty Times as a Place Name

The place name Rosh (or its phonetic equivalents in the respec-

tive languages) was found three times in the LXX, ten times in

Sargon's inscriptions, once on Assurbanipal's cylinder, once in Sen-

nacherib's annals, and five times on Ugaritic tablets--a total of twenty

references in five different sources. The following sections list the

references.

Rosh in the LXX. The LXX translates Ezek 38:2, 3; 39:1 as

a@rxonta Rwj, Mosox kai> qobel. The Greek obviously transliterated

the Hebrew pronunciation.

 

Rosh in Sargon's Inscriptions. Various inscriptions of Sargon

mention the land of Rashu. The inscriptions noted in this study are as

follows.

 

(1) The Annals of Sargon (year 12, 11. 228-316):

 

     Til-Hamba, Dunni-Shamshu, Bube, Hamanu, strong cities in the

land of Rashi, became frightened at the onset of my mighty battle-

(array) and entered Bit-Imbi.34

 

(2) Sargon's Display Inscription:

      In the might and power of the great gods, my lords, . . . I cut

down all my foes. . . the lands of Ellipi and Rashi which are on the

Elamite border on the banks of the Tigris.35

 

(3) Sargon's Display Inscription of Salon XIV:

     In the might of Assur, Nabu and Mardu, the great gods, my lords,

who sent forth my weapons, I cut down all my enemies . . . the lands of

 

26 Simmons, Early Old Babylonian Documents, 73.

27 Ibid., 73.

28 Feigin, Legal and Administrative Texts, 50.

29 Simmons, Early Old Babylonian Documents, 73.

30 A popular name, listed 3 times by Feigin, Legal and Administrative Texts, 50,

and 3 times by Simmons, Early Old Babylonian Documents, 73.

31 Feigin, Legal and Administrative Texts, 50.

32 Simmons, Early Old Babylonian Documents, 73.

33 Ibid.,73.

34 Luckenbill, Historical Records of Assyria, 17.

35 Ibid., 26.



72                                GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

Rashi and Ellipi which are on the Elamite frontier, the Arameans who

dwell on the banks of the Tigris. . . . 36

Rashu is also mentioned as a place name in the following additional

inscriptions of Sargon: (a) Sargon's Bull Inscription,37 (b) Sargon's

Pavement Inscription (mentioned 5 times),38 and (c) Sargon's Cylinder

Inscription.39

 

Rosh in Assurbanipal's Texts. The land of Rashu is mentioned

in Assurbanipal's Texts on the Rassam cylinder, the eighth campaign

against Elam (col. IV, II. 63ff.):

 

     In my eighth campaign, at the command of Assur and Ishtar, I

mustered my troops, (and) made straight for Ummanaldasi, king of

Elam, Bit-Imbi, which I had captured in my former campaign,--this

time I captured (together with) the land of Rashi, (and) the city of

Manamu with its (surrounding) district.40

 

Rosh in Sennacherib’s Annals. The land of Reshu is mentioned

in the annals of Sennacherib:

 

     First year of Nergalushezib: . . . One year and 6 months was

Nergalushezib king in Babylon. In the month of Tashritu, the 26th

day, his people made a rebellion against Hallashu, king of Elan, . . .

and killed him. . . Afterward Sennacherib marched down to Elam

and destroyed. . . (the country) from the land of Rishi as far as

Bit-Burnaki.41

(Rishi is the equivalent of Reshu.)

 

Rosh in Ugaritic Literature. The Ugaritic literature mentions

people of the land of Reshu in the following texts:

(Text 1337)42

 

(1) mit.tlt.mbhrm                  (1) One-hundred (and) three deficit

(2) ‘l nsk. kttglm                    (2) against the metal smith of Kttglm.

(3) arbm.tlt mhsrm (3) Forty-three deficit

(4) mtb’l.risy                         (4) (against) Motbaal the Reshite

 

36 Ibid., 41.

37 Ibid., 45-47; the Akkadian text spells the name ra-a-si. See D. G. Lyon, Keil-

schrifttexte Sargon s Konig von Assyirien (reprint; Leipzig: Zentralantiquariat Der

Deutschen Demokratischen Republik, 1977) 14, 42 ,93.

38 Luckenbill, Historical Records of Assyria, 48-55.

39 Ibid., 60-62; Lyon, Keilschrifttexte, 2.

40 Luckenbill, Historical Records of Assyria, 307-8.

41 ANET, 302.

42 Gordon, Ugaritic Textbook, 240.



PRICE: ROSH: AN ANCIENT LAND KNOWN TO EZEKIEL      73

 

(9) bms.mnt.tlt                       (9) five minas. Three

(10) ‘l mtn.risy                      (10) against Motan the Reshite.43

 

(Text 2078) 44

(1) rism.qnum                        (1) The Reshites: Qanum

(2) bn ilrs                               (2) the son of Ilrash

(3) etc.                                    (3) etc.

 

(Text 2027) also a list of Reshites.45

 

(Text 2079) also a list of Reshites.46

 

(Text 2095)47

(1) li.mat.lim.kbdsmn           (1) Six hundred sixty kubdas of oil

(2) l.abrm.altyy                      (2) for Abram the Cypriote.

(3) mit.tltm.kbd.smn             (3) One hundred thirty kubdas of oil

(4) l.abrm msrm                    (4) for Abram of Egypt.

(5) mitm.arb’m.tmn.kbd        (5) Two hundred forty-eight kubdas

(6) l.sbrdnm                           (6) for the men of Sardis.

(7) mit.l.bn.’zmt.risy             (7) One hundred for Ben Azmot the

Reshite.

(8) etc.                                    (8) etc.

 

These references to Rosh (Rashu / Reshu) demonstrate that it was

a well-known land in antiquity on the banks of the Tigris River,

bordering on Elam and Ellipi.

George C. Cameron, the noted historian of early Iran, identified

the land as "the Rashi tribe of Arameans, well known to the Assy-

rians from Sargon onward and located in the mountains east of Der,

where was its capital, Bit Imbi.”48 Other of its prominent cities were

Hamanu, Bube, Bit Bunakki, and Bit Arrabi.49

The cumulative effect of the preceding is that Rosh was a well

known place. The next section demonstrates that the word wxro, is

most probably not an adjective in Ezek 38:2, 3 and 39:1.

 

43 Translations of the Ugaritic materials are my own.

44 Gordon. Ugartic Textbook, 22*.

45 Ibid., 10*.

46 Ibid., 23*.

47 Ibid., 25*.

48 George C. Cameron. History of Early Iran (Chicago: University of Chicago.

1936) 116.

49 Ibid., 200.

 



74                                GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

SYNTACTICAL ARGUMENTS

Contrary to the objection of Simons, the absence of a conjunc-

tion between wxr, and j`x,m, does not make it impossible for wxro, to be "

a place name. On the other hand, the fact that the word xyWin; (prince)

is a construct noun does make it extremely doubtful that wxro is an

adjective (chief)."

 

Missing Conjunction is Inconsequential

Although it is customary for Hebrew to use conjunctions between

all the words in a series, it is not mandatory. Many exceptions to the

rule are found. After giving the previously noted rule of polysyndeton

in Hebrew, Gesenius cited the exception, "Sometimes, however, only

the last two words are joined."50 Examples are found in Gen 5:32

(tp,yA-tx,v; MHA-tx, Mwe-tx, Hano dl,Oy.va / 'And Noah begot Shem, Ham, and

Japheth'), Gen 11:26 (NrAhA tx,v; rOHnA-tx, MrAb;xa-tx, dl,Oy.va / 'And he begot

Abram, Nahor, and Haran'), and Gen 13:2 (bhAz.AbaU Js,K,Ba hHAn;m.iBa / 'in

livestock, in silver, and in gold '). This exception corresponds exactly

to the syntax of Ezek 38:2, 3; 39: 1; consequently wxro, can be a noun

in a series without violating normal conventions of Hebrew grammar.

 

Hebrew Syntax Expects wxro to Be a Name

If wxro is regarded as a name, then the syntax of the passage is in

keeping with the normal conventions of Hebrew grammar. In this

case, the construct noun xyWin; ('prince of') is followed by a compound

nomen rectum consisting of a series of three names (Rosh, Meshech,

and Tubal). Although Hebrew avoids lengthy series of coordinate

genitives depending on one nomen regens, numerous examples are

found in the Bible of short series of closely related words.51 Examples

are found in Gen 14:19 ("Possessor of heaven and earth"), Gen 28:5

("the mother of Jacob and Esau"), Exod 3:16 ("the God of Abraham,

of Isaac, and of Jacob"),52 Num 20:5 ("a place of grain or figs or

vines or pomegranates"), 1 Sam 23:7 ("a town of gates and bars"), Ps

8:2 ("the mouth of babes and infants"), and Isa 22:5 ("a day of

trouble and treading down and perplexity").

These examples demonstrate that regarding wxro as a name con-

forms with known conventions of biblical Hebrew. However, the next

section demonstrates that regarding wxro as an adjective does not so

conform.

 

50 GKC. 154a; note other examples at Gen 10:1, 14:1, 30:39; Jer 2:36; Ps 45:9.

51 GKC. 128a.

52 Note the absence of the conjunction between" Abraham" and "Isaac."



PRICE: ROSH: AN ANCIENT LAND KNOWN TO EZEKIEL     75

 

Syntax Rejects wxro as an Adjective

If wxro is regarded as an adjective, a syntactical anomaly re-

sults. One of the fundamental principles of Hebrew grammar is not

observed--a word normally does not intervene between a construct

noun and its nomen rectum. Joshua Blau stated the basic principle of

this convention of nonintervention, "Nothing must intervene between

the construct and the nomen rectum. Accordingly, even an adjective

attribute of the construct has to come after the nomen rectum.”53

As this convention applies to the words "lbAtuv; j`w,m, wxro xyWin; of

Ezek 38:2, 3; 39:1, it indicates that it is quite unlikely for the adjective

attribute wxro (chief) of the construct noun xyWin; (prince) to intervene

between the construct and the nomen rectum lbAtuv; j`w,m, (Meshech and

Tubal). Therefore, unless the principle of nonintervention permits

exceptions of this type, it is extremely improbable that wxro is an

adjective. Rather, it is extremely probable that it is a name in accord

with normal syntax. The following sections demonstrate that there

are no undisputed exceptions to the principle of nonintervention.

 

Hebrew Syntax Uses Other Constructions for Adjectives

When Hebrew expresses an adjective attribute for a construct

noun, it regularly uses other syntactic constructions. There are four

possible syntactic structures which could be used to express the

thought "chief prince of Meshech and Tubal."

(1) The absolute adjective may follow the nomen rectum, as

Blau's statement suggested. This construction is used most often.

Examples are found in 2 Sam 13: 18 (tlUtB;ha j`l,m.ha-tOnB; / 'the king's

virgin daughters') and Isa 55:3 (MynimAx<n.,ha dvidA ydes;ha  / 'the sure mercies

of David'). When the statement becomes ambiguous or too complex,

alternate constructions are used. The use of this construction in Ezek

38:2 would produce the ambiguous phrase wxrohA lbAtuv; j`w,m, xyWin; where

wxrohA may modify lbATu or xyWin;. Therefore, the construction would be

inappropriate here.

(2) The construct adjective may be placed before the noun phrase

it modifies. In this case the Hebrew would read lbatuv; j`w,m, xyWin; wxro.

Some examples of this are MOy.ci tBa tlaUtB; / 'virgin daughter of Zion'

(Isa 37:22),  MyxiyWin.;ha ywexro / 'chief princes' (1 Chr 7:40), MymiWAB; ywexro /

'chief spices' (Cant 4:14), and tObxAhA ywexro / 'chief fathers' (1 Chr

9:34).

 

53 Joshua Blau, A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1976)

96; see also August Muller, Hebrew Syntax (Glasgow: James Maclehouse & Sons,

1882) 54.



76                    GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

(3) The absolute adjective may precede the noun phrase it modi-

fies. In this case the Hebrew would read lbAtuv; j`w,m, xyWin; wxro (hA).

Examples of this combination are found in Ezek 21:25 (fwArA llAHA hTAxa

lxerAW;y xyWin;  ‘You, O profane wicked prince of Israel'), Isa. 23:12

(NOdyci tBa tlaUtB; hqAwAfum.;ha / 'You oppressed virgin daughter of Zidon'),

and Isa 52:2 (NOy.ci tBa hy.Abiw; / 'captive daughter of Zion ').

(4) When a complex nomen regens prevents the attachment of a

genitive nomen rectum by means of a construct form, the genitive

may be attached by means of the preposition l.54 This occurs when

the nomen regens is a proper name, or has unmoveable modifiers.

Judg 3:28 (bxAOml; NDer;y.aha tOrB;f;ma  / 'the Jordan fords of Moab') and

Hag 1:1 (wv,yAr;dal; MyiTaw; tnaw;Bi / 'in the second year of Darius') have

examples of this construction. Although no example was found using

an attributive adjective, it seems probable that the construction xyWinA.ha

lbAtuv; j`w,m,l; wxrohA would accurately express "chief prince of Meshech

and Tubal."

These examples demonstrate that Hebrew has regular syntactic

conventions for accommodating an adjective attribute of a construct

noun without violating the principle of nonintervention. Ezekiel used

these conventions in statements similar to 38:2, 3; 39:1 (see, e.g., Ezek

21:25). It is highly unlikely that Ezekiel would violate such a widely

used principle of Hebrew grammar. The next section demonstrates

that alleged broken construct chains do not correspond to the syntax

at Ezek 38:2, 3; 39: I and do not justify regarding wxro as an adjective.

 

Ajective Modifying a Construct Does Not Apply

Some argue that, although it is unusual, there are certain cases

where attributive adjectives follow construct nouns, such as wxrohA NyeKo--

"chief priest” (2 Kgs 25: 18, Jer 52:24, etc.). However, the Ezekiel prob-

lem involves the possibility of an adjective intervening between a

construct noun and its nomen rectum, not merely following the

construct. Consequently such cases have no bearing on the Ezekiel

problem.

 

Broken Construct Chains Do Not Apply

Based on the evidences given by Gesenius,55 and supplemented

by M. Dahood56 and D. N. Freedman,57 some have concluded that

 

54 GKC, 129.

55 GKC, 130a-f.

56 M. Dahood, Psalms (AB; Garden City: Doubleday, 1970) 3:81-83.

57 David Noel Freedman, "The Broken Construct Chain," Bib 53 (1972) 534-36.



  PRICE: ROSH: AN ANCIENT LAND KNOWN TO EZEKIEL       77

 

Hebrew grammar admits exceptions to the principle of noninterven-

tion called broken construct chains. Evidence was given by these

scholars citing several examples from the Hebrew Bible where a con-

struct noun is not followed immediately by a genitive nomen rectum.

These alleged broken construct chains are considered by some as

justification for regarding wxro as an adjective that legitimately breaks

the construct chain in Ezek 38:2.

Constructs are Created by Rhythm. The existence of alleged

broken construct chains in biblical Hebrew should not be accepted

hastily as justification for a broken chain in Ezek 38:2, 3, and 39:1.

Most syntactic constructions classified by Dahood and Freedman as

broken construct chains were previously noted by Gesenius, but were

not regarded by him as broken chains. The problem is that not every

construct form is a nomen regens that anticipates a genitive nomen

rectum. A construct form comes about when the language places two

words in such close rhythmical relationship that they receive only one

major accent. The first word of the pair loses its accent and its form

becomes a construct; the second word receives the major accent and

retains its standard (absolute) form. Gesenius said,

 

     It is sufficiently evident. . . that the construct state is not strictly

to be regarded as a syntactical and logical phenomenon, but rather as

simply phonetic and rhythmical, depending on the circumstances of the

tone.58

The genitive relationship between nouns regularly produces this

condition; the nomen regens has the construct form and the nomen

rectum has the absolute form. This construction is commonly known

as a construct chain. Because it is so common in Hebrew, it may

mistakenly be regarded as the only use of the construct form. Actually,

since the construct state is phonetic and rhythmical, not strictly syn-

tactical, Hebrew frequently exhibits other cases of the construct state

not associated with the genitive relationship between nouns. Gesenius

noted several such constructions: "The construct state . . .  is frequently

employed in rapid narrative as a connective form, even apart from

the genitive relation.”59 The following constructions were listed by

Gesenius. (I) The construct state frequently governs prepositional

phrases, particularly in prophecy and poetry, especially when the con-

struct word is a participle. (2) The construct state frequently governs

a relative pronoun clause. (3) The construct state sometimes governs

an independent clause. This construction may be understood as a case

 

58 GKC,89a.

59 GKC, 130a-c.



78                    GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

where the relative pronoun is elided. (4) The construct state is some-

times followed by waw conjunctive where the connection is strong.

Miiller60 noted a few cases where a construct participle precedes an

accusative. An example is ytixo ytey;wAm; / 'those who serve me' (Jer

33:22). None of the above should be mistaken for a construct chain:

no genitive relationships were indicated. They represent the purely

phonetic and rhythmical cases.

The same phonetic and rhythmical conditions occasionally pro-

duce construct-like forms in other parts of speech, such as particles,

adverbs, prepositions, pronouns and verbs. When such words are

closely related to the following words by maqqeph, the accent is

drawn away from the word, resulting in a construct-like reduction of

the vowel. Examples of particles are wye versus -wy,  versus -tx,, and

Nhe versus -Nh,. An example of an adverb is NKe versus xUh-NK, which is

found in Gen 44:10; Josh 2:21; and 1 Sam 25:25. Examples of pre-

positions are tx, versus -tx, (with) and dfaBa (Cant 4: 1) versus NOl.Haha-dfaB

(Josh 2:15). An example of a pronoun is hmA versus -hma (what?). Several

examples of verbs are found: drePAhi versus xnA-dr,PAhi ('please separate

yourself'; Gen 13:9), FBeha versus xnA-FB,ha ('please look'; Gen 15:5), bwe

versus MwA-bw, ('dwell there'; Gen 35:1),  j`le versus xnA-j`l, ('please go';

Gen 37:14), bTok;yi versus MwA-bTAk;yi ('he wrote there'; Josh 8:32), lwom;

versus UnBA-lwAm; ('rule over us'; Judg 8:22), lwom;yi versus MBA-lwAm;yi ('he

will rule over them'; Isa 19:4, Joel 2:17), rbofEya versus MfzA-rbAfEya ('the

indignation is past'; Isa 26:20), wDeqat;hii versus gHA-wD,qat;hii ('a festival is

kept'; Isa 30:29), j`lom;yi versus j`l,m,-j`lAm;yi ('a king will reign'; Isa 32:1),

smor;yi versus FyFi-smAr;yi ('he treads clay'; Isa 41:25), j`mot;x, versus OB-j`mAt;x,

('I uphold him'; Isa 42: 1), qc.ox, versus Myima-qc.Ax, ('I will pour water'; Isa

44:3), rBeDa versus qw,fo-rB,Da ('to speak oppression'; Isa 59:13), and rmow;yi

versus UnlA-rmAw;yi ('he keeps for us'; Jer 5:24).

All these examples demonstrate the role that rhythm plays in

creating construct and construct-like forms. But none of these are equivalent

to true construct chains governed by the principle of non-intervention.

 

True Construct Chains Involve a Genitive

The true construct chain, particularly as it relates to the problem

in Ezekiel 38, is limited to the genitive relationship between nouns. It

is in this particular case that the principle of noninterventiom applies,

and it is this particular case that must be tested for exceptions, not

whether a construct form may be succeeded by something other than

an absolute nomen rectum.

 

60 Muller, Hebrew Syntax, 53.



PRICE: ROSH: AN ANCIENT LAND KNOWN TO EZEKIEL     79

 

            There are several commonly known modifications of the principle

of nonintervention that must not be regarded as violations.

(1) A construct may follow another construct when there is a

series of genitives.61 This forms a construct chain of more than two

links, the last of which is an absolute. The principle of noninterven-

tion then applies to the entire series.

(2) The definite article may precede the absolute nomen rectum.

Since it is a prepositive, it is regarded as part of the nomen rectum.

(3) The locative He may follow the first construct as a post-

positive case marker.62 It is regarded as part of the nomen regens.

(4) Although it is not common, the construct may receive a pro-

noun suffix.63 Usually the pronoun is attached to the nomen rectum

even though it modifies the construct;64 but where sense or style

requires, the construct may receive the suffix. Since it is a suffix, it

must be regarded as part of the nomen regens not as an intervening

word.

(5) Although it is not common, a negative may precede the

nomen rectum. The negative is usually connected to the nomen rectum

by a maqqeph, making it the equivalent of another construct, or a

part of the nomen rectum. The negative must precede the word it

negates and, like another construct, it is a legitimate modification to

the principle of nonintervention. Examples of this construction are

found in Isa 31:8 (wyxi-xOl br,H, / 'a sword not of man'), Isa 31:8

(MdAxA-xOl br,H, / 'a sword not of mankind'), 2 Sam 23:4 (tObfA-xlo rq,Bo

'a morning of no clouds'), and Isa 14:6 (hrAsA yTil;Bi tKama / 'a stroke of

non-withdrawal').

None of these modifications of the principle of nonintervention

corresponds to the grammar of Ezek 38:2, 3; 39:1. None accounts for

an attributive adjective intervening between a construct noun and its

genitive nomen rectum.

 

True Construct Chains are Seldom if Ever Broken

Now the question to be answered is this: have any clear examples

been found of a departure from the principle of nonintervention? If

so, are the exceptions sufficient to justify considering j`w,m, wxro xyWin;

lBAtuv; to be a broken construct chain? The Ezekiel case would consist

of an adjective attribute of the nomen regens interposed between the

nomen regens and the nomen rectum.

 

61 GKC. 128a.

62 GKC.90c.

63 GKC. 128d.

64 Muller. Hebrew Syntax, 54.

 



80                    GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

In general the syntax of biblical Hebrew is structurally consis-

tent; there are relatively few structural discontinuities. Where the

syntax exhibits discontinuity, it is for emphasis, clarification, the

avoidance of ambiguity, or due to an author's style. Occasionally a

discontinuity is created by ellipsis. But legitimate discontinuities are

purposeful and meaningful, not accidental and enigmatic.

If there is proof that the principle of nonintervention may not

always be followed (as some believe to be true in Ezek 38:2), the

proof must consist of clear, unambiguous examples from biblical

Hebrew. The examples cannot be created by speculative emendation;

they must have interventions similar to Ezek 38:2; and they cannot be

examples of the admissible modifications of the principle previously

mentioned. It should be expected that an example would exhibit a

case where the discontinuity provides clarification, emphasis, the

avoidance of ambiguity, or evidence of stylistic purpose. It is not

expected that the discontinuity should be explained as a grammatical

blunder that contributes to confusion.

Numerous examples of possible broken construct chains have

been listed by Gesenius, Dahood, and Freedman. Yet none of them

qualify as an unambiguous precedent that proves that true construct

chains may be broken.

 

Gesenius' Broken Construct Chains

Because Gesenius felt so strongly about the principle of non-

intervention, he was very reluctant to recognize any possible excep-

tion. He said:

 

    As the fundamental rules are the necessary consequence not merely

of logical but more especially of rhythmical relations, . . . we must feel

the more hesitation in admitting examples in which genitives are sup-

posed to be loosely attached to forms other than the construct state.

 

Others have been more willing to accept broken construct chains,

but Gesenius' reluctance should serve as a warning against hastily

discovering supposed discontinuities in Hebrew syntax. Although he

did not regard these passages in Ezekiel as broken construct chains,

he did discuss certain problems related to the principle of noninter-

vention.66

Intervening Pronoun Suffix. Gesenius listed several examples

of a pronoun suffix intervening between a construct and its nomen

 

65 GKC. 128b.

66 GKC. 130a-f.



PRICE: ROSH: AN ANCIENT LAND KNOWN TO EZEKIEL   81

 

rectum. He tried to explain away the noted cases as textual corrup-

tions or by emendations. Actually, according to previous discussion,

such pronoun suffixes are to be regarded as part of the nomen regens

and not a violation of the principle of nonintervention. The use of a

pronoun suffix with the nomen regens is uncommon, but required at

times to avoid ambiguity.

Special Case for the Construct of lKo. Gesenius67 recorded a

special problem with the word lKo (also noted in BDB). Three times its

construct seems to have a word interposed between it and its genitive,

a structure which BDB marks as very anomalous:

 

2 Sam 1:9        yBi ywip;na dOf-lKa yKi

Job 27:3        yBi ytimAw;ni dOf-lKA yKi

Hos 14:3                       NOfA xWA.Ti-lKA

 

Gesenius suggests that lKo must be regarded as adverbial in these cases

in the sense of "wholly." That is a good suggestion; however, the

possibility remains that they may be broken construct chains. In any

case, lKo is a quantifier, not a noun, and as such it has unique rules of

syntax that vary somewhat from those of nouns. It is doubtful that

this special case can be used to justify an intervening adjective in

Ezekiel.

Intervening Adjectives. Gesenius listed several other examples

of possible broken construct chains.68 He listed Isa 28:1 as a possible

case of an intervening adjective. The text reads Nyiya ymeUlHE MynimAw; xyGe

'the rich valley of those overcome with wine' (RSV). It is understood

by some that MynimAw; is an adjective attribute of the nomen regens xyGe

intervening between it and ymeUlHE. This seems to be the way it was

understood by KJV, ASV, RSV, and NASB. However,  MynimAw;  is not

an adjective but a noun;69 and it is not in grammatical concord with

xyGe as expected for an adjective. The form may be the abstract plural

with the meaning "fatness," "richness," in which case "the valley of

richness" is a proper way of expressing "rich valley." Thus, it is

proper to understand "the valley of the richness of those overcome

with wine" as the equivalent of "the rich valley of those. . . ." How-

ever, to express this equivalent construction would require MynimAw; to be

in the construct state (and thus not violate the principle of noninter-

vention).

 

67 GKC. 128e.

68 GKC. 128c.

69 BDB. 1032.



82                                GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

Because MynimAw; is not construct, and because of the disjunctive

accent separating the two halves of the expression, many translators

regard the halves as not syntactically related (NIV, NAB, TEV,

NKJV). This seems to be the better choice since it follows conven-

tional grammar. Although it is possible to regard the example as a

broken chain, the grammar and accents are against it. Thus, it cannot

be used as an unambiguous precedent.

Gesenius also listed Isa 32:13 as a possible case of an intervening

adjective. The text reads hz,yli.fa hyAr;qi WOWmA yTeBA lKA / 'all the joyous

houses of the jubilant city.' It is possible to regard WOWmA as an adjec-

tive attribute of yTeBA interposed between it and its nomen rectum hyAr;qi.

But, as in the previous example, WOWmA is a noun meaning "exulta-

tion",70 and a disjunctive accent separates the halves of the expres-

sion. Nearly all translators understand the halves to be syntactically

unrelated, and to have an elided words between them (KJV, RSV,

ASV, NASB, NIV, TEV, NKJV), or to be appositives (NAB). It

seems to be wholly rejected as a broken construct chain.

Gesenius also listed Isa 28:16 as a possible case of an intervening

adjective. The text reads dsAUm traq;yi tn.aPi / 'a costly cornerstone of a

foundation.' It is possible to regard traq;yi as an adjective attribute of

tn.Pi interposed between it and its nomen rectum dsAUm. Although

Gesenius asserted that traq;pyi is a construct noun not an adjective,71 it is

classified as an adjective in his lexicon, in BDB and others. Yet it is

unusual for an attributive adjective to be in the construct state. The

text is problematical and cannot serve as an unambiguous precedent.

Gesenius also listed Ezek 6:11 as a possible case of an intervening

adjective. The text reads lxrAWyi tyBe tOfrA tObfEOT lKA / 'all the evil

abominations of the house of Israel.' It is possible to regard tOfrA as

an adjective attribute of tObfEOT interposed between it and its nomen

rectum lxErAW;y tyBe. Although' Gesenius asserted that tOfrA must be a

construct noun (evils) not an adjective, the form could be either an

adjective or a construct noun. However, since the construct noun

follows normal grammar and makes good sense, Gesenius should be

given the benefit of the doubt. Since the key word tOfrA is ambiguous,

this example cannot serve as an unambiguous precedent.

In summary, Gesenius' examples are problematical and ambigu-

ous. None can serve as proof that true construct chains may be broken

in biblical Hebrew.

 

70 BDB. 965.

71 GKC. 130f. n. 4.



PRICE: ROSH: AN ANCIENT LAND KNOWN TO EZEKIEL      83

 

Dahood's Broken Construct Chains

Dahood listed several possible examples of broken construct

chains in addition to those listed by Gesenius.72

Intervening prepositions. Dahood listed several examples of a

construct chain broken by a preposition. He has mistakenly identified

a construct governing a prepositional phrase as a construct chain. In

each case the relationship of the construct with the absolute is defined

by the preposition, not by the genitive. The meaning would be incom-

plete without the preposition. The reason for the construct form is

phonetic and rhythmical, not syntactical and logical.

In addition, 3 of the 5 examples are ambiguous--the forms are

not clearly constructs; they may properly be absolutes (Pss 9:10; 10:1;

92:13). In the remaining two examples, Dahood revocalized the Maso-

retic text to create the example (Pss 74:12; 84:7). The Masoretic text

of Ps 84:7 does have a construct before a preposition, but it comes

under the above comment.

Intervening pronoun suffix. Dahood listed 17 examples of a

construct chain broken by a pronoun suffix. In six of the 17 examples,

Dahood revocalized the Masoretic text to create the case (Pss 16:8;

18:18; 35:16; 88:16; 102:24-25; 140:10). In Ps 102:24-25 he made the

chain bridge the end of a verse, and in Ps 140:10 he made it bridge an

athnach--obvious departures from the Masoretic punctuation.

In three other cases his examples are construct participles govern-

ing an accusative pronoun suffix and an adverb: Ps 35:19 ("those who

are my enemies wrongfully"), Ps 35:19 ("those who hate me without

cause"), and Ps 38:20 ("those who hate me wrongfully"). These are

not examples of a construct governing a genitive nomen rectum. The

construct forms originated from rhythm and phoentics, not neces-

sarily because of grammar.

In six other cases the construct has a genitive pronoun suffix,

and the second word of the phrase is properly identified as an adverb

not an absolute noun. Construct nouns do not govern adverbs. The

noun takes the construct form because of the pronoun suffix. The

examples are not broken construct chains:

 

Ps 38:20 "My enemies are lively"

Ps 48:15 "This God is our God forever and ever'

Ps 61:5 "I will abide in your tabernacle forever"

Ps 66:7 "He rules by his power forever"

Ps 71:6 "My praise shall be continually of you"

Ps 105:4 "Seek his face forever"

 

72 Dahood, Psalms, 3:381-83.



84                                GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

In one other case his example is actually a proper name, "Mel-

chizedek" (Ps 110:4).

In all the above cases AV, NASB, NKJV, and NIV do not agree

with Dahood, but view them according to more conventional gram-

matical theory. The NIV regards the second word of Ps 38:20 as an

attributive adjective.

In only one case is there a possible broken construct chain: hTAxa

zfo-ysiHEma / 'You are my strong refuge' (Ps 71:7). This example comes

under the permissible variations of the principle of nonintervention,

which is not properly a violation. The pronoun cannot be attached to

the nomen rectum without changing the sense. The construct state of

the nomen regens has been carefully preserved in the Masoretic text

by the absence of a principle accent, and by the maqqeph, even

though there is a pronoun suffix.

Intervening emphatic yKi. Dahood listed six examples of con-

struct chains allegedly broken by an emphatic yKi. None of the exam-

ples were recognized by the Masoretes as the emphatic yKi. In each

case Dahood emended the Masoretic presentation of the text to create

the example--always by adding a space between consonants and, in

some cases, by changing the vowels. All of the alleged examples are

properly identified as pronoun suffixes of direct address followed by

a vocative, not a genitive. None are unambiguous examples of broken

construct chains.

Intervening enclitic mem. Dahood listed 23 examples of con-

struct chains with intervening enclitic mem. However all of these

examples involved revocalizing the Masoretic text to create the ex-

amples. Such revocalization is not strong evidence to demonstrate

that an enclitic mem actually breaks the construct chain in biblical

Hebrew.

Intervening vocative. Dahood listed one example of a construct

chain with an intervening vocative, Ps 145:7, which reads j~b;UF-bra rk,ze /

'the record, O Master, of your goodness'. bra is regarded as the

intervening vocative. However, Dahood emended the Masoretic mark-

ing by omitting the maqqeph between bra and j~b;UF, and by ignoring

the lack of an accent on br, both of which identify bra as a construct

form. As a construct noun, bra is a member of an unbroken construct

chain that is grammatically and semantically correct. The phrase is

literally translated "the memory of the greatness of Your goodness,"

or "the memory of Your great goodness" (NKJV). Dahood's revo-

calization does not convincingly demonstrate that vocatives actually

break construct chains in Biblical Hebrew.

In summary, Dahood did not list one example of an unambigu-

ous broken construct chain; all his examples involved revocalizations,


PRICE: ROSH: AN ANCIENT LAND KNOWN TO EZEKIEL      85

 

ambiguous forms, or construct forms originating because of phonetics

and rhythm rather than from a grammatical genitive relationship.

Not one involves an intervening adjective and not one qualifies as a

precedent for regarding wxro as an adjective in Ezek 38:2, 3; 39:1.

Furthermore, Dahood did not list these Ezekiel passages as examples

of broken construct chains.

 

Freedman's Broken Construct Chains

David Noel Freedman attempted to add more examples of broken

construct chains to those listed by Dahood and Gesenius.73

Intervening enclitic mem. Freedman listed several additional

examples of an intervening enclitic mem. All involved revocalizing

the Masoretic text; none convincingly demonstrates that an enclitic

mem actually breaks a construct chain in Biblical Hebrew.

Intervening clause. Freedman proposed that there is a clause

breaking a construct chain in Isa 10:5 which reads MDAyAB; xUh-hF.,maU

ymif;za. In this rather difficult construction, he proposed that the clause

MdAyAB; xUh / 'he is in their hand' breaks the construct chain. hF.,ma

ymif;za / 'the staff of . . . my fury'. In doing so he emended the absolute

noun hF.,ma to its construct form hFema and emended the word MdAyAB; to

MydiyAB; ('in my hand') with an enclitic mem. His translation is "the staff

of my fury is he in my hand." His emendations created the broken

construct chain. The Hebrew is difficult, but it can be understood

without emending the Masoretic text. the KJV has "and the staff in

their hand is my indignation," the NKJV has "and the staff in whose

hand is My indignation," and the NASB has "and the staff in whose

hands is My indignation." All these make tolerable sense following

the Masoretic vocalization. Freedman's speculative revocalization does

not provide strong evidence to demonstrate that Isa 10:5 is an instance

where a clause really breaks a construct chain.

Intervening pronoun suffix. Freedman listed Hab 3:8 as an

example of an intervening pronoun suffix: hfAUwy; j~yt,boK;r;ma / 'your

chariots of salvation.' This is a case that comes under the permissible

variations of the principle of nonintervention previously mentioned.

In this case the pronoun cannot be attached to "salvation" without

creating ambiguity.

Intervening sign of the direct object. Freedman listed Hab 3:13b

as an example of the sign of the direct object breaking a construct

chain. In the phrase j~H,ywim; tx, fwayel;  / 'for salvation with Your

 

73 Freedman, "The Broken Construct Chain," 534-36.



86                    GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

Anointed,' Freedman proposed that the construct chain is . . . fwaye

j~H,ywim;. ‘the salvation of . . . your anointed' in parallel with the pre-

ceding line "for the salvation of your people." The tx, would then

break the construct chain. However the form of the word fwaye is

ambiguous, either absolute or construct, and the word tx, may be

either the sign of the direct object or the preposition "with." The

translation, following a more conventional grammar, would be "for

salvation with Thy Anointed" (NKJV). The absolute noun governing

a prepositional phrase makes sense. Though the line lacks poetic

parallelism, such progressive structure is not uncommon. Freedman's

ambiguous speculation does not convincingly demonstrate that the

sign of the direct object really breaks a construct chain in Biblical Hebrew.

Intervening adverb. Freedman listed Hab 3:13c as an example

of an adverb breaking a construct chain. In the clause tyBemi wxro TAc;HamA

fwArA / 'You struck the head from the house of the wicked,' Freedman

proposed that the construct chain is fwArA . . . wxro / 'the head of the

. . . wicked one' and that the word tyBemi should be emended to tyiBami

(inward), so that the clause is translated "You crushed the head of the

wicked one inwards." But wxro is an ambiguous form, either absolute

or construct, and the revocalization is speculation based on poetic

parallelism. The Masoretic pointing of the text makes sense. This

revocalization does not convincingly demonstrate that an adverbial

phrase really breaks construct chains in Biblical Hebrew.

He also listed Ezek 39:11 as an example of an intervening adverb.

The text reads lxerAW;yiB; rb,q, Mw-MOqm;  / 'a place there of graves in

Israel.' He proposed that the construct chain is rb,q, . . . MOqm; / 'a

place of . . . burial' with the adverb MwA ('there') intervening. The

translation would be "a place of burial there in Israel." However, rb,q,

has the concrete meaning "grave, sepulchre, burial place”74 rather

than the abstract sense of "burial" which is rendered by the Hebrew

hrAUbq;. Regarding rb,q, as a genitive results in an awkward, unnatural

sense ("a place of a grave there"). The last two words, lx;rAW;yiB; rb,q,,

function more naturally as an appositive ("a place there, a burial

place in Israel"). The construct form MOqm; is explained by the phone-

tics created by the close rhythmical relationship between it and the

following adverb MwA. Nevertheless, the example remains a possible

broken construct chain; but, because it makes sense in the more

conventional view (i.e., as an appositive), it remains ambiguous and

does not provide a precedent for demonstrating that an adverb really

breaks a construct chain in Biblical Hebrew.

 

74 BDB, 868.



PRICE: ROSH: AN ANCIENT LAND KNOWN TO EZEKIEL    87

 

Intervening verb. Freedman listed Hos 14:3 as an example of a

verb breaking a construct chain. This example was previously noted

by Gesenius,75 and was discussed in a previous section.

He also listed Hos 6:9 as an example which reads hmAk;w, UHc.;rav; j`r,D, /

'they murder on the way to Shechem'. He proposed that the con-

struct chain is HmAk;w, . . . j`r,D,, and that the verb intervenes. There are

two reasons why this is ambiguous: (1) the form of j`r,D, is ambiguous,

being either absolute or construct; and (2) the word hmAk;w, has the

locative he and is the equivalent of Mk,w,l;. Thus the translation is "the

way to Shechem," and is not to be confused with "the way of

Shechem." Because the example is ambiguous, it does not provide

clear precedent.

He also listed Hos 8:2 as an example which reads yhalox< UqfEz;yi yli

lxerAW;yi lj~UnfEday;  / 'Israel will cry to Me, "My God, we know You."  He

proposed that the word yhalox< be revocalized to yhelox< to produce the

broken chain lx;rAW;yi . . . yhlox< / 'the God of . . . Israel' with the verb

intervening. The translation would be "O God of Israel, we know

you." This again involves revocalization of the Masoretic text. Freed-

man seems to exaggerate the change in number (from "my" to "we"),

a common phenomenon in poetry. This instance does not provide

strong evidence for demonstrating that a verb really breaks a con-

struct chain in biblical Hebrew.

In summary, Freedman did not list one example of an unam-

biguous broken construct chain; all his examples involved unneces-

sary revocalization, ambiguous forms, or construct forms originating

because of phonetics and rhythm rather than from a strictly gram-

matical genitive relationship. None involved an intervening adjective,

nor do any qualify as a precedent for regarding wxro, as an adjective in

Ezek 38:2, 3 and 39:1. Furthermore, Freedman did not list these

passages in Ezekiel as examples of broken construct chains.

 

No Proof Found for Broken Construct Chains

None of the examples furnished by Gesenius, Dahood, or Freed-

man are unambiguous broken construct chains; all the examples

involve unnecessary revocalization, ambiguous forms, or construct

forms originating because of phonetics and rhythm rather than from

a grammatical genitive relationship. All the possible cases of interven-

ing attributive adjectives are problematical. Not one example qualifies

as an unambiguous precedent for regarding wxro, as an adjective in

Ezek 38:2, 3; 39:1. Furthermore, none of the three scholars listed

 

75 GKC. 128c.



88                    GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

these Ezekiel passages as examples of a broken construct chain. Con-

sequently, it must be concluded that the existence of broken construct

chains is speculative apart from the previously mentioned normal

modifications of the principle of nonintervention. Alleged broken

construct chains provide no support for breaking the principle of

nonintervention in Ezekiel.

 

HISTORICAL ARGUMENT

The origin of the translation "chief prince of Meshech and Tubal"

is traced to the Latin Vulgate. The early translators of the English

Bible were quite dependent on the Latin Version for help in trans-

lating difficult passages. They evidently followed Jerome in Ezek 38:2,

3; 39:1.

Some have supposed that the Aramaic Targum may have been

the source for interpreting wxro as an adjective. The Targum reads

lbAtuv; j`w,m, wyre bra, where bra is the equivalent of Hebrew xyWin; and wxre

(=wxre ) is the equivalent of Hebrew wxro . But Aramaic has the same

syntactic conventions for construct chains as Hebrew, so the same

arguments that favor wxro  as a name in Hebrew favor wxre as a name

in Aramaic. Therefore, the Aramaic does not support regarding wxro

as an adjective, although those who do not take into account the

difference in pronunciation may erroneously think so (as Aquila and

Jerome may have thought).

Evidently by the second century A.D. the knowledge of the ancient

land of Rosh had diminished. And because the Hebrew word wxro

was in such common use as "head" or "chief," Aquila was influenced

to interpret wxro  as an adjective, contrary to the LXX and nor-

mal grammatical conventions. Jerome followed the precedent set by

Aquila, and so diminished the knowledge of ancient Rosh even further

by removing the name from the Latin Bible.

By the sixteenth century A.D. ancient Rosh was completely un-

known in the West, so the early English translators of the Bible were

influenced by the Latin Vulgate to violate normal Hebrew grammar

in their translation of Ezekiel 38-39. Once the precedent was set in

English, it was perpetuated in all subsequent English Versions until

this century when some modern versions have taken exception. This

ancient erroneous precedent should not be perpetuated.

 

CONCLUSION

It has been demonstrated that Rosh was a well-known place in

antiquity as evidenced by numerous and varied references in the

ancient literature. It has also been demonstrated that an adjective

intervening between a construct noun and its nomen rectum is highly



PRICE: ROSH: AN ANCIENT LAND KNOWN TO EZEKIEL      89

 

improbable, there being no unambiguous example of such in the

Hebrew Bible. Furthermore, it has been demonstrated that regarding

wxro as a name is in harmony with normal Hebrew grammar and

syntax. It is concluded that wxro  cannot be an adjective in Ezekiel

38-39, but must be a name. Therefore, the only appropriate transla-

tion of the phrase in Ezek 38:2, 3, and 39:1 is "prince of Rosh,

Meshech, and Tubal."

 

 

 

 

This material is cited with gracious permission from:

            Grace Theological Seminary

            200 Seminary Dr.

            Winona Lake,  IN   46590

www.grace.edu

Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at:  thildebrandt@gordon.edu