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Serpent נחשׁ

(2,578 words)

Author(s): R. S. Hendel
I. Name In MT the generic word for a venomous snake or serpent is nāḥāš (31 times). In Semitic the only certain cognate noun is Ugaritic nḥš, ‘snake’ (numerous times in KTU 1.100 and 1.107), with a possible cognate in Arabic ḥanaš, ‘snake’ (via metathesis and an altered sibilant). The origin of the word may be onomatopoeic, derived from the hissing sound of a snake. Other words for snakes in MT include peten (cf. Ug. bṯn, Akk. bašmu and bšn in Deut. 33.22; Bashan), śārāp (lit. ‘burning one’), ṣipônî, ʾepʿeh, ʿakšûb, qippōz, šĕpîpōn, and tannîn (which can also mea…

Vampire עלוקה

(363 words)

Author(s): R. S. Hendel
I. Name The noun ʿălûqâ occurs once in MT, in a proverbial expression in Prov. 30.15. The word appears to be pan-Semitic, with cognates attested in Syriac ( ʿelaqtā), Arabic ( ʿalaq), Ethiopic ( ʿalaqt), and Akkadian ( ilqu). In each of these cognate languages the meaning is ‘leech’. In Arabic there is a related word, ʿawleq, interpreted as referring to a kind of demon (Canaan 1929:29). This latter sense has been conjectured for the word in MT (e.g. De Moor 1981–1982:111 n. 16). II. Identity The Arabic noun ʿawleq does occur meaning ‘leech’ or the like, but not specifically a de…

Nehushtan נחשׁתן

(743 words)

Author(s): R. S. Hendel
I. Name The word nĕḥuštān occurs once in MT, in 2 Kgs. 18.4, where it is the name of the bronze (or copper) serpent ( nĕḥaš hannĕḥōšet) that Moses had made in the wilderness (as related in Num. 21.8–9) and that King Hezekiah destroyed. The word is a compound of *nuḥušt (Hebrew nĕḥōšet), ‘bronze, copper’, plus the *-ān affix (preserved as -ā- in Hebrew by dissimilation from the -o- type vowel in the previous syllable). The word nĕḥuštān literally means ‘the (specific) thing of bronze/copper’ (cf. the similar morphology of liwyātān, Leviathan). Implicit in this…