Friday, December 16, 2005

parshat Vayeitzei/Vayishlach: Triple Etiologies of Place Names

In the past, I've discussed dual etiologies of names. I'd like two note two examples in which we have triple etiologies, where I previously only noticed two.


When sending gifts to Esav, Yaakov states {Bereishit 30:21-22}:
כא וַאֲמַרְתֶּם--גַּם הִנֵּה עַבְדְּךָ יַעֲקֹב, אַחֲרֵינוּ: כִּי-אָמַר אֲכַפְּרָה פָנָיו, בַּמִּנְחָה הַהֹלֶכֶת לְפָנָי, וְאַחֲרֵי-כֵן אֶרְאֶה פָנָיו, אוּלַי יִשָּׂא פָנָי. 21 and ye shall say: Moreover, behold, thy servant Jacob is behind us.' For he said: 'I will appease him with the present that goeth before me, and afterward I will see his face; peradventure he will accept me.'
כב וַתַּעֲבֹר הַמִּנְחָה, עַל-פָּנָיו; וְהוּא לָן בַּלַּיְלָה-הַהוּא, בַּמַּחֲנֶה. 22 So the present passed over before him; and he himself lodged that night in the camp.
Speiser writes: Note the five occurrences of the stem pny, each with a different connotation, yet all leading up to Peniel in vs. 31.

Later, in pasuk 31, we have the second etiology:

ל וַיִּשְׁאַל יַעֲקֹב, וַיֹּאמֶר הַגִּידָה-נָּא שְׁמֶךָ, וַיֹּאמֶר, לָמָּה זֶּה תִּשְׁאַל לִשְׁמִי; וַיְבָרֶךְ אֹתוֹ, שָׁם. 30 And Jacob asked him, and said: 'Tell me, I pray thee, thy name.' And he said: 'Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name?' And he blessed him there.
לא וַיִּקְרָא יַעֲקֹב שֵׁם הַמָּקוֹם, פְּנִיאֵל: כִּי-רָאִיתִי אֱלֹקִים פָּנִים אֶל-פָּנִים, וַתִּנָּצֵל נַפְשִׁי. 31 And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: 'for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.'
{Speiser translates Elokim as God - though later, he renders this example "divine beings" as well in a COMMENT on the next chapter, on page 260.)

But there is a third one which Speiser does not mention, in parshat Vayishlach. It is somewhat related to the aforementioned, though:
י וַיֹּאמֶר יַעֲקֹב, אַל-נָא אִם-נָא מָצָאתִי חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ, וְלָקַחְתָּ מִנְחָתִי, מִיָּדִי: כִּי עַל-כֵּן רָאִיתִי פָנֶיךָ, כִּרְאֹת פְּנֵי אֱלֹקִים--וַתִּרְצֵנִי. 10 And Jacob said: 'Nay, I pray thee, if now I have found favour in thy sight, then receive my present at my hand; forasmuch as I have seen thy face, as one seeth the face of God, and thou wast pleased with me.
Still, it is named Peniel because seeing Esav's face is like seeing the face of God.

For Machanayim:

We have the explicit eteology, in Bereishit 32:2:
וְיַעֲקֹב, הָלַךְ לְדַרְכּוֹ; וַיִּפְגְּעוּ-בוֹ, מַלְאֲכֵי אֱלֹקִים.
2 And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him.
ג וַיֹּאמֶר יַעֲקֹב כַּאֲשֶׁר רָאָם, מַחֲנֵה אֱלֹקִים זֶה; וַיִּקְרָא שֵׁם-הַמָּקוֹם הַהוּא, מַחֲנָיִם.
3 And Jacob said when he saw them: 'This is God's camp.' And he called the name of that place Mahanaim. {P}
Then, we have Yaakov split his camp into two camps:
ח וַיִּירָא יַעֲקֹב מְאֹד, וַיֵּצֶר לוֹ; וַיַּחַץ אֶת-הָעָם אֲשֶׁר-אִתּוֹ, וְאֶת-הַצֹּאן וְאֶת-הַבָּקָר וְהַגְּמַלִּים--לִשְׁנֵי מַחֲנוֹת. 8 Then Jacob was greatly afraid and was distressed. And he divided the people that was with him, and the flocks, and the herds, and the camels, into two camps.
ט וַיֹּאמֶר, אִם-יָבוֹא עֵשָׂו אֶל-הַמַּחֲנֶה הָאַחַת וְהִכָּהוּ--וְהָיָה הַמַּחֲנֶה הַנִּשְׁאָר, לִפְלֵיטָה. 9 And he said: 'If Esau come to the one camp, and smite it, then the camp which is left shall escape.'

Finally, we have a third {which again Speiser does not identify as a separate etiology}:
י וַיֹּאמֶר, יַעֲקֹב, אֱלֹהֵי אָבִי אַבְרָהָם, וֵאלֹהֵי אָבִי יִצְחָק: ה הָאֹמֵר אֵלַי, שׁוּב לְאַרְצְךָ וּלְמוֹלַדְתְּךָ--וְאֵיטִיבָה עִמָּךְ. 10 And Jacob said: 'O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, O LORD, who saidst unto me: Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will do thee good;
יא קָטֹנְתִּי מִכֹּל הַחֲסָדִים, וּמִכָּל-הָאֱמֶת, אֲשֶׁר עָשִׂיתָ, אֶת-עַבְדֶּךָ: כִּי בְמַקְלִי, עָבַרְתִּי אֶת-הַיַּרְדֵּן הַזֶּה, וְעַתָּה הָיִיתִי, לִשְׁנֵי מַחֲנוֹת. 11 I am not worthy of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which Thou hast shown unto Thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two camps.
where the contrast between "with my staff" and "become two camps" is one of growth, and transition from rags to riches. Thus, it is not the splitting into two camps because of distress, but the growing into two camps (as indeed Speiser translates). This is thus a separate etiology of Machanayim.

{As an aside, these triple etiologies provide nice counter-examples to those who would assign automatically different etiologies to different authors. If you look at Speiser, he even assigns one of the dual etiologies to a single hand, and does the same with the third etiology.}

1 comment:

DF said...

I'm not convinced there are three etiologies here. The different words for Peniel are all part of the same basic idea.

For Machanayim, there are clearly two separate etiologies. I would not say three, though, because Yakkov mentions now having enough for two camps right after he, in fact, split the family into two camps. It's a natural observation, and does not refelct a different version.

What are the other two etiologies you wrote about? Be'er Shevah immediately springs to mind, as does Ben Oni/ben Yemini.


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