Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Yet more on נסיב vs. ודבר

Summary: Perhaps evidence from the Samaritan Targum and the Peshitta can put this matter to rest. Or perhaps not. This, BTW, on parashat Bamidbar.

Post: Continuing my consideration of Lechem Abirim vs. Maamar in competing theories of how Onkelos renders ויקח. Read the previous posts first. (See here, then here, and then here.)

One possible way of resolving this is to look at competing Targumic traditions. I would guess that Targum Pseudo-Yonatan would really be of no help, for any change to Onkelos could readily bleed over into Targum Yonasan. Targum Yonasan indeed has ודבר, like our modern Onkelos.

But we can look at Targum Shomroni and at the Peshitta. Both are written in Aramaic, and reflect non-Jewish traditions of how to translate this term in Aramaic, one from the Samaritans and one from the Syriac Christians. Because it is not necessarily rooted in Torah, how one should translate the term לקח in different contexts; it seems more like it is rooted in the semantic span of these two roots in the Aramaic language.

In the Peshitta, they have:

That is, different Peshitta texts have ודבר and ונסיב. And they select ודבר as the primary, as we can see from the nikkud placed on ודבר and the lack of it on ונסיב. Presumably, a similar situation arose here as it did in Targum Onkelos.

Elsewhere in Peshitta in Bamidbar, we see similar divergence. In Naso, 7:6:

(Meanwhile, in Onkelos, we also have ונסיב.) And later, in Bamidbar 27:22:

{Update:  Not the Peshitta. See comment here. Argh! Thus, ignore most of this post, and its conclusions.}

Of course, in many others, there is an unambiguous ונסיב or an unambiguous ודבר. And the pattern for these ambiguities indeed seems to match the present case, such that I am beginning to side with Maamar, or a position like Maamar, as I elaborated above. That is, taking and object and doing something will be נסב. Taking a person somewhere will be דבר. But selecting a person, as the target for a future verb is not conveying him somewhere. As a result, we should have the more general term נסב. But since in most cases people are involved we would have דבר, some overzealous scribes 'corrected' the text, and introduced דבר.  (I don't imagine them correcting in the opposite direction.) And so, in parashat Bamidbar, selecting these people and having them assist in the count is just encompassing them in the action.

If we look to the Samaritan Targum, we find:

Thus, they select ונסב as the appropriate term. So too in 7:6. But in 27:22, they select ודבר. I suppose they could consider setting Yehoshua before Eleazar and the congregation could be taken as a directional activity.

I still am not entirely convinced that Maamar is correct here. But I think that this certainly bolsters his case, against Ohev Ger and Lechem Abirim.

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