Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Who Or What Was Achuzat?

An interesting dispute between Shadal and Rashi. I would side with Rashi, as a matter of peshat, though modifying it in a few important ways.

In Toledot, we read {Bereshit 26:26}
כו וַאֲבִימֶלֶךְ, הָלַךְ אֵלָיו מִגְּרָר; וַאֲחֻזַּת, מֵרֵעֵהוּ, וּפִיכֹל, שַׂר-צְבָאוֹ. 26 Then Abimelech went to him from Gerar, and Ahuzzath his friend, and Phicol the captain of his host.
What is meant by וַאֲחֻזַּת מֵרֵעֵהוּ?

Rashi says:
and a group of his companions Heb. וַאִחֻזַת מֵרֵעֵהוּ, as the Targum renders: וְסִיעַת מֵרַחִמוֹהִי, a group of his friends [the “mem” meaning“of”](Gen. Rabbah 64:9). Some interpret that in the word מֵרֵעֵהוּ, the “mem” is [part of] the root of the word, like (Jud. 14:11):“the thirty companions” (מֵרֵעִים) of Samson, in order that the word וַאִחֻזַת should be in the construct state [i.e., the group of his friends]. However, it is not polite to speak of royalty in this manner, i.e.,“his group of companions,” because this would imply that he brought his entire group of companions, and that he had only one group of companions. Therefore, it should be interpreted in the previous manner, [i.e., that אִחֻזַת is not construct]. And do not be puzzled about the letter“thav” of אִחֻזַת. Although the word is not in the construct state, there are similar cases in Scripture (Ps. 60:13):“help against the adversary” עֶזְרָת מִצָּר (Isa. 51: 21):“drunk, but not from wine” (וּשְׁכֻרַת וְלֹא מִיָּיִן).
a group Heb. אִחֻזַת, an expression of a gathering or a band [of people] who are held (שֶׁנֶאֱחָזִין) together.
While he argues effectively that the word achuzat need not necessarily be the construct state, I would disagree with his selection of this interpretation, and favor an interpretation that makes it the construct state, together with the mem being part of the word, like the thirty companions of Shimshon.

Indeed, I now see that that is exactly how Rashbam appears to render it -- with the mem as part of it and with the tav designating the construct form:
פסוק כו
ואחוזת מרעהו -
חבורת אוהביו, כמו: ויתנה למרעהו והמ"ם כמו מ"ם של מריע ותוקע, וכמ"ם של אנכי מסב כלי מלחמה.
וכן יתר מרעהו צדיק ודרך רשעים תתעם הצדיק יתר ויכונן דרך ישר את מרעהו,
כמו: ויתורו את ארץ כנען אבל דרך רשעים לעצמם ושכיניהם תתעם פייט' אשגרור בלע"ז. יתור, הוא את עצמו, יתר הוא את אחרים, כמו ישוב ישיב יקום יקים זה פועל וזה מפעיל

though which of the two is closer to Targum Onkelos' וסיעת מרחמוהי is up for discussion. (Does Onkelos consider the mem part of the word? It would seem not since it is likely not in מרחמוהי. Yet וסיעת seems to be the construct form. Yet Daat Zekeinim will translate this as if it is not construct form, and with mem part of the word.)

Tg Pseudo-Yonasan has ואתקיף ברחמוי למיזל עמיה, seeming to mean "and he compelled in (=of) his friends to go with him." This would seem to aphel, causative, form in Aramaic. So maybe he is taking vaAchuzat as a causative in Hebrew as well? What about the mem? Perhaps he is saying that a drafted, compelled group of his friends were with him.

Daat Zekeinim (right) mention the Targum, and says keTargumo. But then mentions another possibility, that Achuzat was the name of a person. And that there is a masorah (masoretic note?) on this לית שום בר נש מרעהו.

Shadal endorses this latter explanation as peshat:

אחזת : שם אדם, כן דעת בעלי המסורה ורבנו סעדיה, היירונימוס , והמתרגם הסורי והאלכסנדרי ואחרים, וכן דעת ר' יהודה בבראשית רבא (ס"ד ח'), אלא שלדעתו אחזת מרעהו היה שמו, כלומר שהיה שמו מורכב משתי מילות על דרך דמשק אליעזר, רוממתי עזר (ד"ה א' כ"ה ד' ול"א), וזה רחוק בעיני, שתהיה מילת מרעהו בכנוי נסתר גם היא מן השם, ואולי טעות סופר נפלה במדרש וצ"ל : אחזת היה שמו.

He says this is the position of the Baalei HaMasorah, of Rabbenu Saadiah Gaon {presumably in his Arabic Biblical translation}, Jerome, the Syrian translator {Peshitta}, the Alexandrian one {presumably Septuagint -- as we have here: "And Abimelech came to him from Gerara, and so did Ochozath his friend, and Phichol the commander-in-chief of his army."} and others. And so is the position of Rabbi Yehuda in Bereishit Rabba. Though in midrash Rabba, the name is purportedly אחזת מרעה. Shadal gives precedent in Damesek Eliezer for two names together for a person, but also suggests it is a typographical error.

With all the irregularities necessary for Rashi's peshat -- and in the end I don't think there are any substantive ones -- I would still side with Rashi and Rashbam here. Indeed, if it were solyly the midrash here, some people would dismiss it as a midrash, just as a claim that BaKol was the name of Avraham's daughter.

And it really makes sense. If he is making some sort of covenant, he might well bring along a group of his associates and colleagues, to make it a broader covenant, not just with him. And furthermore, let us not read רעהו as "companions" but rather shepherds. We see earlier that the shepherds were contending with Yitzchak about the wells.

כ וַיָּרִיבוּ רֹעֵי גְרָר, עִם-רֹעֵי יִצְחָק לֵאמֹר--לָנוּ הַמָּיִם; וַיִּקְרָא שֵׁם-הַבְּאֵר עֵשֶׂק, כִּי הִתְעַשְּׂקוּ עִמּוֹ. 20 And the herdmen of Gerar strove with Isaac's herdmen, saying: 'The water is ours.' And he called the name of the well Esek; because they contended with him.
כא וַיַּחְפְּרוּ בְּאֵר אַחֶרֶת, וַיָּרִיבוּ גַּם-עָלֶיהָ; וַיִּקְרָא שְׁמָהּ, שִׂטְנָה. 21 And they digged another well, and they strove for that also. And he called the name of it Sitnah.
These were shepherds of Gerar, where Avimelech is now coming from. So to sort this out and make peace, it makes sense to bring along some of his shepherds.

Update: Thanks to Mississipi Fred MacDowell of On The Main Line for providing the translation of Rav Saadia Gaon of the relevant pasuk, pictured to the right, available here.

He writes:
ואבימלך צאר אליה מן אלכלוץ ואחזת נדימה ופיכל רייס ג'ישה

The word ואחזת is not translated into Arabic, so it is clearly taken as a proper noun, that is a name. And נדימה, nedimo, means his companion (or drinking buddy), as we see here for the Arabic word nadim.


Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...


ואבימלך צאר אליה מן אלכלוץ ואחזת נדימה ופיכל רייס ג'ישה

See it here:

joshwaxman said...

excellent! thanks!

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

You're welcome. I couldn't find the link last night, but here are PDFs of the entire Torah with Targum and Tafsir (beautiful edition, I might add, as you can see from the page I uploaded):

and here is Derenbourg's edition of Tafsir:

Mar Gavriel said...

Is the beautiful edition available also in print? I wasn't able to find on the nosachteiman site any link to any such thing.


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