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אשׁה יראת יהוה in Prov 31:30

Robert Holmstedt

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Michel asked this in another thread, but it's worth separating as its own thread:



Hi Robert,

This is very much appreciated.
A question from when I was reading yesterday: how would you translate אשׁה יראת יהוה היא תתהלל (Prov 31,30), 
i.e., would the full null be (אשׁר לה (אשׁה , and how would you translate אשׁה (wife or woman)?
Thanks, and regards,


I guess in the context of this book I think יראת is a construct noun, not a construct adjective; also, if an adj, it would be the only case in the HB. 


Edit: Of course I mean the only fsc of ירא




If יראת is an adj, so far I've found only one clause with similar syntax, Ezek 23,45, ואנשים צדיקם המה ישפטו . Perhaps you can find others with casus pendens, adj (phrase), pronoun as subj, verb. If you do, could you post a screenshot of your construct search? Thanks.




First, thanks for the question -- it helped me identify and fix an inconsistency in the database that developed due to a change in our understanding over time. The issue is the relationship of morphology (i.e., bound relationship) and syntax (i.e., adjunct versus complement). In case of the adjective יָרֵא bound to a noun like יהוה, it's clear that the noun יהוה is the complement of the implied action in ירא. So rather than take the host noun as an adjunct, there are all now tagged as complements. 


Second, on יראת in Prov 31:30, it seems to be the feminine adjective/participle form of יָרֵא. Note the DCH does not even include a separate adjective entry, but calls יָרֵא the participle form (likely for the same reason underlying my first point -- it is often bound to its "object"). That this is the only fem form does not trouble me, since how many women are really discussed in the Hebrew Scriptures?


Third, on the syntax, the adjectival/participial phrase is within an unmarked relative, lit. "a woman (who is) fearing Yhwh". This entire phrase is dislocated and resumed by the pronoun היא. This is not unusual syntax in general. Perhaps what stands out is the use of a generic indefinite noun אשׁה as the dislocated Topic constituent, but these is paralleled by numerous cases of this with אישׁ in Leviticus, "A man who does this --- he will be cut off". 


Finally, on translating אשׁה as "wife" or "woman" -- I don't have a strong preference. It's default is "woman," so unless one can make a good case that the context suggests the relational connotation ("wife"), it's better to stick to "woman". However, in this particular context, the poem is obviously about a "wife". And yet, v. 30 seems to me that it might have been a distinct generic proverb that was pulled into the larger אשׁת חיל poem. So, by itself, it probably meant "woman," but in the context of Prov 31, it takes on the nuance of "wife".


Hope that helps. 




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Hi again


I understand what you're saying, and you're probably right. Part of my thinking was there are no Qal participles of ירא, so the adj is used for the masc, and possibly once for the fem, in Prov 31,30 (I mean tagged as such in HMT, HALOT, etc). I myself was wondering if there was a Qal adj/ptc for ירא , so I like your solution. I've also always found Prov 14,2 strange, הֹולֵ֣ךְ בְּ֭יָשְׁרֹו יְרֵ֣א יְהוָ֑ה וּנְלֹ֖וז דְּרָכָ֣יו בֹּוזֵֽהוּ , tagged as three participles and an adjective.


Single occurrences don't bother me either, but as I read Prov 31,30 I was struck by its peculiarities.





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