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Lizards and Spiders and Targums, Oh My!


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Yesterday a pastor friend wrote to me asking, "I was wondering if you have any insight on Proverbs 30:28... KJV says "spider" and most others say "lizard." Just curious about the confusion ... seems like 2 totally different creatures, although small, vastly unique from each other."

 

So, of course I turned to Accordance. I opened up both the NAS95 module and the BHS-W4 side by side because I knew that I didn't know the Hebrew word for spider/lizard off the top of my head. After determining ‏‏שׂממית was the word in question, I triple clicked on it to open HALOT.

 

It's a lizard. Maybe even a gecko. Now I'm picturing in my mind the one from the Geico commercials. In fact, in keeping with the context of Prov 30:28, I can picture the little fellow, hanging out in the king's court, with one hand on the throne and the other on his hip, doling out advice and other clever quips.

 

To double-check, I switch over to BDB. It's still a lizard of some kind. Definitely not a spider.

 

So where in the world did the King Jimmy translators get "spider"?

 

I've come to the point in the last couple of years that when I want a quick answer to questions like that, I simply turn first to the NET Bible notes. Sure, commentaries are great for more in depth information, but the NET Bible notes have the answer in a nutshell--usually. I mean, there's an answer for everything in those 60K+ notes.

 

Sure enough, the NET Bible had it covered:

 

"The KJV, agreeing with Tg. Prov 30:28, translated this term as “spider.” But almost all modern English versions and commentators, following the Greek and the Latin versions, have “lizard.”

 

Okay, so this makes a good bit of sense. The KJV OT translators are known for being very familiar with Jewish literature. Perhaps even the meaning of ‏שׂממית was in question, and they turned to the Targums for answers.

 

Targums. Targums. I had to think about whether or not I had Targums in Accordance. I wanted to see what the KJV translators had seen. I'll admit that although I've used the Mishna some in my studies, I've never used the Targums. I couldn't even remember off the top of my head whether I had them in Accordance.

 

But I did. So I tried to look up Prov 30:28 in the Targums and that's where my great story dead ends.

 

Perhaps someone more familiar with the Targums can help me. Am I doing something wrong? There is no Targum module in Accordance (from what I can tell) that covers Prov 30:28.

 

Are the Accordance targums not yet complete or is this an issue with the NET Bible notes being in error?

 

Any insight is appreciated.

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The targums are now complete, but you may need to update to Scholar's 7.4 to get the latest versions. That verse reads:

Prov. 30.28: ‏ ואקמתא דמסבכא באידיא ועמדא בביתא דמלכי

and the gloss on the first word is lizard.

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The targums are now complete, but you may need to update to Scholar's 7.4 to get the latest versions. That verse reads:

Prov. 30.28: ‏ ואקמתא דמסבכא באידיא ועמדא בביתא דמלכי

and the gloss on the first word is lizard.

 

Now that's interesting because I've got the Scholars Complete 8 and I ran the installer weeks ago when I got it. And nothing shows up in the AccUpdater widget saying that any of my Targum modules are out of date.

 

Helen, do you mind telling me which specific module you used? And what version number is listed on that module?

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TARG-T version 4.3. This module contains most of the Targums unless they are other versions of the same texts. Did you tell the installer to update all modules? We don't want you to have to wait for that routine on each installation, so you do now need to specify it.

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TARG-T version 4.3. This module contains most of the Targums unless they are other versions of the same texts. Did you tell the installer to update all modules? We don't want you to have to wait for that routine on each installation, so you do now need to specify it.

 

That's really bizarre. I am pretty sure I ran the "update all modules" option before. Nevertheless, I've run it now and I now have the updated targums.

 

It makes me wonder what else was not updated!

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If anyone is curious about the translational issue between "spider" and "lizard," I may have been able to obtain the answer. I took the original post in this thread and adapted it to a blog entry on This Lamp. According to an answer given in the comments, the KJV translators were probably reading medieval Jewish commentator Rashi who claimed the creature was a spider. As Helen pointed out already, and as I confirmed once I had the most updated Accordance modules installed, The Targum on Prov 30:28 does indeed seem to refer to a lizard, not a spider.

 

Therefore, it seems as if the note in the NET Bible notes is actually in error.

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