Nehemiah 4:17 - איש שלחו המים

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Jason Hare
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Nehemiah 4:17 - איש שלחו המים

Post by Jason Hare »

Since Karl mentioned reading Nehemiah this past week, Jonathan Beck and I sat down on Zoom to read through the book together. Today we came to the end of chapter 4, and the last phrase of the chapter struck me as very odd.

Nehemiah 4:17
וְאֵ֨ין אֲנִ֜י וְאַחַ֣י וּנְעָרַ֗י וְאַנְשֵׁ֤י הַמִּשְׁמָר֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר אַֽחֲרַ֔י אֵין־אֲנַ֥חְנוּ פֹֽשְׁטִ֖ים בְּגָדֵ֑ינוּ אִ֖ישׁ שִׁלְח֥וֹ הַמָּֽיִם׃
The issue is אִישׁ שִׁלְחוֹ הַמָּ֫יִם. We saw the word שֶׁ֫לַח used several times in this chapter in reference to some sort of weapon. Holladay says "javelin, dart." Gesenius defines it as "a weapon, missile" and says that it specifically refers to "a sword."

I'm lost as to how to understand it in this verse.

The KJV seems to revocalize the word and turn it into a verb: "So neither I, nor my brethren, nor my servants, nor the men of the guard which followed me, none of us put off our clothes, saving that every one put them off for washing."

It would seem to be read as אִישׁ שְׁלָחוֹ הַמַּ֫יִם each man cast it aside (?) (only when he got in) the water. That is, they kept their clothes on at all times except when bathing.

Both the NIV and the NAS tie it to שֶׁ֫לַח and says that each kept his weapon with him even when bathing.

How would you understand the expression here? Any help would be outstanding!
Jason Hare
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www.thehebrewcafe.com
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progressi falsam sibi scientiæ persusionem induerunt.

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ducky
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Re: Nehemiah 4:17 - איש שלחו המים

Post by ducky »

Hi Jason,

could be that it is to be "read" as
איש שלחו והמים
(which one V of the two was dropped, and it is as if the suffix V of שלחו also represents the prefix of the המים).

which means that each man in his guard stands with his weapon and his water.
David Hunter
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Jason Hare
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Re: Nehemiah 4:17 - איש שלחו המים

Post by Jason Hare »

Ah, so איששלחווהמים might possibly have dropped the second vav? What if it just joined to the wrong word:

איששלחוהמים ← איש|שלח|והמים
איששלחוהמים ← איש|שלחו|המים
איששלחו[ו]המים ← איש|שלחו|[ו]המים

I hope we get some more suggestions, too. The text is problematic to me.
Jason Hare
Tel Aviv, Israel
www.thehebrewcafe.com
Nihil est peius iis, qui paulum aliquid ultra primas litteras
progressi falsam sibi scientiæ persusionem induerunt.

— Quintilian
ducky
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Re: Nehemiah 4:17 - איש שלחו המים

Post by ducky »

There are more cases when one letter starts a word, and this letter also ends the previous word, so it is dropped in one of them.

the form of איש שלחו is also found in other places, so it should stay.

So maybe it is איש שלחו (ו)המים
as each man stays with his weapon and his water
(in the story of David had the chance to kill Saul, it talks about his water next to his spear.

***
Maybe another suggestion would be that each man stays with his water even when he goes to wash himself?
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Andrew Chapman
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Re: Nehemiah 4:17 - איש שלחו המים

Post by Andrew Chapman »

Delitzsch proposes הֵמַּיִנוּ - each taking his weapon in his right hand (יָמַן):

https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/e-bo ... itzsch.pdf
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Re: Nehemiah 4:17 - איש שלחו המים

Post by Andrew Chapman »

Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, 1897 (https://archive.org/details/booksofezra ... 4/mode/2up):

'saving that every one put them off for washing] R.V. every one went with his weapon to the water. R.V. marg. ‘The text is probably faulty.’

The clause has occasioned great difficulty. Literally rendered the words run, ‘each one his weapon the water.’ The LXX. omit the words, probably from inability to discover their meaning. The error in the text is therefore of very early date. The Syriac seems to have conjectured ‘days’ for ‘water.’

(a) The A.V. follows the conjecture of the Vulg. ‘unusquisque tantum nudabatur ad baptismum,’ according to which the Hebrew word for ‘his weapon’ becomes by a change of vocalization a verb = ‘they sent (i.e. cast off) each one his clothes for the water,’ i.e. in order to wash. The Hebrew however could not possibly bear this very strained interpretation.

(b) Another old rendering is ‘each one his weapon was (in the place of, or equivalent to) water,’ i.e. ‘instead of washing they had each to stand fast to their arms,’ is equally improbable.

(c) Another rendering ‘each one had (by his side) his weapon (and) his (draught of) water’ gives intelligible sense, but not such as can be justified by the original.

(d) Ewald’s rendering, ‘the taking off of each man’s clothes was for water,’ i.e. ‘to satisfy his necessities, not to lie down to rest,’ seems very uncalled for. It is greatly to be questioned whether Nehemiah even ‘in his rough and open style’ would have introduced such an allusion or in such words. (Ewald, Hist. of Isr. vol. v. p. 156, note 1, Eng. Transl.).

(e) Some moderns rendering ‘his weapon’ (shil’kho) as if it were the verb (shâl’khû) translate ‘they sent each one for water.’ They could not leave their post, and had to have the necessaries of life brought to them where they stood. This use of ‘send’ as equivalent to ‘send for,’ is scarcely supported by 2 Samuel 15:12, since here a thing and not a person is the object of the verb. Others, reading ‘shâl’khû, render, ‘Every one gave up the use of water,’ a quite inadmissible translation.

(f) The R.V. rendering which introduces the words ‘went with … to’ makes good sense of the clause, but follows very unnaturally upon ‘none of us put off our clothes,’ neither stating an exception nor introducing a cognate idea.

(g) A good conjectural emendation of the text gives the sense ‘each one remained with his weapon in his hand’ (or ‘in his right hand’).

(h) But it is probable that the error of the text is due to the accidental omission of certain words. We expect some statement of the length of time during which Nehemiah and his followers continued without retiring to rest. Perhaps the clause may have run ‘each one with his weapon in his hand for a full month of days.’ The Syriac version ‘we will not put off our clothes during a month of days’ agrees with this suggestion, and the Arabic gives a similar rendering, ‘till the end of a month and days.’
Andrew Chapman
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