A new Dictionary of Qumran Aramaic

Dictionary of Qumran Aramaic, by Edward M. Cook (Eisenbrauns, 2015) xxii+265pp.


Edward M. Cook has been closely involved with the development of Qumran Aramaic studies for thirty years and has previously published two major lexical projects in Aramaic, a dictionary to (some of?) the targumim in the Accordance computer program database and A Glossary of Targum Onkelos: According to Alexander Sperber’s Edition (Brill, 2008). He is thus the perfect person to undertake the work here reviewed.

We are not quite sure if it should be called a “Dictionary,” however. Unlike the Onkelos volume, which contained only brief glosses and little else, this one’s entries are extensive; but they are not the kind of entries usually associated with an academic lexicon. Rather they are more like a concordance, with the examples within entries arranged by semantics or by grammatical context rather than by text number or alphabetical order. One gets the impression that, except perhaps for the very most common words, almost every example of every word is given in its context. But little of what one might expect to find in a traditional scholarly lexicon is to be found in the entries here: Notably missing are an indication of the vocalization and morphological structures of well-known words, lists of derived forms for verbs, or even a guide for students as to what words are common elsewhere in Aramaic and what are relatively or extremely rare.

This work would seem, then, to be of little value to a novice. Its major contribution may well be instead a collection of all of the most thoroughly studied readings of texts whose correct readings and interpretations have long been subject to dispute—and there are hundreds of such problematic readings in this corpus. The Dictionary contains many revised and undoubtedly correct readings, not all of which are indicated in notations, as well as frequent references to the earlier publications whose readings are here accepted or have been rejected.

An important, unadvertised, feature is the fact that Cook here proposes many readings of fragmentary passages differing from those of earlier editions. In most cases Cook’s readings are superior to those of earlier scholars, which is not surprising considering that the earlier scholars, by and large, were not Aramaists! Perhaps the worst decision of the Israeli board in charge of the final publication of the scrolls was to assign the remaining Aramaic texts of Milik’s Nachlass to E. Puech, a well-known epigrapher who is generally recognized to have had little knowledge of Aramaic at the time. Puech’s ignorance of Aramaic (both grammar and lexicon) is repeatedly demonstrated here (though never emphasized—Cook is too nice) in the notes to several entries. For an example of each see the notes to אל “do not” and עבד “to make”.

Except for 1QapGen and 11QtgJob, references are given by text number rather than by text name. This was an unfortunate choice, as it immediately removes the context of text genre from such citations. (An index of text numbers, sigla, and “definitive” publication is included in the Introduction, to be sure.) Another notable lack that could easily have been remedied is an index to cited passages, such as the immensely useful ones provided by Sokoloff in his Jewish Aramaic dictionaries. As a final general comment, one wishes Cook would have included the material from the Genizah copies of the Testament of Levi. The undoubtedly Qumranic vocabulary of that text is adduced here only occasionally.

The origin of Akkadian loanwords is sometimes (e.g. s.v. גנון “bridal chamber”) but not consistently indicated in any pattern I can determine; see for example אסי “to heal”, אשף “magician”, מסכן “poor person”, and דש “door.”

Cook has fallen victim to unwise reliance on parallels in other languages. In fact neither the Hebrew source (e.g., for TgJob) nor the Greek rendering (e.g., for Tobit) should be considered definitive for the semantics of the Aramaic text. Priority must always be given to the Aramaic context itself and to the use of words in other Aramaic dialects. Consider the word דרה, which means “courtyard (and in the context of royalty ”court” NOT necessarily “courtyard”), but also simply ”dwelling” (for which see the JBA example BT BB 67a(18)” :כי פליגי דאמ׳ ליה٠ דרתא٠ מר סבר בתי משמע ומר סבר תרביצא משם : when do they disagree? (If ) he said to him דרתא; . this one is of the opinion that it means rooms [i.e. the entire property], and the other is of the opinion that it means a courtyard”). At Tobit 7:1 in the phrase יתב קדם תרע דרתה, the word is rendered αὐλῆς in the Greek. But, unlike Cook, we do not take this as proof that the word means “courtyard” in the original, only that this is the rendering chosen by the Greek translator. Another example comes under the entry בר “son”, which admittedly means “children” in the plural but never definitively “child of either sex” in the singular. Yet the Greek at Tobit 3:15
לא ]ב֗ר לה אחרן די י֗ר֗ת֗נ֗[ה] ו֗אח לה ק֗ר֗י֗ב֗ ל[א איתי] ל[ה where the Greek renders with τέκνον and so Cook renders “child of either sex”. Yet surely the context is clear and refers to male heirs! The reverse (converse?) process is illustrated by examples s.v. גבר “man”, where in the final chapter of Job Hebrew איש is so rendered. By telling us that in this context it is shown by the Hebrew that the Aramaic גבר can mean “each one,” as Hebrew (and Aramaic) איש often does to be sure, Cook overlooks the near certainty that the translator’s choice of words was intentional to show that it is only the males that are referred to. Several other similar examples could be cited.

The entries include many dubious readings (always so indicated), such as “בל interj. indeed(?)”, presumably as an aid to readers of the text publications, that probably should have been omitted. Also, forms that occur only as a part of collocations, such as בלי without (properly מן בלי), are given under the single word, a decision that can only mislead those same students.

We found much to comment on in the individual entries, but have limited our notes here to those most important to the learner:

אבע vb. APH to hasten : If the reading is correct and the binyan is indeed aphel, then the effective root is indeed beth, ayin, ayin here, in spite of the etymology.

אוש [Pers.] n. m. advisor (‘voice’) (?): As noted in the Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon, “It (i.e. אושי) could, however, simply be a personal name or a figurative use of #1 “foundation” > “support” > supporting member of the royal court.”

אן conj. if; not (in oath formula); yes: The word “yes” (< ˀēn < ˀayn) is not the same word as “if” (< ˀin < hinn).

בר אנש man, men, humanity (p. 17): better simply “human being.”

אפו conj. then, and so: This word is an enclitic in rhetorical questions. Neither feature is indicated in the gloss.

ארעי n. f. lower portion, depth: As demonstrated by the cited text (pl. ארעיא), this cannot be a feminine noun but is rather simply the common adjective “lower.”

ב prep. in, on, with, at, by: As an example of the detail Cook provides in the semantic realm, I give here the major divisions by which he has divided his examples:
I. Locative (spatial). (a) in or at a place, without filling it
(b)among (with plural or collective nouns)
(c) in, with a quality or state, adverbial
(d) after verbs of motion, into or onto a place
(e) By, geometrical
II. Temporal. (a) In, during a time indicated by nominal
(b) In, during a time indicated by infinitive
III. Extended Uses: (a) with, comitative
(b) by means of, instrumental
(c) in exchange for, beth pretii (!SAK)
(d) identity or role, with pred. nom
(e) introducing verbal complement (q. v. the verbal roots): verbs of perception, attitude, or disposition:

On the other hand, why the following introductory paragraph is given and to whom it is addressed is a mystery to me:
“[The core relation is “in” an area or container, with most of the extended meanings metaphorical or metonymic developments from this core. The
preposition generally is used in situations of low transitivity; its complement is never the agent of the action, nor an entity that is completely or wholly affected by the action. It often marks the complements of verbs of experience (where the subject is the experiencer of the action), or entities in general that do not undergo a change of state or location. With motion verbs, it generally marks the endpoint of the motion, but not its direction.]”

Under בר II n. m. field, wild country he gives a usage —prep. except for, outside of. But this is incorrect. The preposition is only ברה מן. (See below s.v. המון).

גלגל n. m. sphere: In reference to the moon. Surely the word means a two-dimensional circle, not a three-dimensional sphere here.

גרבי n. m. north: Given that the form שמאל appears in close conjunction in the text, the meaning may rather be something like “northeast” instead.

Under דין one finds essentially hidden the term בעל דין, “opponent at law,” clearly a separate lemma.

As a note s.v. דין II n. m. judge, the student is, as always, given no clue as to the well-known vocalization of the word, yet a gratuitous note is added re the expression דין אמת: “For a parallel in QH, see 11Q5 24:6” , while the important and ubiquitous usage within Judaism as a blessing upon hearing of a death: ברוך דיין אמת is overlooked.

דכא n. f. chamber: Better: “ritual shrine”.

דמי PA. to suppose, believe: “to imagine” is a much more imaginative and accurate rendering.

דמע II n. m. offering: Why not terumah?

דרח “to shine”: There are three forms of this root in the corpus: normative דנח, Hebrew זרח, and this mixed form דרח. Surely a note pointing this out to the student and speculating on possible contextual differences would have been welcome.

הוך vb. PE. to go (impf./inf. only): Surely the reader should have been told what this is suppletive for (ie. הלך)!

המון indep. pers. pron. 3 m. pl. they, them: This form is always a direct object and should not be reconstructed either as a subject or as the object of a preposition (see s.v. בר II n. m. field and חלם II vb.)

הר [BH הר] n. m. mountain: This should not have been included; the entire expression הר סיני is a geographical name here.

הריה n. f. conception, fetus and הריון n. m. conception, pregnancy: Since the same text uses both forms, the meanings are almost certainly different, the first is “fetus”, the second “pregnancy”.

זבד vb. PE. to present: Rather “to provide”.

זמן vb. ITHPA. to meet by intention and זמן [Pers.] n. m. time, occasion; meeting: The idea of “meeting” for this verb comes from the rendering of BH אהל מועד as משכן זמנא here and in the targumic tradition (e.g., at Ex29:4). But this translation is due to the erroneous conception that the Biblical Hebrew term means “tent of meeting”. מועד means “time” just like זמן always does. Also, this word is an Akkadian loan, not Persian. As I demonstrated forty years ago in Akkadian Influences (p. 92), an Iranian etymology is no longer sustainable.

זעק APH. to cry out: Rather pael, for afel makes no sense morphologically or semantically.

חוט n. m. thread, line: Not “line” rather “measuring cord”.

חותל n. m. covering: Rather “swaddling”.

חזיה II n. f. watchtower: Cook’s lengthy note defending his translation is simply wrong. The word in context clearly means “cornerstone”.

חלחלי n.f. trembling, ague(?) : Cook has changed his preference between an earlier draft “entrails” and the published version. He should have stuck with his original intention. However, the variation in forms remains unexplained.

חלם II vb. OPH. to be healed: This reading and interpretation of לבר is impossible (see above s.v. המון).

חלף vb. OPH. to be made to pass across: It is quite possible that the C examples from Qumran are not in fact passives: Note especially the example from 4QEne1.26.19 where the verb is parallel to a C form of רחק which is also widely used as an active.The difference from G would then be G=”pass beyond” while C=”pass by”.

חלץ II n. f. loins, hip: The lemma should be the plural or dual form.

חמד vb. ITHPE./ITHPA. to desire, be desired: The T stem typically means simply “to desire”.

חרגה n. f. terror: This is not a precise rendering. It is rather fear of power and future, not terror or fright.

חרש n. m. sorcery and חרשה n. f. sorcery: All this is dubious and does not comport with other aramaic usages. חרש should be sorcerer (sorcery is חרשין) and חרשה a sorceress.

חשוך n. m. darkness: In the first cited example (אבדן חשוך) it is the adjective, not a noun.

חתן vb. ITHPA. to be married: Rather “to be allied through marriage”, which is quite a different thing altogether.

חתף vb. PE. to rob, raid. He renders here יתון חתפוהי as “his raiders come”. But since when does a Qumran Aramaic imperfect express the general present as in SBH?

יאש vb. PA. to abandon, leave: This is totally incorrect. In this context the piel of this verb means “to console” and it is translating the Hebrew text read as a piel. See the targum to Is 61:3 לְיַאָשָׁא לַאְבֵילֵי צִיוֹן׃ where it is clearly parallel to

יבש vb. PE. to wither: By form and usage יביש is an adjective, not a finite verb.

ידי vb. HAPH./APH. to give thanks, acknowledge: Why not “to praise”?

יחל vb. PA. to wait: The Qumran Job passage [for MT לֹא אֶחְבֹּל] seems to reflect the Hebrew of Job 13:15, which itself is a long-standing crux of interpretation; the traditional “I shall wait” is dubious. The verb means “to despair” in Syriac.

יני vb. APH. to vex, trouble. דע מא יונא בעה, know what will trouble one who seeks, 4Q541 fg 24 ii:4. This passage remains troublesome in spite of Cook’s cited article supporting this interpretation, which I find to be totally unacceptable in both syntax and context. I tend to think the earlier interpretation “what Jonah sought” may well be right.

יסור n. m. chastisement, correction: A very unlikely reading and interpretation, since “chastisement” elsewhere is always a plural form.

ירכה n. f. thigh: The singular form is rather ירך, which takes a feminine plural.

ישע [BH] vb. APH. to save, deliver. ויושע, he saved (or: will save): This is not BH, so why would he suggest “he saved” as a first rendering? The context is clearly a pseudo-prediction of the future of Israel.

ישר vb. APH. to send away: Much better “to release”. BH teachers and students: Please do not use the translation “to send” when you translate the BH piel of שלח! It is like chalk screeching on a blackboard to my ears.

כול, כל n. m./quant. any, all, every, each: We find in the divisions of this entry an extreme example of missing the forest for the trees. His categories are count nouns (indet., det.), non-count nouns (indet., det.), relative clauses, alone, and with pronominal suffixes. In so doing, the major semantic distinction from a translational point of view, i.e. when and why it means “every” and when and why it means “all” or “whole” is completely overlooked.

כסי vb.: The entry is missing a potential Dt form, which appears emended s.v. כנס.

כפר n. m. kind of flower. One misses an explanation of why this is a type of flower and not simply kwprˀ, “spadix”.

לבונה n. f. incense: It is rather “frankincense”, which is a particular incense.

לולב n. m. branch: A lulav is a palm branch; since this text is in reference to a grape vine, this must be “support stick” as in CPA. The second example is probably “lulavs”.

לחץ vb. PE. to oppress: Better “to constrain”.

לילא, לילה n. m. night: Here the absence of any guide to vocalization is sure to mislead the Hebrew-knowing student. The absolute is lēlē and probably should have been given as לילי.

לכוש n. m. brazier: it is not a pleasant “brazier” but rather a fire-brand that can burn up everything!

לקח vb. PE. to take: Better “to remove”.

מאין adv. where: This word means “whence”. He tries to justify his rendering (changed from an earlier draft!) with a totally inane argument, including a blatantly incorrect adduction of BH Nahum 3:7 (מֵאַיִן אֲבַקֵּשׁ מְנַחֲמִים לָךְ) as if it supports the meaning “where” in Biblical Hebrew. The sun passes through and sets from the western gates and is then somewhere else from the perspective of the sun and from the perspective of the astronomer. I would have expected better of Cook.

ממר, מאמר [√rma] n. m. command, bidding, word: “command” not “word”.

מאן n. m. vessel: In this context it clearly means “heavenly body” or even “constellation”. His literal translation “vessels of heaven” is makes little sense.

מדינה n. f. land, nation, city: “Land” is never correct. By definition it is a political unit.

מחסן n. m. fortress. מחסניך אתקף, strengthen your fortresses: Might one instead venture “be a man!” See the Syriac meaning “genitalia”.

מטלה n. f. shelter: Taking it from טלל in a broken context, but “burden” (from נטל) is equally possible.

מן prep. from, out of, of: Surely he should have noted that in this orthography the nun is assimilated to a nun-initial word.

מסורה, מסרה [taking from the root אסר ‘to bind’?] n. f. company, array: This is very misleading. It means rather “assignment > assigned group” from the root מסר. Had the “scholars” cited in his note looked at the samaritan dictionary (p. 480) they would know this.

מציעה n. f. middle. The form מצעה is probably a separate word.

מקטורה n. f. incense: This is surely rather incense pan as in hebrew מִקְטֶרֶת and should be given with final taw. There is no reason why “incense” should have a mem preformative. Also, note that his citation of the meaning of the root: [√קטר ‘to give off smoke’] does not comport with the definitions given under the root itself.

מקם n. m. position, office: “Office” surely is misleading in english; he means “position” or “standing”.

משלחה n. f. emissary: Probably rather Hebraic מִשְׁלַחַת.

נגד I vb. PE. to proceed (intrans.), stretch, pull (trans.) and נגד II vb. ITHPE./ITHPA. to be scourged: This is a single root.

נור n. m. fire. His note reads: “When the gender is clear, it is always masc. as in Tg. Onk., although in some other dialects both genders are used”. This is highly misleading, given that there is only one example (ex. 22:5) in Onkelos and the masculine forms there all have feminine variants!

נחיר n. f. nostril: The lemma should be cited as a dual.

נחל n. m. ravine: Not just a ravine. A wadi is a well-known English word these days.

נצץ vb. APH. to produce blossoms. “מנצ בהון, (as if) making blossoms among them”. This is nonsense; read מנצבהון “from their planting”.

נשמין n. m. pl. breath: Probably rather just a plural of common נשמה.

נשר n. m. eagle. As I note in the CAL, the frequent modern rendering as “eagle” is misguided for the Ancient Near East, where a distinction between these two large raptors was not generally made. Most commonly the word would seem to refer to what is now known as the “griffon” vulture (“Gyps Fulvus”). Why the other modern dictionaries continue to put “eagle” first escapes my understanding.

סגר vb. PE. to hand over, deliver: No, this word means “to shut”. It only acquires the connotation “to hand over” when used with ביד.

סדר vb. PE./PA. to follow, come next: At 4Q197 fg 4 i:5 (Tobit 6:1) night (restored!) is said to have סדר להון. Rather than his “to follow, come next”, we would render “appeared as usual”.

סור vb. PE. to turn away, depart. Read instead יסורין.

סתר n. m. secret place, loin: The Syriac text cited in the note is irrelevant for it clearly renders the second half of the verse, not the first.

עבידה n. f. work; servants: The passages justifying the translation “servants” do no such thing. Their context is of building and burying, so whence “servants”?

עופיה n. f. branch: Instead just עופי.

על prep. on, upon, against, concerning. He writes “[The basic function is to indicate a relation of an action or thing to a state or entity that does not exist in or pass into the state or entity, pass by or under it, or issue from it or out of it. Hence the relation so denoted is essentially external, and includes the concepts indicated by English on, over, against, by, next to, towards, above, or conceptually about, for, because of, concerning, regarding.]”: I doubt if such clever gibberish can mean anything at all to the learner. In any case, it hardly describes a “basic function”. Cook seems to be bothered by the fact that he chose to use such a large number of different English words to render a single Aramaic one. But such is the nature of translation. Had he tried a bit harder, though, he could have rendered virtually every textual example with the actual basic function that is a perfectly good multivalent English word: “over”. Try it and see.

ען n. f. flock of sheep: As anyone who has traveled in the Near East knows, this means “sheep and goats” not just “sheep”. This oversight explains his mistranslation of תיש as “ram”, q.v.

קלל n. m. curse and קללה reproach: These should probably be reversed, with the first example cited s.v. קללה almost surely instead restored as כמלתי, i.e. metathesized כלמתי.

קליפין, קלפין n. m. pl. tree bark: This is rather the plural of קלפה.

קץ n. m. time; end: The examples of “end” (קצוי) are from קצה not from קץ.

קשש vb. APH. to cause to enter adulthood, raise. “יקשן בניהן ויפקן, they raise their young and send them away, 11QtgJob 32:3“: In spite of the defectively written ending these verbs are almost certainly simply peals with בניהן as the subject. The apparent feminine forms have been influenced by the previous verse.

רגש vb. HAPH. to stir up (?): More likely “assemble urgently” as in BH.

רחצן n. m. security: Better “reliance, certainty”.

תיש n. m. ram: Never “ram”, rather “he-goat”.

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