Take the 2-minute tour ×
Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professors, theologians, and those interested in exegetical analysis of biblical texts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Finishing the response to the meta call for contradiction, here is the last contradiction/inconsistency I found in Genesis/Exodus/Leviticus.

In Exodus 35:22 we find the following passage.

And the men, over the women, came, all the generous of heart, brought clasp and nosering, and ring and vulva-cover, all gold implements, and every man who lifted a wave-offering of gold for Yahweh.

the important thing to note is that the men are bringing every man who lifted a wave-offering of gold for Yahweh. This doesn't make any sense. How can men bring men with gold? Why don't you just say the men brought gold?

There is a simple interpretation here, which is natural, to omit the "the men, over the", and just say

And the women came, all the generous of heart, brought clasp and nosering, and ring, and vulva-cover, all gold implements, and every man who lifted a wave-offering of gold for Yahweh.

Notice that if it is the women, it makes complete sense, since I doubt many men were walking around with a vulva cover (although I suppose there must have been a few, but they were probably considered kinda weird).

This is the Hebrew:

וַיָּבֹאוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים, עַל-הַנָּשִׁים; כֹּל נְדִיב לֵב, הֵבִיאוּ חָח וָנֶזֶם וְטַבַּעַת וְכוּמָז כָּל-כְּלִי זָהָב, וְכָל-אִישׁ, אֲשֶׁר הֵנִיף תְּנוּפַת זָהָב לַיהוָה.

One should note that the "nediv lev"(generous of heart) in the phrase is masculine, so that it is the men who are being generous of heart in donating all these womenly jewelry thingies. I must emphasize that the last clause, "ve-kol ish asher hinif..." is exactly grammatically correctly given as the translation "and every man who waved a wave-offering of gold for Yahweh", it cannot be an independent sentence--- it is a noun-phrase which is an object of "brought". This means that the only possible grammatical interpretation of the sentence is that the men were generous, and brought the women, and also brought the men!

This is clearly a mistake. Nobody would say that, and it is also a false-ringing sentiment. What is the proper interpretation of Exodus 35:22?

share|improve this question
3  
You also get masculine adjectives for mixed groups. A feminine adjective is only used if all referrents are feminine. (There's no neuter in Hebrew.) –  Gone Quiet Apr 11 '12 at 18:57
    
No kidding. What's the relevance? The vulva covers and nose-rings do not belong to a mixed gender collection. I feel only 90% confident in saying this is interpolation, so I would appreciate honest reading. –  Ron Maimon Apr 11 '12 at 19:22
    
Clasps, rings, and all gold implements are not so clear. I only brought it up because you seem to be saying that "nediv lev" means male-only subject; that's the part I'm questioning. –  Gone Quiet Apr 11 '12 at 19:25
    
Oh--- yes you are right--- the matching is mixed gender, but the binding is to "anashim". But the "anashim" are specifically "'al hanashim", they are the ones doing the giving, and the matching of adjective is to the masculine subject, not to the ostensibly feminine donors. Some interpret "'al hanashim" to mean that the women wear actually wearing these items (this is a possible reading), but I tend to see it as a control issue--- the men decided to do the donation, not the women. Either reading leaves the same question. The nezem and cumaz are always female associated--- no males wear them. –  Ron Maimon Apr 12 '12 at 0:09
1  
Ron, here's a question that just occurred to me. 'al usually means "upon" in a physical sense ("over" is new to me), but I've also seen it mean "about", as in the b'racha that ends "'al achilat matzah" (to choose a seasonal example). Would it be appropriate to render this as soemthing like "the men, on behalf of the women, brought..."? Or is that totally off-base? (This leaves the generous hearts unresolved; that's a separate issue.) –  Gone Quiet Apr 12 '12 at 14:37

2 Answers 2

I have to emphasize that the awkwardness of the grammar, and the nonsensical intepretation, leads most translations to not translate the sentence authentically, making it "and the men and the women brought.." instead of "the men over the women brought". In this translation, it is the women who are doing the giving, but this inconsistent in the Hebrew, both with the gender of the "nediv" and with the construction which has the men as the subject of the verb "to bring", and the women only in a clause "'al ha-nashim". The translation I give preserves the proper subject of the sentence.

The question is actually almost self-answering. The verse has an introduced "ha-anashim, 'al" and a changed adjective to match the masculine gender. This is a clear interpolation, and my guess is that it is Priestly's handiwork (it sounds like other things P does).

This appears the same in the Samaritan pentateuch and the Septuagint. I didn't check the Syriac, but I am sure it is the same in all traditions.

The context of the verse helps too:

And they came. Each man whose heart impelled him, and each whose spirit filled him with generosity, brought a donation to Yahweh, for the crafting of the tent of events, and all its work, and for the holy clothes. And the men, over the women, came, all the generous of heart, brought clasp and nosering, and ring and vulva-cover, all gold implements, and every man who lifted a wave-offering of gold for Yahweh. And every man who possessed cyan and magenta, knits and oddfeel shesh, or goatskin, or reddened ram-skins, or seal-skins, brought it. 24 All that lifted up a donation of silver and copper, brought to Yahweh's donation. And all that possessed acacia wood, for all the craft work, brought it.

And every wise-hearted woman spun with her hands, and they brought spun the cyan and the magenta cloth, the knits and the oddfeel shesh. 26 And all the women whose heard impelled them with wisdom, spun the goat-hair.

And the princes(masculine plural) brought the onyx stones and the setting stones for the Ephod and the breastplate. And the perfume and the oils, for light, and the annointing oil, for the fragrant incense.

Every man and woman whose heart filled with generosity, to bring for all the crafting which Yahweh commanded through Moses to do--- the sons of Israel brought donation for Yahweh.

The verses are describing a set of events in which men and women participate equally. The description alternates men-did-so/women-did-such in a very egalitarian and beautiful way, and considering J's other female biases, I am sure that this passage belongs to J (it definitely doesn't belong to P). The one exception is the verse 35:22 which is both grammatically awkward, makes no sense, and breaks the harmonious men/women thing by making the men be responsible for the womenstuff jewelry donation.

The motive for putting "the men over the women" in place of "the women" is that the contribution of Gold by women to the temple violates a Priestly injunction regarding the temple: that women may not contribute to its work or service. This injunction would have made the construction as described against the priestly rules of a later generation.

I can't remember where I read that women are not allowed to make financial contributions to the temple (except of course, through their husbands), but I found a clue in this document. The relevant passage is:

Women are, however, obligated to aid in the construction of the Temple based on their participation in the construction of the Tabernacle in the wilderness (Exodus 35:22, Rambam, Bet Ha-Behirah 1:12). This does not include an obligation in payment of the half-shekel for public offerings from which women are exempted by the rabbinic understanding of Exodus 30:12, ish kofer nafsho, as being exclusively masculine.

Women are allowed to contribute labor, but not money, or equivalent precious metals. This explains the interpolation, and its ham-handedness and legalistic point of view (entirely disregarding literary eloquence, meaning and sense, and even basic rules of grammar) points to P as the culprit.

share|improve this answer

Simple answer, building on Ron’s longer one: The words “every man” at the end of the verse is not gender-specific, but can also be translated as “everyone”. Try this translation on for size:

They came, both men & women; all the generous of heart brought clasp, nosering, ring, and vulva-cover, all gold implements—everyone that brought an offering of gold unto the LORD.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.