In Genesis 15:2, as Abram laments his childlessness to the LORD, he says,

and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus (ESV)
וּבֶן־מֶ֣שֶׁק בֵּיתִ֔י ה֖וּא דַּמֶּ֥שֶׂק אֱלִיעֶֽזֶר
ûb̲en–mešeq bêt̲î hûʾ dammeśeq ʾĕlîʿezer

This word mešeq (“and the son of the mešeq of the house of me”) was one I didn’t know, and it sounds oddly like dammeśeq three words later, albeit with different sibilation. I looked it up and found (HALOT, transliteration added):

SamP.M137 māšaq, Sept. Μασεκ: בֵּיתִי בֶּן מֶשֶׁק (bêt̲î ben mešeq), subsequently glossed with הוּא דַמֶּשֶׂק (hûʾ d̲ammeśeq) Gn 152; unexplained., ? Ug. mšq (Gordon Textbook §19:1565), most recently: Seebass ZAW 75:317ff; Dahood Ug.-Heb. Phil. 65. †

This seems to be an entry without an English gloss. It does include a transliteration into Greek and notation that this is its only usage in the Hebrew bible (two remarkably unhelpful bits of information), and then a lot of other things I don’t understand. There is a connection made with d̲ammeśeq, but I’m not sure what “subsequently glossed with” means here. In the LXX it looks to have been interpreted as a name.

  • What does mešeq mean?
  • Is there a connection with d̲ammeśeq?

It's worth reading Gesenius's interpretation of מֶשֶׁק here. He identifies מֶשֶׁק (mesheq) with מֶשֶׁךְ (meshek - defined here) in its meaning of "possession." He views the unusual form of מֶשֶׁק, with a koph instead of a caph for the last letter, as a pun ("paronomasia") to go with with דַּמֶּשֶׂק (Dammeseq), "Damascus."

Gesenius rejects the interpretation in which בֶן־מֶשֶׁק (ben-mesheq - literally "son of mesheq," but using "son" as a Hebrew idiom for "one characterized by or connected with" - see the list of definitions here) would mean "steward" (used in, for example, the KJV) as making no sense in the context. Instead, he reads it as "possessor of my house, i.e., of my domestic property," meaning heir of his household possessions. This is how it is interpreted in many recent translations.

This interpretation makes sense in context because Abram is lamenting his childlessness, which would mean that he lacked a proper heir.

See the first link above for more detail.

  • I don't see the point of digging up a very old dictionary to contradict a modern one. There is such a thing as progress, even in Biblical studies.
    – fdb
    Apr 22 '15 at 9:47
  • 2
    @fdb I wasn't intending to contradict, but to offer a possible meaning and derivation of the word. Most modern translations do seem to interpret it along the lines that Gesenius suggested. However, if you have a better answer based on more modern dictionaries, please do write up a new answer. I would be very interested to see it. Thanks! Apr 22 '15 at 15:45

I would like to connect the words

  • שק
  • נשק
  • משק

[שק] is translated as "sack cloth" in your English Bibles. However, I would like to propose that [שק] more akin to cheap fabrics used as undergarments such as loincloth. Therefore, [שק] is material/entity that is close/intimate to you out of convenience. Someone or something conveniently place in intimacy. And therefore, implements like a pouch that is made out of cheap underwear materials.

[נשק] is an ancient Semitic word, which means to touch, to kiss. Consequently, it means implements that are used to touch you, like a weapon. Perhaps, in ancient times to touch someone is an idiomatic euphemism of assaulting someone.

[משק] seems like the hifil causative form, caused to be intimate. Hence the participle [משק] - someone who is made an intimate member of the household. Like a servant, an adoptive person.

[ד] is often used in Aramaic to denote placing, position. Perhaps, it is an old pre-Assyrian prefix inherited by Aramaic.

Therefore my hypothesis says that

ובן משק ביתי
and the son of the intimate-adoptive-member of my household
הוא דמשק אליעזר
is one placed in intimacy Eliezer.

That is Abraham is moaning that his current closest person to inherit his heritage/materials is someone not biologically related to him.

Perhaps Damshiq/Dameseq (Arabic/Hebrew/Aramaic for Damascus) is the little village from which the [דמשק] originated.

  • The fact that Damascus existed as a city, demonstrated the must have been pervasiveness of the story of Abraham and Eliezer. That is to say, linguistic paleontological evidence for the existence of Abraham and the factual prominence of legacy of Abraham even among the Assyrians that a city was founded out of the birthplace of his adoptive kin. Apr 22 '15 at 9:56
  • 1
    Is this your own folk etymology, or is there some specific scholarship (dictionaries, linguistic studies, etc.) to back it up? If the latter, some references would be helpful to give your answer weight. Apr 22 '15 at 15:47
  • "folk etymology"? Using the word "folk" is a cunning way to sweep aside a theological argument based on Hebrew word analysis. Certainly, some of the opinions you read and accept, too are "folk" analogy that got accepted, which you never bothered to question. Apr 23 '15 at 2:51
  • I'm sorry to have given offense. However, I am still interested in an answer to my question. Your answer seems to be written as a personal opinion and interpretation. Apr 23 '15 at 16:31
  • Is no less valid than other opinions which likewise depend on conjectures. At least my conjecture is based on the usual common Hebrew grammatical patterns and inflections. Apr 24 '15 at 3:12

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