From Genesis 38 (KJV, with interpolated Hebrew):

2 And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite, whose name was Shuah; and he took her, and went in unto her.
3 And she conceived (ותהר), and bare a son; and he called his name Er.
4 And she conceived again (ותהר עוד), and bare a son; and she called his name Onan.
5 And she yet again conceived (ותסף עוד), and bare a son; and called his name Shelah: and he was at Chezib, when she bare him.

As you can see from the Hebrew (full selection not included due to poor bidirectional skills), verse 5 uses the word ותסף (to repeat?) instead of the word for conception, ותהר. Why?


1 Answer 1


Strictly speaking, Shua (Judah's wife) does not

“תסף” Shelah

as this isn't a verb which takes an object. This verb (root ysp) is a verb which means "add", or "continue", often in the company of the adverb עוד "again" as quoted above.1

It is a fairly common Hebrew idiom (see Gesenius-Kautzsch-Cowley §120d) for continuing a sequence of repeated actions. As such, it implicitly "contains" the idea of the previous verbs in the sequence.2 Here, of course, this implies a third conception, but without repeating the verb "to conceive" a third time.

This is, then, normal Hebrew diction. Rashi, for example, takes no notice. It can be classed among one of the typical stylistic preferences of Hebrew narrative art.


  1. See this image to help locate reference to Gen 38:5 near the top of p. 415 in BDB.
  2. See, for example, the comments of Esther Marie Menn, Judah and Tamar (Genesis 38) in Ancient Jewish Exegesis (Brill, 1997), p. 17: "...the final verse implies conception as well" (see also fn. 9).

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