6

Genesis 30:37 (NKJV)

Now Jacob took for himself rods of green poplar and of the almond and chestnut trees, peeled white strips in them, and exposed the white which was in the rods.

a) The first stick Jacob peeled was the green poplar: Green poplar = Libneh in hebrew. This is just another way to write leben or laban which both mean the same thing.

H3839 Original: לבנה

Transliteration: libneh

Phonetic: lib-neh'

BDB Definition: poplar, white poplar tree which exudes milky-white gum Origin: from H3835= לבן =Laban

b) The second stick Jacob peeled was the Almond: Almond = Luz in hebrew. This was the original name of bethel, the place where God confirmed the Abrahamic covenant to Jacob.

H3869 Original: לוּז

Transliteration: lûz

Phonetic: looz

BDB Definition: almond tree, almond wood

c) The third stick Jacob peeled was the chestnut: Chestnut = Armon in hebrew. This is just another way to write Aram or Aramean. Laban was an Aramean.

H6196

Original: ערמון

Transliteration: ‛armôn

Phonetic: ar-mone'

BDB Definition: plane-trees stripped of bark Origin: probably from H6191= ערם =Aram

So it was striking for me to see how the meaning of these three sticks fit together.

Was this just coincidence or was there a deeper meaning to what Jacob was doing?

  • 1
    +1, but armon (ערמון) isn't derived from Aram (ארם). I have wondered the same thing about the laws of first oil (יצהר) being given after the rebellion of Korah the son of Izhar (יצהר) – b a Dec 20 '17 at 19:26
  • @ba Strong's concordance shows that H6196 probably originates from H6191. They must have good reason for making that assertion – user20490 Dec 21 '17 at 0:41
  • 1
    Aram is H758 – b a Dec 21 '17 at 8:14
  • @ba is correct on this one, the words do not seem to be related. See Midrash Rabbah Vayetze 69 which discusses the name of the city Luz in relation to the tree, as does Radak to Judges 1:24. Also note that there was a city named Livna (Numbers 33:21). Also, I hope to post an answer. – רבות מחשבות Dec 29 '17 at 20:24
3

Perhaps Magic, myth and monotheism when reading Genesis 30:37–39 by Peet J. van Dyk can be helpful. The article uses the episode only as an example, and more appropriate references may exist, but there are some helpful notes in there. To start, pp. 385–386:

Jacob peeled branches (rods) in such a way that they would have streaked or speckled or spotted patterns on them. He then placed these rods in front of the flocks and in the watering troughs, so that they would come into close proximity to them when coming to drink and mate. In some unexplained way the streaked or speckled or spotted branches caused offspring with similar looking patterns.

This is a common concept in Ancient Near East magic, which is further elaborated upon in the linked article: the magical device is somehow similar to the target object and some properties are transferred, in this case by the drinking of the water and the mating in front of it. So you see that both the physical intake of the magical device and the proximity to it are (possibly) relevant.

Like b a said in the comments, `armon (ערמון) is unrelated to 'Aram (ארם): the ayin and alef are really distinct letters which phonologically merged only in medieval times, until then native speakers would clearly differentiate between the two, just like English speakers differentiate between g and k and there is no relation between gate and cat.

Now, considering that there are not that many trees that are suitable to produce this speckled pattern and that there is no relationship for ערמון, and the link for לוז is far-fetched at best as well, it doesn't seem plausible these types of wood are related in anything else than their physical appearance. There might still be a link with Laban, but I don't really see how this can be explained in any meaningful way.

  • 1
    I'm no expert in hebrew. But when Moses wrote this passage, he wasn't using modern hebrew alphabets. He was using a more pictographic script called Paleo-hebrew or so. So I'm just wondering if there was a relationship between armon and aram in that script. – user20490 Dec 20 '17 at 21:02
  • 1
    @user20490 the two letters don't look alike in that script either. Also, the general consensus is that these stories have a history of oral tradition, so any link must be made on phonological level. The two sound really different and it's only in school Hebrew nowadays that aleph and ayin are indistinguishable (because Indo-European languages don't have the ayin sound). So a native would not have seen these two words as interestingly similar. Having said that, I like your approach and critical way of thinking! – user2672 Dec 20 '17 at 22:48
  • Why then does Strong's concordance claim that the H6196 originates from the H6191. Those guys are great linguistic scholars and so they must have a reason for claiming that the Armon originates from Aram. – user20490 Dec 21 '17 at 0:43
  • I like the point you made about a phonological connection having more weight. Language is only written because it is spoken. – user20490 Dec 21 '17 at 0:45
  • 1
    @user20490 - the most imporant think to know about Strongs, is that it is a concordance, not a lexicon. and that the Lexicons available to Strong were very dated. That's not a great answer to your question, but advice to view this link/claim by strong with some skepticism. – James Shewey Dec 22 '17 at 4:00
2

Midrash Sechel Tov (Buber Edition, Genesis 30 Section 37) says the following, which shows the symbolism in choosing these trees:

ולמה לבנה על שם האבן אשר שם מראשותיו, שהיתה לבנונית, ומקל של אילן לוז, על שם העיר לוז, שנראתה עליו שכינה בחלום, שנאמר אל שדי נראה [אלי] בלוז (בראשית מח ג), וכתיב ואולם לוז שם העיר בראשונה (שם כח יט). ומקל של ערמון, על שם ערמומיות של לבן הארמי שהיה מחליף את משכורתו:

Very Rough Summary - And why Livna? Because of the stone which he had placed under his head, which was white-ish. And the stick of Luz tree, because of the city Luz (Genesis 28:19), where God appeared to him in a dream (Genesis 48:3). And the stick of Armon because of the trickery of Laban.

You could very easily substitute Laban in for the first symbol, and presto, you have your "deeper meaning". But even without it, the symbolism is clear.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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