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I study Latin and I don't understand this sentence "absumat ebria sitientem", found in Deuteronomy 29:19

Context (just before the sentence):

because when such a person hears the words of this oath, he may invoke a blessing on himself, saying: "I will have peace, even though I walk in the stubbornness of my own heart.

Translations found of the sentence:

  • to sweep away the drunken with the thirsty.

  • to destroy the moist with the dry:

  • to add drunkenness to thirst.

  • (I go on, in order) to end the fulness with the thirst.

  • should not be destroyed together with the sinner, the sinless. (literal translation from Hebrew)

  • This will bring disaster on the watered land as well as the dry.

https://biblehub.com/deuteronomy/29-19.htm

  1. What is the meaning in Latin of this sentence? How would it be translated literally, in this context? I find this Latin extract hard to translate.

  2. What is the meaning that Moses expresses? I feel it hard to understand.

  3. What is the difference between all the possible translations I gave (or other ones), which one is the more literal, and which one better expresses the meaning that Moses wanted to express?

  4. How come that there are several translations that are so different.

What is a saying in Moses' time? What are the connotations of the Hebrew words?

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  • Are you wanting an interpretation of the Hebrew, Greek or Latin? If of the Hebrew, perhaps the references to Latin are unnecessary.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Oct 20, 2019 at 18:44
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    As it's the Vulgate, I'd like both. I want to compare the meaning in Latin and all its connotation, and the original meaning in Hebrew, and all the connotations, as I don't understand why it was translated this way, and that is there real or original meaning.
    – Quidam
    Commented Oct 21, 2019 at 12:16

5 Answers 5

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I would venture to translate the Hebrew as follows:

... and he hear the words of this imprecation and bless himself in his heart and say, 'Let peace be mine, and let me walk according to the fancies of my heart,' so that he who is drunk consumes the thirsty, ...

What seems to be the gist is that the hedonistic, selfish person cares nothing for the will or rights of another, who seek only to benefit themselves at the expense of others (including God), and seek only pleasure and "peace" (lack of care for others or conscience) of which an epitomic and rather vivid example is a drunken or satisfied person destroying or otherwise exploiting someone who is thirsty and has nothing to drink.

The Latin translates to "he who is drunk consumes the thirsty" as I have translated above.

As for why there are so many translations: I honestly can't explain that.

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I have found an interesting note on a specialized book (freely downloadable):

"'Alisumat ebria sitientem'. It is a proverbial expression, which may either be understood as spoken by the sinner, blessing, that is, flattering himself in his sins with the imagination of peace, and so great an abundance as may satisfy, and as it were consume all thirst and want, or it may be referred to the root of bitterness spoken of before, which being drunken with sin may attract, and by that means consume such as thirst after the like evils." (The Complete Notes of Doway Bible and Rhemish Testament [...], by the Reverend Robert J. McGhee, 1837, Dublin)

I hope this helps you.

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You have been given an interesting point about the Latin and another one about the Hebrew. The Hebrew word for 'drunkenness' in Deut.29:19 is raveh. It means 'fulness, satiety'.

With regard to the translation in the A.V., "to add drunkenness to thirst", it certainly makes sense given the way a lot of alcohol causes dehydration. The parched mouth of the drunkard, fallen into a stupor, often wakes him or her up.

With regard to 'thirst', the Hebrew word is tsame, meaning 'thirsty.'

With regard to 'add', the Hebrew word is saphah, meaning 'add'.

Putting the Hebrew words in order, then, saphah, raveh, tsame, the English words read "add, satiety, thirsty". It's not surprising there are various translations, but sticking to the original Hebrew does give some credence to the A.V. translation, "to add drunkenness to thirst". Given what Moses was saying about Israelites who become pagans, who "bear gall and wormwood", they would deceive themselves in the vain imaginings of their heart, supposing that getting drunk in their idolatrous sin will satisfy, will quench their lust, when it will never satisfy or give them peace.

[Source: Young's Analytical Concordance, 8th edition]

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"To add drunkeness to thirst" sounds to me as if it is an idiom meaning "to make things far worse"; similar to the English idiom "to add insult to injury".

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I think it is understood this way:

Lest there be among you a root that bears gall and wormwood (selfish bitterness) And it comes to pass when he hears the curse, that he says to himself, well, I will have peace anyway even though I don't do what God wants me to do, to add drunkeness to thirst (in other words, to add sin to sin Isaiah 30:1) The Lord will not spare him... all the curses written in this book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under the sky.

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