Zechariah 14:6 On that day there shall be no light,

How to translate the last two Hebrew words?

2 Answers 2


This verse is difficult in the MT. The MT for Zechariah 14:6 is:

וְהָיָה בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא לֹא יִהְיֶה אוֹר יְקָרוֹת יקפאון [וְקִפָּאוֹן]

The square brackets indicate that the written text is יקפאון, yikpa'oon, they (fem.) will stop in their tracks, although the text is enunciated as if וְקִפָּאוֹן, wakipa'one, were written.

Compare with Exodus 18:8 which uses a word from the same root קפא (NIV):

By the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up. The surging waters stood up like a wall; the deep waters congealed in the heart of the sea.

and Job 10:10:

Did you not pour me out like milk and curdle [solidify] me like cheese,

and Zephaniah 1:12:

At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps and punish those who are complacent [i.e. don't move, are congealed or settled in their opinions], who are like wine left on its dregs, who think, ‘The Lord will do nothing, either good or bad.’

In Zechariah 14:6 the interpretation is either a:

וְהָיָה בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא לֹא יִהְיֶה אוֹר - (יְקָרוֹת יקפאון)

or b:

וְהָיָה בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא לֹא יִהְיֶה (אוֹר יְקָרוֹת) וְ[לא ]קִפָּאוֹן

That is, either a) "On that day there will not be light - the lights will stand still" or b) "On that day there will be neither bright light nor darkness".

Both interpretations have problems.

The first, (a) assumes that the written text is the nominal reading so that יקפאון is read as a verb, and יְקָרוֹת is read as meaning "the bright ones", i.e. the sun and moon.

The second, (b) assumes that the oral text is the nominal reading so that קִפָּאוֹן is read as a noun, and that we need to interpolate a negative after the waw in וְקִפָּאוֹן.

The second (b) is the interpretation used in most English translations. However, for me, living in the modern Hebrew vernacular, the first (a) interpretation feels more intuitive despite the fact that second (b) interpretation appears to be a parrallel construct to the following verse, Zechariah 14:7.

Regardless of which reading is "correct", the expression אוֹר יְקָרוֹת, a brilliant light, became an idiomatic expression in post OT Hebrew.

  • I like "the lights will stand still". That might very well describes what happen to photons inside a black hole.
    – user35953
    Jul 17, 2020 at 18:49

קיפאון means freeze. יקרות depends whether it describes the word before, or is it independent.

אור יקרות is a light that has a rich feeling to it, such as the light of a chandelier. I would go with this one, because without 'אור' there don't seem to be a meaning to the sentence so much.

In conclusion:

והיה ביום ההוא לא יהיה אור יקרות וקפאון

"And on that day there shall be no precios light, but freeze.

My additions are in bold.

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