Regarding the previous question: Why is עֲרוּמִּ֔ים (Gen 2:25) translated "naked," and in the very next verse its singular form, עָר֔וּם (Gen 3:1), is translated "crafty/shrewd?" Could it be possible that the meaning is actually closer to the English 'Subtil', as in 'ethereal'(i.e. Thin; not dense or gross; as subtil air; subtil vapor; a subtil medium.2. Nice; fine; delicate). As in the 'Spirit Realm'. It is said that man came from 'dust' and shall return. It also says that the serpent shall eat 'dust'. Taking into account some of the Gnostic text, it would seem like there may be a deeper meaning there. עָפָר ספירות הַאֲכָלָה Just wondering...

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    To what "previous question" do you allude?
    – Dottard
    Jan 28, 2023 at 5:57
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    Could you please reference and quote the 'Gnostic text' to which you refer. Hebrew homonyms have different meanings. They are not the same word. The OED indicates that 'subtil' is obsolete in nearly all of its meanings and those few are transferred to 'subtle'. Welcome to SE-BH, please see the Tour and the Help (below, bottom left) as to the purpose and the functioning of the site.
    – Nigel J
    Jan 28, 2023 at 6:48
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    Why is the "nephilim" tag being used?
    – agarza
    Jan 28, 2023 at 14:15

1 Answer 1


Actually, they are different words with different meanings:

  1. In Gen 2:25 the word is עָרוֹם (arom) = naked, and is used as such in 1 Sam 19:24, Job 1:21, 22:6, 24:7, 10, 26:6, Eccl 5:15, Isa 20:2, 3, 4, 58:7, Hos 2:3, Amos 2:16, Micah 1:8. This word derives from the root Verb, עוּר (ur) meaning to be exposed or bare (Hab 3:9).
  2. In Gen 3:1 the word is עָרוּם (arum) = crafty, shrewd, and is used as such in Job 5:12, 15:5, Prov 12:16, 23, 13:16, 14:8, 15, 18, 22:3, 27:12. This word derives from the root Verb עָרַם (arom) meaning to shrewd, crafty or prudent (1 Sam 23:22, Ps 83:3, Prov 15:5, 19:25).

Note the different pointing associated with waw, the second last letter. The contrast between the two adjacent verse is obvious - Adam and Eve are naked and innocent; the serpent was crafty/shrewd; that is the craft/shrewd serpent attempts to deceive the naked and innocent pair.

In the two words the consonants are the same, but the vowels are different. This was clearly understood well before the Masoretic points were added as the LXX (200 BC) and Vulgate of 400 AD (by Jerome) also reflects the same meanings in all these places as well.

APPENDIX - Consonants vs Vowels

Even in English, there are many words where the consonants are the same but different vowels make a quite different word such as:

  • peat, pit, pet, pat, part, port, pot, put, putt, etc.

Thus, different vowels make a difference to the meaning in English. The same is often true in Hebrew as well and the OP has picked a perfect example of this.

Here is another example from Hebrew/Aramaic:

  • עֶרְוָה (erwah) = nakedness as per Gen 9:22, 23, 42:9, 12, etc.
  • עַרְוָה (arwah) = dishonor (Aram) as per Ezra 4:14.

Many more examples could be quoted.

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    +1 While saying they are "different words with different meanings" may be technically correct, it should be understood that the difference between those two Hebrew words you quoted was only realized after the Masoretes had added the vowel points, post-AD 500. Hebrew teachers acknowledge that these words appear deliberately similar, as if a play on words. It is far from the only such case in Hebrew. For example, the words "Babel" and "balal" in Genesis 11:9 are only one root letter different, and have similar meaning.
    – Biblasia
    Jan 28, 2023 at 8:00
  • @Biblasia - perhaps, but the distinction without the vowel pointings was understood before the Masoretic Text - the vowel pointings was only added to preserve what was already known.
    – Dottard
    Jan 28, 2023 at 11:29
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    Many do claim such to be the case. The Masoretes, however, are not entirely undisputed in their decisions. Some Hebrew words can mean entirely different things just by changing the vowels. One example that may be seen across translations or languages is found in Psalm 34. Either the "lions" or "rich men" in verse 10 could be the correct translation, depending on the vowels. Perhaps it was intended, even, to have dual meaning--another play on words.
    – Biblasia
    Jan 28, 2023 at 11:43
  • Assuming arguendo that lexical consensus predates the Masoretes, the distinction still is inconsistent and attempts to dim or override the substance of the passage: A naked entity (insofar as serpents lack the amount of fur most other animals have) deliberately and truthfully led Adam and Eve to gain awareness and therewith knowledge that elevates man to the status that hitherto only Elohim possessed. Consensus, whether dogmatic or otherwise, does not imply accuracy. Jan 28, 2023 at 16:19

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