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Thursday, July 24, 2008  

An Accordance Case Study

Recently, an internet discussion prompted me to look at the meaning of the Hebrew word translated "desire" in Genesis 3:16. Someone remarked that a popular understanding of that passage results from a "completely new and never before written" interpretation introduced by Susan Foh in 1975. Curious to find out more, I naturally turned to Accordance.

Now, my intention in recounting my course of study is not to focus on a particular theological debate so much as to highlight ways Accordance can be used to examine any interpretive stance. I would ask that any comments on this post be restricted to a discussion of the use of Accordance in this study and that you avoid giving us your thoughts on the debate in question. There are other forums devoted to such theological debates.

Okay, now that I've made the necessary disclaimers, let's look at different ways to examine the meaning of Genesis 3:16.

The interpretation proposed by Foh is that the woman's "desire" for her husband is not sexual desire, but a desire for mastery or control. To examine this, I turned to the passage in question: Genesis 3:16. Viewing this passage in an English text with Strong's numbers, I dragged my mouse over the word "desire" and discovered that the Hebrew word in question is teshuqah. To look this word up in a Hebrew lexicon such as HALOT, I selected the English word "desire" and held down the option key while selecting HALOT from the Resource palette. Had I not held down the option key, Accordance would have searched HALOT for the English word "desire," which would have found any Hebrew word with that meaning. By holding down the option key, I tell Accordance to look for the Hebrew word represented by the Strong's number with which the English word is tagged.

HALOT defines teshuqah as "desire, longing," but it says nothing about what kind of desire is in view. So I turned to other Hebrew lexicons. In hindsight, I should have just chosen "All Hebrew" from the Hebrew Tools pop-up rather than choosing HALOT by itself, and I could then have cycled through each open lexicon tab (using the keyboard shortcut control-tab to cycle from tab to tab). Since I didn't do that at first, I could select the word teshuqah in HALOT and do it now, or I could just cycle through my Hebrew lexicons using the current window. To do that, I would use the keyboard shortcut control-plus to switch to the next lexicon, and hit return to perform the search.

From a quick survey of the available lexicons, I found that NIDOTTE offered the most thorough discussion. It addressed each usage of teshuqah and dealt with the interpretation advanced by Foh.

The thing I love about NIDOTTE (along with NIDNTT for Greek) is that it surveys the usage of a word in extrabiblical contexts and other periods of time. For example, the article on teshuqah dealt briefly with the usage of this word in Ancient Near Eastern literature and its translation in the Septuagint. Unfortunately, all it told me was that teshuqah appears in Samaritan and Mishnaic Hebrew, and that the LXX apparently translates a different Hebrew word! Add this to the fact that teshuqah only appears three times in the entire Hebrew Bible, and there aren't many examples of its usage.

Still, perhaps there are examples of teshuqah in other Hebrew texts that NIDOTTE did not mention. It's easy enough to find out. I merely selected the word teshuqah and chose All from the Hebrew Texts pop-up menu of the Resource palette. This enables me to find any appearance of teshuqah in the Mishna, Qumran, Ben-Sira, Aramaic texts like the Targums and Elephantine Papyri, even Hebrew translations of the New Testament!

The results of this search were interesting. In Biblical texts like the Samaritan Pentateuch and Dead Sea Scrolls Bible, I found Genesis 3:16 and 4:7, as expected. But in the Qumran sectarian manuscripts, I found eleven occurrences of teshuqah, most of which were translated as "longing" or "desire." Interestingly, in most of these cases the object of desire was something negative or in some way related to destruction. The desire spoken of was not clearly a "desire for control," but it certainly seemed to connote some kind of negative longing or obsession.

Another Hebrew text in which teshuqah was found was the Delitzsch Hebrew New Testament (DHNT). This is a nineteenth century translation of the New Testament into Hebrew by Franz Delitzsch (of Keil and Delitzsch fame). Delitzsch used teshuqah to translate epipothesis in 1 Corinthians 7:11, a word meaning "deep yearning for, longing." While interesting, this usage of teshuqah can only tell us what Delitzsch understood it to mean. It doesn't really tell us anything about what the original audience of Genesis understood it to mean.

At this point, I've already found out more about this word than is available in the standard lexicons, and I've only explored a few of the resources available to me. Tomorrow, I'll discuss the rest of my study of how teshuqah is used in Genesis 3:16. Until then, I hope you've been able to glean a few tips for how to use Accordance to do this kind of study.

Hey David,

okay, so i'm engaged with this post... but realistically, i don't own all those resources... how would i do the same thing with more limited resources...


New to Mac and Accordance. What is HALOT and where dO I FIND IT? TY.

HALOT is Hebrew Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament by Koehler and Baumgartner. It is available on a separate CDn for $159.

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