I came across something I hadn't yet considered in Genesis 12, beginning the story of Abraham.
What was the soul, הנפשׁ that Abram and Sarai took with them? I don't do soul, and it is not the souls, plural. There were undoubtedly other people in their party since they had stuff to carry for such an expedition. But soul, singular? Just another question and there will be more in this area, perhaps נפשׁ is a collective noun. Wouldn't that be a surprise! E.g. Genesis 46:15, כָּל־נֶפֶשׁ בָּנָיו, all the soul of his children. Other translations just leave the word out. There we are. I do that too.
For the record, here are the glosses I have used to date for the root Nun Peh Shin
-- (part of the phrase, not specifically translated), being, cadaver, group, himself, individual, integrity, itself, myself, now, ourselves, own, self, themselves, throat, very self, vitality, yourselves.
This language issue aside, it is instructive to read this having seen a good chunk of the literary corpus that has arisen from this root.
This particular beginning for Abraham is somewhat ominous with respect to his relationship to 'the world'. Translations (like the KJV) may avoid the bald statement that Pharaoh took Sarai as wife. Given the flexibility one can impose on the Hebrew verb, this may be excusable. Perhaps she was only in the harem, and no coitus had occurred. The repetition of this episode with Isaac and Abimelek, (26:1-11) later in the story may tip us off, as any repetition should, to a larger structural move to highlight what is contained. (Or it may be just a repetition, a failure to learn to avoid offense.)
In this section, the migration into and out of the land and into and out of Egypt is surrounded by Abram and all that he had, verses 5 elaborately stated, and 20, simply summarized. Does this include all the gifts from Pharaoh?
|וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהוָה֙ אֶל־אַבְרָ֔ם לֶךְ־לְךָ֛ מֵאַרְצְךָ֥ וּמִמּֽוֹלַדְתְּךָ֖ וּמִבֵּ֣ית אָבִ֑יךָ |
אֶל־הָאָ֖רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר אַרְאֶֽךָּ
|1||And Yahweh said to Abram, Go for yourself from your land, and from your kindred, and from the house of your ancestors, |
to the land that I will show you.
|וְאֶֽעֶשְׂךָ֙ לְג֣וֹי גָּד֔וֹל וַאֲבָ֣רֶכְךָ֔ וַאֲגַדְּלָ֖ה שְׁמֶ֑ךָ |
|2||And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will make great your name, |
and you will be a blessing.
|וַאֲבָֽרֲכָה֙ מְבָ֣רְכֶ֔יךָ וּמְקַלֶּלְךָ֖ אָאֹ֑ר |
וְנִבְרְכ֣וּ בְךָ֔ כֹּ֖ל מִשְׁפְּחֹ֥ת הָאֲדָמָֽה
|3||And I will bless those who bless you, and those who deny you, I will curse, and will be blessed in you all the families of humanity.||3e||4B||15|
|וַיֵּ֣לֶךְ אַבְרָ֗ם כַּאֲשֶׁ֨ר דִּבֶּ֤ר אֵלָיו֙ יְהוָ֔ה וַיֵּ֥לֶךְ אִתּ֖וֹ ל֑וֹט |
וְאַבְרָ֗ם בֶּן־חָמֵ֤שׁ שָׁנִים֙ וְשִׁבְעִ֣ים שָׁנָ֔ה בְּצֵאת֖וֹ מֵחָרָֽן
|4||So Abram went as Yahweh spoke to him and Lot came with him, |
and Abram was a child of seventy five years when he went out from Haran.
|וַיִּקַּ֣ח אַבְרָם֩ אֶת־שָׂרַ֨י אִשְׁתּ֜וֹ וְאֶת־ל֣וֹט בֶּן־אָחִ֗יו וְאֶת־כָּל־רְכוּשָׁם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר רָכָ֔שׁוּ וְאֶת־הַנֶּ֖פֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר־עָשׂ֣וּ בְחָרָ֑ן |
וַיֵּצְא֗וּ לָלֶ֙כֶת֙ אַ֣רְצָה כְּנַ֔עַן וַיָּבֹ֖אוּ אַ֥רְצָה כְּנָֽעַן
|5||And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot, the son of his brother, and all their belongings that belonged to them, and the group that they dealt with in Haran, |
and they went forth to walk toward the land of Canaan, and they came toward the land of Canaan.
|וַיַּעֲבֹ֤ר אַבְרָם֙ בָּאָ֔רֶץ עַ֚ד מְק֣וֹם שְׁכֶ֔ם עַ֖ד אֵל֣וֹן מוֹרֶ֑ה |
וְהַֽכְּנַעֲנִ֖י אָ֥ז בָּאָֽרֶץ
|6||And Abram passed through in the land, to the place of Shechem, to the potency of Moreh, |
and the Canaanite was then in the land.
|וַיֵּרָ֤א יְהוָה֙ אֶל־אַבְרָ֔ם וַיֹּ֕אמֶר לְזַ֨רְעֲךָ֔ אֶתֵּ֖ן אֶת־הָאָ֣רֶץ הַזֹּ֑את |
וַיִּ֤בֶן שָׁם֙ מִזְבֵּ֔חַ לַיהוָ֖ה הַנִּרְאֶ֥ה אֵלָֽיו
|7||And Yahweh appeared to Abram and said, To your seed I will give this land. |
And he built there an altar to Yahweh who appeared to him.
|וַיַּעְתֵּ֨ק מִשָּׁ֜ם הָהָ֗רָה מִקֶּ֛דֶם לְבֵֽית־אֵ֖ל וַיֵּ֣ט אָהֳלֹ֑ה |
בֵּֽית־אֵ֤ל מִיָּם֙ וְהָעַ֣י מִקֶּ֔דֶם וַיִּֽבֶן־שָׁ֤ם מִזְבֵּ֙חַ֙ לַֽיהוָ֔ה וַיִּקְרָ֖א בְּשֵׁ֥ם יְהוָֽה
|8||And he shifted from there, towards the hill, from the east of Bethel, and he stretched out his tent. |
Bethel was seaward, and Ai eastward, and he built there an altar to Yahweh, and called in the name of Yahweh.
|וַיִּסַּ֣ע אַבְרָ֔ם הָל֥וֹךְ וְנָס֖וֹעַ הַנֶּֽגְבָּה||9||So migrated Abram, walking and migrating southward.||3e||4B||14|
|וַיְהִ֥י רָעָ֖ב בָּאָ֑רֶץ |
וַיֵּ֨רֶד אַבְרָ֤ם מִצְרַ֙יְמָה֙ לָג֣וּר שָׁ֔ם כִּֽי־כָבֵ֥ד הָרָעָ֖ב בָּאָֽרֶץ
|10||And there was a famine in the land, |
and Abram descended toward Egypt to reside there, for heavy was the famine in the land.
|וַיְהִ֕י כַּאֲשֶׁ֥ר הִקְרִ֖יב לָב֣וֹא מִצְרָ֑יְמָה |
וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ אֶל־שָׂרַ֣י אִשְׁתּ֔וֹ הִנֵּה־נָ֣א יָדַ֔עְתִּי כִּ֛י אִשָּׁ֥ה יְפַת־מַרְאֶ֖ה אָֽתְּ
|11||And it happened that as he approached to enter toward Egypt, |
that he said to Sarai, his wife, Behold, if you will, I know that a woman, beautiful of appearance, you are.
|וְהָיָ֗ה כִּֽי־יִרְא֤וּ אֹתָךְ֙ הַמִּצְרִ֔ים וְאָמְר֖וּ אִשְׁתּ֣וֹ זֹ֑את |
וְהָרְג֥וּ אֹתִ֖י וְאֹתָ֥ךְ יְחַיּֽוּ
|12||And it will be that seeing you, the Egyptians will say, His wife this is, |
and they will slay me, but you they will let live.
|אִמְרִי־נָ֖א אֲחֹ֣תִי אָ֑תְּ |
לְמַ֙עַן֙ יִֽיטַב־לִ֣י בַעֲבוּרֵ֔ךְ וְחָיְתָ֥ה נַפְשִׁ֖י בִּגְלָלֵֽךְ
|13||Say, if you will, my sister you are, |
so that it may be good for me on your behalf. Then I will live for your sake.
|וַיְהִ֕י כְּב֥וֹא אַבְרָ֖ם מִצְרָ֑יְמָה |
וַיִּרְא֤וּ הַמִּצְרִים֙ אֶת־הָ֣אִשָּׁ֔ה כִּֽי־יָפָ֥ה הִ֖וא מְאֹֽד
|14||And it happened as Abram went toward Egypt, |
that the Egyptians saw the wife, that she was very beautiful.
|וַיִּרְא֤וּ אֹתָהּ֙ שָׂרֵ֣י פַרְעֹ֔ה וַיְהַֽלְל֥וּ אֹתָ֖הּ אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֑ה |
וַתֻּקַּ֥ח הָאִשָּׁ֖ה בֵּ֥ית פַּרְעֹֽה
|15||And the nobles of Pharaoh saw her, and they praised her to Pharaoh, |
And the wife was taken to the house of Pharaoh.
|וּלְאַבְרָ֥ם הֵיטִ֖יב בַּעֲבוּרָ֑הּ |
וַֽיְהִי־ל֤וֹ צֹאן־וּבָקָר֙ וַחֲמֹרִ֔ים וַעֲבָדִים֙ וּשְׁפָחֹ֔ת וַאֲתֹנֹ֖ת וּגְמַלִּֽים
|16||And to Abram he was good on her behalf, |
and there was for him sheep and oxen and asses, and servants, and handmaids, and she-donkeys and camels.
|וַיְנַגַּ֨ע יְהוָ֧ה ׀ אֶת־פַּרְעֹ֛ה נְגָעִ֥ים גְּדֹלִ֖ים וְאֶת־בֵּית֑וֹ |
עַל־דְּבַ֥ר שָׂרַ֖י אֵ֥שֶׁת אַבְרָֽם
|17||But Yahweh touched Pharaoh with great contagions, and his house, |
upon the matter of Sarai, wife of Abram.
|וַיִּקְרָ֤א פַרְעֹה֙ לְאַבְרָ֔ם וַיֹּ֕אמֶר מַה־זֹּ֖את עָשִׂ֣יתָ לִּ֑י |
לָ֚מָּה לֹא־הִגַּ֣דְתָּ לִּ֔י כִּ֥י אִשְׁתְּךָ֖ הִֽוא
|18||And Pharaoh called to Abram and said, What is this that you have done to me? |
Why did you not make clear to me that she is your wife?
|לָמָ֤ה אָמַ֙רְתָּ֙ אֲחֹ֣תִי הִ֔וא וָאֶקַּ֥ח אֹתָ֛הּ לִ֖י לְאִשָּׁ֑ה |
וְעַתָּ֕ה הִנֵּ֥ה אִשְׁתְּךָ֖ קַ֥ח וָלֵֽךְ
|19||Why did you say, She is my sister? And I took her for me as wife. |
And now behold, take your wife and go.
|וַיְצַ֥ו עָלָ֛יו פַּרְעֹ֖ה אֲנָשִׁ֑ים |
וַֽיְשַׁלְּח֥וּ אֹת֛וֹ וְאֶת־אִשְׁתּ֖וֹ וְאֶת־כָּל־אֲשֶׁר־לֽוֹ
|20||And Pharaoh commanded men concerning him, |
and they sent him away, and his wife and all that he had.