Abarim Publications' online Biblical Hebrew Dictionary
Scholars don't agree how many separate roots אבק ('bq) there are in the Bible, and that's because of the troublesome verb אבק ('abaq), usually translated with "wrestle". This verb is used only in the enigmatic scene in which Jacob wrestles with the Angel of YHWH at the river Jabbok. The rest of the words of the form אבק ('bq) have to do with dust.
HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament counts two separate roots but BDB Theological Dictionary sees only one. Here at Abarim Publications we favor the views of BDB. Note that even if, academically spoken, there are two separate roots, a Hebrew audience would have probably been more impressed by the obvious similarities than by a theoretical difference. The root is not used as verb in the Bible, but in Arabic it means to run away. In the Bible the following derivatives occur:
- The masculine noun אבק ('abaq) usually translated with dust. This noun occurs only five times and that always in contexts of punishment. The more common word for dust is עפר ('apar). Our noun אבק ('abaq) describes rain turned to dust as agent of punishment and destruction (Deuteronomy 28:24) and stormy clouds beneath the feet of YHWH (Nahum 1:3) or dust thrown up by countless charging horses (Ezekiel 26:10). The prophet Isaiah culminates his list of woes in the observation that the blossoms of sinners will blow away like dust (Isaiah 5:24), and foretells that the enemies of Ariel will become like fine dust which blows away (Isaiah 24:5).
- The feminine noun אבקה ('abaqa), which occurs only once. In the Song of Solomon 3:6 the choir witnesses the coming of Solomon, like columns of smoke, burned with myrrh and incense, and with all the אבקה רוכל ('bqh rwkl). The second word denotes the exchange of goods or information, and the first is assumed to mean a scented powder of some sort. Translators usually do their best to turn this scene into a romantic idyll but with the smoke rising and the sixty mighty and sword-wielding warriors who guard against the terrors of the night, it's really quite violent.
The authors of BDB Theological Dictionary believe that the verb אבק ('abaq) is denominative, derived from the noun אבק ('abaq) meaning dust, and then assume that it denotes a getting dusty from rolling around on the ground while dead-locked with an angel. Here at Abarim Publications we don't think so.
Our verb would literally mean to "dustify" or turn into dust. It's used only in Genesis 32:24-25, where Jacob the man becomes Israel the nation. It describes the transition of the blessing of Abraham from a chosen individual to a chosen nation that consists of a collection of countless individuals, which are "like the dust of the earth" (Genesis 13:16).
Read for more mind-boggling implications of all this our article on the Standard Model of elementary particles.