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Abarim Publications' Biblical Dictionary: The Hebrew word: עגל

Source: http://www.abarim-publications.com/Dictionary/ay/ay-g-l.html

Abarim Publications' online Biblical Hebrew Dictionary

עגל

The root עגל ('gl) is unused in the Bible so we can't check from contexts what it might have meant. But cognate languages have similar verbs, which either have to do with a rolling motion, or else a hurried, swift motion. The extant derivations of the Hebrew version seem to be of the same kind of meaning:

  • The masculine noun עגל ('egel), meaning a male calf (Exodus 32:19, Jeremiah 31:18).
  • The feminine noun עגלה ('egla), meaning girl calf, or heifer. Scholars assume that there must be some kind of connection to the Hebrew experience of calves and rapid, circular motion. BDB Theological Dictionary offers, "as rolling or circling about?" HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament certainly agrees as it notes that the "gamboling of the calf is mentioned in Psalm 29:6 and Malachi 4:2".
    However, the verb used for "gamboling" is not our root-verb, and the derivations that denote calves are accompanied by derivatives that mean round thing. Since one of two personal names derived from this same root - namely Eglon - belongs to a very fat man, who probably wasn't engaged in much gamboling (Judges 3:17), it's arguably much safer to assume that calves were known as roundies or fatties, and not as rollers or gambollers.
  • The adjective עגל ('agol) or עגול ('agol), meaning round (1 Kings 7:23 - the famous round water vessel of Solomon's temple).
  • The feminine noun עגלה ('agala), meaning cart (1 Samuel 6:7). Some scholars say that this word is a loan word from some other Semitic language, but even if it is, carts have wheels that roll, and transporting cargo on a cart goes faster than having to tote it.
  • The masculine noun עגיל ('agil), denoting a hoop or a ring (Numbers 31:50).
  • The masculine noun מעגל (ma'gal) denoting an entrenchment or track (1 Samuel 26:5, Psalm 140:6 - some Bible versions translate with road or way).

Associated Biblical names