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Abarim Publications' Biblical Dictionary: The Hebrew word: ערל
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Abarim Publications' online Biblical Hebrew Dictionary

ערל

The root ערל ('rl) isn't used as verb in the Bible and we sadly have no idea what it might have stood for. But its important derivatives occur frequently in the Old Testament:

  • The feminine noun ערלה ('orla), meaning foreskin (Genesis 17:11, Leviticus 19:23, 1 Samuel 18:25). This noun occurs exclusively in reference to circumcision, which appears to have been a ritual that taught the people that their hearts and ears and even lips were to be sensitive to the Words of YHWH (Deuteronomy 10:16, Jeremiah 6:10). For a brief discussion on the ritualistic act of circumcision, read our article on the verb מול (mul II), meaning to circumcise.
  • The denominative verb ערל ('aral), meaning to reckon as uncircumcised, that is like something unworthy. This verb occurs only twice, once to indicate the inedible state of fruit trees for the first three years (Leviticus 19:23), and once to describe how one would view his drunken neighbors (Habakkuk 2:16). With the latter reference, most modern translations go into indecent exposure but exposure is not implied. The term "being foreskinned" declared one's status as gentile, and gentiles were looked down upon; they were not stripped of their clothes.
  • The adjective ערל ('arel), meaning with foreskin, that is: uncircumcised (Exodus 12:48, Judges 14:3, Isaiah 52:1).

Associated Biblical names

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