Abarim Publications' online Biblical Hebrew Dictionary
The root-verb בנה (bana) means to build. It's used to describe the construction of all kinds of buildings; a city (Genesis 4:17), a tower (Genesis 10:11), an altar (Genesis 22:9), a house (Genesis 33:27), the temple (2 Samuel 7:5), a fortress (2 Chronicles 17:12), a wall (1 Kings 3:1). But it's also, curiously, used to describe YHWH's making of woman from a rib of man (Genesis 2:22).
This curious usage is highly significant in understanding the Bible's thoughts on mankind's social structure: the group is feminine and the individual is masculine; and thus woman comes from man. Hence Sarah figured that she would be built up by Abraham's child through Hagar (Genesis 16:2), arch-mothers Leah and Rachel built the house of Israel (Ruth 4:11), and a wise woman builds her house where a foolish one tears it down (Proverbs 14:1).
It should be no surprise that the Hebrew words אבן ('eben), meaning stone, and בן (ben), meaning son, are thought by some to come from our verb בנה (bana). Also note that the formally unrelated noun בית (bayit) means temple, and the verb בין (bin) means to understand.
This verb's derivatives are:
- The feminine noun בניה (binya), meaning structure or building (Ezekiel 41;13 only).
- The masculine noun בנין (binyan), meaning structure. This word occurs about half a dozen times, all in the book of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 40:5, 42:1).
- The masculine noun מבנה (mibneh), meaning structure (Ezekiel 40:2 only).
- The feminine noun תבנית (tabnit), meaning construction (Joshua 22:28, Psalm 144:12) pattern (Exodus 25:9, 2 Kings 16:10) or image (Deuteronomy 4:16, Isaiah 44:13, Psalm 106:20).
Some scholars believe that the masculine noun תבן (teben), meaning straw, also derives from this root (in certain grammatical constructions the final ה may drop off and a ת may be pre-fixed to a root). If it doesn't, then the real parent root of this noun, תבן (tbn) is missing in action.
Our noun collectively denotes the stems of edible cereals: straw, which was predominantly used to enhance structural integrity of buildings (Exodus 5:7-12), which brings it close to the above verb. Straw was also used as animal food (Genesis 24:25, Judges 19:19, 1 Kings 5:8, Isaiah 11:7). To humans, straw was the proverbial opposite of nutritious grain (Jeremiah 23:28) and by itself a symbol of weakness and idleness (Job 21:18), and if these words are indeed related, they reveal quite a bit about the Hebrew attitude towards the building fetishes of their surrounding nations.
In Isaiah 25:10 occurs the secondary derived noun מתבן (matben), literally meaning place or agent of straw (or more essentially, of בנה, bana) in a procedure that appears to produce manufactured fertilizer (see our article on the word מדמנה, madmena, under the root דמן, dmn).