Abarim Publications' online Biblical Hebrew Dictionary
The forms דלל (dll) and דלה (dlh) are closely related in form and meaning. So close even that we here at Abarim Publications consider them each other's by-forms. In other words, the following two verbs are really the same and their similar derivations probably too.
Note that the central meaning of these words is "hanging", but most commonly a hanging between a reservoir of plenty and a place of need, whilst transporting some of the plenty to the place of need:
The root-verb דלל (dalal) means to be low or hang low. In a literal sense it's used to describe someone hanging down a mine shaft (Job 28:4). The prophet Isaiah uses this verb to describe the lowness (dryness) of streams (Isaiah 19:6, and note that a wholly dry river was known as a lying river; see the verb כזב, kazab). Metaphorically, this verb is used to describe a state of depression or humiliation (Judges 6:6).
This verb's derivatives are:
- The adjective דל (dal), meaning low, weak, poor or thin (Genesis 41:19, Leviticus 14:21, Job 34:28). Note that this word is identical to the noun meaning door, derived from the next verb.
- The feminine noun דלה (dalla), denoting a bundle of hair (Song of Solomon 7:5) or threads of warp hanging in loom (Isaiah 38:12).
- The identical feminine noun דלה (dalla), denoting the poor; literally the "hangers" (Jeremiah 40:7, 2 Kings 24:14). Note that this particular word suggests that the poor have a very distinct function, comparable to a bucket that brings water from one place to the dryness in another; see the Lucan story of Lazarus (Luke 16:24, and also see Matthew 26:11). Also note that this noun is spelled and pronounced exactly the same as the previous noun, and both are spelled the same as the following verb.
The root-verb דלה (dala) is thought to mean to draw (of water out of a well with a bucket) and that for one tremendously daft reason: We moderns call getting water out of a well 'to draw' and that's why everybody else should too. And three of five derivatives of this verb have to do with doors, and doors we draw (shut). So that neatly fits the theory.
Here at Abarim Publications we obviously don't agree with the above, and we are fairly sure that our verb means to hang. In other words: in the vernacular of the ancient Hebrews, one does not draw water from a well; one hangs water from a well (namely in a bucket or leather sack, which in turn hangs from a rope).
Doors were named when people still lived in tents and received their name from being a veiled entrance and not from having a leaf, hinges, a knob and a door bell. The entrance of the tent was generally covered by a hanging length of fabric, which an aspiring visitor would have to lift and swoop aside, and when people began to live in brick houses, their entrances kept being referred to as "hangers".
Our verb is used four times: once in the literal sense of drawing water out of a well (Exodus 2:16-19), once to describe the extraction of a plan out of the watery heart of a man (Proverbs 20:5), and once to describe the extraction of a person out of Sheol (Psalm 30:2). In Proverbs 26:7, however (and BDB Theological Dictionary admits this context is "difficult"), a lame man's legs are performing the action of our verb (דליו), which can hardly be drawing and is certainly hanging.
The derivatives of this verb are:
- The masculine noun דל (dal), meaning door, or rather entrance; the "door" of my lips (Psalm 141:3 only). It seems plausible that a hanging entrance veil and later the solid door were known as weak and thin (see above), as the hanging veil did not add to the structural strength of the tent and the door was obviously a lot thinner than the wall it was put in. The link between the door and the bucket sits in the function of both as instruments of transition from general (the water below the earth, or the world at large) to specific (a drinking person, or a person's house).
- The feminine noun דלה (dala), also meaning door (Isaiah 26:20 only).
- The masculine noun דלי (deli), meaning bucket or literally a "hanger" (Numbers 24:7 and Isaiah 40:15 only).
- The feminine noun דלית or rather its plural form דליות (daliyot), denoting floral hangers: olive branches (Jeremiah 11:16), cedar branches (Ezekiel 31:7-12), or boughs of the vine (Ezekiel 17:6-7, 19:11).
- The feminine noun דלת (delet), meaning door as the instrument that separates the inside from the outside (to be distinguished from שׁער, sha'ar, which describes the whole formal apparatus of a city gate, or פתח, petah, which accentuates the openness of a doorway).
Our word דלת (delet) may denote the door of a house (Genesis 19:9, Joshua 2:19, Job 31:32), or a room (Judges 3:23, 2 Samuel 13:17), or a city (Deuteronomy 3:5, Joshua 6:26, Nehemiah 3:1).
Figuratively, our word may denote the "door" (or lid) of a chest (2 Kings 12:10), the aperture of one's womb (Job 3:10), or one's lips (Ecclesiastes 12:4), or one's excessive accessibility (as opposed to being a self-respecting wall; Song of Solomon 8:9, also see Ezekiel 26:2: Jerusalem is a "broken door" to the people, for Tyre to plunder; or Zechariah 11:1, "open your door, O Lebanon, that a fire may feed on your cedars"), the jaws of Leviathan (Job 41:6), the "doors" of heaven from whence came Manna (Psalm 78:23), the "doors" of the sea (Job 38:8, 38:10; here at Abarim Publications we guess that the "doors" of the sea is the sea shore; see our article on the word ספה, sapa meaning both sea-shore and lips, and סוף, suph, meaning reeds, which grow on the edge between sea and dry land).
Most spectacularly is the usage of our noun in the sense of the textual columns ("doors") of a scrolled manuscript (Jeremiah 36:23), and keep in mind the transitory essence of our noun, much rather than a superficial resemblance between a door and a text column.
The fourth letter of the Hebrew alphabet is called דלת, or daleth, commonly interpreted as "door".