Abarim Publications' online Biblical Hebrew Dictionary
חדה חדד חוד
There are two separate roots חדה (hada), which scholars place far apart, but which at close scrutiny blend together seamlessly. And there's a root חדד (hadad), which may or may not be similar to one of the verbs חדה (hada), and a root חוד (hwd), which looks like a by-form of חדד (hadad):
The verb חדה (hada I) is said to mean to sharpen. It's used only twice in the Bible, both times in Proverbs 27:17: "Let iron sharpen iron, and let a man sharpen the countenance of his friend". Obviously, a verb that means to sharpen can be easily tied to iron (that's normal), but to stick the same to a man's face is rather curious. It's just as lopsided to figure that the man's face will be gladdened (as is normal), while the iron will somehow be gladdened also (which is curious).
Still, it's also quite absurd to reckon that iron is sharpened by iron. Iron, if it gets sharpened, is sharpened on a stone, not on more iron. In fact, when a sharp iron object meets another one, both objects will get blunted. And when they meet a jolly tingle erupts, quite like the joy that arises in two friends meeting. Ergo: this verb should probably be translated with to gladden or rejoice.
The verb חדה (hada II) straightforwardly means to rejoice. It occurs only a few times in the Bible, usually in the context of someone (or thing) making someone else glad (Exodus 18:9, Job 3:6, Psalm 21:7).
Its sole derivative חדוה (hedwa) is a late addition to the language, cognate of the Aramaic word חדוא (hedwa'), and means joy or gladness (1 Chronicles 16:27, Nehemiah 8:10).
The root-verb חדד (hadad) means to be sharp or keen or even swift, and its similarity to the form חדה (hada) is probably the reason why scholars translate the latter with to be sharp. The verb חדד (hadad) is used only sporadically in the Bible: the Chaldean horses are swifter/keener than leopards (Habakkuk 1:8), a man sharpens iron into a cutting tool (Isaiah 44:12), and swords show themselves sharpened (Ezekiel 21:16). This verb's derivations are:
- The adjective חד (had), meaning sharp, but only of a tongue as sharp as a sword (Psalm 57:4), a mouth as sharp as a sword (Isaiah 49:2), or a whole woman as sharp as a sword (Proverbs 5:4).
- The adjective חדוד (haddud), meaning sharpened or pointed (Job 41:22 only).
For another verb that means to sharpen, but which rather reflects the repetitive motion inherent to sharpening, see שנן (shanan).
A Hebrew root that consists of a consonant followed by an identical twin formed by another one (such as חדד, hadad) very often comes with a by-form that consists of both consonants separated by the letter ו, which would be חוד (hwd) in case of חדד (hadad). It just so happens that there is a root of the form חוד (hwd), but scholars declare its origin missing in action. Here at Abarim Publications, however, we see no reason to not consider חוד (hwd) a by-form of חדד (hadad).
Our root חוד (hwd) isn't used as verb in the Bible, but we do have two derivatives:
- The feminine noun חידה (hida), meaning riddle. Most dictionaries will explain that a riddle is essentially a difficult question, but now you know that a riddle is essentially something that keeps your mind sharp (or joyful). It's part of the ubiquitous wisdom tradition and denotes a mental exercise, comparable to the crossword puzzles and TV quizzes in our present day, except that in Biblical times a sharp mind could mean the difference between war and peace or feast and famine. Half of this noun's occurrences are in Judges 14, where Samson poses his famous riddle in an entertaining battle of wits, which ties it also into חדה (hada II). Presumably, the queen of Sheba posed riddles to Solomon for similar double reasons (1 Kings 10:1). Likewise the Psalmist poses riddles to his audience (Psalm 49:4), and even YHWH Himself reveals that to His prophets He speaks directly but to the rest of us He speaks in riddles (which is comparable to what Jesus says in Luke 8:10). The obvious reason is that folks without a special talent can't fathom truths beyond their common understanding, just like a caveman would not understand a computer or an iPod, or even a movie or a book. Humans learn slow and an excellent way to teach people anything is by feeding them small bits at a time that they have to figure out for themselves. That's what riddles in the Bible are for.
- The denominative verb חוד (hud), meaning to pose a riddle (Judges 14:12, Ezekiel 17:2). Note that in Judges 14:16 this verb takes on the form of חדת (hdt), which is identical to the Aramaic word meaning "new" as used only in Ezra 6:4, "one layer of new timber".
The noun חידה (hida) meaning riddle occurs once in its Aramaic form אחידה, namely in Daniel 5:12. Also see the word אחד ('ehad), which is associated with the verb יחד (yahad), meaning to unite or join.