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

חרף

Dictionaries generally count up to four different roots of the form חרף (hrp), but at closer scrutiny there appear to be just two main verbal strands (of which we have reversed the order, for clarity):


חרף I

The root חרף (hrp I) isn't used as verb in the Bible but BDB Theological Dictionary submits that it's cognate to an Arabic verb that means to pluck or gather fruit. But BDB also submits the existence of an identical root-verb חרף (harap), meaning to acquire, and refers to the exact same Arabic verb.

Here at Abarim Publications we don't want to be too contrary too often, but doesn't that add up to one and the same root? Our verb חרף (harap) occurs only once in the Bible, in Leviticus 19:20, which speaks of a slave-woman who was acquired for some man.

Whether this acquiring of slave-women was considered a completely different thing than harvesting a field for produce isn't clear (we concede), but the following derivatives of the fruit-gathering root are extant in the Bible:

  • The masculine noun חרף (horep), literally meaning a (fruit-)gathering; used only in the sense of harvest or harvest time (Genesis 8:22), and subsequently to denote the season of autumn or winter (the season which contains the Hebrew ninth month, which is our November to December — Jeremiah 36:22). It's used juxtaposed with קיץ (qis), spring or summer, which results in the year-around term "spring and autumn," which translations usually paraphrase as "summer and winter" (Psalm 74:17, Zechariah 14:8). Note that while in English the "autumn of one's life" may denote one's middle ages, in Hebrew it denotes the time of or right after the harvest, when one is wealthiest and happiest (Job 29:4). This post-harvest period was a time of rest and merriment, but only a sluggard wouldn't plan the next season of sowing right after the harvest (Proverbs 20:4).
  • The denominative verb חרף (harap), which derives from the previous noun but is spelled and (according to the Masoretes) pronounced exactly the same as the previous verb, and which means to spend the harvest-time in much the same way as we speak of to winter (to spend the winter). This verb occurs only in Isaiah 18:6, where we read that the beasts of the earth will spend the harvest time feeding on sprigs that YHWH will prune from the grape vine that is the land of whirring wings beyond the rivers of Cush.
חרף II

The verb חרף (harap II) means to scorn, taunt or reproach (Judges 8:15, 1 Samuel 17:10, Proverbs 14:31). It appears to be cognate with verbs in other languages that have to do with to sharpen, and it seems likely that the Hebrews considered a taunt as something sharp. But then, it's of course also possible that the Hebrews derived the idea of harvesting from the sharpness of the tools with which to harvest, and it's even possible that they saw a similarity between collecting fruits from a field and things to hold against someone from that person's life.

After all, the many weaklings among our species appear to need to deride the few oddballs among us mostly for their own sustenance. The most fundamental word for man is אדם ('adam) after all, which is related to אדמה ('adamah), meaning acre or field. Still, whether or not there is a true connection between all these words, this particular verb for taunting is identical to the one for harvesting.

This verb comes with only one obvious derivative, the feminine noun חרפה (herpa), meaning taunt (1 Samuel 17:26), contumacy (Nehemiah 1:3, Psalm 69:11, Isaiah 51:7), or a conditional shame or disgrace (Genesis 30:23, Isaiah 47:3, Ezekiel 36:30). This word may also be used as a substantive, denoting the thing or person reproached (Psalm 22:6, Isaiah 30:5, Daniel 9:16).


Associated Biblical names

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