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Abarim Publications' Biblical Dictionary: The Hebrew word: כנף

Source: http://www.abarim-publications.com/Dictionary/k/k-n-pfin.html

Abarim Publications' online Biblical Hebrew Dictionary

כנף

The noun כנף (kanap) means wing or denotes a winged creature. It's formally not clear from which verb (and thus primary idea) this word comes, but it's probably not to fly, as one would expect, but rather to protect and thus be strong (see our articles on the root אבר, abir, meaning both pinion and to be strong, and the verb עוף, 'up, meaning both to fly and to cover).

In Arabic a denominative verb that was formed from this noun means to fence in or enclose, and the same verb in Aramaic means to collect or assemble (within an enclosure). In Hebrew the verb כנף (kanap) occurs only once, in Isaiah 30:20, where Israel's teachers are said to no longer be hidden but seen with one's eyes.

Our noun occurs 107 times but less than a dozen of these actually refer to the appendage(s) of a literal bird (Genesis 1:21, Deuteronomy 32:11) or insects (Isaiah 18:1). In stead, most occurrences of our noun refer to the "wings" of YHWH, which should be understood to be His acts of protection and shielding (Exodus 19:4, Ruth 2:12, Psalm 17:8, Matthew 23:37).

Other Biblical creatures with wings (that is: the strength to protect) are: Cherubim (1 Kings 6:24), Seraphim (Isaiah 6:2), the enigmatic women of Zechariah's vision (Zechariah 5:9), the wind (Hosea 4:19), the dawn (Psalm 139:9), the sun of righteousness (Malachi 4:2).

Sometimes our word denotes a part of a garment, probably the flapping end of a robe with which the wearer may cover himself (Deuteronomy 22:12, 1 Samuel 15:27) or some precious cargo (Haggai 2:12).

Likewise our word may describe a place on earth, but not the "ends" as is commonly suggested but rather the hidden places, the places protected from intrusion because nobody knows about them, possibly filled with secret depositories of unfamiliar worship (Isaiah 24:16, Job 37:3).