Abarim Publications' online Biblical Hebrew Dictionary
רפא רוף רפה
The two forms רפא (rp') and רוף (rwp) are closely related in form and seem identical in meaning, but some of the derived forms appear to overlap with those coming from the verb רפה (rapa), which appears to be a completely different verb:
The verb רפא (rapa') means to heal or make healthy. It occurs in all expectable ways, from the healing of an infirm person (Jeremiah 17:14) to the restoration of a nation (Isaiah 6:10, Hosea 6:1), and from sickness (Deuteronomy 28:27) to wounds (2 Kings 8:29) to faithlessness (Jeremiah 3:22). That the fundamental meaning of this verb is to restore, namely to a previously enjoyed state of proper functioning is shown in 1 Kings 18:30, where Isaiah "heals" (i.e. repairs) the altar of the Lord. And in 2 Kings 2:21 the prophet Elisha "heals" (i.e. purifies) a spring that had gone bad.
The derivatives of this verb are:
- The feminine noun רפאה (repu'a), meaning remedy or medicine (Ezekiel 30:21, Jeremiah 30:13).
- The feminine noun רפאות (rip'ut), meaning healing (Proverbs 3:8).
- The masculine noun מרפא (marpe') or מרפה (marpe), meaning healing or cure (Jeremiah 8:18, 2 Chronicles 36:16) or health (Proverbs 4:22, Malachi 3:20).
The root רוף (rwp) does not occur as verb in the Bible and BDB Theological Dictionary briskly states: = רפא (rapa'). The only trace of this root in the Bible is the occurrence of the feminine noun תרופה (terupa) in Ezekiel 47:12. It means healing.
The root-verb רפה (rapa) means to sink down, let drop or be slack. It generally denotes a downward motion, both literal and figurative. Thus hay may sink down in flames (Isaiah 5:24), hands may drop (Nehemiah 6:9), and courage may plummet (2 Samuel 4:1). Likewise, a temper may abate (Judges 8:3), an assailant may retreat (Exodus 4:26), and the fearful may be slack (Proverbs 24:10).
This verb yields the following derivations:
- The adjective רפה (rapeh), meaning slack (Numbers 13:18) or weak (2 Samuel 17:2).
- The masculine noun רפיון (rippayon), meaning a sinking (of hands - Jeremiah 47:3 only).
- The masculine plural noun רפאים (repai'm), denoting the difficult idea of ghosts of the dead or shades; the sunken ones, or those who dwell in the netherworld. The word and the idea it represents appears to be Ugaritic in origin, and references to these shades occur only in poetic passages (Job 26:5, Isaiah 14:9, Psalm 88:10). Note that this word is identical to the ethnonym Rephaim; the enigmatic race of giants mentioned in the Old Testament. It is assumed that the singular version of this word appears in 2 Samuel 21:15-22 and 1 Chronicles 21:4-8 (preceded by the definite article), where most translations consistently translate it with "giant".