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Abarim Publications' Biblical Dictionary: The Hebrew word: שפר

Source: http://www.abarim-publications.com/Dictionary/si/si-p-r.html

Abarim Publications' online Biblical Hebrew Dictionary

שפר

The Hebrew root שפר (shapar) means to be pleasing, predominantly to the eye. It appears to be related to an Arabic verb that denotes the removal of the veil of a woman, which also may mean to shine. As verb it's used only once, in Psalm 16:6, where David exclaims, "indeed my heritage 'is beautiful' to me".

Its derivatives are:

  • The masculine noun שפר (sheper), meaning beauty or loveliness. It occurs only in Genesis 49:21.
  • The feminine noun שפרה (shipra), meaning fairness. It's used only once, in Job 26:13, to describe a pretty (clear?) sky.
  • The masculine noun שופר (shopar) or שפר (shopar), denoting a ram's horn made into a trumpet. This noun is used over seventy times in the Bible and the connection to the root is not clear. But it should be noted that the regular word for horn is קרן (qeren), which comes from a root-verb that either means to have horns, or else to shine.
  • The masculine noun שפרור (shaprur) or שפריר (shaprir), which apparently denotes a kind of (brightly colored?) canopy. It occurs only once in the Bible, in Jeremiah 43:10.

The rarity of this root indicates we're not dealing with a general pleasantness but something more specific. In Psalm 16:6, David sings about his heritage being 'beautiful.' The derived masculine noun שפר (sheper) is used only once too. In Genesis 49:21 Jacob declares, "Naphtali is a doe let loose; he gives words of 'beauty'".

The derived feminine noun שפרה (shipra) is used only once as well. When Job responds to Bildad he says, "By His breath the heavens are made 'beautiful'". This verse is usually translated with images of a clear sky (since Job just prior sketches a sky full of storm clouds) but since draught was a considerable enemy in Job's days, a cloudless sky would be just as threatening as one filled with thunder clouds. Job is probably talking about a stable and peaceful sky, to coincide with the peaceful sea of verse 12. Similarly, the words of Naphtali may have been calm and peaceful, and David's heritage was one of stability.

Somewhat more difficult to place is the masculine noun שפרור (shaprur) or שפריר (shaprir) as some manuscripts have it. This word occurs only once as well. Jeremiah writes that in response to the ill-advised flight to Egypt of a group of refugees , God warns them that "his servant" Nebuchadnezzar will come and spread his shaprur over Egypt and pretty much destroy it (43:10).

Another military use of our root is in the word שופר (shopar), meaning ram's horn. And this noun is used 72 times, and it too occurs in several cognate languages. The ram's horn was blown predominantly in battle to convey the command to charge, and although war and peace have not a lot to do with each other, the blast of the ram's horn allowed Israel to collectively undertake a single action, first in war and later in worship. And that obviously required stability. Similarly, Nebuchadnezzar's predicted actions would increase the stability in the area.


Associated Biblical names