Abarim Publications' online Biblical Hebrew Dictionary
The root group עצם ('asam) has three members according to BDB Theological Dictionary but only two according to the more recent HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. But then, HAW complains that BDB "confusingly lists four," so even the experts seem to have trouble on multiple levels. But we'll stick to the BDB index.
Obviously kindred in meaning are the forms עוץ ('us) and עצה ('asa):
The verb עצם ('asam I) is a verb very rich in meaning. It basically denotes strength in numbers: to be mighty (Genesis 26:16, Daniel 8:8), or to be numerous (Exodus 1:7, Isaiah 31:1).
This verb yields the following derivatives:
- The masculine noun עצם ('osem) meaning might (Deuteronomy 8:17). In Psalm 139:14 this word is used to mean bones or frame.
- The feminine version of the above עצמה ('osma) means strength and is only used in Isaiah 40:29.
- The feminine noun עצם ('esem) a very common noun meaning bone (Exodus 12:46, Micah 3:2), or one's whole body (Psalm 6:2, Exodus 24:10). In Jeremiah 50:17 this word is used as a verb, meaning to gnaw on bones.
- The adjective עצום ('asum) means mighty or numerous (Genesis 18:18).
- The feminine noun תעצמה (ta'asuma) is a plural and intensive form meaning might but a whole lot of it (Psalm 68:35 only).
The verb עצם ('asam II) means to shut or close. It's used only twice, both times by the prophet Isaiah and both times to speak of eyes closing (Isaiah 29:10 and 33:15).
Assumed root עצם ('asam III) means to defend, says BDB, but it isn't used in the Bible so we don't really know. Derivative עצמות ('asumot) as used only in Isaiah 41:21, means defense, says BDB. But no, says HAW, it means strong reasons and comes from asam I.
The verb עוץ ('us) means to counsel or regard. It occurs only twice in the Bible, and is therefore much more specific than simply a thinking-over. It denotes deep contemplation on reality and justice:
Isaiah 8:10 reads, "Counsel a counsel and it is broken . . . (Green)," or "devise a plan and it will be thwarted . . . (NAS)".
In the scene that relates the repulsive incident that almost wiped out the tribe of Benjamin, a Levite takes the body of his gang-raped and killed concubine, and cuts it into 12 pieces and sends them throughout the territory of Israel. He adds the message, "Set yourselves on this, take counsel and speak" (Judges 19:30).
The verb עצה ('asa I) means to shut. It occurs in several cognate languages with similar meaning. In the Bible it occurs only once, in Proverbs 16:30: "he that shuts his eyes".
The meaning of the verb עצה ('asa II) is unclear and it doesn't appear to be used in the Bible. Its derivatives are:
- The common Semitic masculine noun עץ ('es), primarily meaning tree. Our noun is used to denote a single standing tree (Genesis 2:9), or a group of trees (Genesis 2:16). It is used to denote wood for kindling (Joshua 9:23), wood as a building material (Genesis 6:14, 2 Kings 12:13), and items made of wood (Exodus 7:19, Deuteronomy 19:5). And hence it may be used to denote (wooden) idols (Deuteronomy 4:28) or gallows, stake or similar means of execution (Genesis 40:19, Deuteronomy 21:22). The theological meaning of the Biblical tree (from the two trees in Paradise related to the fall of man, to the cross of Christ, to the restored Tree of Life as witnessed by John the Revelator - Revelation 22:2) seem to promote a relationship with the verb עוץ ('us) meaning to counsel or regard.
- The feminine noun עצה ('esa), meaning trees collectively. This noun occurs only once, in Jeremiah 6:6.
The meaning of the verb עצה ('asa III) is also unclear. It has only one derivative, the masculine noun עצה ('aseh), denoting either the spine or else a certain bone close to the tail of an animal. It's used only once, in Leviticus 3:9, and the relationship with the previous group of words that denote trees is rather obvious to anyone with some poetic sense (like the author of Job, for instance, who writes of the Behemoth that he bends his tail like a cedar; Job 40:17).