Abarim Publications' online Biblical Hebrew Dictionary
כלא כול כלה כלל
These four roots all have something to do with ending a process or a motion, but each exists in its own specific perspective:
- Root כלא (kala') looks at entities that are kept within some limitation, and כול (kwl) appears to be similar to that.
- Root כלה (kala) marks the end of the entities themselves.
- And root כלל (kalal) looks at the final result of an entity's positive evolution.
The verb כלא (kala') generally tells of some kind of restriction in an otherwise normal flow or go of something. Calves may be shut up in their stables (1 Samuel 6:10) or a prophet may be shut up in the court yard (Jeremiah 32:3). Abigail restrained David from spilling blood in revenge (1 Samuel 25:33) and the Psalmist has restrained his feet from every evil way (Psalm 119:101). God withheld the rain from falling from the sky (Genesis 8:2) but the sons of Heth wouldn't withhold Abraham the cave at Machpelah (Genesis 23:6).
The derivations of this verb are:
- The masculine noun כלא (kele'), meaning imprisonment. This word always comes with another word, like בית (bayit), meaning house, to form house-of-detention, or prison (1 Kings 22:27). HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament cleverly observes that imprisonment was not part of the Mosaic penal code.
- The masculine nouns כלוא (klw') and כליא (keli), meaning imprisonment (Jeremiah 37:4).
- The masculine noun מכלה (mikla), meaning enclosure or fold (Habakkuk 3:17, Psalm 78:70). BDB Theological Dictionary states that this word is spelled wrong; it should be מכלא (mikla').
- The curious masculine noun כלאים (kil'ayim), meaning two kinds. This word is a double (that's in between a singular and a plural form) of a word that probably denotes a category. It's used in a few instances of the Law against Mixtures (Leviticus 19:19, Deuteronomy 22:9).
The verb כול (kul) basically means to contain (what a vessel does) or cause to contain. It's used to describe the inner volume (1 Kings 7:26) or functional content (1 Kings 8:64) of the various bronze vessels of the temple. It's also used in the restricting or constricting sense: the heavens cannot contain YHWH (1 Kings 8:24), nor can a tired prophet hold the Word of YHWH inside of him (Jeremiah 20:9).
And from holding something within comes the meaning of sustain or support: Joseph sustained his brothers (Genesis 45:11), king David promised Barzillai that he would sustain him (2 Samuel 19:33). Note that in the latter usage the form is usually Pilpel, that is: the verbal expression derives from the repetitive form כלכל (klkl), which serves as an intensive.
The verb כלה (kala I) denotes the bringing to a completion of some process, and that usually in a negative sense. It may denote the completion of a period (Genesis 41:53) or a work (1 Kings 6:38) or the fulfilment of a prediction (Ezekiel 5:13). It may denote the exhaustion of a reserve of water (Genesis 21:15), or the fading away of grass (Isaiah 15:6), of flesh (Job 33:21), even of compassion (Lamentations 3:32). It may denote the ending of vanity (Psalm 78:33), one's strength (Isaiah 49:4), or even one's eyes (Leviticus 26:16).
The derivations of this verb are:
- The feminine noun כלה (kala), meaning general completion (Genesis 18:21 and Exodus 11:1 only) but most often complete destruction or complete annihilation and that almost always by God (Isaiah 10:23, Ezekiel 13:13).
- The adjective כלה (kaleh), meaning failing with desire. This word occurs only once, in Deuteronomy 28:32.
- The masculine noun כליון (killayon), meaning a failing or pining of the eyes (Deuteronomy 28:65 only), or annihilation (Isaiah 10:22 only).
- The feminine noun מכלה (mikla), meaning completeness (2 Chronicles 4:21 only). Note that this word is identical to third derivation of the previous root.
- The feminine noun תכלה (tikla), meaning perfection (Psalm 119:96 only).
- The feminine noun תכלית (taklit), meaning end (Nehemiah 3:21, Job 26:10) or completeness (Psalm 139:22 only).
- The masculine noun כלי (keli), denoting some kind of article that (possibly) took a while to make but is now finished, or a vessel that was designed to hold some finished product; a holding pot. This word is very common in the Bible. It occurs in the sense of a general article (Exodus 22:6, 1 Samuel 6:8), a weapon or weaponry (Genesis 27:3, Isaiah 13:5), a musical instrument (Amos 6:5), general equipment (1 Samuel 8:22), temple utensils (1 Kings 10:21), a receptacle (Genesis 43:11), a sack (Genesis 42:25) and even paper-reed boats (Isaiah 18:2).
The root כלה (klh II) isn't used in the Bible, and we have no idea what it might have meant. Its sole extant derivative is the feminine noun כליה (kilya), which occurs only in plural and is thought to denote the kidneys (Leviticus 3-9) and also serves as symbol for one's inner most being, the heart. It's mentioned often with the organ named כבוד (kabud), which is thought to denote the liver, although here at Abarim Publications we suspect that these words instead describe the scrotum (read our article on kabud for more).
The wonderful verb כלל (kalal I) means to complete or make perfect. The verb occurs only twice, in Ezekiel 27:4 and 27:11 (and may be denominative, says HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament) but its derivatives (or parent words) are far more prevailing:
- The masculine noun כל (kol), meaning all or the whole. BDB Theological Dictionary lists four dense columns with nuances of this word, ranging from the whole of something to every, continually, all, the collective lot, wheresoever, entire, any, anything. Combined with a negation, it denotes none or nothing.
- The adjective כליל (kalil), meaning entire (Ezekiel 27:3), whole (Exodus 28:31).
- The masculine noun מכלול (miklol), meaning perfection or most gorgeous (Ezekiel 23:12 and 38:4 only).
- The masculine noun מכלל (maklul), meaning something made perfect (Ezekiel 27:24 only).
- The masculine noun מכלל (miklal), meaning perfection (Psalm 50:2 only).
The root כלל (kll II) isn't used as a verb in the Bible, and we're not even sure whether it ever existed. But there are two words in the Bible that seem to have come from this root:
- The feminine noun כלה (kalla), meaning daughter-in-law (Genesis 38:11), bride-to-be (Isaiah 49:18, Jeremiah 2:32), or bride (Hosea 4:13).
- The feminine noun כלולה (kelula), meaning espousal. This word occurs only once, in Jeremiah 2:2.
BDB Theological Dictionary explains these nouns as having the basic meaning of one reserved, or one closed in (a harem) and suggests that these words may in fact stem from the roots כלא (kala') or כלה (kala).
And of course, it's perfectly conceivable that a Hebrew audience would have figured that the word for bride came from the root כלל (kalal), meaning to be or make perfect. After all, it's humanity's destiny to ultimately become the Bride of God, when humanity has been perfected and lives happily in the New Jerusalem.