Abarim Publications' online Biblical Hebrew Dictionary
שדד שדה שדם שד
What once was the one and only ש (s) became two distinct letters שׂ (sin) and שׁ (shin). Dictionaries treat these two as separate letters, but when studying words that are spelled with either of the versions of ש (s), it's always smart to check out the other one.
The roots שדד (sdd) and שדה (sdh) exist in both forms:
The root שדה (sdh) does not occur in the Bible as verb, only in its derivatives. But, says BDB Theological Dictionary, it's "plausibly connected" with the Assyrian sadu, meaning mountain, used by people whose land was mountainous (see Deuteronomy 32:13 and Judges 5:18). The derivatives of this root are:
- The masculine noun שדי (saday), meaning cultivated field (Jeremiah 12:12) or wild land and home of wild beasts (Joshua 2:22). This noun is a poetic synonym of the following noun.
- The masculine noun שדה (sadeh), meaning open field or pasture land (Genesis 29:2) or home of wild beasts (Genesis 4:8, Jeremiah 14:5).
The sibling root שדה (shdh) doesn't occur as verb in the Bible so we have no context to try it to. It exists in Arabic with the meaning of to moisten, and the Aramaic equivalent שדא (shd') means to pour out. Its derivatives are:
- The masculine noun שד (shad), meaning (female) breast (Hosea 2:4, Song of Solomon 1:13) or animal breast (Lamentations 4:3).
- The feminine version, שדה (shidda), occurs in Ecclesiastes 2:8, but no satisfying translation or interpretation has been offered.
In our culture, breasts and mountains may be each other's obvious metaphors, but in Hebrew that doesn't work that way, as metaphors are usually derived from an action and not from appearance (but see the name Haran). The two may nevertheless have been connected in the Hebrew mind, but then not via the mountainous forms, but rather from the food they produce. Fields need rain to produce and draught was a nightmare. In that same sense, dry breasts that couldn't feed one's offspring, were a curse (Hosea 9:14).
The root שדם (shdm) occurs only with the letter שׁ (shin) Its meaning is unknown but its sole derivation is the feminine noun שדמה (shedema), meaning field (Deuteronomy 32:32, 2 Kings 23:4).
The verb שדד (shadad) means to deal violently with, ruin or destroy (Judges 5:27, Isaiah 16:4, Jeremiah 51:48). This verb occurs fifty-seven times in the Bible; twenty-six of them in the Book of Jeremiah.
There is perhaps a bit of a cross-over to the root שׂדה (sdh) as the latter may denote the home of the wild beasts, with all dangers and ruin associated with that. The prophet Jeremiah tells of people who go out of their cities (but omits saying that they thus enter the fields) and come upon a wolf that destroys them (Jeremiah 5:6). For the destroying, he uses our verb שדד (shadad).
This verb's sole derivation is the masculine noun שד (shad), sometimes spelled שוד (shud), meaning havoc or violence (Amos 3:10, Jeremiah 6:7) or devastation (Hosea 7:13, Isaiah 13:6).
In the verb שדד (sadad) the field meets the violence. It means to harrow and it occurs only three times in the Bible: Job 39:10, Isaiah 28:24 and Hosea 10:11.
The noun שד (shed) is commonly but erroneously translated as demon. It's a loan word — from Assyrian, says BDB Theological Dictionary, where the sedu is a protecting spirit. It's undoubtedly from Babylonian, says HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, where the shedu is a demon, either good or evil.
HAW further submits, "In Mesopotamian thought the shedu was a supernatural protective power for whose presence the gods were invoked," and makes the observation that, "Good and evil are in the moral, not the metaphysical". In The Religion Of Israel, Y. Kaufmann writes, "When the gods of the nations are called shedim it is not meant that they are evil spirits, but that they are insubstantial shades, 'no-gods,' with neither divine nor demonic functions".
Our noun is used in the Bible only two times: Deuteronomy 32:17 and Psalm 106:37, both in conjunction with the act of sacrifice and in the latter case, the sacrifice of children.
Note the similarities between the nouns:
- שׁד (shed), meaning demon;
- שׁד (shad), meaning breast;
- שׁד (shod), meaning havoc.
The divine name Shaddai may be inspired by the shedu, and note that the shedu was depicted as the familiar winged bull, and that the name Abir (another important divine name) is connected to the noun אבר ('eber) meaning pinions and the verb אבר ('abar), meaning to fly.