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Monday, June 15, 2009

Fellowship with the Animals? (aka: you can't fake Hebrew)


There is a woman at my church who loves Animals. She has facilities to take care of rescue animals, and she also takes care of people's pets when they go on vacation for a business. This is all well and good. Here's what isn't:

My folks were at her house once to pick up the dog when they came back from a vacation, and the woman gave them a little piece of paper. This piece of paper was a commentary on Genesis 1:28, where God tells man to "have dominion" over all the animals. The paper claimed that in Hebrew the word for "have dominion" was, I quote YORADE. Which, according to the paper meant "to go down among," and therefore is an imperative to have fellowship with the animals. When my parents told me this, I tried to parse "YORADE." I was having trouble... There were a couple of verb forms that came to mind, but that "E" on the end doesn't really fit the mold for a Hebrew verb. It was clear enough, however, that she (or whomever she got the information from) was thinking it was some form of the root yarad, which means 'to go down.' I looked up the word in BDB. There are no listed cases in which it means 'Have fellowship.' Hmmm...

Anyway, I turned to the text. What it really says (and I ask those who know Hebrew to forgive the limited transliteration options of this format) is ReDU. Though it looks pretty different, this could legitimately be an imperative plural form of YARAD. The letter "y" at the beginning of words has a tendency to disappear in some verb forms, so it's legit. However, the exact same spelling is also the imperative plural form of RADA’ because the letter ’ (yes, it's the letter aleph, just bare with me) disappears at the end of words some times. Now, RADA’ means "Have dominion," like in the sense that Babylon or Persia has dominion over the nations. Not necessarily a positive thing. It is also used of God having dominion over the earth sometimes, so it's not all bad.

So, do we translate "Go down among" or "Have Dominion?"
Let's look in verse 26. God says "let's make man in our own image and likeness, and he will (have dominion over/go down among) the fish and the birds and the beasts etc."

Here, in Hebrew we find YIRDU. Now the animal loving hippy lady is stuck. YIRDU is only a form of RADA’. God created man to "have dominion over" the animals, not to "go down among" them, much less "have fellowship with" them.

Now, I do believe that we should take care of the Earth and the things in it, and that includes animals. At the same time, I also believe Hebrew is a helluva language, and you can't make too much of it unless you've studied it for real (I'm not claiming to be a master myself, but I've spent enough sleepless hours on it to have some idea of what's going on). There is only one appropriate response to this situation:

n00b!!1! U KANT HAZ HBREW!! lulz...

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