Hebrew In Israel | One Flesh (Gen 2:24) – Learn Torah

One Flesh

Hebrew In Israel | One Flesh (Gen 2:24) – Learn Torah

Yoel Halevi No Comments

I was asked the following question about the relationship between man and woman in the context of Gen 2:24, and the meaning of the words בשר אחד.

Q:  Shalom! Have you done a teaching on Bereshith 2:24 explaining exactly what becoming “one flesh” means?  If so could you direct me to it and if not would you mind explaining it?  I’m not particularly convinced it is only in regard to intercourse yet this is the typical understanding. Thank you.

A:  In overall the sexual side is the most appropriate interpretation.  This link is done mostly because marriage has an overall way of approving sex between a couple.  It also stems from the context of the word “flesh” relating to the reproductive organs.  Israel Knohl in his book “Beliefs of Scripture” takes it even further and cites Ibn Ezra who claimed “Knowledge” from the tree was of a sexual nature (Knhol I, Magnes press 2007, pp.24-39).

Word Meaning

As a rule, words in BH have several meanings, which is different from how words might work in English.  Word definition is given based on context, which means a word can have different meanings depending on the text.

בשר in BH has sveral meanings:

a. Flesh- the material covering the bones

b. The body or person in general

c. All living forms

d. Reproductive organs

The word אחד usually translates as “one”.  In our case it means “as one” in the sense of unifying to become as if one person.  One in Hebrew has multiple meanings and is used as a regular number, noun, and adjective creating a very diverse collection of meanings (Waltke&O’Conor, BHS pp.273-275).  This diversity has also created many arguments over the use of it in key verses.

Another option

The above by most are flesh as the body to its different parts.  However, the term בשר-flesh is not only a reference to the reproductive organs or the body in general.  Being one flesh can also be connected to the idea of שאר בשר– blood relative (Leviticus 21:2).  In BH and Akkadian She’er/Siru means “flesh” in the sense of a relative.  Later on the form was pushed aside, but the form שאר בשר-She’er Basar was created to indicate relative.  If this is the case, בשר could mean that they become as blood relatives and must care for one another.  This would be protecting one another, financial care, emotional care and funeral arrangements.

Originally Published:  28 Sept 2016

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