Hebrew In Israel | Genesis 3:15 – Learn Torah

Hebrew In Israel | Genesis 3:15 – Learn Torah

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I was asked about the words יְשׁוּפְךָ֣ and תְּשׁוּפֶ֥נּוּ in Genesis 3:15.  The verse declares a curse on the serpent, however there is an issue with the words.

וְאֵיבָה אָשִׁית, בֵּינְךָ וּבֵין הָאִשָּׁה, וּבֵין זַרְעֲךָ, וּבֵין זַרְעָהּ:  הוּא יְשׁוּפְךָ רֹאשׁ, וְאַתָּה תְּשׁוּפֶנּוּ עָקֵב 

I will put animosity between you and the woman, and between your descendant and her descendant; he will bruise your head, and you will bruise his heel.”

The second word is translated variously as crush, bruise, and bite “He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel”, but this does not seem to be correct for both humans and snakes.  What does the root of this word actually mean?

The case at hand is a homonym used in the text, playing off of the similarity in the sound of the two verbs.  The first word ישופך is from the root שו״פ related to נש״פ.  The word is talking about the hiss sound snakes make which resembles the idea of blowing air.  The second verb תשופנו is from a similar root but as a sub-root of שא״פ which means to crush or trample.  It is not unusual for words to have shared roots, and also not unusual for the text to play off such things.

It is possible that the second use of the root is borrowed form Akkadian Shepu which has to do with feet and stepping on.  Hebrew has many roots like this, and the lending of words and roots from other languages creates such cases.  The second use is also found in Amos 2:7, 8:4, Qohelet 1:5.

הַשֹּׁאֲפִים עַל-עֲפַר-אֶרֶץ בְּרֹאשׁ דַּלִּים

 שִׁמְעוּ-זֹאת, הַשֹּׁאֲפִים אֶבְיוֹן

וְזָרַח הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ, וּבָא הַשָּׁמֶשׁ; וְאֶל-מְקוֹמוֹ–שׁוֹאֵף זוֹרֵחַ הוּא, שָׁם

They trample on the heads of the poor…

Hear this, you who trample the needy…

The sun rises and the sun sets; it hurries back to where it arose.

The word has parallel words depicting the idea of crushing and stomping such as Isaiah 63:3 and Micah 5:5.

פּוּרָה דָּרַכְתִּי לְבַדִּי, וּמֵעַמִּים אֵין-אִישׁ אִתִּי, וְאֶדְרְכֵם בְּאַפִּי

I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with me; I trod them in my anger

וְהִצִּיל, מֵאַשּׁוּר–כִּי-יָבוֹא בְאַרְצֵנוּ, וְכִי יִדְרֹךְ בִּגְבוּלֵנוּ

 and he shall deliver us from the Assyrian, when he comes into our land, and when he treads within our border.

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