Hebrew In Israel | Understanding The Verb Shalach – Learn Torah

Hebrew In Israel | Understanding The Verb Shalach – Learn Torah


The verb שלח is most commonly used to indicate the idea of sending away.  Such is the case of Parashat Beshalch where Pharaoh sends away the Israelites from Egypt.  This is also the common use when someone sends a message or a messenger to someone, and this is the common use in modern Hebrew.  However, like most words in Hebrew there are many more meanings which stem from the basic semantic meaning.

Extra Meanings

a.  To let go or release someone from an obligation, commitment or servitude

וַיִּקְחוּ אֶתצֵדָה הָעָם בְּיָדָם וְאֵת שׁוֹפְרֹתֵיהֶם, וְאֵת כָּלאִישׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל שִׁלַּח אִישׁ לְאֹהָלָיו, וּבִשְׁלֹשׁמֵאוֹת הָאִישׁ, הֶחֱזִיק; וּמַחֲנֵה מִדְיָן, הָיָה לוֹ מִתַּחַת בָּעֵמֶק

״So they took the provisions and the shofars of the people; then he sent all the men of Israel away, each to his tent. But the three hundred men he kept״ Judges 7:8

b.  To divorce

וְעָנְשׁוּ אֹתוֹ מֵאָה כֶסֶף, וְנָתְנוּ לַאֲבִי הַנַּעֲרָהכִּי הוֹצִיא שֵׁם רָע, עַל בְּתוּלַת יִשְׂרָאֵל; וְלוֹתִהְיֶה לְאִשָּׁה, לֹאיוּכַל לְשַׁלְּחָהּ כָּליָמָיו

and fine him two-and-a-half pounds of silver shekels, which they will give to the girl’s father, because he has publicly defamed a virgin of Isra’el. She will remain his wife, and he is forbidden from divorcing her as long as he lives Deut 22:19

c.  To escort someone when they leave

וַיָּקֻמוּ מִשָּׁם הָאֲנָשִׁים, וַיַּשְׁקִפוּ עַלפְּנֵי סְדֹם; וְאַבְרָהָםהֹלֵךְ עִמָּם, לְשַׁלְּחָם

The men set out from there and looked over toward S’dom, and Avraham went with them to see them on their way Genesis 18:16

d.  To abandon

וָאֲשַׁלְּחֵהוּ בִּשְׁרִירוּת לִבָּם; יֵלְכוּ בְּמוֹעֲצוֹתֵיהֶם

So, I gave them over (lit. Abandon) to their stubborn hearts, to live by their own plans” Psalms 81:13

e.  To grow, growth

וְהָיָה כְּעֵץ שָׁתוּל עַלמַיִם, וְעַליוּבַל יְשַׁלַּח שָׁרָשָׁיו, וְלֹא ירא (יִרְאֶה) כִּייָבֹא חֹם, וְהָיָה עָלֵהוּ רַעֲנָן; וּבִשְׁנַת בַּצֹּרֶת לֹא יִדְאָג, וְלֹא יָמִישׁ מֵעֲשׂוֹת פֶּרִי

He will be like a tree planted near water; it spreads out its roots by the river; it does not notice when heat comes; and its foliage is luxuriant; it is not anxious in a year of drought but keeps on yielding fruit Jeremiah 17:8

Idiomatic Use

Probably one of the more problematic uses of Hebrew words are the idiomatic uses.  When we come across word combinations, we don’t always know what the combination would mean.  One such case is the combination Shlach Yad שלח יד.  The combination on face value would mean “to send a hand”, however the context would not allow this.  שלחShlach means to send, but it can also mean to stretch forth.  ידYad means hand, but also represents the idea of action.  The combination of the two words results in a very different meaning. 

To send a hand actually means to harm someone, and is the common idiom in Hebrew too indicate violence.  Very commonly we see in Egyptian art the hand of Pharaoh stretched forth in command, and in other places his arm is stretched out holding his enemies with a rope.  The hand of God is also used to indicate YHWH’s power in a menacing way such as:

וְשָׁלַחְתִּי אֶתיָדִי, וְהִכֵּיתִי אֶתמִצְרַיִם, בְּכֹל נִפְלְאֹתַי, אֲשֶׁר אֶעֱשֶׂה בְּקִרְבּוֹ; וְאַחֲרֵיכֵן, יְשַׁלַּח אֶתְכֶם

But I will reach out my hand and strike Egypt with all my wonders that I will do there. After that, he will let you goExodus 3:20


כִּי עַתָּה שָׁלַחְתִּי אֶתיָדִי, וָאַךְ אוֹתְךָ וְאֶתעַמְּךָ בַּדָּבֶר; וַתִּכָּחֵד, מִןהָאָרֶץ

By now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with such severe plagues that you would have been wiped off the earth Exodus 9:15

In both case, and others, we find a clear definition of violence through the verb נכה (to strike), indicating that the hand is stretched out to harm someone.


Ana Lopes

January 29, 2018 at 4:21 pm

Your articles are really enriching.
Thank you!

Andrea Chester

January 29, 2018 at 8:06 pm

I try to “read more”, but it keeps kicking me back here. My internet is metered, so your pod casts are not really for me. Do you have an easily accessible, written form of your lessons?

    Yoel Halevi

    February 3, 2018 at 6:33 pm

    Unfortunately I am not sure why this is not working, but you are specifically trying to enter a written text and not a podcast.

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