Concordance Module #3

"וַיַּעַשׂ לָהֶם בָּתִּים"

Reward or Punishment?

Concordance Module #3

Paroh and the Midwives / Golden Haggadah

1. Introduction

  • לגרסה של מודול זה בעברית, לחצו כאן.‏
  • The second half of Shemot 1 speaks of Paroh's directive to the midwives to kill all baby boys.
  • Let's access the Mikraot Gedolot on Shemot 1:17-21 to see the midwives' reaction to Paroh's command.
  • The midwives refuse to abide by the decree and Shemot 1:21 states: "וַיְהִי כִּי יָרְאוּ הַמְיַלְּדֹת אֶת הָאֱלֹהִים וַיַּעַשׂ לָהֶם בָּתִּים".
  • What does the word "בָּתִּים" mean, and what purpose are these "בָּתִּים" meant to serve?

2. Multiple Meanings of "בית"

  • Let's click on the word "בָּתִּים" in Shemot 1:21 to view the entry in the One-Click Concordance.
  • Scan the first few verses of the entry using their contexts to determine the meaning of the word "בית" in each verse.
  • What three possible meanings can the word sustain?
  • How many of these could be applicable to our verse?

3. Concordance and Commentators: Rashi

  • Let's return to the Mikraot Gedolot to see how our commentators understand the word in context. To close the concordance, click on the x in the top corner of the pop-up.
  • Rashi discusses the verse in his comments to Shemot 1:20. Scroll up to see his explanation.
  • Which of the above meanings of the word does he adopt?
  • How would you evaluate his prooftext? What verse might you have chosen instead?

4. Concordance and Commentators: Ibn Ezra and Shadal

  • Scroll down in the Mikraot Gedolot to Shemot 1:21.
  • See Ibn Ezra (First Commentary) there. How is he similar to, yet somewhat different, from Rashi?
  • According to him, how are these "בָּתִּים" a "measure for measure" reward?
  • See also the last three lines of Shadal's commentary on the verse.
  • Why does he suggest that the blessing of large families would have been especially rewarding for the midwives?

5. Concordance and Commentators: R. Saadia and Rashbam

  • At the end of Ibn Ezra's comments discussed above, he cites the opinion of R. Saadia Gaon. Compare R. Saadia's reading of the verse with that of Rashbam.
  • According to both, what does the word "בָּתִּים" mean?
  • Where, though, do these two commentators differ?
  • According to each, who is making the "houses"? With what purpose? Are they a reward, punishment, or something else?

6. Bonus Work: The Idiom "עשה בית"

  • Though the word בית clearly takes on more than one meaning, is this also true for the idiom "עשה בית"?
  • Let's return to the concordance by clicking here (or on any word in the verse).
  • Switch to Advanced Mode by toggling the button in the top right corner. This mode allows one to search for up to three words.
  • In the first input field, type עשה, and choose the verb form from the drop down options. In the second input field, type בית and choose the noun form. Press search.
  • All verses in which the two words appear together will now display.

7. The Idiom "עשה בית"

  • Only some of the results are relevant to us, but scroll down to Shemuel I 25:28 (#56) and Melakhim I 7:8 (#75).
  • Based on these verses, can also the idiom (like the noun) sustain both of the meanings of building a physical structure and creating a family or dynasty?
  • Had the verse employed the language of "ויבן בית", would the same be true?
  • Using the Advanced Mode, input בנה (choosing the verb form from the drop down menu) and בית (choosing the noun form).
  • Scan the first 15-20 verses on the list. Are the two meanings equally prevalent?

8. Additional Reading

9. Further Options