Lexical Articles




3 ‏אָב‎

‏אָב‎ (’āb), nom. father (H3); ‏אֵם‎ (’ēm), nom. fem., mother (H562).


ANE The words are common throughout ANE Sem. languages (e.g., Ugar., ’b, um; Akk., abu‘m’, ummu). Both are probably onomatopoeic noms. rather than derived from supposed roots ‏אָבָה‎ or ‏אָמַם‎.

OT 1. Natural meaning. As well as biological male and female parents (Gen 2:24; Exod 2:8; Ps 27:10), the words can be used of grandparents (1 Kgs 15:10, 15), of ancestors in general (Ps 44:1 [2]), or of the national and tribal ancestors in particular (Gen 10:21; 36:9; Deut 26:5; Isa 43:27; Ezek 16:3), and ultimately of Eve herself as the “mother of all living” (Gen 3:20). By extension ‏אָב‎ can be used for the founder of a class of skilled persons (Gen 4:20-21) or of a group or movement (Jer 35:14, 16). In the Aram. portion of Daniel, ‏אָב‎ may mean “predecessor” (5:2, 11, 13, 18).

2. Social context. Israel was a tribal society with three levels of kinship: the tribe (‏שֵׁבֶט‎ [H8657]/‏מַטֶּה‎ [H4751]); the clan (‏מִשְׁפָּחָה‎, H5476); and the household (‏בֵּית־אָב‎). It was the last of these that had the greatest social importance for individual Israelites and in the organization of society. Though often translated “family,” it was much broader than the modern nuclear family, including up to three or four generations of sons and their wives and dependents living under the authority of a living “head of a father’s house.” This extended family, with its share in the land, was the basic unit of Israel’s social structure, economic system of land-tenure, and covenantal relationship with Yahweh. With such social, economic, and theological importance attaching to the family, the role of parents was correspondingly crucial.

The term ‏בֵּית־אָב‎ (“father’s house”) points to the patriarchal nature of Israelite society (though four texts refer to “mother’s house,” Gen 24:28; Ruth 1:8; Song of Songs 3:4; 8:2). But there are many indications that mothers had a social and spiritual importance that is often overlooked. The terms occur together (“father and mother,” or vice versa and plurals) some 40x. Honoring both parents is at the heart of the ten commandments (Exod 20:12; Deut 5:16), and the mother comes first in the command to “respect” (lit. “fear”) them as part of national holiness (Lev 19:3). Both were to be heeded and obeyed (Prov 1:8; 15:20; 19:26; 20:20; 23:22-25; etc.). The reciprocalresponsibility was parental teaching. First laid as a duty on Abraham as the vital ethical link between his election and God’s mission to the nations (Gen 18:19), this is stressed in Deut as a part of that obedience that would ensure continued possession of the land (Deut 4:9; 6:7; 11:19; 32:46-47). Five texts specify a father’s reply to a son’s questioning and clearly indicate his didactic, possibly catechetical, role (Exod 12:26-27; 13:14-15; Deut 6:20-25; Josh 4:6-7, 21-23). Each of these relates to some central feature of Israel’s history or cult, and thus stresses the role of parental teaching in the preservation of the traditions and thereby the continuity of the covenant relationship. Although the father is specified in these didactic texts, the mother’s teaching role is found in Prov 1:8 and 6:20 (“the ‏תּוֹרָה‎ of your mother”), even for the benefit of kings (Prov 31:1-9).

In legal affairs, the father (especially the head of the father’s house) had authority to act in certain matters without reference to “civil” courts (the rest of the elders in the gate): e.g., on divorce, slavery, and discipline within the household. Likewise, the father gave legal protection even to an adult son (Judg 6:30-31, 2 Sam 14:7), unless he was a “fool” (Job 5:3-4), and he was required to act impartially regarding the rights of the firstborn (Deut 21:15-17). The law of the rebellious son (who was not just a naughty child) shows that only after the failure of internal family discipline did the matter come before the elders in public court (Deut 21:18-21). This last case is one of several where the mother is mentioned alongside the father in legal texts. Her required presence (v. 19) was doubtless an additional protection for the son from a merely vindictive father. Similarly, the mother acted along with the father in protection of a daughter accused of premarital infidelity (Deut 22:15-21). Her social and legal status as mother (Exod 21:15, 17; Lev 19:3; 20:9; Deut 27:16; cf. Zech 13:3) is one of many factors that rule out the mistaken (but still canvassed) view that the wife in Israel was legally the chattel property of her husband (Wright, 1990, 183-221), since it would seem hard to reconcile this attitude of honor and respect for the mother with the alleged inferiority and suppression of the wife. There is plenty of evidence of mothers taking public initiative and exercising considerable influence, domestically (Gen 27; Judg 17) and particularly as queen mothers (1 Kgs 1:11, etc.).

Though children were legally the property of the father, the circumstances in which this had any economic reality were limited to situations where the “property” was damaged or devalued (e.g., Exod 21:22; 22:16-17; Deut 22:13-19), or where debt or poverty forced the sale of children into concubinage or as debt pledges (Exod 21:7-11; 2 Kgs 4:1-7; Neh 5:1-5). However, this did not give the father absolute power over children in terms of a judicial right of life and death. In Gen 38:24 a father passes a death sentence on a daughter-in-law (not carried out), but in the post-settlement period there is no example of this. Rather, Deut 21:18-21 explicitly places such power only in the hands of the civil elders. Vicarious punishment of children for the father’s crime was also excluded (Deut 24:16; cf. 2 Kgs 14:5-6), which is a different matter from exceptional cases where a whole family suffered together because of a father’s blatant sin against the covenant community (Num 16; Josh 7). It is unlikely that child sacrifice was ever a legitimate part of Yahwism at any period (Wright, 1990, 222-38).

3. “The fathers.” (a) Positive use. Used of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the term collectively describes the ancestors of Israel and roots Israel’s existence in God’s loving election of “the fathers” (Deut 4:37; 10:15). The awareness of both continuity and discontinuity between the religion of the patriarchs and Mosaic Yahwism is partly expressed by the identification of Yahweh as the “God of your father” (Exod 3:6, 15), an extension of the patriarchal title “God of (my/your) father” (Gen 26:24; 28:13; 31:5, 29, 42, 53). The greatest single proof of the faithfulness of Yahweh was the gift of “the land that the Lord swore he would give to your fathers” (Deut 1:8 and passim) ‏אֶרֶץ‎ (H824). “The fathers” can also describe the generation of the Exodus (Lev 26:45; Josh 24:6, 17), and all subsequent generations who witnessed the mighty acts of God and could tell about them (1 Kgs 8:57; Ps 22:4 [5]; 44:1 [2]; 78:1-8).

(b) Negative use. The statement that God “punishes the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation” (Exod 20:5; Deut 5:9) must be understood in the context of the solidarity of extended families (of three or four generations living together), in which the sin (especially idolatry) of one generation would affect the others detrimentally; it is not a principle of human judicial action (that is excluded by Deut 24:16). It is more than outweighed by the following “thousands” of generations God desires to bless for obedience (cf. Deut 7:9) and his definitive forgiving nature (Exod 34:6-7; Num 14:18). Nevertheless, the accumulated sin of generations could be seen as finally justifying God’s judgment (2 Kgs 17:14; 21:11-15; 22:13), but prophets had to resist the tendency of the generation of the exile to exonerate themselves by laying all the blame on their fathers (Isa 65:7; Jer 31:29-30; Lam 5:7; Ezek 18). The proper response should be repentance and confession that identifies with the sins of the fathers (Lev 26:40; Neh 9:32-34; Ps 106:6; Jer 3:25; Dan 9:8, 16). Metaphorically, the sin of the nation through the generations could be concentrated on the first fathers (Isa 43:27; Hos 12:2-3 [3-4]), or on a personified mother (Isa 50:1; Ezek 16:3, 44-45; Hos 2:2 [2:4]).

4. Metaphorical use. The term ‏אָב‎ was used of a variety of social roles that carried authority or exercised a protective or caring function. It could be used of a prophet (2 Kgs 6:21), priest (Judg 18:19), king (1 Sam 24:11), or governor (Isa 22:20-21). A servant used it for his master (2 Kgs 2:12; 5:13). Joseph, as chief advisor and governor, could be called “father to Pharaoh” (Gen 45:8). Job, for his legal protection of the poor, claimed the title “father to the needy” (Job 29:12-16). It was natural, therefore, for such fatherly metaphors to be used in relation to God’s authority, discipline, care, and provision (Deut 1:31; 8:5; Ps 27:10; 68:5 [6]; 103:13; Prov 3:12).

Though not commonly, ‏אֵם‎ could also be used in this extended metaphorical sense. Deborah, as judge and leader, is titled “mother in Israel” (Judg 5:7), and this same phrase is used of Abel, a city renowned for its wise counsel (2 Sam 20:18-19). Capital cities were “mothers” (Jer 50:12 [Babylon]; Isa 49:18-21; Ezek 16:20 [Jerusalem]). Job’s calling “corruption” and “the worm” his father and mother may mean submitting to their authority over him in death (Job 17:14). The mother’s womb could be the place where one was already known by God (Ps 139:13-15; Jer 1:5) or the starting point of the moral life, negatively (Ps 51:5 [7]) or positively (Job 31:18; Ps 22:10 [11]; 71:6). It was also the ultimate basis of human-created equality on which Job made the highest declaration of slaves’ rights in the OT (Job 31:13-15). More often, motherhood signified comfort (e.g., Ps 131:2), self-sacrificial love, and deep longing and thus was also a natural metaphor for the love of God. Though Yahweh is never directly called “mother,” similar to “father,” there are a number of texts that use maternal metaphors,or other fem. imagery, in portraying God’s character and behavior (Deut 32:11, 18b; Isa 42:14; 49:15; 66:13; cf. Num 11:12, ironically used by Moses).

5. As a theological metaphor: God as father, Israel as son. Probably the danger of association with fertility cults (cf. Jer 2:27) explains the much less frequent use of parental imagery to describe God’s relationship with Israel, in comparison with covenant and kingship metaphors. Nevertheless, it is a significant strand in OT theology that informed Jesus’ and the NT’s concepts of sonship. The use of ‏אָב‎ in theophoric names (Joab, Abijah, Eliab, etc.), whether signifying “my father” or “the father” (i.e., of the tribe or nation), shows that the idea of the fatherhood of God was common enough in the popular life of Israel, even if it did not figure prominently in “official” theology. Possibly the earliest poetic use is Deut 32, where it is linked with God’s creation of Israel (v. 6), Israel’s unnatural desertion (v. 18), and God’s parental discipline (vv. 19-20).

Two well-defined but complementary meanings are expressed through the metaphor. (a) The attitude and action of Yahweh as father towards Israel. This was one of concern, love, pity, and patience, but also discipline and correction. It is characteristic that when such texts speak of Israel, they use the singular, indicating the whole nation (Exod 4:22; Deut 1:31; 8:5; Ps 103:13; Prov 3:12; Jer 31:9, 20; Hos 11:1). This is also the dominant note in the portrayal of God as father of the Davidic king as representative of the nation (2 Sam 7:14; Ps 2:7; 89:26). It also implicitly underlies the language of “inheritance,” especially in Deut (‏נָחַל‎, H5706).

(b) The expectation of God as father from the Israelites. He is to be viewed as trustworthy, to be respected and obeyed. Texts in this category tend to use the plural “sons” for Israel, indicating the responsibility of all members of the community (Deut 14:1). This aspect can be seen most clearly in those texts where God complains that his fatherly care or authority is being abused or ignored by rebellious, faithless, disobedient sons (Isa 1:2; 30:9; Jer 3:4, 19; Mal 1:6). The combination of these two dimensions, of course, is similar to the dual direction of relationship and obligation in the covenant. It has been argued, indeed, that, for Deuteronomy at least, father-son relationship and covenant relationship were synonymous (McCarthy). They were not exactly coextensive or coterminous, however. The declaration of Israel’s sonship preceded the exodus and Sinai (Exod 4:22) and remained to be invoked even amidst the ruins of the broken Sinai covenant (Isa 63:16; 64:8; Jer 31:9, 18-20). The father-son relationship between God and Israel contained within itself an element of permanence, which injected hope into an otherwise hopeless situation. Wrath, exile, and loss of land would not be permanent. Yahweh would not abandon his people. The father could not ultimately disown his son. The roots of Jesus’ confidence in his own resurrection may well lie in his core sense of identity as the Son of God, both personally and as Davidic messianic representative of Israel (cf. Acts 2:24-28; Wright, 1990, 15-22; 1992, 125-32).

See Family, relative, citizen

See Child

See Tribe

ABD 2:761-69; ISBE 2:284-86; 3:426-27; TDNT 5:959-74; TDOT 1:1-19; TWOT 1:5-6, 50-51; F. I. Andersen, “Israelite Kinship Terminology and Social Structure,” BT 20, 1969, 29-39; P. A. H. de Boer, Fatherhood and Motherhood in Israelite and Judaean Piety, 1974; M-J. Lagrange, “La paternité de Dieu dans l’Ancien Testament,” RB 5, 1908, 482-83; D. J. McCarthy, “Notes on the Love of God in Deuteronomy and the Father-Son Relationship Between Yahweh and Israel,” CBQ 27, 1965, 144-47; A. Phillips, “Some Aspects of Family Law in Pre-exilic Israel,” VT 23, 1973, 349-61; C. S. Rodd, “The Family in the Old Testament,” BT 18, 1967, 19-26; C. J. H. Wright, “The Israelite Household and the Decalogue,” TynBul 30, 1979, 101-24; idem, God’s People in God’s Land: Family, Land and Property in the Old Testament, 1990; idem, Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament, 1992.

Christopher J. H. Wright



4 ‏אֵב‎

‏אֵב‎ (’ēb), shoot (H4).


ANE The nom. is probably cognate with Ugar. ’ib II (Aistleitner, WUS, 8), but some relate it to the Akk. inbu to ‏עֵנָב‎, grape [H6694]), which in turn is related to Ugar. g´nb, grape.

OT The nom. is rare (only 2x) and according to contexts suggests plants that are still growing in the ground. Song of Songs 6:11 reads, “I went down to the grove of nut trees to look at the new growth (‏אֵב‎) in the valley, to see if the vines had budded or the pomegranates were in bloom.” NRSV has “blossoms”; REB has “green shoots”; NAB has “fresh growth”; and NJPSV has “fresh shoots.” In Job 8:12 Bildad refers to a shoot of a plant growing close to the ground: “While still growing (‏אֵב‎) and uncut, they wither more quickly than grass.”

See Shoot, bud, growth, sprig, sprout, tendril

Larry Walker



6 ‏אָבַד‎

‏אָבַד‎ (’ābad I), q. perish, be destroyed; become lost; pi. exterminate, destroy; hi. exterminate, eradicate (H6); ‏אֲבֵדָה‎ (’ᵃbēdâ), nom. s.t. lost (H8); ‏אֲבַדּוֹן‎ (’ᵃbaddôn), nom. destruction, realm of the dead (H11); ‏אַבְדָן‎ (’abdān), nom. destruction (only in Esth 9:5; [H12]); ‏אָבְדָן‎ (’obdān), nom. destruction (only in Esth 8:6 [H13]).


ANE The root ‏אָבַד‎, be lost, perish, is widely attested and found in Akk. (abātu) and Ugar. (’bd), as well as in Phoen., Aram., Arab., and others (HALAT 2; DISO, 1-2).

OT 1. Of the approximately 184x that this vb. occurs, the greater part is found in q. (ca. 117x), with pi. (ca. 41x) and hi. (26x) following in frequency. On the pi. of ‏אָבַד‎ as factitive (referring to a state or condition) and the hi. as causative (referring to an action and often in the future), see Jenni, SVT 16, 143-57; idem, Pi‘el, 65-67.

2. There are two root meanings, perish and become lost, both of which are also attested in the Akk. abātu (see discussion in TDOT 1:20; cf. abātu A or B in CAD A/1:41-47). The latter is less frequent. Possessions and hope can become lost (Deut 22:3 [also ‏אֲבֵדָה‎]; Ezek 19:5); so can animals (1 Sam 9:3, 20) and Israelites who sometimes behave like them (Ps 119:176; Jer 50:6). In the case of Deut 26:5, it is difficult to decide between perishing or wandering (cf. e.g., TDOT 1:20; Craigie, Deuteronomy, 321; Kreuzer, 162-67).

3. The perishing and destruction can refer to a wide variety of things, usually in the context of judgment: e.g., images (pi., Num 33:52, with ‏שָׁמַד‎; hi., Ezek 30:13), weapons of war (q., 2 Sam 1:27), a harvest (q., Joel 1:11), one’s name (hi., Deut 7:24, with ‏שָׁמַד‎), memory (q., Ps 9:6 [7]), wisdom (q., Isa 29:14), and counsel (q., Jer 49:7). Most often, however, ‏אָבַד‎ speaks of divine judgment against humankind. Nations are often the object of this judgment; e.g., Egypt (q., Exod 10:7), the nations of Canaan (q., Deut 7:20), the Philistines (q., Amos 1:8; Cherethites, hi., Zeph 2:5), Tyre (q., Ezek 26:17), Ammon (hi., Ezek 25:7, par. ‏שָׁמַד‎), Moab (q., Num 21:29-30), Babylon (pi., Jer 51:55, par. ‏שָׁדַד‎), and ungodly nations allied against Israel (q., Ps 2:12; 83:17 [18]; cf. also Esth 9:6, 12; cf. 3:9, 13). Israel is often God’s agent (e.g., hi., Jer 1:10, par. ‏הָרַס‎). Israel, too, is not exempt when her sin prompts God’s wrath (q., e.g., Lev 26:38; Deut 8:19-20 [also hi.]; hi., 28:51, 63, par. ‏שָׁמַד‎; q., Jer 27:10, 15).

4. The judgment described by ‏אָבַד‎ is devastating. Yet Yahweh does not make a full end of his people. He declared concerning the house of Israel and the house of Judah that “just as I watched over them to uproot [‏נָתַשׁ‎]) and tear down [‏נָתַץ‎], and to overthrow [‏הָרַס‎], destroy [‏אָבַד‎] and bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant” (Jer 31:28).

5. The vb. ‏אָבַד‎ also describes the lot of the wicked in contrast to that of the righteous. “Those who are far from you [Yahweh] will perish [‏אָבַד‎]; ...But as for me, it is good to be near God” (Ps 73:27-28; cf. also Prov 10:28; 11:7).

6. In Num 24:20, 24, ‏אֹבֵד‎, preceded by ‏עֲדֵי‎, is probably best interpreted as a q. part., understood as an abstract nom., destruction (Wernberg-Møller, 54-57). But, cf. HALAT 3a for the rendering of ‏עֲדֵי אֹבֵד‎ by “forever.” Also on this issue cf. THAT 1:18.

7. The nom. ‏אֲבֵדָה‎, something lost, is a general term indicating something lost and can refer to almost anything, whether animals, clothing, or money (Exod 22:9 [8]; Lev 6:3 [5:22]; Deut 22:3). One who found what had been lost was obliged to return it to the rightful owner (Deut 22:1-3). If one lied about what he had found and kept it and then returned it, one had to make full restitution and add a fifth of the value (Lev 6:3-5 [5:22-24]). If he did not do so voluntarily and was convicted, he had to repay double (Exod 22:9 [8]).

The nom. ‏אַבְדָן‎, destruction, in Esth 9:5 (with ‏הֶרֶג‎, killing) refers to the destruction of the enemies of the Jews, while the variant ‏אָבְדָן‎ in Esth 8:6 refers tothe annihilation of the Jewish people that had been planned by Haman (cf. Esth 3:5-11).

P-B In 11QTempleᵃ 33:14, ‏אָבַד‎ (q.) describes water disappearing into the ground.

See Destruction, annihilation, devastation, disfigurement, ruin

TDNT 1:394-97; TDOT 1:19-23; THAT 1:17-20; P. C. Craigie, The Book of Deuteronomy, NICOT, 1976, 321; E. Jenni, “Faktitiv und Kausativ von ‏אָבַד‎, zugrunde gehen,” VTSup 16, 1967, 143-57; idem, Das hebräische Pi‘el, 1968, (cf. index); S. Kreuzer, Die Frühgeschichte Israels in Bekenntnis und Verkündigung des Alten Testaments, BZAW 178, 1988; A. R. Millard, “A Wandering Aramean (Deut 26:5),” JNES 39, 1980, 153-55; P. Wernberg-Møller, “Observations on the Hebrew Participle,” ZAW 71, 1959, 54-67.

Cornelis Van Dam