Back to “HaTanakh Hayah BeEmet” (התנ”ך היה באמת, דר. ליאורה רביד 2009) which I have commented on several times (here, here and here) over the last couple of weeks. This time Liora Ravid makes the assertion that the term “ויחר אף” means particularly violent anger – which it may but also may not, as I will show.
She is discussing the birth of Ya’akov’s children and the names given them by their mothers. This she uses to continue to portray Ya’akov in a far more negative light than I believe he deserves as a violent man and a fraudster. As for the fraudster, I do think can be said of him. His name says as much, he deceived his father and got his uppance Midah keNeged Midah from Lavan with Leah and Lavan even explains himself on this point. He then successfully uses his skills against Lavan for the flocks.
However I don’t see him as a violent man. She takes the names of Leah’s first children (Reuven and Shim’on) to tell a story of domestic violence and the term “sanuah” to mean literally hated as in the modern usage. Joshua Berman maintains in his book that LeEhov in Tanakh means more in terms of faithfulness and preferentialness than love and gives examples both from Tanakh and outside of the verb meaning to be faithful to a covernant. In contrast he maintains that LiSnoh means to be unfaithful and not give special consideration complete with examples. Thus he explains for example Deut 11.1 or 7:13 or 10:13 or more pointedly for us 21:15 that is talking about a man with two wives; one “loved” and the other “hated”. This becomes one given preferential status over the other.
Liora Ravid goes further to suggest that when Leah says “ראה ה’ בעניי” she is aluding to rape as in what Shekhem will later do to Dinah “ויעניה”. Rather tenuous seeing as marital rape was not a crime, and other uses of the word in Gen 31:42 (Ya’akov describes his hard life looking after the sheep to Lavan) or 41:52 (Yosef calls his son Efrayim “כי הפרני אלוהים בארץ עניי”) which both just mean miserableness.
And so we get to Gen 30:2 where Ya’akov remonstrates with the childless Rahel “ויחר אף יעקב ברחל”. Ravid asserts that this term is otherwise reserved for God’s destructive wrath like when he wants to wipe out the people altogether. It is true that it can, but it also can mean just plain annoyance. It can mean the whole spectrum of annoyance and anger. Here are the examples that prove my point:
Ex 4:14 –
וַיִּחַר-אַף יְהוָה בְּמֹשֶׁה, וַיֹּאמֶר הֲלֹא אַהֲרֹן אָחִיךָ הַלֵּוִי–יָדַעְתִּי, כִּי-דַבֵּר יְדַבֵּר הוּא; וְגַם הִנֵּה-הוּא יֹצֵא לִקְרָאתֶךָ, וְרָאֲךָ וְשָׂמַח בְּלִבּוֹ. God is annoyed at Moshe’s persistent refusal and excuses not to do his mission.
Num 22:22 –
וַיִּחַר-אַף אֱלֹהִים, כִּי-הוֹלֵךְ הוּא, וַיִּתְיַצֵּב מַלְאַךְ יְהוָה בַּדֶּרֶךְ, לְשָׂטָן לוֹ; וְהוּא רֹכֵב עַל-אֲתֹנוֹ, וּשְׁנֵי נְעָרָיו עִמּוֹ. God is going to kill Bil’am just remind him what the rules are.
Num 24:10 –
וַיִּחַר-אַף בָּלָק אֶל-בִּלְעָם, וַיִּסְפֹּק אֶת-כַּפָּיו; וַיֹּאמֶר בָּלָק אֶל-בִּלְעָם, לָקֹב אֹיְבַי קְרָאתִיךָ, וְהִנֵּה בֵּרַכְתָּ בָרֵךְ, זֶה שָׁלֹשׁ פְּעָמִים. Again Balak isn’t going to kill Bil’am, he is just rather annoyed.
I agree, these are my only examples out of 28 instances where most are of the “God was really angry and smote them” type, but that’s what tends to happen when the Tanakh explains that God was angry. However it does show that the term”ויחר אף” does not need to mean particularly violent anger. It can just mean regular anger.
Come to think of it how does the Tanakh say “anger” in other words than”ויחר אף”? Maybe just that people/God who are angry at all in the Tanakh are generally those who are in a position and diposition to cause a great deal of damage? Any suggestions?