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10

    That N-blood lingered in a less vital state after one ceased breathing indicates why the Hebrews could extend the term N to a corpse. The lingering presence of sacred N reminded the Hebrews that they were not to tamper with the corpse. All instances of N denoting a corpse are in passages concerning, the act of becoming unclean or defiled through touching a corpse. (see Lev. 19:28, 21:1, 22:4; Num. 5:2, 6:11, 9:6,7,10, 19:11,13; Hag. 2:13) One became unclean through such an act only because the corpse had N significance. When an OT passage mentions a corpse but not defile­ment through touching a corpse, then N is not found denoting a dead body!

    Johnson held that this use for N is an example of semantic polarization (when a word has two opposite meanings) which was typical of near Eastern culture at that time. He concluded that N had so much fluidity that "it one extreme it may denote that vital principle in man which animates the human body and reveals itself in the form of conscious life, and at the other extreme it may denote the corpse from which such con­scious life has departed." (p. 22) The Hebrews did not perceive N to have two opposite meanings; it is only from a present day perspective that N appears to have such a field of meaning. Western thinking now emphasizes that a living body and a dead body are opposites. For the Hebrews, however, the sacred aspect of N applied to the corpse as well as a living person. The corpse was not a positivistically neutral entity or thing, to which various meanings could be attached depending on the circumstances. The ancient Hebrews would not have perceived a 'corpse' any more than they would have perceived a 'body'. Only from the perspective of a living 'body' and a dead 'corpse' does N acquire opposite meanings. A view that resorts to semantic polarization in the case of N thereby overlooks the unity intrinsic to its field of meaning. Johnson's recognition of its fluidity was at the expense of the unity among uses of N.

    An examination of further expressions using N can demonstrate that N was given the ability to take on a multitude of uses and, consequently,the integrated relation between the various expressions and phrases containing N. They do not demonstrate additional, isolated definitions of N since it can be shown they too were originally connected to the theme of danger and deliverance which captured man's perishable status.

    Is. 3:20 is the sole instance of a puzzling use for N. Found in a list of clothing and jewelry, N is translated 'perfume boxes' in the Revised Standard Version and 'scent bottles' in the Jerusalem Bible. E Jacob provided a clue for re-interpretation when he realized "the content suggests magical devices to protect life from danger". (p. 618, n. 52) The devices were probably similar to those used in the magic rites described in Ez. 13:18-20. The passage indicates that a prophetess of that time would use wristbands and veils to "hunt for N". E. Jacob's comment helps reclaim the original connection that this use for N had with the more common uses. Magical rituals that tampered with N in an attempt to deliver it from danger employed an object that was eventually termed N. A comment by Wolff is also helpful. "So we ought to think of a kind of necklet rather than amulets, which we would have to think of as hollow objects in the form of 'a little house on the neck'. The parts that are in danger are the parts adorned." (p. 14) It makes sense that these magical devices may very well have been worn on the neck -- right where N was most vulnerable. When understood correctly, Is. 3:20 is an excellent example of the semantic unity and diversity given to the term N.     

    The example from Prov. 12:10 of the good master having regard for the N of his beast indicates that N was not limited to just human creatures; animals were also perishable, flesh and blood creatures. Since N was the blood seen from the viewpoint of synthetic thinking, any blooded creature could potentially be termed N. The phrase most common in this instance is N hayyah which, like 'living water', is translated 'living N' since hayyah is the Hebrew version of the verb 'to be'. Infrahuman N both swarmed in the sea and lived on the land. Those that swarmed in the sea, i.e. fish, may have had particular significance with respect to N in that they dwelt in the sheolish sea. When in a fish, Jonah cried "out of the belly of slieol". (Jonah 2:2) Their natural habitat suggested a setting where N was removed from ruah. Wolff noted, "In the Yahwist's account of the creation (Gen. 2:7) we saw man expressly defined as N hayyah; ... According to the tendency of the statements in Gen. 2:7, N hayyah introduces no differentia specifica for animal life; if this had been the case, then the subsequent defi­nition in 2:19 of animal life as being N hayyah as well would hardly be possible." (p. 22) However, Johnson argued that N hayyah in Gen. 2:7 and N hayyah in reference to animals are distinct. (see p. 19, n. 2) He appears to have expressed the view that N hayyah in Gen. 9:16 did not refer to both man and animal. "When the bow is in the clouds, I will remember the everlasting covenant between me and every N hayyah of all flesh that is upon the earth." Gen. 1:20,21,24, 9:10,12,15,16 have the best examples of N hayyah thoughthere are two other examples, Lev. 11:10,46a,46b and Ez. 47:9. Interestingly, the phrase occurs in the Bible primarily in the creation passages of Gen. I and 2, the post-flood 're-creation' passage of Gen. 9, and the destruction of this creation in Revelation.

     N was also used with respect to God. At first impression one wonders how this could have been since the ancient Hebrews believed that their God was not perishable nor dependent upon deliverance like human and animal N. However, N was not the only Hebrew term referring to man that was also used in reference to God. He was also portrayed as having hands, a mouth, eyes, leb, and above all ruah; basar (flesh) was the noticeable exception. In these instances common expressions primarily used to say something about man communicated the way God related with His people. Expressions referring to a king, whose N desires lent themselves to use with respect to God, the Lord of creation. "What his N desires, that he does." (Job 23:13) "I will raise up for my self a faithful priest who shall do according to what is in my leb and my N." (I Sam. 2:35) His N hates (Ps. 11:5) and abhors (Lev. 26:30), delights (Is. 42:1) and loves (Jer. 12:7); God swears by his N (Jer. 51:14; Amos 6:8) and avenges his N (Jer. 5:9,29, 9:9) on a godless nation for what it has done. These examples record that N carried the intensity typical of a life and death matter during those times when God was so distraught over the activity of His people that He would have almost lost His N vitality and perished had not events taken a turn for the better. Similarly, He was delivered from His anguish when His people did change their ways.     

     There are several instances where a specific number of people are designated N. "The N were 16,000 of which the Lord's tribute was 32 N." (Num. 31:40) Why should one assume that N in such an enumeration originally referred to a mere 'head count' without communicating something of particular importance about these people? The N in Num. 31: 35,40,46 are Midianite captives remaining after Israel executed their Lord's vengeance. The captives were in a situation similar to the stranger, beast, and slave. They were referred to as N because they were at the mercy of the Israelites for their very lives and were kept from execution as the Lord commanded. (see also I Chron. 5:21; Jer. 52:29,30) If an enumeration alluded to that status which created the potential for danger and need for deliverance, then the term N was used.  

    Jacob, renamed Israel, and his offspring are enumerated in Gen. 46:15, 18, 22, 25, 26a, 26b, 27a, 27b and Ex. 1:5a, 5b. His clan was here termed N only because its status in Egypt typified N. This N went to Egypt, multiplied, and ended in bondage to Pharaoh. The nation, Israel, was then in bondage in Egypt like fish that were engulfed in shoolish waters. Israel, as N, went to Egypt with the promise that it would one day return to Canaan. "I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt; for I will there make of you a great nation. I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again..." (Gen. 46:3) That Israel was later delivered from the bondage of Egypt became the Hebrew's most recollected sign that the Lord did in fact take care of His people. N in bondage to Pharaoh (who the writer of Ez. 29:3, 32:2f. compared to a sea monster reminiscent of Leviathan) was promised deliverance. Furthermore, the deliverance of N occurred through the parting of the sheolish sea. N was a flesh creature capable of perishing; however, N was also given the promise of deliverance. N not only sought deliverance and even longed and waited for it; N was promised deliverance to those who obeyed the commandments of the Lord God. For Wolff's final remark to his chapter on N, he wrote, "Thus, before Yahweh, man in the OT does not only recognize himself as N in his neediness; he also leads his self on to hope and to praise." (p. 25) The promise was given and godly N hoped for its fulfillment.


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