November 15, 2006

Breadcrumb: Mommy's little boy

Continuing on the theme of age, Abraham sends Hagar away with her son Ishmael in Gen. 21:14-21. In these passages, the KJV refers to Ishmael as "the child" (verses 14, 15, and 16) and "the lad" (verses 17, 18, 19, and 20). In the NIV, he is "the boy." The Hebrew words used are yeled (yud-lamed-daled) and na'ar (nun-eyin-reish). The passage seems to imply that Ishmael is a boy who cannot take care of himself. You'd expect to see him in a sling on his mother's back, perhaps.

The only problem with image this is that Ishmael was 14 years old at the time.

1 comment:

feygele said...

I don't see it as a boy who can't take care of himself. I see it more as using language to distinguish from a Jewish adult and a non-Jew.

In Biblical Hebrew, na'ar can also mean a minor (in the legal sense). If Ishmael is 14-years old, but still considered a boy, a lad, or a minor, this would serve to emphasize the point that as a non-Jew (his mother was not Jewish) he was not considered a bar mitzvah at age 13.