Balashon does a deep dive into an obscure Hebrew word:

The word shidah appears in only one verse in the entire Tanach. It appears twice in the verse, so I don’t know if it counts as a hapax legomenon, but it certainly suffers from the same fate that other such words do – without multiple appearances, they are hard to translate. In this case, it’s even harder, because the context of the verse itself leaves nearly infinite possible interpretations.

It appears in the book of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) in a section where the king is boasting about his possessions. Here is the Hebrew:

כָּנַסְתִּי לִי גַּם־כֶּסֶף וְזָהָב וּסְגֻלַּת מְלָכִים וְהַמְּדִינוֹת עָשִׂיתִי לִי שָׁרִים וְשָׁרוֹת וְתַעֲנֻגוֹת בְּנֵי הָאָדָם שִׁדָּה וְשִׁדּוֹת

And the English (but I’m not translating – yet – our word shidah)

I further amassed silver and gold and treasures of kings and provinces; and I got myself male and female singers, and the pleasures of people, shida v’shidot. (Kohelet 2:8)

This is an incredibly difficult phrase to translate. What does shidah mean here? Why is the singular shida followed by the plural shidot? Even the punctuation is hard to place properly, but I’ll leave that aside for now.

All we can really say is that it’s something (or a set of things) that a king would list among his treasured possessions.

The Talmud gives two interpretations: “Here [in Babylonia] they interpreted the phrase as follows: ‘male and female demons’ [shedim]. In the West [= in the Land of Israel], they said it means shiddeta.” Balashon dismisses the “demon” translation (“this is a drash, and not the plain meaning of the verse”) and quotes Rashi as saying that “shiddeta (and shidah) refer to carriages for women and nobles.” There is a long discussion of this, finding it unsatisfactory, and then Ibn Ezra is quoted as saying it means ‘women’:

His evidence is that the verse earlier mentions the “pleasures of people” and the earlier verses relate to all kinds of other desires, but don’t mention women, which would be expected. He derives shidah from the root שדד, “to plunder”, indicating women taken as captives.

Ibn Ezra’s explanation is accepted by a number of modern scholars as well, who also find support in an Ugaritic cognate meaning “woman” (see Daat Mikra on Kohelet, and Kaddari’s dictionary).

But there are many more suggestions for the meaning of shidah in Kohelet, as well as the etymology of the word. Here are a few:

chests (Artscroll), coffers (New JPS) – these translations (and others) are like Rashi in that they try to find consistency between shidah in Kohelet, and the appearances in later Rabbinic Hebrew. By translating the phrase as “chests and chests of them”, it indicates an impressive quantity of the pleasures mentioned earlier, which they translate as “luxuries.” That could indeed be fit for a king. As far as etymology, one theory that I’ve seen, connects shidah to shed שד, “breast.” I think it is noteworthy that in English as well, “chest” can refer to both a box and to the breast, both holding something (in the latter case, the heart.)
wine, cup bearer, goblets – These renderings are found in the ancient Septuagint, Peshitta and Vulgate translations. BDB says these may be related to the Aramaic שדא – “to pour out.”
musical instruments – this is the suggestion of Ralbag, who says they were shaped like boxes. This would fit with the previous phrase, “male and female singers.”

Perhaps most the most audacious suggestion comes from Shadal, who suggests the verse in Kohelet should have a different vocalization, and says it should be read as sadeh שדה – “field.” While that is certainly an interesting idea, I generally feel that such emendations should only be a last resort.

I will never have any use for any of that, but I can’t resist this kind of detailed analysis of opaque terms.

As lagniappe, Slavomír Čéplö (bulbul) posted this on Facebook: if you put “rrrrrrrrr” into a password box, the system will tell you it’s weak, but if you try “řřřřřřřřř,” you will be told it’s strong. Czech it out!


  1. J.W. Brewer says

    You can see a varied array of different English translations here (some mediated via the LXX or Vulg but others done directly from the Hebrew although perhaps reliant on those earlier translations for their best guess about the Hebrew’s meaning), and yeah when you get to the end of the verse it really does not feel like they’re all trying to convey the same words in the original:

  2. And here are a bunch of translations in various languages.

  3. The Church Slavonic version, using the ‘wine-bearers’ sense: “Соврахъ ми злато и сребро и имѣніѧ царей и странъ, сотворихъ ми поющихъ и поющыѧ, и oүслажденїѧ сыновъ человѣческихъ, вїночерпцы и вїночерпнцы.” (You can see the accented version here — scroll down.)

  4. видак и шмудак…

  5. Following (the) RaLBaG, the KJV goes for “musical instruments,” as does the Russian synodal translation. More recent English versions seem to favor “concubines” or “harem.”

    The Church Slavonic translation follows the Septuagint (οἰνοχόον καὶ οἰνοχόας).

  6. Stu Clayton says

    if you put “rrrrrrrrr” into a password box, the system will tell you it’s weak, but if you try “řřřřřřřřř,” you will be told it’s strong.

    That is partially because the second one is longer, containing a final comma.

    Style guides for punctuation can be an obstacle to exactness.

  7. Stu Clayton says

    The word shidah appears in only one verse in the entire Tanach. It appears twice in the verse

    That being the case, I’m surprised that the exegetes are looking for something familiar (“musical instrument”, “concubine”, “demon”) to which the word might refer. Familiar things are usually referred to by familiar words, is it not, unless there is a rhetorical, allegorical or other reason to use an unfamiliar word ?

    The pot calls the kettle black when it is not trying to be difficult. I find difficult text passages trying.

  8. Stu Clayton says

    Schleiermacher to the rescue:

    # Die kunstlose Praxis geht davon aus daß sich das Verstehen von selbst ergibt, und drükt das Ziel negativ aus ›Mißverstand soll vermieden werden‹ […] Die Kunst geht davon aus daß sich das Mißverstehen von selbst ergibt und daß Verstehen auf jedem Punkt muß gewollt und gesucht werden. #
    [Vorlesungen zur Hermeneutik und Kritik, KGA II, 4, Berlin 2012, 127]

    We may surmise that Mr. Kohelet had a bad hair day when writing that verse. He had other, more pressing things to worry about.

  9. The first Jewish translation, by Isaac Leeser , says “wagons and chariots”.

  10. J.W. Brewer says

    Maybe some musical instruments are shaped like boxes but others are shaped like wine goblets?

  11. When I saw this Balashon post a few days ago, I started wondering whether the two meanings of “chest” in English (i.e., box and the upper torso) are related to the two meanings of שד in Hebrew (“breast” and “box”).

  12. The decision to translate the word as referring to sexual partners seems to have no inherent basis and is imposed by the translators’ decision that it must be an explanation of the prior phrase “the pleasures of the children [or sons] of man.” But that’s just a guess, because that phrase could just as easily be attaching to the “male and female singers.” And an event including a mixed chorus would presumably include other pleasures, not necessarily including erotic ones – although not necessarily excluding them, either (this is a king who’s speaking).

    As for our word, we really don’t know what it means, except that the phrase “shidah v’shidot” must mean [widget] and [female widgets]. Yet of the translations and interpretations In the link provided by JW Brewer, only the “literal” translations accept that the words are a singular followed by a plural. These translations tie the implication of “pleasures” with the singular/plural construction by using phrases like “a wife and wives” or “a wife and concubines.” In the translations linked by Hat, of the ones I can read only the French translation by the Anglo-Irish evangelical J.N. Darby does this – “une femme et des concubines.” And that would make a kind of speculative sense.

    But we really don’t know this. We don’t even know for sure that the first word is shidah (f.) It might be shideh (m.) We assume the singular is female because the plural (shidot) is unquestionably female. But you can imagine a phrase meaning one male thing and many female things that are the same except for gender – a ram and sheep, or a tailor and seamstresses. Not that either of these would make sense in context.

  13. Stu Clayton says

    Mr. Kohelet may have merely been having his little joke on posterity: “I know ! I’ll use a fake word here, so people will still be talking about it in 2300 years.” Even though it might not have been deliberate, things sure worked out that way.

    We are all patsies of the past, some of us more than others, and for longer. Ambiguity is a bidirectional strange attractor. Mr. Kohelet himself urges us not to fret too much about it.

  14. “Ambiguity is a bidirectional strange attractor.” I love that phrase. Stu : O

  15. Stu Clayton says

    V: I put that in, then replaced it – but only after you read and enthused over it, so I put it back in as a selling point. I’m not sure what it means, but it seems thoughtworthy – like shidah/shideh.

  16. J.W. Brewer says

    I’m not wild about “Kohelet.” If you’re not going to use the conventional English name when writing in English, why not go all the way to Qoheleth to maximize the exoticism?

    But perhaps one of the takeaways here is that none of the interpretations cited in the Talmudic/rabbinical sources really suggest any privileged access to some sort of continuous interpretive tradition going straight back to the original writing of the text — no one really knows and everyone’s just guessing. There’s maybe something to be said for the LXX translation plausibly reflecting an earlier-in-time guess than any of the others we have access to, but we also strongly suspect that the various LXX translators on occasion may have guessed wrong even when the Hebrew seems less obscure to us.

    That said, I am advised by Peter Gentry (who translated the LXX Ecclesiastes into English for the NETS edition) that the Greek is generally an extremely literal reading of the Hebrew, to the extent that it is sometimes unidiomatic-to-incomprehensible as Greek for a reader who doesn’t know the Hebrew. But that still doesn’t predict what the relevant LXX translator (and/or perhaps subsequent editors/revisers/redactors) would have done when faced with a frankly unfamiliar-to-him Hebrew word.

  17. Stu Clayton says

    why not go all the way to Qoheleth to maximize the exoticism?

    I myself used “Mr. Kohelet” to pump down the exoticism.

  18. J.W. Brewer says

    “Herr Doktor Professor von und zu Kohelet.”

  19. no one really knows and everyone’s just guessing.

    Yes, it reminds me of the daughter of greed and the beasts at Ephesus, only more mysterious.

  20. Stu Clayton says

    Most people expect reverential, po-faced patter about Bible homeys.

  21. Both the Koehler/Baumgartner dictionary and the latest (18th) edition of Gesenius list (in more compact form) more or less what was said above and both come to the conclusion that we have absolutely no idea what the word means.

    I think any translator who pretends otherwise is a charlatan; if the meaning of a word in the original is unknown, the translator should be honest about that. For some reason the translators of so-called “holy texts” like to pretend they’re infallible.

  22. if the meaning of a word in the original is unknown, the translator should be honest about that.

    Absolutely, but in practical terms, what would you suggest? How should the verse be rendered in English?

  23. Stu Clayton says


    … [?]* …

    * No one who knows anything knows what the word/expression here means. That’s life. Cf. Koehler/Baumgartner and Gesenius.

  24. Why not follow Septuagint? There is a good chance they knew.

  25. David Eddyshaw says

    The New English Bible, which is admirably candid in such matters, just has a footnote saying “the Hebrew adds two unintelligible words.”

    The Kusaal version goes with the women, lumping them in with the pleasures:

    nɛ pu’ab bɛdegʋ banɛ na ma’ae dau sʋnf
    “and a lot of women who will please a man” (“cool a man’s heart.”)

    I mean, I suppose that could be by singing. Or playing chess, or something. De gustibus …

  26. How should the verse be rendered in English?

    nothing wrong with “shidah v’shidot”!
    i’m all for not translating words whose meanings aren’t clear.
    it’s more honest, and i think more interesting, than faking it (or imitating earlier versions of faking it).

  27. David Eddyshaw says

    Is it really that “audacious” to suggest a different reading of the same consonantal text? I yield to none in my admiration of the Masoretes, but they were not relying on an infallible tradition of vocalisation.

    Mind you, in that context “field” seems to me to be a bit – left-field …

  28. The New English Bible, which is admirably candid in such matters, just has a footnote saying “the Hebrew adds two unintelligible words.”

    nothing wrong with “shidah v’shidot”!

    I like both of these, though “shidah and shidot” might be clearer.

  29. J.W. Brewer says

    Would not the New English Bible approach be improved by adding two unintelligible English words (the second one plural), sort of like “And the pleasures of people, mrrph and gloonks.”

    I am less admiring of the Masoretes. The problem is precisely that they were (however serious and well-intentioned) not infallible but they were nonetheless extremely organized, efficient and persuasive, such that the rival manuscript variant readings they discarded in favor of the ones they preferred (for reasons they thought good and sufficient) have generally vanished without trace, except for a subset that have turned up in dusty caves near the Dead Sea and/or can be plausibly reverse-engineered from the Septuagint. So now we can’t evaluate and/or second-guess their choices. The comparative chaos of the New Testament manuscript tradition, where multiple variants have survived and sometimes thrived and anyone producing an edition of the Greek NT (or a translation that presupposes a particular Greek Vorlage) can be held accountable for the numerous editorial choices they are making because we know the alternative readings they are rejecting, might perhaps lead to a beneficial sense of humility and modesty although I will admit that in practice that has perhaps not always been the case.

  30. ktschwarz says

    I like how Headley’s Beowulf translation signals where there’s something missing in the original, without scholarly brackets: “I heard he handclasped his daughter (her name’s a blur) to Onela.”

  31. Re chest, Hebrew שַׁד šad (later שָׁד šād) is specifically a woman’s breast, never ‘front of the thorax’ as in English. That is so also in its cognates throughout West Semitic.

    šad and שֵׁד šēd ‘demon’ are superficially similar to each other but not related. They are likewise superficially similar to שִׁדָּה šiddā, and likewise probably unrelated to it as well. Their plurals are, respectively, שַׁדַּיִם šaddayim (the dual of body parts; pl. would be *שַׁדִּים šaddīm), and שֵׁדִים šēdīm. Not שִׁדּוֹת šiddōt.

    I’ve no idea if the Mishnaic šiddā, the container, is or isn’t related to the mysterious biblical word, though they appear identical in form.

    If you want to muddy the waters even more, there’s also the title of God, שַׁדַּי šadday. Likewise nobody knows what it means or its etymology, and it has been connected with every Semitic root built on these two poor overworked consonants (excepting šiddā).

  32. @J.W. Brewer: The Samaritan Torah is another important source for variants.

    @Y: Confusion (of an entirely different kind) about the meaning of “שַׁדַּיִם” is key to the plot of the funniest episode of Coupling.

  33. J.W. Brewer says

    @Brett, fair point as far as it goes but there isn’t a whole Samaritan Tanakh to help us with Ecclesiastes, right?

  34. Y : that’s really interesting with the similarity b/w שַׁד and שֵׁד which is what I was trying to distinguish, the line and two dots below the shin.

  35. I wondered if there were any other examples of an idiomatic use of the syntax X(sg.) wǝ-X(pl.) in Biblical Hebrew, or in the other Semitic languages. Here is the treatment of šiddâ wǝšiddôt in Choon-Leong Seow (1997) Ecclesiastes: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (Anchor Bible 18c), p. 131ff.:

    The meaning of šiddâ wĕšiddôt is disputed (see Bons, “šiddā-w-šiddōt,” pp. 12-16). The words occur only here in the Hebrew Bible, and the syntax (singular noun + conjunction + plural of the same noun) is without precise parallel anywhere. LXXᴮˢ and Syr translate the expression as “male-cupbearer and female-cupbearers,” reflecting Hebrew šōdeh wĕšōdôt, with only minor variations in LXXᴬⱽ, Aq, Symm, and Theod. Vulg has scyphos et urceos “cups and pots,” probably a paraphrase. All in all, the ancient versions attest to the essential correctness of the consonantal text of MT (see Euringer, Masorahtext, pp. 44-47), and together they argue against any attempt to emend to śārâ wĕsārôt “princess and princesses,” śārîm wĕśārôt “princes and princesses,” or the like.

    As for the etymology, the words have been conjectured as deriving from šdd “seize,” from which one gets the meaning “ones seized in war” and hence, “concubine and concubines” (so Ibn Ezra; Ginsburg). Some scholars suggest that the nouns are related to šad “breast,” thus taking šiddâ wĕšiddôt as a synecdoche for “concubines” (so Gordis). Others cite the appearance of an Akkadian gloss in one of the Amarna letters (EA 369.8), read by G. Dossin as ša-di-tum (“Une Nouvelle Lettre d’ el-Amarna,” RA 31 [1934], p. 127, line 8) and interpreted by some to mean “concubine.” The word does not exist in Akkadian, however. The Amarna gloss should, in fact, be read as ša-qí-tu and interpreted as “cupbearer” (so W. L. Moran, “Amarna Glosses,” RA 69 [1975], p. 151 n. 4). Others cite Ugaritic št “lady” and sitt “concubine” in vulgar Arabic, presuming PS *sidt (cf. also Arabic sayyidat “mistress”). But the root of šidda appears to be geminate. At all events, the general tendency to think of šiddâ wĕšiddôt as “concubines” comes from the dubious interpretation of taʿănûgôt bĕnê hāʾādām as referring to women. If taʿănûgôt refers to treasures, then šiddâ wĕšiddôt may be related to Postbiblical Hebrew šiddâ “chest, box” (see Jastrow, Dictionary, p. 1558). The noun is attested in Akkadian as šaddu, a term referring to chests for silver, gold, jewelry, and other precious things (see CAD XVIlII, pp. 42-43; d. Jerome: sadda et saddoth).

    The syntax of šiddâ wĕšiddôt is also bothersome, but this is not nearly as formidable a problem as the etymology of the nouns. Scholars usually cite examples of idioms with either (1) a singular noun + a plural of the same noun (e.g., dôr dôrîm “generation [and] generations,” Pss 72:5; 102:25 [Eng v 24]; Isa 51:8) or (2) a singular noun + conjunction + another singular noun (e.g., ʿeben wāʿeben “all kinds of stones,” Prov 20: 10; lēb wālēb “two kinds of hearts,” Ps 12: 3 [Eng v 2]; ʿābôdâ waʿābôdâ “every service,” 1 Chron 28:14). The first type (singular + plural without conjunction) denotes plurality. The second (singular + conjunction + singular) denotes variety. Although šiddâ wĕšiddôt is distinguished from the examples in the first type by its use of the conjunction, the usage is probably similar. Here šiddâ wĕšiddôt may be interpreted as accusatives of measure, thus, “by chests” or “in chests” (cf. Joüon-Muraoka §126.j). Cf. NJPS: “coffers and coffers of them.”

  36. Thanks for that thorough analysis!

  37. Noetica says

    Style guides for punctuation can be an obstacle to exactness.

    Indeed, Stu. CMOS is among the main offenders. And some online systems will “correct” this:


    to this


    When I was one of the most active in style matters at Wikipedia we argued for aeons over what Trask called “logical punctuation” – the system that calls for exactness with punctuation at the end of a quotation. I don’t officially edit there any more, but I note that the WP Manual of Style main page still insists on it, under the better name “logical quotation”. There is even an FAQ note at the top of its talkpage:

    “This system is preferred because Wikipedia, as an international and electronic encyclopedia, has specific needs better addressed by logical quotation than by the other styles, despite the tendency of externally published style guides to recommend the latter. These include the distinct typesetters’ style (often called American, though not limited to the US), and the various British/Commonwealth styles, which are superficially similar to logical quotation but have some characteristics of typesetters’ style. Logical quotation is more in keeping with the principle of minimal change to quotations, and is less prone to misquotation, ambiguity, and the introduction of errors in subsequent editing, than the alternatives. Logical quotation was adopted in 2005, and has been the subject of perennial debate that has not changed this consensus.”

    Still, hard details in the Manual itself do not accord with any other standard readings of the principle. So glad I’m not involved any more.

    We expect the US to adopt logical quotation soon after it switches to the metric system.

  38. I’m also skeptical of the interpretation based on the root šdd ‘plunder’, meaning he’s referring to what we’d call today sex slaves. First, the root is elsewhere used for stolen things, not humans. Second, Ecclesiastes in general does not write that much about women (odd if you equate him with Solomon the thousand wifed); in 9:9 he says something like love the one you’re with, and in 7:26 he says a woman is nothing but trouble. Plus at the end he talks in highly metaphorical language about the deterioration of old age, including sexual desire. That’s about it. He doesn’t sound like women were on his mind much.

    I like best Rashi’s interpretation of shida veshidot as fancy carriages. The formal connection is as clunky as the rest, but at least it makes sense in the wider context.

  39. As to the syntax, there’s a parallel in Judges 43:5, raḥam raḥămātayim ‘a womb or two’, meaning one or two captive women for every man (and there the root for ‘plunder’ is šll).

  40. shidah v’shidot

    I don’t like this style of transliteration, so common for Hebrew. I don’t see why it’s necessary to mark clitics (in this case the conjunction). Secondly, וְ has a shva mobile; that is, it not vowelless. In Israeli pronunciation (which this transliteration aims at) this would be ve, in Tiberian . Worse yet, I see this kind of transliteration even when the vowel is not a shva, e.g. “tu b’shvat” for ט”ו בִּשְׁבָט tu bishvat (tet-vav, i.e. the 15th of the month of Shvat, which is Arbor Day), or “lag b’omer” for ל”ג בָּעֹמֶר lag ba’omer (another holiday, the lamed-gimel, i.e. the 33rd day of the harvest season.)

    The apostrophe is fine (as I used it) to clarify that there’s a glottal stop between two vowels and that they are not a diphthong. This is not enough, however, if you need to represent a Hebrew variety such as Tiberian, which distinguishes the glottal א from the pharyngeal ע.

    Also, the final h of “shidah” stands for the mater lectionis ה, but serves no purpose in the transliteration. It doesn’t and never did stand for any actual sound.

  41. @Xerîb, thanks! The reason why I am curious about the syntax (and why others who are curious about the syntax are curious about it) is maybe that we can form hypotheses of what it could mean based on vanitas vanitatum [dixit Ecclesiastes vanitas vanitatum omnia vanitas] and its likes… but can’t think about a single example of sg-conj-pl.
    And also of course, that we can borrow it for our [mental] translation, or think about parallels elsewhere….supply it with a meaning in our [internal] language.

    … is without precise parallel anywhere. – this is discouraging.
    But it is unclear if elsewhere is “in the Bible” or “in Hebrew / the regional corupus” in general. I guess it is the former…and there are limits to what the scholar can know.

    šōdeh wĕšōdôt – so is the cupbearer-word attested in Hebrew somewhere?

  42. i stand (recline, really, even though it’s past the holiday) corrected!

    i tend to bow to u.s. vernacular convention* unless the word’s solidly in yiddish in my head (lag boymer, for instance), but i think Y’s perfectly right!

    for this particular case, though: given that part of the question here is how far to trust the masoretes, how far should we follow their pointing when we’re transliterating? and would there be merit in keeping the ה visible in some form, since presumably it predates them?

    * i think for all practical purposes, it’s about treating clitics as english-style contractions, not an attempt to reflect pronuciation. but i think clitics’ vowels almost always get reduced to (or very close to) schwa in the u.s. – that’s certainly true of “tu bǝshvat” most places i hear it said. but i’ll need to start listening more closely to see if that’s only true in ‘merged hebrew’ contexts, and if ‘whole hebrew’ versions reflect ivrit or traditional pronunciations that have more variation.

  43. Alan Hugh McNeile, An Introduction to Ecclesiastes: With Notes and Appendices, 1904

    Carl Friedrich Keil, Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes
    1891 (1877?) tr. from Biblischer Commentar Über Die Poetischen Bücher des Alten Testaments Vierter Band: Hoheslied und Koheleth Leipzig: Dörffling and Franke, 1875.

    A corrupt version of the latter is on

  44. Oh.

    I love that method!!!

    The word must mean “women”, period. Now let us find a word that sounds the same, discover that it means “drawer” and show that “drawer” means women. Everything means women!

  45. Женщина — наше все!

  46. v. 8. שדה ושדות. For this collocation of numbers to express a large or indefinite quantity cf. Jud. v. 30 רחם רחמתים (and Moore’s note).
     Of the numerous explanations of the ἅπαξ λεγ. שדה the following may be noticed¹:
     (1) ’Cup-bearers.’ 𝔊 Θ οἰνοχόον καὶ οἰνοχόας. Hier. Comm. Ministros vini et ministras, apparently reading the words as שֹׁדֶה וְשֹׁדוֹת, and connecting them with √ שדא ‘pour.’ Hier. transliterates SADDA and SADDOTH.
     (2) ’Cups.’ Aq. κυλίκιον καὶ κυλίκια. Σ (Hier.) Mensarum species et appositiones. Hier. Scyphos et urceos in ministerio ad vina fundenda. Tg. ” pipes which pour tepid water and pipes which pour hot water “(!).

       ¹ For others see Delitzsch’s commentary in loc.

     (3) ’Musical instruments.’ Kimchi כלי ומר. Luther allerlei
     (4) ’Chariot’ or ‘Litter.’ Rashi on Erub. 30 b.
     (5) ’Lady’ or ‘concubine.’ This meaning is arrived at in various ways: (a) from the meaning ‘chariot.’ Parallels are suggested in Arab. z’ynat, a woman’s carriage, and so the woman herself; Turk. odaliske, a woman’s chamber, and so ‘woman.’ (b) שדּה = שידה from √שוד ‘be violent’ (cf. Ps. xci. 6), and so ‘be strong or lordly.’ Arab. sayyid (cf. Span. cid) ‘a lord,’ fem. sayyidat ‘a lady’; whence the vulgar Arab. sidi ‘my lord,’ sitti ‘my lady.’ Siegfried notes that in the Spanish Arabic of Petro de Alcala sitt denotes ‘concubine.’
     Whether any of these derivations be correct or not, the meaning ‘concubine’ seems clearly required by the context: for, firstly, the words appear to be explanatory of תעננות בני האדם, and secondly, an enumeration of the luxuries of a Solomon would be incomplete without a reference to his harem¹.

     ¹ Euringer (Der Masorahtext des Koheleth) suggests the emendation שָׂרָה וְשָׂרוֹת, which is simple and attractive, but without support.

    תעננות must be a typo? So, McNeile (or his source?) is the source of Choon-Leong Seow definition of sitt (“sitt “concubine” in vulgar Arabic“). But what I love is ‘concubine.’ This meaning is arrived at in various ways: .
    Verily so.
    – Woman because carriage (what do we need carriages FOR? For women…).
    – Woman < power, because powerful
    – Woman < power, because taken by force
    – Woman because breast (obviously)
    – Woman because closed
    – Woman because cushions

  47. It is a method:

    “Meanwhile, of all the explanations as yet advanced, this last [of splendid coaches, palanquins] is the best ; for it may certainly be supposed that the words shiddah vᵉshiddoth are meant of women”, Delitzsch, {[…]} are mine, from German version:

    Böttcher, in the Neue Aehrenlese, adduces for comparison the Syr. Shydlo, which, according to Castelli, signifies navis magna, corbita, arca ; but from a merchant ship and a portable chest, it is a great way to a lady’s palanquin. He translates: palanquin and palinquins = one consignment to the harem after another. Gesen., according to Rödiger, Thes. 1365b, thinks that women are to be understood ; for he compares the Arab. z’ynat, which signifies a women’s carriage, and then the woman herself (cf. our Frauenzimmer, women’s apartment, women, like Odaliske, from the Turk. oda, apartment). But this all stands or falls with that gloss of Rashi’s: ‘agalah lᵉmerkavoth nashim usarim. Meanwhile, of all the explanations as yet advanced, this last [of splendid coaches, palanquins] is the best ; for it may certainly be supposed that the words shiddah vᵉshiddoth are meant of women. Aben Ezra explains on this supposition, shiddoth=shᵉvuyoth, females captured in war ; but unwarrantably, because as yet Solomon had not been engaged in war ; others (vid. Pinsker’s Zur Gesch. des Karaismus, p. 296), recently Bullock, connect it with shadäim, in the sense of (Arab.) nahidah (a maiden with swelling breast) ; Knobel explains after shadad {[سدّ שׁדד]}, to barricade, to shut up, occlusa, the female held in custody (cf. bᵉthulah, the separated one, virgin, from bathal, cogn. badal); Hitzig, “cushions,” “bolsters,” from shanad, which, like (Arab.) firash, λέχος, is then transferred to the juncta toro. Nothing of all that is satisfactory. The Babyl. Gemara, Gittin 68a, glosses וְתַֽעֲנֻ׳ וגו׳ {[??? German: “Gittin 68a glossirt ותענגות בני האדם durch בריכות ומרחצאות‎‎ (Wasserbassins und Bäder)”]} by “reservoirs and baths,” and then further says that in the west (Palestine) they say שׁדָּתָא, chests (according to Rashi : chariots); but that here in this country (i.e. in Babylon) they translate shiddah vᵉshiddoth by shēdah vᵉshēdathin, which is then explained, “demons and demonesses,” which Solomon had made subservient to him.¹ This haggadic-mytholog. interpretation is, linguistically at least, on the right track.

     ¹ A demon, and generally a superhuman being, is called, as in Heb. שֵׁד, so in the Babyl.-Assyr. sîdu, vid., Norris’ Assyrian Dictionary, II. p. 668; cf. Schrader, in the Jena. Lit. Zeit. 1874, p. 218f., according to which sîdu, with alap, is the usual name of Adar formed like an ox.

    A demon is not so named from fluttering or moving to and fro (Levy, Schönhak), for there is no evidence in the Semitic langauge of the existence of a verb שוד, to flee; also not from a verb sadad, which must correspond to the Heb. השׁתחוה, in the sense of to adore (Oppert’s Inscription du palais de Khorsabad, 1863, p. 96); for this meaning is more than doubtful, and, besides, שֵׁד is an active, and not a passive idea,— much rather שֵׁד, Assyr. sîd, Arab. sayyid, signifies the mighty, from שׁוּד, to force, Ps. xci. 6.¹ In the— Arab. (cf. the Spanish Cid) it is uniformly the name of a lord, as subduing, ruling, mastering (sabid), and the fem. sayyidat, of a lady, whence the vulgar Arab. sitti = my lady, and sîdi = my lord. Since שָׁדַד means the same as שׁוד, and in Heb. is more commonly used than it, so also the fem. form שִׁדָּה is possible, so much the more as it may have originated from שִׁידָה, v. שִׁיד = שֵׁד, by a sharpening contraction, like סִגִּים, from סִיגִים (Olsh. § 83c), perhaps intentionally to make שֵׁדָה, a demoness, and the name of a lady (donna = domina) unlike. Accordingly we translate, with Gesen. and Meyer in their Handwört.: “lady and ladies;” for we take shiddoth as a name of the ladies of the harem, like shēglath (Assyr. saklâti) and lᵉhhenath in the book of Daniel, on which Ahron b. Joseph the Karaite remarks: shedah hinqaroth shagal.

     ¹ Vid., Friedrich Delitzsch’s Assyr. Theirnamen, p. 37.

    vᵉshiddoth explains the apostrophe (rozele above).
    ותענגות בני האדם explains “תעננות בני האדם” (nun and gimel are similar in some scripts)
    וְתַֽעֲנֻ׳ וגו׳ and ותענוגת as ותענגות are mystery.

    German version (with Hebrew/Arabic/Syriac instead of transliteration) and some Englishpdf.

  48. @drasvi:
    תעננות must be a typo?

    Not in the original, where it is תענגות i.e. תַּעֲנֻגוֹת ta‘ănugōt ‘pleasures’; likewise כלי ומר should be כלי זמר ‘musical instruments’. The typeface is not clear enough is all.

    וְתַֽעֲנֻ׳ וגו׳
    וגו׳ is an abbreviation of וְגוֹמֵר vǝgōmēr ‘and finishes up’, meaning ‘etcetera, to the end of the verse.’

    I like “ἅπαξ λεγ.” I’ll have to use it from now on, to lord over the Latinate rabble, I mean the πλῆθος.

    This meaning is arrived at in various ways:
    Spot on. Come up with a million absurd etymologies which reach the same conclusion. They all contradict each other, but with so many, at least one should stick.

  49. rozele, do you think that “tu bǝshvat” and such might be based on the “b'” spelling, rather than vice versa?

  50. the final h of “shidah” stands for the mater lectionis ה, but serves no purpose in the transliteration. It doesn’t and never did stand for any actual sound.

    Doesn’t, certainly, but I wouldn’t be so sure about never did. In Quranic Arabic, the -h of feminine -ah is still pronounced in pausal contexts, representing the intermediate stage in the lenition -t to -h to Ø; probably some such pronunciation lies behind its later use as a mater lectionis.

  51. it could be!
    (and if the vowels in folks’ whole hebrew usage are less reduced, i’d take it as supporting evidence)

  52. OK, maybe in Proto-whatever. But consider, first, that you can’t end a word with a vowel without a mater lectionis. Positing a language with no open syllables is a heavy burden. Second, in Tiberian, at least, there are words with a final -ah, the ה marked with a mappiq (which looks like a dagesh), signifying a feminine singular 3rd person possessor; as for example פָּרָה pārā ‘cow’ vs. פָּרָהּ pārāh ‘her bull’, פָּרָתָהּ pārāt̠āh ‘her cow’.

  53. Regarding the reliability of the masoretic vocalisation:

    Vor allem verdeckt [die masoretische Vokalisation] die Mehrdeutigkeit des Konsonantentextes, weshalb aller wissenschaftlichen Arbeit am Alten Testament nur der unvokalisierte Text zugrunde gelegt werden kann. (Klaus Beyer, Althebräische Grammatik, p33)

    According to Beyer, the post-exilic sources on Hebrew vocalism reflect more or less the phonology of contemporary Aramaic and are largely useless.

    I have seen others treat masoretic vocalisation (especially in its Tiberian form as found in the Aleppo and Leningrad codices) as near infallible.

  54. Suchards’s dissertation The development of the Biblical Hebrew vowels (also published by Brill) is the current state of the art on the subject.

  55. @Y, thank you. Then it makes sense. Though I do not understand why substitute ותענגות בני האדם in the original German printed book with וְתַֽעֲנֻ׳ וגו׳ with all diacritics in the English edition.

    likewise כלי ומר should be כלי זמר – Yes, and I think it was my mistake. I spent quite a while comparing נג to other ג in the same book, and convinced myself that it is was a typo (ננ), so I decided that ז and ו are likewise possibly confused. Now I looked at the magnified text, and it is clearly זמר and likely it is נג. (the two sings are a bit different, even though this ג is different from other ג)

    I am also confused because in some books it is תענוגת, and in others it is תענגות and yet in another it is תענוגות.

  56. תענוגות

    Ew. and Zö. derive the root from a word meaning “ mass,” ” heap,” and render “ a heap and heaps.” Heng. and Re. connect it with Ar. root shadda, robur, vehementia, and render “ plenty of all sorts.” Ra. , whom Gr. follows, makes it refer to sedan-chairs. Most modern scholars take the words to refer to a harem and as completing the meaning תענוגות, which is thought to refer to sexual pleasures (so Död. , Mic. , Kn. , Hit . , Heil . , Vaih. , Wang. , Ty. , Gins. , No. , Vl. , Wr. , Pl.. Eur. , Wild . , Sieg. , McN. , Gen. , Marsh. and Ha. ), though they differ as to the root from which it should be derived .

  57. They cherchent la femme. I liked:

    T[argum]. rendered מרזבין דשדין מיא פשׁורי ומרזבין דשׁדין מיא המימי, i.e. , ” tubes (siphons ?) which pour forth cold water and tubes which pour forth hot water.”

    A tap in the bathroom is a good thing to have.

  58. David Marjanović says

    When I saw this Balashon post a few days ago, I started wondering whether the two meanings of “chest” in English (i.e., box and the upper torso) are related to the two meanings of שד in Hebrew (“breast” and “box”).

    German: Kasten “cupboard”, Brustkasten “torso”, Korb “basket”, Brustkorb “ribcage” (i.e. the bones of the Brustkasten).

    BTW, Kiste “wooden box”.

    Positing a language with no open syllables is a heavy burden.

    Sure, but the proposal here is at most a language without words that must end in consonants. Merely supposing a recent round of apocope will give you that (especially if you can declare any remaining vowel-final monosyllabic words clitics).

    Död. , Mic. , Kn. , Hit . , Heil . , Vaih. , Wang. , Ty. , Gins. , No. , Vl. , Wr. , Pl.. Eur. , Wild . , Sieg. , McN. , Gen. , Marsh. and Ha.

    Gah, that’s worse than the botanists!

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