Paronomasia/Word Play in the Bible

The Hebrew language lends itself to a good deal of word play, and the Scriptures are full of such amusements. Unfortunately most of them are lost in translation.  The jokes and the karte-grosspuns i.e. paronomasia, just don’t translate, and translators often view them as frivolous.  But sometimes they are crucial to understanding what is being said.

The Song of Songs has many of these which are covered in the commentary. Here is a very short look at some that are more easily understood by an English reader.

The Deficient Vav

The latter vav in Hebrew is a consonant that marks a vowel sound. I know that is just weird to an English reader, but technically there are no vowels in Hebrew only consonants. Sometimes the vav is missing from a proper name, and this is called the deficient vav, and is a sign of dishonor.

In Abraham negotiations with Ephron [Gen 23:8-17] over the cave of Mach-pelah, as long as Ephron is offering to give the land to Abraham his name is spelled right, however when he accepts the exorbitant price that Abraham offers his name is missing the vav.

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