` And now a word for our deity — imaginary family values

Last update on .

(Sorry, again, for the delay in putting this up. It’s been one of those weeks … followed by one of those weekends … followed by one of those Mondays.)

In, umm, last week’s parsha, Jacob refers to God as the “pachad of Isaac” (Genesis 31:42, 31:53). King James, the new JPS translation, and Metsudah translate pachad as “fear,” Artscroll translates it as “Dread”, and the (Roman Catholic) New American Bible translates it as “Awesome One.” To get a sense of the nuances of this word, it helps to have a concordance. Here are some other places in Tanakh where the same root is used (all translations from the new JPS):

  • Terror, and pit, and trap / Upon you who dwell in Moab! —declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 48:43)
  • I am bringing terror upon you —declares the Lord God of Hosts— / From all those around you. (Jeremiah 49:5)
  • For what I feared has overtaken me; / What I dreaded has come upon me. (Job 3:25)
  • Panic and pitfall are our lot, / Death and destruction. (Lamentations 3:47)
  • …And many of the people of the land professed to be Jews, for the fear of the Jews had fallen upon them. (Esther 8:11)

From the various other places where the word is used, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to translate pachad Yitzchak as “the mind-numbing terror of Isaac”. Isaac is the only person who is paired with the word pachad in this way to refer to God. Of course, Isaac is the only person who came within a hair’s breadth of being sacrificed to God by his own father, so I suppose it’s understandable that his relationship with God, and nobody else’s, would be described in these terms.

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