Hebrew Śôm Śekel (Neh. 8:8) in light of Aramaic and Akkadian

Uri Gabbay*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The Hebrew phrase śôm śekel which occurs in the narrative of the reading of the Law in Neh. 8:8 is usually understood literally as 'setting or giving (śôm) sense (śekel)', based on the context of the verse. This article suggests that the phrase śôm śekel is an idiom meaning 'to give an order, to instruct', a calque translation from Aramaic śîm ēm and Akkadian ēma šakānu. While the Hebrew noun śekel is the semantic equivalent of Akkadian ēmu and Aramaic ēm, all meaning 'insight, understanding' (especially in the books of Ezra, Nehemiah and Chronicles, where Hebrew aam is not attested), the noun śekel in the phrase śôm śekel is a semantic loan, which extends the original meaning of the noun from the additional meaning of Akkadian ēmu, and Aramaic ēm (especially in the phrase śîm ēm), denoting 'order, instruction, report'.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)47-51
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Semitic Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2014


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