Joel 2:1-2, 12-17, 21-22
Ash Wednesday ABC
Ash Wednesday – A Women’s Lectionary
1 BlowI the trumpetII in Zion;III
I “blow” = taqa. This is to clap, clatter, thrust, sound an instrument, hammer a nail, be a bondsman.
II “trumpet” = shophar. From shaphar (being beautiful or lovely). This is a ram’s horn, trumpet, or cornet. A shofar is still blown at Jewish festivals such as Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish new year celebration).
III “Zion” = Tsiyyon. Related to tsyiyyun (signpost, monument); from tsavah (to charge someone, to command, order); from the same as tsiyyah (dryness, drought); from a root meaning parched as desert, dry land. Zion can refer to a mountain in Jerusalem as well as another name for Jerusalem itself or the people.
sound the alarmIV on my holyV mountain!VI
IV “sound the alarm” = rua. To break or destroy something so figuratively, an ear splitting sound such as a call of alarm or a joyful sound.
V “holy” = qodesh. This is set apart and so sacred. God is different from us and so God is holy/set apart. Things we dedicate to God’s service are set apart for God and so they, too, are holy, etc.
VI “mountain” = har. From harar (hill or mountain). This is mountain, hill, hilly region.
Let allVII the inhabitantsVIII of the landIX tremble,X
VII “all” = kol. From kalal (to complete). This is all or every.
VIII “inhabitants” = yashab. This is to sit and so to remain and so to dwell. It is sitting for any reason – as a judge, in order to ambush, or just sitting quietly. Causatively, this can mean settling or marrying. This can also mean continue, endure, or establish.
IX “land” = erets. Root may mean to be firm. This is earth, ground, field land, or country.
X “tremble” = ragaz. This is shaking from any strong emotion, particularly anger or fear. It can be agitated, excited, perturbed, afraid, quaking, quivering.
for the dayXI of the LordXII is coming,XIII it is nearXIV—
XI “day” = yom. Root may mean being hot. This is the day in a literal or figurative sense. It can also mean birth, age, daylight, continually or other references to time.
XII “Lord” = YHVH. From havah (to be, become) or hayah (to come to pass, become, be). This is the name of the God of Israel, the self-existent and eternal one, the tetragrammaton. This pronunciation has been lost to time so “Lord” is generally used in its place.
XIII “coming” = bo. This is to enter, come in, advance, fulfill, bring offerings, enter to worship, attack. It can also have a sexual connotation.
XIV “near” = qarob. From qarab (to come near, offer, make ready). This is near whether nearby, related, near in time, or allied.
2 a day of darknessXV and gloom,XVI
a day of cloudsXVII and thick darkness!XVIII
XV “darkness” = choshek. From chashak (to be or become dark). This is literal darkness is contrast to light. Figuratively, it can be obscurity, sorrow, misery, blindness, wickedness, destruction, death. It can also be hiding places. Additionally, it can mean judgment, mourning, ignorance, evil, or sin.
XVI “gloom” = aphelah. 10x in OT. From the same as ophel (darkness, dusk, obscurity); from the same as aphel (gloomy; may come from a word about the sunset; dark). This is darkness, calamity, or an adjective to emphasize how thick darkness is. It is also used to mean misfortune or hiding something.
XVII “clouds” = anan. May be from anan (cover, cloud over; figuratively, acting in a secret way, practicing magic or soothsaying). This is a cloud as something that covers the sky.
XVIII “thick darkness” = araphel. 15x in OT. From araph (to droop, drip, drop). This is a cloud or deep darkness. It is gloom or gloomy as the sky being lowered.
Like blacknessXIX spreadXX upon the mountains,
a greatXXI and powerfulXXII armyXXIII comes;
XIX “blackness” = shachar. Root may mean to look for in early hour or in a diligent way. This is dawn, early light, or morning.
XX “spread” = paras. This is to spread or stretch out, extend, break up, chop to pieces, disperse, display.
XXI “great” = rab. From rabab (increasing in any aspect whether quantity, authority, size, quality, greatness, etc.). This is abundance, many, elder, exceedingly, great. It refers to abundance of amount, rank, or status.
XXII “powerful” = atsum. From atsom (to be many or mighty; could also refer to breaking bones). This is mighty or mighty one. It means powerful, which implies large numbers.
XXIII “army” = am. From amam (to darken, hide, associate; creating shadows by huddling together). This is people or nation. It can be used specifically for a tribe, collectively of troops or armies, or figuratively to refer to a flock of animals.
their like has never beenXXIV from of old,XXV
nor will be againXXVI afterXXVII them
in ages to come.XXVIII
XXIV “been” = hayah. Related to “Lord” in v1. See note XII above.
XXV “of old” = olam. This is a long scope of time whether in the past (antiquity, ancient time) or in the future (eternal, everlasting).
XXVI “again” = yasaph. This is to add, increase, continue, exceed.
XXVII “after” = achar. From achar (to remain behind, linger, continue, be behind, or delay; can also imply procrastination). This is after or the last part, following.
XXVIII “ages to come” = shanah + dor + dor. Shanah is from shana (to change, alter). This is a year, age, old. It can also mean yearly. Dor is from dur (to move in a circle, which implies living somewhere or remaining there; it can also be the sense of piling or heaping up). This is a revolution of time, which is to say, an age or generation. It can also be a dwelling or one’s posterity.
12 Yet even now, saysXXIX the Lord,
returnXXX to me with all your heart,XXXI
XXIX “says” = neum. From na’am (to speak a prophecy; properly, to whisper, which implies saying an oracle). This is an utterance or speaking an oracle.
XXX “return” = shub. To turn back, return, turn away – literally or figuratively. Doesn’t necessarily imply going back to where you started from. This is also the root verb for the Hebrew word for repentance “teshubah.”
XXXI “heart” = lebab. May be related to labab (to encourage; properly, to be encased as with fat; used in a good sense, this means to transport someone with love; used in a bad sense, it can mean to dull one’s senses). This is the heart, courage, one’s inner self, the mind, or the will. Heart is only used in a figurative sense in the Old and New Testaments.
with fasting,XXXII with weeping,XXXIII and with mourning;XXXIV
13 rendXXXV your hearts and not your clothing.XXXVI
XXXII “fasting” = tsom. From tsum (properly, covering one’s mouth; by extension, abstaining from food). This is fasting or a fast.
XXXIII “weeping” = beki. From bakah (to weep, complain, lament). This is ongoing weeping, overflowing. By analogy, this can also mean dripping.
XXXIV “mourning” = misped. 14x in OT. From saphad (to wail, mourn; properly, lamenting by tearing one’s hair and beating one’s chest; implies wailing). This is wailing and mourning.
XXXV “rend” = qara. This is to tear or cut out in a literal or figurative sense. It can also be to revile or to apply eye make up – as though they are made to look larger.
XXXVI “clothing” = beged. From bagad (to cover or conceal; figuratively, to act in a covert or treacherous way, to transgress or pillage). This is clothing, garment, robe, or some other kind of clothing. Figuratively, it can be treachery or pillaging.
Return to the Lord your God,XXXVII
for he is graciousXXXVIII and merciful,XXXIX
XXXVII “God” = Elohim.
XXXVIII “gracious” = channun. 13x in OT. From chanan (beseech, show favor, be gracious; properly, to bend in kindness to someone with less status). This is gracious, compassionate, merciful, having pity on.
XXXIX “merciful” = rachum. 13x in OT. From the same as rechem (womb); from racham (to love, have compassion, have mercy); from racham (compassion, tender love, womb, compassion; the womb as that which cherishes the fetus). This is compassionate or merciful.
slowXL to anger,XLI aboundingXLII in steadfast love,XLIII
XL “slow” = arek. 15x in OT. From arak (to be long in a literal or figurative sense, to continue, defer, draw out, endure, delay). This is long, patience, or slow.
XLI “anger” = aph. From anaph (to be angry; properly, breathing hard as a signifier of being enraged). This properly refers to the nose or nostril and by extension the face. It can specifically refer to anger or wrath as one breathes hard and nostrils flare in times of great anger.
XLII “abounding” = rab. Same as “great” in v2. See note XXI above.
XLIII “steadfast love” = chesed. From chasad (being good, kind, merciful; may mean bowing one’s neck as is done in the presence of an equal for courtesy’s sake; so, if one in a superior position is treating you like an equal, that is what is captured here). This is favor, goodness, kindness, loving kindness, pity, reproach, or a good deed. When done by God to humanity, this is mercy/loving kindness. When done by humanity to God, it is piety.
and relentingXLIV from punishment.XLV
14 Who knowsXLVI whether he will not turnXLVII and relent
XLIV “relenting” = nacham. Properly, this is a strong breath or a sigh. This can be to be sorry, to pity, console. Comfort, or repent. But, one can also comfort oneself with less righteous thoughts, so this can also mean to avenge oneself.
XLV “punishment” = ra’. From ra’a’ (to be evil, bad, afflict; properly, to spoil – to destroy by breaking into pieces; figuratively, to cause something to be worthless; this is bad in a physical, social, or moral sense; that which displeases, to do harm or mischief, to punish or vex). This is bad, disagreeable, that which causes pain, misery, something having little or no value, something that is ethically bad, wicked, injury, calamity. This refers to anything that is not what it ought to be – a natural disaster, a disfigurement, an injury, a sin.
XLVI “knows” = yada. This is to know, acknowledge, advise, answer, be aware, be acquainted with. Properly, this is to figure something out by seeing. It includes ideas of observation, recognition, and care about something. It can be used causatively for instruction, designation, and punishment.
XLVII “turn” = shub. Same as “return” in v12. See note XXX above.
and leaveXLVIII a blessingXLIX behindL him,
a grain offeringLI and a drink offeringLII
for the Lord your God?
XLVIII “leave” = shaar. Properly, this is swelling up i.e. being left over, a remnant, remaining, being redundant.
XLIX “blessing” = barakah. From barak (to kneel, bless; blessing God as part of worship and adoration; blessing humans to help them; can be used as a euphemism to say curse God). This is blessing, which implies prosperity or peace.
L “behind” = achar. Same as “after” in v2. See note XXVII above.
LI “grain offering” = minchah. This is a gift or an offering, particularly a sacrificial one that is generally bloodless and given spontaneously (voluntarily).
LII “drink offering” = nesek. From nasak (to pour out or melt; used especially for libations or for the process of making cast metal; can also be used figuratively for anointing a king). This is a drink offering or a molten image.
15 Blow the trumpet in Zion;
consecrateLIII a fast;
callLIV a solemn assembly;LV
LIII “consecrate” = qadash. Related to “holy” in v1. From qodesh (see note V above). This is set apart, consecrated, hallowed, sanctified. This is something or someone that is set apart for a holy purpose or use – ceremonially or morally clean.
LIV “call” = qara. This is to call or call out – to call someone by name. Also used more broadly for calling forth.
LV “solemn assembly” = atsarah. 11x in OT. From atsar (to restrain, rule, confine, bond; to hold back, maintain, rule, assemble). This is an assembly, particularly one that was called for a festival or for a holiday.
16 gatherLVI the people.LVII
Consecrate the congregation;LVIII
assembleLIX the aged;LX
LVI “gather” = asaph. This is to gather, assemble, or bring. It can also mean to take away, destroy, or remove.
LVII “people” = am. Same as “army” in v2. See note XXIII above.
LVIII “congregation” = qahal. This is an assembly, congregation, or multitude.
LIX “assemble” = qabats. This is to collect, assemble, heap, grasp, or gather.
LX “aged” = zaqen. From the same as zaqan (beard or chin – the beard represents old age). This is old, aged, or elder.
gather the children,LXI
even infantsLXII at the breast.LXIII
Let the bridegroomLXIV leaveLXV his roomLXVI
LXI “children” = olel. Perhaps from uwl (to nurse, suckle; can also be used of a suckling lamb). This is a child or infant.
LXII “infants” = yanaq. This is to suckle or to nurse. In a causative sense, it can mean to give milk. So, this word can be used for a nursing mother or for her suckling child.
LXIII “breast” = shad. This is breast, whether of a human woman or an animal.
LXIV “bridegroom” = chatan. From chatan (to ally in marriage; to give one’s daughter away in marriage). This is bridegroom, husband, or son-in-law.
LXV “leave” = yatsa. This is to go or come out, bring forth, appear. It is to go out in a literal or figurative sense.
LXVI “room” = cheder. Form chadar (to surround or enclose; a room as enclosed; also, by analogy, besieging). This is a chamber or room that is private. Can mean the innermost chamber of a house.
and the brideLXVII her canopy.LXVIII
17 BetweenLXIX the vestibuleLXX and the altar,LXXI
LXVII “bride” = kallah. Related to “all” in v1. Perhaps related to kalal (see note VII above). This is bride or daughter-in-law and the term is used before and after marriage.
LXVIII “canopy” = chuppah. 3x in OT. From chaphaph (to surround, cover, or shield; to surround in order to protect). This is canopy, chamber, or defense. Jewish weddings to this day generally include a chuppah – a canopy above a couple at their wedding ceremony.
LXIX “between” = bayin. From bin (to discern, consider, attend to; distinguishing things in one’s mind or, more generally, to understand). This is among, between, interval.
LXX “vestibule” = ulam. From the same as ul (mighty, strength, body, belly; root may mean to twist and that implies strength and power); from alam (to bind or tie fast; to be silent or speechless, whether voluntary or involuntary) or from ayil (strength; things that are strong or powerful: political chiefs, rams, posts, trees, oaks). This is porch or hall.
LXXI “altar” = mizbeach. From zabach (to kill, slay, offer; slaughtering an animal to offer as a sacrifice). This is an altar.
let the priests,LXXII the ministersLXXIII of the Lord, weep.LXXIV
Let them say, “SpareLXXV your people, O Lord,
LXXII “priests” = kohen. This is literally the one who officiates i.e. the priest. This is where the Jewish last name “Cohen” (and its variants) comes from.
LXXIII “ministers” = sharat. This is ministering, serving, or waiting on. It can refer to one offering service as a worshipper or one serving as a servant.
LXXIV “weep” = bakah. Related to “weeping” in v12. See note XXXIII above.
LXXV “spare” = chus. This is properly to cover. In a figurative sense it means looking with compassion, pitying, regarding, or sparing someone.
and do not makeLXXVI your heritageLXXVII a mockery,LXXVIII
a bywordLXXIX among the nations.LXXX
Why should it be said among the peoples,
‘Where is their God?’”
LXXVI “make” = natan. This is to give, put, set, offer. It is to give literally or figuratively.
LXXVII “heritage” = nachalah. Related to nachal (to inherit, occupy, distribute, take as heritage). This is properly something that was inherited. It can mean occupancy generally or, more particularly, an heirloom or an estate. This can be an inheritance, gift, possession, or portion.
LXXVIII “mockery” = cherpah. From charaph (to expose and so figuratively to reproach, defame, carp at, defy). This is reproach, rebuke, shame, or disgrace. It can also refer to genitals.
LXXIX “byword” = mashal. This is to rule, reign, or govern.
LXXX “nations” = goy. From the same root as gevah (the back, person, or body); related to gev (among); related to gaah (to rise up). This is nation or people. Often used to refer to Gentiles or foreign nations. It can also be used figuratively for a group of animals. This is where the Yiddish “goy” comes from.
21 Do not fear,LXXXI O soil;LXXXII
be gladLXXXIII and rejoice,LXXXIV
for the Lord has doneLXXXV great things!LXXXVI
LXXXI “fear” = yare. This is to fear, be afraid, dreadful. It can also refer to fearful reverence – to fear in a moral sense is to say to revere, respect.
LXXXII “soil” = adamah. From the same as adam (man, humankind); perhaps from ‘adom (to be red). This is ground, earth, soil as red, or land.
LXXXIII “be glad” = gil. Properly, this is twirling around because of a strong feeling whether of rejoicing or from fear. This can be rejoice, be glad or joyful, or to cry.
LXXXIV “rejoice” = samach. This is to rejoice or be glad. Properly, it is to brighten up in a literal or figurative sense.
LXXXV “done” = asah. This is to make, do, act, appoint, become in many senses.
LXXXVI “great things” = gadal. This is to grow up, become great, become wealthy – to advance. The root meaning may be to twist in the sense of the process of growing.
22 Do not fear, you animalsLXXXVII of the field,LXXXVIII
for the pasturesLXXXIX of the wildernessXC are green;XCI
LXXXVII “animals” = behemah. This is animal or cattle. It is often used of large quadrupeds.
LXXXVIII “field” = sadeh. This is literally field, ground, soil, or land. It can be used to mean wild like a wild animal.
LXXXIX “pastures” = naah. 12x in OT. From the same as naveh (home, place where shepherd or sheep live; at hme implies a lovely place or a place of satisfaction); from navah (home, beautify, praise) OR from naah (to be at home and so pleasant, beautiful). This is a home, pleasant place, or pasture.
XC “wilderness” = midbar. From dabar (to speak, command, declare). This is mouth or speech. It can also be desert or wilderness. Additionally, it can be used for a pasture to which one drives cattle.
XCI “are green” = dasha. 2x in OT. This is to sprout or grow green. It is the word used about creation in Genesis 1:11, “let the earth put forth vegetation.”
the treeXCII bearsXCIII its fruit;XCIV
XCII “tree” = ets. Perhaps from atsah (to shut, fasten, firm up, to close one’s eyes). This is tree or other things related to trees like wood, sticks, or stalks. It can also refer to wood products like a plank or staff or gallows. Additionally, this can refer to a carpenter.
XCIII “bears” = nasa. This is to lift in a broad sense, literally and figuratively. So it could be to carry, take, or arise. It could also be bring forth, advance, accept.
XCIV “fruit” = peri. From parah (to bear fruit, grow, be fruitful, increase; bearing fruit in a literal or figurative sense). This is fruit or reward.
the fig tree and vineXCV giveXCVI their full yield.XCVII
XCV “vine” = gephen. Root may mean to twine or bend. So, it is a vine, particularly referring to grapes.
XCVI “give” = natan. Same as “make” in v17. See note LXXVI above.
XCVII “full yield” = chel. From chul (whirling around so dancing as in a circle or writhing in pain; used particularly for the pain of childbirth or from writhing due to fear; can also be falling in pain or waiting) OR from chayil (strength, wealth, ability, activity; a soldier or a company of soldiers; goods; a force of people, means, or goods; valor, virtue, or strength); from chul (to be firm, strong, prosperous; to endure). This is an army, entrenchment, fortress, wall, or host.
Image credit: “Lamentation” by Käthe Kollwitz, circa 1938-1940.