Translation of 'anak in the Bible - Amos 7:7-8

The word אֲנָךְ 'anak in Amos 7:7-8 poses problems. It is a hapax legomenon. Usually either the cotext, cognate languages or the early versions help us to understand such words. However here none of these is much help:


It is difficult to find a meaning that will work in each of the occurrences:

My lord was standing beside an 'anak wall,
with 'anak in his hand.
8 And Adonai said to me,
"What do you see, Amos?"
And I said,
Then my lord said,
"See, I am putting 'anak
in the middle of my people Israel

The best possibility is the understand 'anak as "lead" with the idea of "plumbline", in which case "a wall of 'anak" might be a wall built plumb square. However, there is a word mishqolet which appears twice with the meaning "plumbline"; and the cognates do not support "lead".

cognate languages

Although some claims have been made that the parallel Acadian word (anaku) can mean "lead", tin is clearly the more likely meaning.

early versions

The variety of renderings of אֲנָךְ 'anak among the early translators shows that the word was already problematic:

Targum (Aramaic) = "judgment"
LXX (Greek) "steel, diamond"
Theodotion (Greek) = "molten"
Aquila (Greek) = "shining"
Vulgate (Latin) = "plaster"

an original suggestion

Andersen & Freedman (756-759) have interesting suggestions which enable the similarity of construction of this vision and the next to be highlighted, they claim three different meanings for אֲנָךְ 'anak. In late Hebrew both "plastered" (cf. Vulgate) and "grief, wrong, oppression" are attested, while for the central two uses they follow the Acadian "tin":

My Lord was standing beside a plastered wall, a lump of tin in his hand. ... "What do you see Amos?" I said, "A lump of tin." ... "I am putting grief among my people Israel..."

This is a good proposal and I have followed it.


This page is part of the Hypertext Bible Commentary - Amos,

© Tim Bulkeley, 1996-2005, Tim Bulkeley. All rights reserved.