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Hebrew Thoughts

’âzan - אָזַן (Strong's #239)
Balance, weigh

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’âzan "balance, weigh" אָזַן (Strong's #239)

"Let me be weighed in a just balance" (Job 31:6, JPS)

The word אָזַן ’âzan "to weigh, balance" (Strong's #239, x1) is probably identical to אָזַן ’âzan "to hear" (Strong's #238, x41) through either the idea of scales being balanced when the two sides, ears(?), are level, or through the idea of "weighing" a matter upon hearing it.

It only occurs once in the Piel intensive form of the verb, in Ecclesiastes 12:9:

"And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs." (KJV)

Other translations use "pondered", probably the best are the ESV and Holman Christian Standard Bible, which use "weighing", but perhaps "listened intently" based upon אָזַן ’âzan's primary meaning to "hear" would also suffice.

The concept of the balanced weighing of something leads on to the derived noun מאזֵן mô’zên "scales, balances" (Strong's #3976, x15) which appears as מאזְנַיִם mô’zenayîm a dual plural, as the sides of the scales appear as a pair.

It is used in Leviticus 19:36 of "just scales, weights" etc. Here צֶדֶק tsedheq (Strong's #6664, x116) "just, righteous" is used of first מאזְנֵי mô’zenêy then אֶבֶן ’ebhen (Strong's #68, x272) "stones, weights", and then other terms for measures.

In over a quarter of מאזְנַיִם mô’zenayîm's uses the "scales" are connected to the verb שָׁקַל shâqal (Strong's #8254, x22) "to weigh" whether of goods, monies or figuratively of grief (Job 6:2).

The verbal relationship between אָזַן ’âzan "hearing/weighing" and אזֶן ’ôzen "ear" (Strong's #241, x187) is all the more interesting when the idea of "balance" is noted. It was not until modern medical times that it was realised that the ears were the centre of balance.

Another word directly related to אָזַן ’âzan is אָזֵן ’âzên which is hard to translate and only occurs once in Deuteronomy 23:13 [Heb.v14]:

"And thou shalt have a paddle upon thy weapon; and it shall be, when thou wilt ease thyself abroad, thou shalt dig therewith, and shalt turn back and cover that which cometh from thee." (KJV)

Personally, I just love the quaintness of the KJV description, essentially telling a person to do as a cat does and a dog ought to do, and cover their excrement. It is variously translated here as "tools, equipment, girdle". The word rendered "paddle" is יָָתֵד yâthêd (Strong's #3489, x24), more properly a pin, nail, or tent peg. If one recalls how ancient, simple and portable, scales, were composed of two hanging dishes, a pin, and a balance arm, one could see the item in question as a small pick, mattock or adze, tucked into one’s belt, much like an army spade-pick.

   
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KJ Went has taught biblical Hebrew, hermeneutics and Jewish background to early Christianity. Their "Biblical Hebrew made easy" course can be found at www.biblicalhebrew.com.

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