the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words
‛ânâh (עָנָה, Strong's #6030), “to respond, answer, reply.” This root occurs in most Semitic languages, although it bears many meanings. With the meaning that undergirds ‛ânâh, it appears in Ugaritic, Akkadian, Arabic, post-biblical Hebrew, and biblical Aramaic. It should be contrasted to ‛ânâh, meaning “oppress, subdue.”Biblical Hebrew attests the verb ‛ânâh about 320 times. One of the two meanings of ‛ânâh is “to respond,” but not necessarily with a verbal response. For example, in Gen. 35:3 Jacob tells his household, “And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress.…” In Gen. 28:10ff., where this “answering” is recorded, it is quite clear that God initiated the encounter and that, although He spoke with Jacob, the emphasis is on the vision of the ladder and the relationship with God that it represented. This meaning is even clearer in Exod. 19:18, where we read that God reacted to the situation at Sinai with a sound (of thunder).
A nonverbal reaction is also indicated in Deut. 20:11. God tells Israel that before they besiege a city they should demand its surrender. Its inhabitants are to live as Israel’s slaves “if it [the city] make thee answer of peace [literally, “responds peaceably”], and open unto thee.…” In Job 30:20, Job says he cried out to God, who did not “respond” to him (i.e., did not pay any attention to him). In Isaiah 49:8 the Lord tells the Messiah, “In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee.…” Here responding (“hearing”) is synonymously parallel to helping—i.e., it is an action (cf. Ps. 69:17; Isa. 41:17).
The second major meaning of ‛ânâh is “to respond with words,” as when one engages in dialogue. In Gen. 18:27 (the first occurrence of ‛ânâh), we read: “Abraham answered and said” to the Lord, who had just spoken. In this formula, the two verbs represent one idea (i.e., they form an hendiadys). A simpler translation might be “respond,” since God had asked no question and required no reply. On the other hand, when the sons of Heth “answer and say” (Gen. 23:5), they are responding verbally to the implied inquiry made by Abraham (v. 4). Therefore, they really do answer.
‛Ânâh may mean “respond” in the special sense of verbally reacting to a truth discovered: “Then answered the five men that went to spy out the country of Laish, and said …” (Judg. 18:14). Since no inquiry was addressed to them, this word implies that they gave a report; they responded to what they had discovered. In Deut. 21:7, the children of Israel are told how to respond to the rite of the heifer—viz., “They shall answer and say, Our hands have not shed this blood, neither have our eyes seen it.” ‛
Ânâh can also be used in the legal sense of “testify”: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor” (Exod. 20:16). Or we read in Exod. 23:2: “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil.…” In a similar sense, Jacob proposed that Laban give him all the spotted and speckled sheep of the flock, so that “my righteousness [will] answer [i.e., testify] for me in time to come, when it shall come [to make an investigation] for my hire before thy face …” (Gen. 30:33).
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Vines, W. E., M. A. Entry for 'Answer'. Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​vot/​a/answer.html. 1940.