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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia


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nāl : (1) As denoting the finger-nail, the Hebrew word is צפּרן , cippōren Deuteronomy 21:12 , the captive woman "shall shave her head, and pare her nails." The latter was probably intended to prevent her from marring her beauty by scratching her face, an act of self-mutilation oriental women are repeatedly reported to have committed in the agony of their grief. Aramaic טפר , ṭephar (Daniel 4:33 , "his nails like birds' claws"). (2) As pin or peg (for tents, or driven into the wall) the word is יתד , yāthēdh (in Judges 4:21 the Revised Version (British and American), "tent-pin"); in Isaiah 22:23 , "a nail in a sure place" is a peg firmly driven into the wall on which something is to be hung (Isaiah 22:24 ); compare Ecclesiastes 12:11 , where the word is masmerōth , cognate with maṣmēr below. (3) For nails of iron 1 Chronicles 22:3 and gold 2 Chronicles 3:9 , and in Isaiah 41:7 and Jeremiah 10:4 , the word is מסמר , masmēr . (4) In the New Testament the word is helos, used of the nails in Christ's hands John 20:25 , and "to nail" in Colossians 2:14 ("nailing it to the cross") is προσηλόω , prosēlóō .

In a figurative sense the word is used of the hard point of a stylus or engraving tool: "The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, and with the point (literally, "claw," "nail") of a diamond: it is graven upon the tablet of their heart, and upon the horns of your altars" Jeremiah 17:1 .

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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Nail'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. 1915.

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