The Meaning(lessness) of qubba and the Original Text of Numbers 25:8

Or Liber, Ariel Seri-Levi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The hapax legomenon Hebrew letter bet, which seems to appear out of context in the account of Phinehas killing an Israelite man and a Midianite woman in Num 25:8, has long puzzled commentators, scholars, and translators. This paper presents a new, text-critical explanation, suggesting that the original text read Hebrew letter bet Hebrew letter bet Hebrew letter bet, not including Hebrew letter bet at all: Phinehas pierced the man Hebrew letter bet, "through the belly,"and the woman Hebrew letter bet, "through her belly."The corruption occurred when the words Hebrew letter bet were moved six words back in the text due to homoioteleuton and a partially successful correction. This unintentionally created the extant sentence Hebrew letter bet Hebrew letter bet, in which Hebrew letter bet must denote a location, not an organ. Rather than Hebrew letter bet, it was therefore read as Hebrew letter bet.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-204
Number of pages20
JournalVetus Testamentum
Issue number2
StatePublished - 15 Jun 2023


  • homoioteleuton
  • Num 25:8
  • Phinehas
  • qubba
  • textual criticism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • History
  • Religious studies
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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