The Semantics of Silence in Biblical Hebrew, Sonja Noll explores the many words in biblical Hebrew that refer to being silent, investigating how they are used in biblical texts, Dead Sea Scrolls, and Ben Sira. She also examines the tradition of interpretation for these words in the early versions (Septuagint, Vulgate, Targum, Peshitta), modern translations, and standard dictionaries, revealing that meanings are not always straightforward and that additional work is needed in biblical semantics and lexicography. The traditional approach to comparative Semitics, with its over-simplistic assumption of semantic equivalence in cognates, is also challenged. The surprising conclusion of the work is that there is no single concept of silence in the biblical world; rather, it spans multiple semantic fields.
1 Samuel 7:8 records a request made by the people of Israel to Samuel, asking him to pray to God for them. Although the aim of their request is made clear from the context, some aspects of the Hebrew syntax and word meanings do not easily fit the contextually understood meaning and are therefore often disregarded in the process of translation. The Hiphil verb חרשׁ, for example, which normally means ‘be silent’, is often translated as ‘cease’ and sometimes as ‘be deaf’. In addition, the preposition מן, ‘from’, is often translated as ‘for’ and is understood to indicate the beneficiary of the verb it precedes rather than function as the prepositional object of the verb it follows, as would be expected. I suggest that a very simple adjustment to the interpretation of this preposition may allow for a more straightforward reading and translation of the verse.