The Dynamism of Desire

  • Vetus Testamentum, March 2017, Brill
  • DOI: 10.1163/15685330-12341268

Meaning of desire - lexical roots (ḥmd and ʼwh) - in the Tenth Commandment.

What is it about?

A corpus based semantic analysis of verbal forms of the roots ʼwh and ḥmd indicates that, although the original distinction between the roots may have become somewhat blurred, a fairly consistent pattern is still discernible; it suggests that the verb form of the lexical root ʼwh refers to a desire that arises from basic human needs (hunger, thirst, etc.), whereas the verb form of the lexical root ḥmd denotes a desire that stems from greed.

Why is it important?

In the Hebrew Bible (BHS), the dynamism of desire is often identified by the lexical roots ḥmd and ʼwh. Since both roots are closely linked and can even act as synonyms, their original distinction is somewhat blurred. Because both lexical roots are found in the Decalogue, in the Tenth Commandment (Deut 5:21), i.e. in one of the most essential texts of the Jewish and Christian faiths, there are a wide range of different interpretations from ancient to modern times. However, there are very few specific studies addressing the lexical roots . Many of these studies are based on a narrow selection of Biblical passages and are often within discussions that are primarily devoted to other topics. Therefore, the findings are often not well-founded or are tailored to wider contexts on which authors have focused. A detailed review of existing studies also reveals that there is no semantic analysis based on all the biblical passages, or one that would also assess the (existential) dynamics of desire—of both of the lexical roots and their mutual relationship. This contribution seeks to fill that gap with the results of a corpus based analysis (semantic study) of verb forms of both lexical roots and thus discover the fundamental differences and similarities of both dynamics of desire.

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The following have contributed to this page: Samo Skralovnik