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Home > Weekly Columns > Hebrew Thoughts

Hebrew Thoughts
Week of December 14 - 20, 2014


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Author Bio
KJ Went has taught biblical Hebrew, hermeneutics and Jewish background to early Christianity. Their "Biblical Hebrew made easy" course can be found at

Why not consider Greek, Aramaic, Biblical or Modern Hebrew online, it's easier than you think.

BMSoftware, founded by KJ, offer a wide range of biblical, Hebrew, Greek and multilingual software for theological use.

’zan 'balance, weigh'
   (Fza (Strong's #239)

’zan "balance, weigh" (Fza (Strong's #239)

"Let me be weighed in a just balance" (Job 31:6, JPS)

The word (Fza ’zan "to weigh, balance" (Strong's #239, x1) is probably identical to (Fza ’zan "to hear" (Strong's #238, x41) through either the idea of scales being balanced when the two sides, ears(?), are level, or through the idea of "weighing" a matter upon hearing it.

It only occurs once in the Piel intensive form of the verb, in Ecclesiastes 12:9:

"And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs." (KJV)

Other translations use "pondered", probably the best are the ESV and Holman Christian Standard Bible, which use "weighing", but perhaps "listened intently" based upon (Fza ’zan's primary meaning to "hear" would also suffice.

The concept of the balanced weighing of something leads on to the derived noun mֹ(za m’zn "scales, balances" (Strong's #3976, x15) which appears as mֹ(znyIe m’zenaym a dual plural, as the sides of the scales appear as a pair.

It is used in Leviticus 19:36 of "just scales, weights" etc. Here cEdEq tsedheq (Strong's #6664, x116) "just, righteous" is used of first mֹ(zny m’zeny then (EbEa ’ebhen (Strong's #68, x272) "stones, weights", and then other terms for measures.

In over a quarter of mֹ(znyIe m’zenaym's uses the "scales" are connected to the verb $FqAl shqal (Strong's #8254, x22) "to weigh" whether of goods, monies or figuratively of grief (Job 6:2).

The verbal relationship between (Fza ’zan "hearing/weighing" and (ֹza ’zen "ear" (Strong's #241, x187) is all the more interesting when the idea of "balance" is noted. It was not until modern medical times that it was realised that the ears were the centre of balance.

Another word directly related to (Fza ’zan is (Fza ’zn which is hard to translate and only occurs once in Deuteronomy 23:13 [Heb.v14]:

"And thou shalt have a paddle upon thy weapon; and it shall be, when thou wilt ease thyself abroad, thou shalt dig therewith, and shalt turn back and cover that which cometh from thee." (KJV)

Personally, I just love the quaintness of the KJV description, essentially telling a person to do as a cat does and a dog ought to do, and cover their excrement. It is variously translated here as "tools, equipment, girdle". The word rendered "paddle" is yt"d ythd (Strong's #3489, x24), more properly a pin, nail, or tent peg. If one recalls how ancient, simple and portable, scales, were composed of two hanging dishes, a pin, and a balance arm, one could see the item in question as a small pick, mattock or adze, tucked into one’s belt, much like an army spade-pick.

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