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sometimes be referred to different Arabic roots. The most learned philologists, in appealing to the Arabic; are by no means unanimous in that appeal. This not only happens in words compounded with one or more of the quiescent letters, Aleph, He, Vau, Jod, wherein it must naturally be expected; but in those which have no such letter in their composition. Hence arises a diversity of interpretation of the same word, according as its signification is derived from different Arabic roots. In this case, what shall determine our choice? It is in vain to apply etymological rules, for a Hebrew word often bears an equal affinity to different Arabic words; and if grammatical analogy fail us, what other rule for the selection is to be substituted, which will not be equally precarious ?*
Thirdly: Even when no doubt can be entertained of the affinity, or rather identity, of a Hebrew and Arabic root, much uncertainty arises from the various, and often contrary, senses in which the same
. * I had originally intended to have illustrated these remarks with examples, a multitude of which I have collected in the course of my reading; but, as their insertion would swell this Dissertation to a much greater length, and as these observations are general, I have deemed it proper to omit them.
Arabic words are received. The Arabic is a language, not only copious beyond any known tongue, but likewise unequalled for the multiplicity of senses, and sometimes opposite ones, annexed to the same words. In attempting to illustrate the Hebrew from this language, which out of the many senses is to be adopted? And what is to constitute our guide in the selection? This, say the patrons of Arabic, may be determined by an 'attentive examination of the context.* But the context is a very fallible guide, since it not upfrequently happens, that more than one sense will apply to the passage where the Hebrew word occurs. Besides, to lay it down as a canon, that such are to be chosen as suit the context, is to establish a criterion quite independent of the Orienta! dialects, and which renders them, in a great measure, useless : for if a Hebrew word can be explained by the context, foreign aid is unnecessary; if it cannot, by what shall we be guided in applying for illustration to the numerous, and often discordant, senses of Arabic words? If we are determined in the choice by reasons independent of the language, we
• Kromayer, de Usu Ling. Arab. lib. i. cap. 4, § 3 and 10. Jahn, lotroductio ad Lib. Sac. $ 76, p. 87, Viennæ, 1814. Other means are tried to lessen the objection above stated, by Schultens, Origines Heb. par. 2, cap. 6, 99, p. 270, and Aurivillius, Diss. 1, § 12, p. 24.
make Arabic bend to our interpretation, not our interpretation to the Arabic. In fact, instead of finding in it a monitor and instructor, whose decisions are authoritative, we make it a servile instrument, and forcibly drag it forwards to support our opinions, which are formed upon other grounds, and established by other evidence.
Till some certain rules are discovered for determining our choice among the various senses in which Arabic words are generally received, little dependence can be placed upon its assistance in Hebraic criticism. But this, it is to be feared, is a vain expectation. The only observation relative to this point which has arisen from a rather extensive examination of the subject, is, that greater respect is due to the radical or primary meaning of an Arabic word, than to the derivative senses. Whatever may have been the aboriginal language, Hebrew, Syriac, Chaldee, and Arabic have certainly germinated from one common stock, and, consequently, the higher we ascend, the greater will be their similarity. Now this similarity is more likely to be preserved in the primary meaning of words, than in the derivative significations. Words, by long and frequent use, acquire many different senses; new ideas are attached to them, such as are sometimes allied to the radical meaning by a very remote analogy; but the primary meaning is not so liable to change. It is, therefore, more probable, that the meaning of Hebrew words is retained in the radical signification of Arabic words, than in the other senses; and hence it may be appealed to with somewhat greater confidence.
Yet, even in this, much doubt will remain. The primary meaning may have diverged from what it at first was ;* and that it has often done so is certain, from the frequent difference between the same root in Hebrew and Arabic; but whether any particular word has, or has not, there are no means of ascertaining. When a Hebrew and Arabic word of the same letters, whose signification can be well established, are found to differ, it is plain that one of them, at least, has varied from its original sense; but which of them, is completely uncertain. At any rate, the possibility, not to say probability, of a change renders an appeal, even to the primary meaning, a matter of doubt and uncertainty.
• “Nam inconstantia loquendi, quæ in omnibus linguis dominatur, facit, ut significationes verborum facile ac sæpe mutentur; in omnique lingua non admodum multa sunt verba, quæ primam radicis vim reti. nent."-Erpesti, Institutio Interpretis N. T. p. 77, Lips. 1809,
Moreover, the radical meaning of Arabic words is not easily discovered. The rule for making this discovery is thus expressed by the very learned Professor Marsh: “ We should endeavour, in the first place, to discover which among the various senses could most easily have given rise to all the rest; for this must have been the primary sense. That which most resembles it, must be the second in order, and so onward."* But, notwithstanding the clearness of the rule, it is most difficult in practice; and it is often a subject of the most arduous inquiry, in what manner the various senses are to be arranged. Our Arabic Lexicons are very defective in this respect; the compilers not having been so careful as they ought, in tracing the genealogy of the senses.+
It must, likewise, be added, that the radical signification of the Arabic, when discovered, is frequently totally inapplicable to the Hebrew context. Whoever will make the experiment will find, that, in a great majority of instances, the sense attributed to the Hebrew word, from the primary meaning of
* Lecture 16, p. 75.
+ Schultens, Origines Hebrææ, par. 2, cap. 3, $ 34, p. 229. Auri. villii Diss. p. 25. Bauer, Hermeneut. $ 23, p. 121.