Vol. 21 New Series August, 1959 No. 4
MEN OR MORTALS?

The eighteenth of Genesis is a chapter of great interest and importance, one of the most outstanding chapters in the Bible. We read that the LORD (Jehovah) appears to Abraham, who was sitting in front of his tent when he suddenly observed "three men" near him. He runs to meet them, but addresses only one of them, as "My lord," whom he seems to know. The men partake of a meal, and also ask where Sarah is. Then one of them tells Abraham that he will return, and Sarah will have a son.

Then in verse 13 we read that the LORD (Jehovah) asks why Sarah had laughed. The same name, Jehovah, occurs also in verses 14, 17, 19 (twice), 20, 22, 26 and 33, that is, ten times in the chapter. The Concordant Version also shews this name in verse 27, spelt as Ieue, as it always does.

Chapter 19:1 then states that two of the angels or messengers went towards Sodom in the evening. Clearly they are two of the "three men." But who is the other man? The chapter clearly shews that He was Jehovah.

The Concordant Version of Genesis was published in July, 1957. But strange to relate, only six months later, in the January, 1958, issue of "Unsearchable Riches," on "The Two Seeds, Ishmael and Isaac," page 37 tells of the three men who visited Abraham. But not one word is mentioned about Jehovah this time. The three "men" are said to be "three mortals," and how could Jehovah be a mortal?

The Hebrew term is enosh, plural anashim, and the article continues, "Here the word should be mortal, not man. They render this stem much better elsewhere, as incurable, desperate, woeful, very or grievously sick. These agree with our rendering mortal." But do all these terms speak of mortality? How, at Jer. 17:16 can the "woeful day" be mortal? And why is "desperately wicked" (Jer. 17:9) omitted?

Then we are told, "It is evident. . . . . that it could not have been Al, the Subjector, or Alue, the To-Subjector, for these were neither dying nor subject to death at that time, but must have been Alueim, or Subjectors, associated with the Supreme Subjector." Just what the word "it" refers to, we are not told, but it may be the same person who near the foot of the page is referred to: "Yet He insists that she did laugh." That must have been Jehovah. So Jehovah must have been one of the "three men" after all? Al, I take it, refers to the Father, and Alue, to the Son.

Moreover, the Concordant Version of Genesis, at ch. 18, refers to Someone with initial capital letters, as follows: He, in verses 10, 15, 19, 25, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32; Him, verse 29; Me, verse 21; Thou, verses 23, 24, 28; Thee, verse 25 (twice). And the same August Person in verse 25 is called "The Judge of the entire earth." Can this Judge be merely a mortal man?

THE HEBREW WORD ENOSH
The only meanings given in the Lexicon of Benjamin Davies are human being and man. For the verb, anash he gives, to be evil, dangerous, deadly (of incurable disease or wound), sick unto death. The Oxford Gesenius Lexicon gives, to be weak, sick; man, mankind. Girdlestone's Old Testament Synonyms says the word is generally considered as pointing to man's insignificance or inferiority; often answering to our word "person." In Psalm 8:4 we have "What is man (enosh) that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man (ben-adam) that thou visitest him?" Yet in Heb. 2:6 both the words for man are anthrOpos (human being).

At Deut. 31:12 we could hardly read "the mortals and the female-mortals and the little-children," in place of, "the men and the women and the little-children." Nor would it do at Ruth 1:11 to read, "that they may be your mortals," in place of "your husbands." Nor at Ezk. 14:1 could we read "Then came mortals of the elders," for "certain of the elders." In the C.V. of Genesis, ch. 46:34 is found the term "cattlemen." How would this look as "cattle-mortals"? At Jer. 43:6 our Bibles read "the men, the women, and the children." Must we alter this to "the masters (ha-gbarim) and the female-mortals (ha-nashim) and the children"? Again, at Deut. 2:34 our Bibles read, "we. . . . utterly destroyed the men, and the women, and the little ones, of every city." Here the word for "men" is methim, which Rotherham translates as "males," though others render it as "dying," from the verb muth, die. But what would be the sense of saying "the dying ones, and the female-mortals, and the little ones"? In the Ethiopic (Semitic) language the word met means a man (Latin vir). An Aramaic inscription of the 8th century B.C. shews a word math, which probably means males, or male offspring.

Here a very strange feature arises. The plural form of the word enosh is also the plural of the word aish, commonly rendered as "man." Thus, if enosh means "mortal," its plural form, anashim would necessarily make the plural of aish mean the same, "mortals." In old English the word "woman" originally meant "wife-man," as the word "man" once applied to both sexes (the old word leman or lemman meant a sweetheart, leof-mann, a dear man or woman). But suppose that the plural of "woman" had also been the plural of "man," that would be something like the plural of enosh being also the plural of aish.

There must be some relationship between aish and enosh, especially when we see that the feminine plural of enosh is nashim (wives, women). Only three times does aish have its own real plural, at Psalm 141:4; Prov. 8:4; and Isa. 53:3 (aishim). Otherwise, it is always anashim.

At Joshua 8:25 we read, literally, "all who fell that day, from man (aish) and unto woman (ishshah), were twelve thousand,—all people (or men, anshey) of Ai." This practically means that the two words aish and enosh both signify the same thing, that is, man, or person. Young's Concordance shews that aish is rendered as "every man" 177 times; as "everyone" 119 times; as "husband" 69 times; as "one" 70 times; as "any" or "any man" 50 times; in addition to being rendered very frequently as "man," and frequently not being rendered at all.

Taking all the occurrences in the Old Testament of the terms aish and enosh and their common plural form anashim, and rendering these words as mortal or mortals, would mean about 2,500 occurrences of these words, whereas in the New Testament the word for mortal is only found six times, and of believers. In three of these cases (Rom. 6:12; 8:11 and 2. Cor. 4:11) it refers to the body or flesh. But the word enosh in the O.T. never seems to be used as an adjective, or to be associated with words meaning body or flesh. This seems rather strange, and is unaccountable.

Delitzsch's Handbook of the Assyrian language shews this ancient Semitic tongue to have been used in place of the Hebrew word enosh, tenishetu, meaning mankind, from enshu, meaning weak. All the other Semitic languages have similar words meaning man or mankind.

Men and women are "weak" compared with what they would have been had the first pair not sinned. Perhaps the word enosh came to mean merely a "person," and it is often used in that sense, just as the word aish is used. The word needs not be directly connected in meaning with the adjective anush.

It is painful and most depressing that the Truth should be wounded in the house of its friends. No conscientious believer could suffer the obliteration of Jehovah's name and action in Genesis 18. It is therefore to be hoped that the writer of the article in "Unsearchable Riches" will have second thoughts on the whole matter, and make amends. The following reasons make this necessary and imperative.

SOLUTION OF THE PROBLEM
We must note carefully that in Gen. 18 we do not find the word enosh in the singular. It occurs three times in the plural (v. 2, 16, 22) and again in the plural in ch. 19 (v. 5, 8, 10, 12, 16). Note further that these "men" (anashim) had the power to smite the "men" (anashim) of Sodom with blindness. They were also sent by Jehovah in order to destroy the place. And twice they are called "angels" (mlakim; literally "workers" or agents, undertakers, executives). Is it likely that Jehovah would utilize mere "mortals" to obliterate the wicked cities? Bullinger declared that the word enosh was used "always in a bad sense," but this is hardly true. Yet he was correct in saying that "when God is spoken of as man it is aish." It was a Man (aish) who wrestled with Jacob (Gen. 32:24). Joshua beheld a Man (aish), who told him to loose his shoe from off his foot, "for the place whereon thou standest is holy" (Joshua 5:13-15). Manoah and his wife also beheld an angel, who was also called a Man (aish) in Judges 13 (v. 6, 8, 10, 11). Manoah declared that they had seen God. The angel Gabriel is also called a man (aish; Dan. 9:21).

What inference then, might we draw from all this evidence? Simply that the plural form of the word enosh in Gen. 18 is just as much the Plural of the word aish, and that if the "three men" had been mentioned singly, they would each have been termed an aish. And in fact, Dr. Bullinger hinted at this himself, in Appendix 14 of his Companion Bible, saying that in 1. Sam. 4:9 the word anashim "is probably plural of aish (so probably Gen. 18 and 19. . . .)."

A.T. Last updated 29.3.2006