2 Sam. 20:10:

וַעֲמָשָׂא לֹא נִשְׁמַר בַּחֶרֶב אֲשֶׁר בְּיַד יוֹאָב וַיַּכֵּהוּ בָהּ אֶל הַחֹמֶשׁ וַיִּשְׁפֹּךְ מֵעָיו אַרְצָה וְלֹא שָׁנָה לוֹ וַיָּמֹת

M'tzudos says this means he stabbed him in the fifth rib. He needed to stab him but once to kill him.

Do those who strike in that place accurately strike the right spot to kill?

I mean if I want to kill someone I wouldn't bother to strike him in the rib. I'll strike anywhere. Anything would work. So does 5th rib killing has a special meaning?

I sometimes wonder if I were the translator. Should I translate חֹמֶשׁ as stomach or literally as the 5th rib? I was asking if there is some gematria or kaballah meaning in people getting stabbed on the 5th rib, rather than 4th, 6th, etc.

  • 3
    This question is very vague. Could you please quote the verse[s] you're referring to and explain more what your question about them is?
    – Isaac Moses
    Sep 27 '11 at 15:05
  • 1
    I've tidied it up to what I think the question means. JimThio, if I've misinterpreted your intent, obviously re-edit. @IsaacMoses, courtesy ping.
    – msh210
    Sep 27 '11 at 15:56
  • You have to understand, JimThio, that bad translations of Tanach abound. I included the translation of the M'tzudos, a classical commentary. Perhaps other Jewish sources say the verse means "stomach", but the NIV and YLT are frankly not authoritative, so you're wasting your time quoting them here. Re "if I want to kill someone I wouldn't bother to strike him in the rib. I'll strike anywhere. Anything would work": It would take a long time for someone to die from having been stabbed in an arm or leg; I assume the same is true for parts of the torso (though clearly not all of it).
    – msh210
    Sep 27 '11 at 21:43
  • @msh210 thanks. I'll bookmark a better translation then and check things out. I usually used young literal translation because it's the most literal and unbiased (and often yield funny meaning). When it's different than jewish translation, chance is the original words can indeed be interpreted differently. Am I right here?
    – user4951
    Sep 29 '11 at 3:21
  • Jim Thio, I believe your intuition was very correct in suspecting a gematria significance to the 5th rib. I found the word "rib" and "fig" ciphered in the works of Edward Leedskalnin which led me to Hebrew Gematria in the Torah. I just discovered that the word "RIB" is only mentioned tranlation to English in the whole Bible 5 times....yet it's not really even written there but once ...in Genesis. The other 4 times in 2nd Samuel it is implied and simply says "Chomesh"...."the fifth".....implying "the fifth rib". Don't know exactly what all this means, but I think it's an important clue...enough
    – user5251
    Apr 13 '14 at 15:42

According to http://www.rci.rutgers.edu/~uzwiak/AnatPhys/Cardiovascular_System.html the heart touches the chest wall between the 5th and 6th ribs. So if this passage means that he literally stabbed him at the 5th rib, it would have been a very efficient and quick kill.

  • 2
    mercoholic, welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks very much for bringing this relevant information bear! Please consider registering your account, which will give you access to more of the site's features.
    – Isaac Moses
    Dec 10 '12 at 18:29
  • Didn't know that medical advance is so high at that time that such relatively unknown medical facts are used casually
    – user4951
    Dec 11 '12 at 2:39
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    @JimThio I would imagine that warriors in every generation are quite familiar with all kinds of anatomical information that bears on plying their craft effectively and efficiently. A warrior from 2K years ago may or may not have known where the heart is closest to the chest wall, but if that was a good place to stab for a quick kill, you bet he'd have figured that out empirically.
    – Isaac Moses
    Dec 11 '12 at 21:57

M'tzudos quotes Rabi Yochanan as saying that that spot is particularly dangerous because of the presence there of the liver and gallbladder.


It is a medical fact that the heart lies between the 5th and 6th ribs, and I agree wholly with Isaac Moses' post. Though these men such as Abner and Joab were not "medically" trained they were "Men of War" and were definitely trained to make a quick and clean kill. To stab anywhere might leave your intended victim enough time to fight back, or for someone to come to their aid. Not too mention that in battle a quick kill was essential to survival when your oponent is bent upon bringing about your demise as well. As is the case with Abner and Asahel whom scripture says "was as light of foot as a wild roe." I'm pretty sure that Abner wanted to put this young warrior down in one clean shot even though he plead with him to turn away so as not to have been the hand that killed Joab's youngest brother. He knew that if Asahel even got one chance that this young warrior would have slain him too. So beneath the fifth rib was the closest to the heart. Also one might note that Eve was taken from Adam's rib. The part of him closest to his heart.

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