Abijah originally asked this question in Biblical Hermeneutics (https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/52502/translating-forms-of-yirah-as-fear-or-seeing). Abijah stated how the question arose: "I have heard numerous rabbis connect verses about the fear of God to seeing God." Biblical Hermeneutics requires specifying a passage. So, he gave Psalm 111:10, רֵ֘אשִׁ֤ית חָכְמָ֨ה׀ יִרְאַ֬ת יְהוָ֗ה. While qal imperfect forms of רָאָה start with a yod (Impf. 3 ms. יִרְאֶה, juss. יֵרֵא), the masora do not match in any place in the Tanakh where I could find. In Psalm 111:10, the feminine singular noun יִרְאָה is in the construct form, so the final taw makes a match difficult, even ignoring the masora.

Am I missing places in the Tanakh where there is ambiguity between the roots יָרֵא (fear) and רָאָה (see), or are these rabbis taking the liberty to ignore the masora and supply their own pronunciation?

This is the only place I found a remote discussion: Shva na after meteg on short vowel


1 Answer 1


Jeremiah 17:8 has two versions of the word ירא~יִרְאֶה in kere and ketiv, implying two readings, one as "see" and one as "fear."

On Zephaniah 3:15 there are two versions of the word ת(י)ראי circulating in the manuscripts (see Minchat Shai).

Onkelos has a habit of translating מֹרָא גָּדֹל as if it meant "sight" despite being derived from the root for fear (Deuteronomy 26:8, 34:12).

  • So, if I read this correctly. The first two are textual variations, and the last is a word that could be from either root, or are you saying it only comes from יָרֵא despite the translation otherwise.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Oct 26, 2020 at 0:40
  • 1
    @PerryWebb The latter, apparently. The derivative of ראה would have been מראה
    – b a
    Commented Oct 26, 2020 at 0:43
  • 1
    The exceptions prove the point -- 99%+ of the time, if you know grammar well, you know which it is.
    – Shalom
    Commented Oct 26, 2020 at 9:35
  • @Shalom That's what I expected when I studied these words, but wanted to consult the experts to confirm that I didn't miss something.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Oct 26, 2020 at 22:15

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