Once in a while, Onkelos will throw in the word pon (פּוֹן) that doesn't directly translate from the Hebrew.

  • Avimelech to Yitzchak: k'z'eir pon shachiv d'm'yached b'ama (Toldos 26:10)
  • Lavan to Yaakov: v'shalachitach pon b'chedva (Vayeitzei 31:27)
  • Yaakov to Lavan: Lulei la fon Elokei d'abba b'saadi (Vayeitzei 31:42)
  • Bilam to the donkey: Ilu fon (Ilufon) iss charba b'yadi (Balak 22:29)
  • Malach to Bilam: Ilu fon (Ilufon) la s'tas min kadamai (Balak 22:33)

I haven't been able to figure a purpose for it. "If only" doesn't go with Avimelech. "Almost" doesn't go with Lavan. Any other suggestions?

  • 2
    You may want to get this English translation which is available @ israelbooks.com/bookDetails.asp?book=483 Commented Nov 30, 2011 at 21:32
  • 5
    Thanks. Although $35 for a few "fon calls" is pretty steep. I'll see what the J-SE crowd has to say.
    – YDK
    Commented Nov 30, 2011 at 21:57

3 Answers 3


Jastrow says it indicates the subjunctive mood. If so,

  • in Gen. 26:10, כִּזְעֵיר פּוֹן שְׁכֵיב means "he almost had lain" as opposed to "he almost lay";
  • in Gen. 31:27, וְשַׁלַּחְתָּךְ פּוֹן means "I'd have sent you" as opposed to "I sent you";
  • in Num. 22:29, אִלּוּ פּוֹן אִית חַרְבָּא means "if there were a sword" as opposed to "if there is a sword"; and
  • in Num. 22:33, אִלּוּ פּוֹן לָא סְטָת means "if it had not (turned?)" as opposed to "if it did not (turn?)".

In Gen. 26:10, then, Avimelech is not saying he almost lay with Rivka but, rather, merely saying that, had he not discovered she was married, he would have almost lain with her. This is, perhaps, a step removed from directly accusing himself of any possible wrongdoing (and not how I, for one, have always translated the pasuk). And in Gen. 31:27, Lavan is saying "I would have sent you with joy and songs" (which is conceivably true), not "I did send you with joy and songs" (a clear lie). Likewise the ones in Balak. Seemingly (from these examples), lashon hakodesh doesn't require an extra word for the subjunctive and Aramaic does (and English uses auxiliary verbs like would have).


The sefer ביאורי אונקלוס here says that the word פּוֹן indicates that the action or the matter is a possibility and not a certainty. Thus, Bereishis 26:10 means "one of the people might have lain with your wife", and this is the Targum's translation/explanation of the word כִּמְעַט.

But on Bereishis 31,27 he writes that it says in the Mesorah that there are five places in the Torah where the Targum Onkelos writes the word פּוֹן even though there is no corresponding word in the posuk, and this is posuk one of them. Because when the posuk says וְלֹא-הִגַּדְתָּ לִּי, וָאֲשַׁלֵּחֲךָ בְּשִׂמְחָה it does not mean that Lavan said to Yaakov "If you had told me I might (פּוֹן) have sent you away with joy" - it means "I (certainly) would sent you away with joy", and so the word פּוֹן should not be here in the Targum.

However, Lavan could not have been saying that he was sending him away with a complete heart, with a heart full of joy, because Lavan had already indicated by his chasing after Yaakov in order to forcibly make him return that Yaakov's leaving him had angered him very much. Therefore, the Targum added the word פּוֹן to clarify that what Lavan was really saying was "for the sake of appearance I would have sent you away with joy and songs" as if it was genuine, but it would not have been done with a full heart.


I think the word Pon means immediately.

Avimelech tells Yitzchok "Almost immediately...."

Lavan tells Yaakov "I would of sent you immediately...."

Bilam tells the donkey "Had I had a sword immediately...."

Malach tells Bilam "The donkey turned away immediately...."

I stand open to correction if someone thinks it means something else.

  • I would appreciate if you could elaborate on how the "immediately" works in. It seems like a universal Targum thing as YbU uses it, too. What prompts the Targum to use it?
    – YDK
    Commented Nov 30, 2011 at 21:51
  • What is YbU? Looking at these Pesukim I think the word immediately fits in each case. Targum is not always an exact literal translation of the Posuk. Often Targum tells us things we would not know without it. Commented Nov 30, 2011 at 21:55
  • 2
    YbU= Yonasan ben Uziel (sorry, I figured the context...) Onkelos usually sticks to the literal if he can. What purpose does he have to stick this word in?
    – YDK
    Commented Nov 30, 2011 at 22:00

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