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Daniel 7:13 uses the words k’bar enash, “like a human (being)”. It’s in Aramaic. I often hear that these words would be a translation for the Hebrew k’ben Adam. But because Aramaic and Hebrew are often very similar I was wondering if these words aren’t or couldn’t be a translation of k’ben enosh (Psalm 144:3 uses the words ben enosh).

In my own words: This one like a human, just like the beasts, seem to represent something other than what they appear to be. Daniel didn’t understood what he saw and he asked the messenger (angel) in his dream to explain the meaning to him. As the beasts represent empires, it seems that the one like a human also represents an empire, nation, a people - the Jewish people. It seems that the messenger is telling Daniel that the Jews will live under four kingdoms (periods of reign) who will rule over them, but eventually the Jews will inherit the kingdom.

Now Rashi opines that k’bar enash is the Messiah (it could refer to the Messianic era that will come after the four periods of reign?).

So who or what is referred to with the words ‘like a human’?

Now what I would like to know is what the contrast between those like beasts and the one like a human implies/means.

So:

  1. What’s the right translation of the Aramaic words k’bar enash in Hebrew.
  2. To what or who(m) are these words referring to.
  3. Why the the ‘beasts v.s. human being’ images to contrast/differentiate between these.
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  • Welcome to MiYodeya Noah and thanks for this first question. Great to have you learn with us!
    – mbloch
    Oct 2 '21 at 16:35
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So interestingly as a starting point, Yosef Ibn Yahya who translates the Aramaic in his commentary into Hebrew, writes it as כבן אדם - 'like a son of man' so there is definitely scope to do so.

As far as the exact wording of Enosh vs Adam, it is worth noting parenthetically that the two terms have specific meanings and therefore the usage is relevant and appropriate based on their definition.1

As a result, the reference of כְּבַ֥ר אֱנָ֖שׁ based on the Malbim (as brought in the footnote below) could well be specifically used to show how Moshiach (as per Rashi's commentary) will ascend from mankind and to help lead the Jews above the pagan nations and this is the reason for the juxtaposition with 'beasts'.

When looking at Rashi in the preceding verse that bring the reference to 'beasts' he writes:

ושאר חיותא העדיו שלטנהון. ולשאר המלכיות הסירו מן השמים ממשלתהון:

But as for the other beasts, their dominion was removed And from the other kingdoms, their dominion was removed by Heaven.

וארכה בחיין יהיבת להון. וזמן נתן להם בחיים עד יום מועד לעתיד לבא מלחמות גוג ומגוג:

and they were given an extension of life And He gave them time to live until a set day in the future, the wars of Gog and Magog.

So to answer in summary:

  1. It makes sense to translate in Hebrew as 'k'ben adam' as the whole reference is someone that specifically comes from mankind. And the 'enosh' usage is to show how it comes from man despite our flaws and limits.

  2. This person will rise to become Moshiach like Rashi references

  3. And this fits with the juxtaposition of 'beasts' to show how he will rise whilst the other pagan nations will fall away when their time comes.


1 In Tehillim (psalms) 8:5 it uses both terms:

מָה־אֱנ֥וֹשׁ כִּֽי־תִזְכְּרֶ֑נּוּ וּבֶן־אָ֝דָ֗ם כִּ֣י תִפְקְדֶֽנּוּ׃

What is man that You have been mindful of him, mortal man that You have taken note of him (Sefaria translation)

It is worth noting that Malbim gives a clear definition in both instances. The Malbim Biur Hamilos notes there:

אנוש, בן אדם. האנוש מורה על חולשתו מצד עצמו ובן אדם מציין חולשתו מצד מינו שאינו מתקיים זמן רב (ישעיה נ''א י''ב)

Man...son of man - The term 'Enosh' teaches us about the inherent weakness of man (lit. on his own), and 'Ben Adam' indicates his weakness on the part of his kind which does not last long (refer to Isaiah 51:12 which also uses both terms).

In other words, the term Enosh denotes that mankind is essentially flawed, with limitation imposed upon their nature. Unlike Hashem Who is described in 8:2 and 8:10 as being "מָה־אַדִּ֥יר", mighty, here the verse is exposing how confined man is by being a lowly human in comparison. Conversely, the term Ben Adam is more a reference to the mortality of mankind - how every human has a designated time period on this earth.

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  • @Noah - does this answer your question?
    – Dov
    Oct 4 '21 at 18:25
  • thank you, it kind of did, but I do wonder why the word Adam has been chosen here (in this context) over the term Enash, why has this been preferred, when looking at the information you gave? And I also wonder what the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Ben-Enosh would be.
    – Noah
    Oct 5 '21 at 13:55
  • Hi @Noah I addressed all of these points? I noted that Yosef Ibn Yahya translated it K'Bar Enosh into K'ben Adam, and that Enosh was specifically used to show how Moshiach will arise specifically from mankind despite our natural failings
    – Dov
    Oct 5 '21 at 13:59
  • I understand, I see why ‘ben Adam’ is a fitting translation, there is no confusion there. I’m just wondering how the context would change if one would translate it as ben-Enosh instead; why wouldn’t that be fitting or a proper way to translate or interpret this verse? [Maybe you answered that part and I just didn’t got it]. What if I would turn it around, why would Bar-Enash (where Enash is very similar to Enosh and Anash) be chosen to translate ben-Adam?
    – Noah
    Oct 5 '21 at 14:36
  • Ben Enosh would also work in theory. The point I was making based on the Malbim is that Enosh is more fitting than Adam in this context.
    – Dov
    Oct 5 '21 at 14:42

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