Exodus 33:11 calls Joshua moses' "young aide," while Numbers 11:28 says that he had been 'Moses' aide since youth.' Which is it? Can a נער have ministered to someone מבחריו?


3 Answers 3


The Ibn Ezra writes,

Why then did Scripture call him a young man? This is its grammatical explanation. His minister Joshua, the son of Nun, performed the service of a young man.

the editors at Sefaria explain "In other words, the word sherut is to be inserted before the word na’ar."

The Ramban comments on the Ibn Ezra as follows

In my opinion it is the way of the Sacred Language to call any attendant [regardless of age] na’ar, for the person of high office is called ish (man), and [with respect to him] his attendant is called na’ar.


The word נער can be a general term for an attendant/servant, as we see in the story of the Akeidah in which both Yishmael and Eliezer are referred to as such (את-שני נעריו אתו) as explained by Rashi. Both of those men were well beyond their youth.


To add to the previous answers: The great Jewish grammarian Radak the word Na'ar can refer even to adult servants because it is the way of the young to serve. He brings many examples of this in the Bible, including our verse.

מי שהוא קטן בשנים יקרא נער. ולפי שדרך הקטן לשרת את הגדול נקרא המשרת נער ואף על פי שהוא גדול בשנים. נַעַר עִבְרִי (בראשית מא, יב), וְהוּא נַעַר אֶת־בְּנֵי בִלְהָה (בראשית לז, ב), וּמְשָׁרְתוֹ יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בִּן־נוּן נַעַר (שמות לג, יא), גֵּיֽחֲזִי נַֽעֲרוֹ (מלכים ב' ד, יב), יָקוּמוּ נָא הַנְּעָרִים (שמואל ב' ב, יד), בְּנַֽעֲרֵי שָׂרֵי הַמְּדִינוֹת (מלכים א' כ, יד)

The Klein Dictionary says this is also a feature of other Semitic languages:

נַֽעַר m.n. 1 boy, lad, youth. 2 servant. [From נער ᴵᴵᴵ. cp. Phoen. נערם (= boys, servants), Ugar. n‘r (= servant), n‘rt (= female servant).] Derivatives: נַעֲרוּת, נַעֲרִי.

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