What is the original meaning of the word


and its cognate



We know that סף in the Bible means edge or threshold.

But why does its cognate סוף carry the meaning of weed or reed most of the time but the meaning of end just five times in the Bible, and even then only in the latter books?

We know that in Zohar אין סוף means without end.

How does/did edge get inflected or derived into weed or reed?

The sea which Moses and Israel had crossed while being pursued by the Pharoah, is called

ים סוף

Therefore consequently, is that sea actually named

  • sea of weeds/reeds
  • or sea at the edge/end (of land) ?

What is the actual intended meaning of the word when Ezekiel is told to measure the temple's dimension with a סף ? Does Qabalah theses on אין סוף make any implication upon the סף that Ezekiel is told to use to measure the temple's dimension?

  • Are you only asking about the meaning of the word in Ezekiel, or about the words meaning in general? The latter would probably be off topic.
    – mevaqesh
    Jul 2, 2017 at 16:59

1 Answer 1


The Yam Suph (mentioned in the Torah) clearly means the sea of reeds not the sea at the edge. The word סוף when pronounced like suph always means reeds and never connotes edge. (see Isaiah 19:6). In Parshat Shmot 2:3-6 too the word suph means reeds. (It says that the daughter of Pharaoh saw Moses in the Suph (בתוך הסוף) which clearly means "between the reeds of the sea". See also verse 3 (וַתָּשֶׂם בַּסּוּף עַל שְׂפַת הַיְאֹר) where it clearly reads "between the reeds on the edge of the Nile"). It is reasonable to assume that the word suph mentioned in chapter 2 has the same meaning as the one in chapter 10 and 13. (The reed was also a common used grass in Egypt and indigenous to the area, so most likely it was the same weed found near the Nile that was also found near the Yam suph).

Some scholars even think that the word suph used in sefer Shmot is an egyptian loan word (twf in egyptian hieroglyphics http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2008/08/New-Evidence-from-Egypt-on-the-Location-of-the-Exodus-Sea-Crossing-Part-I.aspx). On the other hand, The word סוף which is pronounced like soph meaning edge or end did not exist, as part of the Hebrew language, until much later. The first instance it is used in the context of edge/end is in Kohelet 3:11; 7:2.

As for how the word suph (reeds) evoloved into soph (edge/end) it is not so clear, but some suggest that that "After this event at Yam Suph, perhaps the verb Soph, meaning "destroy" and "come to an end," originated". https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yam_Suph. It is also possible that they are two different words altogether and bear no relation to each other though their roots are very similar.

Hope this helps.

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