3

The prophecy of Obadiah concerns the fate of Edom. Obadiah 1:3 reads,

זְדוֹן לִבְּךָ הִשִּׁיאֶךָ, שֹׁכְנִי בְחַגְוֵי-סֶלַע מְרוֹם שִׁבְתּוֹ; אֹמֵר בְּלִבּוֹ, מִי יוֹרִדֵנִי אָרֶץ.

The pride of thy heart hath beguiled thee, O thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, his habitation on high; that sayest in thy heart: 'Who shall bring me down to the ground?

Jonathan ben Uziel's Targum on the bolded phrase reads,

דשרי בשיני כיפא ברוֹמא מותביה

That dwells in the teeth of a rock, ברוֹמא is his habitation

Note the voweling! I did not consider the word ברוּמא which would mean on high, because that is not the way the text is vowelized. The plain meaning of the verse leans this way, But Jonathan ben Uziel was not a strict translator. See for example earlier in verse 3 where he introduces the eagle/vulture simile when it doesn't occur in verse until verse 4.

What does ברוֹמא mean? I first read it plainly as in Rome, but then I encountered Jastrow, who brings down two options: in haughtiness or in Rome. Both seem to fit, if I'm not mistaken.

  • Malbim on Ovadiah 1(1) says that the prophecy of Obadiah concerns the fate of Edom. He goes on to say that the second temple was destroyed by the Romans who are called by the name Edom. So Malbim identifies Edom as Rome. – Avrohom Yitzchok Apr 8 '15 at 13:29
  • @AvrohomYitzchok I am looking for a specific discussion of YB"U's targum on 1:3. – Baby Seal Apr 8 '15 at 13:54
  • @AvrohomYitzchok Many places in the talmud say that. But there is controversy as to the literal meaning of that notion. Depending on the meaning here I believe this an interesting source, because YB"U lived most likely through the reign of Herod, whom Jastrow and Shadal cite as the reason for the association between Edom and Rome. But on the other hand we have the tradition that YB"U wrote based on prophets who lived much earlier than Herod, but who, based on our tradition did live to during the beginnings of the R republic, and who most definitely lived during the time of Roman kingdom. – Baby Seal Apr 8 '15 at 13:56
4

The word ברומא in the Targum to this pasuk means 'on high'.

As you write, Jastrow gives a few possibilities of translating that Aramaic word רומא, in the general case. It could mean "at a height", "haughty", or "Rome".

enter image description here

The etymology for the first two comes from the root רום, in both Biblical Hebrew and in Aramaic. The etymology for the third is unrelated -- it is the name of the country, Roma.

I wouldn't put much stock in the vocalization as shown in the link in the question, רוֹמא, because (a) that sort of vowel shift is easy for a copyist to change, and (b) 'haughty' and 'on high' are shades of meaning from the same root, so even if accurate, this would just be evidence of a roma meaning 'on high'. Assuming that this is the literal translation used consistently by Tg Yonatan, then moving to 'Roman' in one particular instance seems a stretch. Other places to look are מלכים ב פרק יט פסוק כ"ב פסוק כ"ג, ישעיהו פרק כב פסוק ט"ז, and so on. It appears approx 46 times and really the Targum for each should be checked

For a specific instance of the word רומא, we should consider the context. You have considered the context of this being sefer Ovadia, which is targeted at Esav / Edom and thus Rome. But you also intuited the context of זְדוֹן לִבְּךָ הִשִּׁיאֶךָ, "the pride of thy heart hath beguiled thee", which led you to the meaning of "haughty".

However, the proper context to which to pay heed is the Biblical Hebrew word this is translating, מְרוֹם. The root of this is רום, meaning height. And so the Aramaic translation uses the exact same root, of רום. And so it means, just as in your English translation, "his habitation on high".

Besides this immediate context, we should consider how Biblical Hebrew מרום is translated by Targum Yonatan throughout Tanach. For example, there is the word ממרום in II Shmuel 22:17, where from context it cannot mean Rome:

enter image description here

So, while this is indeed an interesting theory, I believe that a straightforward analysis results in the conclusion that the meaning is "height".

  • Thank you! Careful though, Obadiah 1:3 doesn't read ROOMA, with a shuruk, as in Samuel. It reads ROAMA, with a cholam. check the link. Now you could of course discuss when the Targum was vowelized, but you do need to discuss it. (I didn't even look at Rooma in Jastrow, for this reason!) – Baby Seal Apr 9 '15 at 5:27
  • You answer very much rests on that point, imo. You could go with haughty, though. – Baby Seal Apr 9 '15 at 5:29
  • I have edited my question to clarify this. – Baby Seal Apr 9 '15 at 5:43
  • 1
    yes, I saw the vocalization. I wouldn't put much stock in it, because (a) that sort of vowel shift is easy for a copyist to change, and (b) 'haughty' and 'on high' are shades of meaning from the same root, so even if accurate, this would just be evidence of a ruma meaning 'on high'. Assuming that this is the literal translation used consistently by Tg Yonatan, then moving to 'Roman' in one particular instance seems a stretch. Other places to look are מלכים ב פרק יט פסוק כ"ב פסוק כ"ג, ישעיהו פרק כב פסוק ט"ז, and so on. It appears approx 46 times and really the Targum for each should be checked – josh waxman Apr 9 '15 at 13:58
  • if you edit that comment in to your answer I will upvote and accept! – Baby Seal May 15 '15 at 14:10

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .