The Lishon Hakodesh root 'ע'ט'פ seems to take on a different meaning in various canons/eras:

  1. Pentateuch: In the discussion regarding Jacob's manipulation of Laban's flock, we encounter the verse (Genesis 30:41):

ובהעטיף הצאן לא ישים והיה העטפים ללבן והקשורים ליעקב

Most Rishonim understand ובהעטיף and העטפים to mean "[the sheep were] delayed" and "the late ones" respectively.

I'm not aware of another occurrence of 'ע'ט'פ in Chumash, but my knowledge is far from comprehensive.

  1. Nakh: The root is generally used to describe an emotional state of extreme devastation. E.g.

Psalms 102:1

תפלה לעני כי יעטוף


נפשם בהם תתעטף

and Lamentations 2:19

העטופים ברעב

  1. In Rabbinic literature, most notably with regard to the mitzva of tzitzis, the root is used to mean 'enwrap': להתעטף בציצית. There is a verse in Isaiah 3:22 המחלצות והמעטפות which also seems to take on this meaning.

While some of the Rishonim's explanations do manage to somewhat link the different interpretations, the root does seem to have taken on a different meaning over time. Is this common with שרשים, or is there really an underlying commonality across the different usages?

As an extra twist, the root 'ע'ט'ה is used in Tanakh for the third usage of 'ע'ט'פ, enwrapping; e.g.

Psalms 104:2 עטה אור כשלמה.

Is it possible that at some point in time, the root 'ע'ט'פ started to be used for 'enwrap' instead of 'ע'ט'ה?

  • 1
    The etymological note at Hebrew Wiktionary is interesting: it notes that the two meanings of ע־ט־פ seem to stem from different roots, notes the similar polysemy of ע־ל־פ, and quotes M'tzudas Tziyon's explanation (at Yona 2:8) relating the two meanings of ע־ט־פ ("when someone is in trouble, he is pained and bent as if his one end is wrapped in his other").
    – msh210
    May 17, 2015 at 5:53
  • 1
    Klein has a-t-f as "envelop, cover" citing Aramaic, Syriac and Arabic and then a-t-f ("to be feeble, faint") as developing from the "cover" comparing the development to 2 meanings of a-l-f (same 2 meanings). He then has a-t-h (cover) from a different root (extinguish, dark). A-t-f as wrap (in various forms) occurs 3 times in Nach, as "weak" or "devastated" 13 times (2 in chumash, 11 in nach). A-t-h as "wore" occurs 17 times (once in Chumash, 16 in Nach).
    – rosends
    May 17, 2015 at 10:36
  • @Danno: pardon my ignorance, who is Klein?
    – intuit
    May 17, 2015 at 15:54
  • sorry -- amazon.com/… for the counting I used the even-shoshan Concordance
    – rosends
    May 17, 2015 at 15:58


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