Genesis 14:12:

וַיִּקְח֨וּ אֶת־ל֧וֹט וְאֶת־רְכֻשׁ֛וֹ בֶּן־אֲחִ֥י אַבְרָ֖ם וַיֵּלֵ֑כוּ וְה֥וּא יֹשֵׁ֖ב בִּסְדֹֽם׃

My "literal" translation:

They took Lot and his property, the son of Avram's brother, and they went. An he was dwelling in S'dom.

The phrase בֶּן־אֲחִ֥י אַבְרָ֖ם describes Lot, not his property. It seems that the verse should read:

וַיִּקְח֨וּ אֶת־ל֧וֹט בֶּן־אֲחִ֥י אַבְרָ֖ם וְאֶת־רְכֻשׁ֛וֹ וַיֵּלֵ֑כוּ וְה֥וּא יֹשֵׁ֖ב בִּסְדֹֽם׃

Why is the verse phrase this way? Or is this a common technique in the Torah? Is there some other message being conveyed by placing the term וְאֶת־רְכֻשׁ֛וֹ in the position that is?

  • 2
    In your proposed alternative, whose Rechush is being taken? Lot's or Avram's?
    – Double AA
    Oct 23, 2015 at 17:08
  • The cantillation marks in your proposed alternative can't be right.
    – msh210
    Oct 23, 2015 at 17:25
  • @DoubleAA, in context, it'd be pretty clear that it was Lot's possessions. The small amount of formal ambiguity would hardly be the strongest case thereof in the Torah.
    – Isaac Moses
    Oct 23, 2015 at 17:30
  • @msh210 please disregard the trope marks. I copied and pasted those from the original wording. Their not my own added ideas.
    – DanF
    Oct 23, 2015 at 18:24
  • @DoubleAA I assume that my revision would mean the same thing. The phrase, "The son of Avram's brother" describes who Lot is, and then it would say, "and his property", with "his" referring to Lot. As stated above, ignore the copied trope marks.
    – DanF
    Oct 23, 2015 at 18:26

1 Answer 1


The strange grammatical placement of this phrase is due to the Masoretic Text, which contains Hebrew cantillation marks that are both musical and logical. In this regard, the placement of the phrase בֶּן־אֲחִ֥י אַבְרָ֖ם (the son of Avram's brother) ends with the Tifha disjunctive accent, which modifies everything contained by the preceding disjunctive accent, which was the first phrase closed by the Tvir. To illustrate, please see the image below, and click to enlarge for better reading.

enter image description here

To recap, the first phrase of the verse וַיִּקְח֨וּ אֶת־ל֧וֹט וְאֶת־רְכֻשׁ֛וֹ (they took Lot and his property) is logically modified by the second phrase בֶּן־אֲחִ֥י אַבְרָ֖ם (the son of Avram's brother) based on the placement of the disjunctive accents. Also, the subsequent phrase וַיֵּלֵ֑כוּ (and they went) carries the second most powerful disjunctive accent in Biblical Hebrew, which is the Athnah. This particular disjunctive accent breaks the verse in half. The logical form of the first half of the verse therefore appears in the illustration below; please click to enlarge for better reading.

enter image description here

The second half of the verse is also parsed in similar divisions. The second half of the verse וְה֥וּא יֹשֵׁ֖ב בִּסְדֹֽם׃ (and he was dwelling in S'dom) ends on the most powerful disjunctive accent in Biblical Hebrew, which is the Silluq marked by the Masoretic sign of the verse end, which is the Sof Pasuq. Thus the second half of the verse closed by the Silluq and Sof Pasuq modifies everything captured by the Athnah, which (as already noted) is the second most powerful disjunctive accent. In other words, the second half of the verse modifies the first half of the verse (which is ALWAYS marked by the Athnah).

In summary, the division of words and phrases within the verses in the Scriptures was not only logical, but also accented in musical intonation. This hybrid of logical and musical arrangement of every verse not only helped to understand and clarify Scripture, but also enabled memorization, since both the logical and musical arrangement were denoted by the same cantillation marks.

Hebrew Cantillations (2014). Bellingham: Lexham Press.

  • 2
    So, in terms of meaning, are you saying that "Avram's nephew" modifies Lot's possessions as well as Lot himself. Why?
    – Isaac Moses
    Oct 25, 2015 at 13:19
  • @IsaacMoses - The "Avram's nephrew" modifies the last letter of the previous phrase, which is the personal possessive pronoun suffix "his (property)" and therefore answers the who. The last part answers the where. Please see the red words in the illustration above for clarification. Very Respectfully,
    – Joseph
    Oct 25, 2015 at 14:00

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