Why do the targumim to Sh'mos 32:27 ("וְהִרְגוּ אִישׁ אֶת אָחִיו וְאִישׁ אֶת רֵעֵהוּ וְאִישׁ אֶת קְרֹבוֹ") use g'var twice and then enash?

For example, Onkelos:

וקטולו גבר ית אחוהי וגבר ית חבריה ואנש ית קריביה

  • You mean g'var thrice then enash.
    – WAF
    Apr 17, 2011 at 15:50
  • Seems to not be the only place where we have this inconsistency; other examples include Ex. 10:23 and Num. 26:64-65. (This is aside from the places where the Torah uses the words אדם or נפש, both of which Onkelos consistently translates as אנש.)
    – Alex
    Apr 18, 2011 at 0:11
  • 1
    @R'WAF, I meant the last two, which are parallel (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parallelism_%28rhetoric%29). @R'Alex, I see only enash in Ex. 10:23, no g'var; and neither it nor Num. 26:64–65 has the parallel structure I was thinking of.
    – msh210
    Apr 21, 2011 at 17:03
  • ...but, yes, the question is a good one IMO even without the parallel structure.
    – msh210
    May 9, 2011 at 7:20

2 Answers 2


The pasuk in question: לב,כז וַיֹּאמֶר לָהֶם, כֹּה-אָמַר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, שִׂימוּ אִישׁ-חַרְבּוֹ, עַל-יְרֵכוֹ; עִבְרוּ וָשׁוּבוּ מִשַּׁעַר לָשַׁעַר, בַּמַּחֲנֶה, וְהִרְגוּ אִישׁ-אֶת-אָחִיו וְאִישׁ אֶת-רֵעֵהוּ, וְאִישׁ אֶת-קְרֹבוֹ.

and the Targum: וַאֲמַר לְהוֹן, כִּדְנָן אֲמַר יְיָ אֱלָהָא דְּיִשְׂרָאֵל, שַׁוּוֹ גְּבַר חַרְבֵּיהּ, עַל יִרְכֵּיהּ; עֵיבַרוּ וְתוּבוּ מִתְּרַע לִתְרַע, בְּמַשְׁרִיתָא, וּקְטוּלוּ גְּבַר יָת אֲחוּהִי וּגְבַר יָת חַבְרֵיהּ, וַאֲנָשׁ יָת קָרִיבֵיהּ.

I don't have a ready answer to this variance. However, I can point out that the Samaritan Targum lacks this difference, and has גבר for each. Targum Pseudo-Yonatan has the divergence. Except that this Tg Pseudo-Yonatan also has the divergence, or maybe not. They apparently have both nuschaot, and someone selects אנש as the correct one.a Trilinear Targum Yonasan

Similarly, for Onkelos, I am not entirely convinced that אנש is the correct text. If we look at dfus Savyonita, from 1557, we find the following in Onkelos:dfus Savyonita from 1557..

I underlined וגבר in red. So too in this Chumash, from Bologna in 1482.

Chumash from Bolgna in 1482.

So we really should investigate as best we can manuscripts of Onkelos to determine that the phenomenon is real, before setting out to explain the phenomenon. Tg Yonatan might have been bleed-over from texts of Onkelos, so I wouldn't take it as such strong evidence.

(Targum Neofiti has גבר while Peshitta has אנש - see Argon's comment.)

Off the cuff, my inclination is that אנש is used as a translation of person, while גבר is used as a translation of male person. I can see how each would fit well in context. We are saying that each and every person should take X action, so I would expect אנש. But on the other hand, the people involved are warriors, and thus are surely males, so I can understand גבר as a replacement. My inclination is that Onkelos selected only one of these, but some text emended all of these, and someone wrote אנש as a marginal gloss once, to indicate the general divergence, which was then misinterpreted to mean a replacement of only one of these. I cannot prove it, though, and צריך עיון.

  • Thank you!! Checkmark for now; I'll reassign it if someone has a surer answer.
    – msh210
    Jun 1, 2011 at 14:30
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    I would add that Targum Neofiti has: "וקטלו גבר ית אחוי וגבר ית חבריה וגבר ית קריביה" while the Peshitta (in Hebrew characters) has: "וקטולו אנש לאחוהי ואנש לחברה ואנש לקריבה"
    – Argon
    Jul 12, 2021 at 1:26

The sefer ביאורי אונקלוס here (posuk 21) writes:

ידוע שדרכו תמיד שלא לדבר בכפל לשון בכל מקום שאפשר להביא מלה אחרת מפני יופי הלשון

It is well known that it is the way of Onkelos not to use the same word twice in the same posuk if it is possible to use a different word (a synonym) for the beautification of the language.

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