I'm trying to understand ומחה ה את שמו - (G-d) will erase his name in Devarim 29:19. Does this mean that G-d will kill the person?

Usually, the phrase "wipe out from under the sky" means death. However, in this verse, it says he will wipe out the person's name. Does this also mean by death or does it mean by making him an unknown, ruining his reputation, etc.?

If the above does mean death? Then what would the next verse that says that he will "separate him for bad from among the tribes"? Does this mean that he is punished even after death? In what way?

  • "G-d will separate him for bad"? What does this mean after the person is dead? Judaism believes that one does not escape punishment by dying.
    – mevaqesh
    Sep 29, 2016 at 21:50
  • @mevaqesh This is true. But, I don't know if this is the meaning conveyed in these consecutive verses. Of course, as I'm asking, "erasing one's name" may not be death, either. However, usually wiping out someone means death. But, here, it says specifically, a person's name, which could be his reputation or something else.
    – DanF
    Sep 30, 2016 at 13:23
  • רמב"ן פרשת נצבים ומחה ה' את שמו - אלת המשפחה, כי שם אחד לראש בית אבותם, והבדילו ה' לרעה - לשבט, מכל שבטי ישראל - הנשארים
    – mevaqesh
    Sep 30, 2016 at 15:39
  • @mevaqesh looks like a sufficient answer. Please post and translate. I don't completely follow the first concept, אלת המשפחה , though.
    – DanF
    Sep 30, 2016 at 15:46
  • The Ohr HaChaim asks this on verse 30 - and I imagine answers it, but I don't understand his answer. אור החיים: ואומרו והבדילו ה' לרעה. קשה אחר שמחה ה' את שמו מה מקום להבדלה. אכן לפי מה שקדם לנו כי כל נשמות עם בני ישראל שורש אחד להם כאומרו (ישעיה ס כב) נצר מטעי, וכמו שרמזו רבותינו ז''ל (ויק''ר ד ו) בפסוק (כל הנפש הבאה לבית יעקב וגו') [ויהי כל נפש יוצאי ירך יעקב שבעים נפש] (שמות א ה) שהגם שהם שבעים קראם נפש, לצד בחינת השורש Sep 13, 2017 at 12:37

2 Answers 2


R. DZ Hoffman, in his commentary on Deuteronomy (pg. 543), explains verse 29:19 as referring to an individual, or family, who will suffer the same fate as [eradicating] Amalek, while verse 29:20 is referring to a tribe and its punishment will be its dissolution among the other tribes and its posterity will face exile.

R. IS Reggio (Biur La'torah loc. cit.) explains the former verse as R. Hoffman, but explains the latter verse as referring to the subject's legacy; he/it will not be counted in the number of tribes nor mentioned among the Jewish people.


The entire passage you are referencing reads like a simple Hebraic poetry parallelism: "A.B.B.A.",

A.B. לא־יאבה יהוה סלח לו כי אז יעשן אף־יהוה וקנאתו באיש ההוא ורבצה בו כל־האלה הכתובה בספר הזה ומחה יהוה את־שמו מתחת השמים׃

B.A. והבדילו יהוה לרעה מכל שבטי ישראל ככל אלות הברית הכתובה בספר התורה הזה׃

The Hebraic poetry parallelism is something like "A.B.B.A." In other words, the first "B" section which includes ומחה יהוה את־שמו מתחת השמים׃ parallels the second "B" section which includes the phrase והבדילו יהוה לרעה מכל שבטי ישראל.

The answer or point I am making is yes, to "wipe out [one's name] from under the [Heavens]" means death, just as being separated from the tribes of Israel (i.e. from the Land of the Living) means death as well.

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