What is the reason behind the word Ma'achelet used for the knife used by Avraham in the binding of Yitzchok? Is it an indication of specific function? Is this name used elsewhere? Does it indicate any particular type or style of knife?

Did Avraham assign this name or was it inherited?

Please include sources and links for any details to an answer.

Thank you.

  • I think this was asked here
    – sam
    Dec 4, 2018 at 17:44
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    This seems like an unusual usage of the word "name"
    – Double AA
    Dec 4, 2018 at 17:53
  • @DoubleAA Surprisingly, Many hunters have a practice of naming their weapon (tool). Think Daniel Boone and his rifle 'Tick-Licker'. Dec 4, 2018 at 20:13
  • I wrote about different words for "knives" in Hebrew including סכין\שכין and מאכלת and חרב and שלח in this essay: groups.google.com/d/msg/whats-in-a-word/zywT24_4uaM/… Apr 16, 2019 at 11:49
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    @RebChaimHaQoton Very nice essay. In regard to the 'Sword of Methuselah', there is an older kabbalistic book called 'Charava d'Moshe', which is part of that tradition. That double-edged sword is actually a long prayer that uses G-d's great name (likely the 42 letter name). This is the double edged sword, similar to the flaming, double-edged sword guarding the entrance to Gan Eden which is mentioned in Bereshit. Concerning the 'Sachin', the thorn aspect may be an indication that it is serrated, like a bread knife and somewhat broader for spreading a topping after slicing the bread. Apr 16, 2019 at 14:06

4 Answers 4


It was used because "Ma'acheles" means knife (see Bereishis 22:6 with Mefarshim), as quoted from Rashi above (first Pshat), Onkelos, Rashbam, R' Avraham Ben Harambam, and many, many others.

Therefore, the Passuk is telling us that Avraham took a knife to slaughter his son. Based on a quick search, the word "Sakin", or knife, does not appear in Tanach.

Ma'acheles appears in Mishlei 30:14 (where Rashi explains that it is a "Sakin" or knife), as well as Shoftim 19:29, where it is used to cut up a person, and translated by Targum Yonasan as "Sakina", a knife.

It seems to be used to cut up people, and according to some, animals as well (see above mefarshim inside).


Rashi vayeira 22:6 (based on Midrash Rabba Gen. 56:3):

המאכלת: סכין, על שם שאוכלת את הבשר, כמה דתימא (דברים לב מב) וחרבי תאכל בשר, ושמכשרת בשר לאכילה. דבר אחר זאת נקראת מאכלת, על שם שישראל אוכלים מתן שכרה:

Translation (courtesy of Chabad):

the knife: Heb. הַמַאֲכֶלֶת, so called because it consumes (אוֹכֶלֶת) the flesh, as it is stated (Deut. 32:42):“and My sword will consume (תֹּאכַלוּ) flesh,” and because it renders meat fit for consumption (אַכִילָה). Another explanation: This [knife] was מַאִכֶלֶת because the people of Israel still eat (אוֹכְלִים) the reward given for it. — [from Gen. Rabbah 56:3]


In his commentary to Leviticus 19:16 Ibn Kaspi explains that the three words sakin, ma'achelet, and cherev essentially refer to the same object, but they allude to different aspects of the object. Sakin comes from the word sakanah, danger. Ma'achelet comes from the word achila, eating. Cherev comes from the word churban, destruction.

כי חרב וסכין ומאכלת הונח מכל ההגיונים כי הם שמות נרדפים להיותם שמות לכלי אחד אבל יש הבדל מה בהוראתם כי הוראת חרב מחרבן וסכין מסכנה ומאכלת מאכילה ובכלל רוב הנרדפים כאשר ידוקדקו ימצא ביניהם קצת הבדל

One could argue, based on this, that the food reference is the most appropriate of the three for a sacrificial offering.


Reb Nachman in Likutey Moharan 2:1 brings down that Cherev Pifiot (Double Edged Sword) means Tefillah U'Bakasha - prayer to G-d and requesting from G-d.

  • Welcome to Mi Yodeya Seth. Your answer from Rebbe Nachman is factually correct and based upon an old kabbalistic book attributed to Moshe Rabbeinu called, “Sefer Charava d’Mosheh” (The Sword of Moses) But that doesn’t really address my question. Jan 6, 2021 at 9:04

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