The Hebrew Root “PG” ‘ As A Legal Term -- By: Robert L. Hubbard, Jr.

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 27:2 (Jun 1984)
Article: The Hebrew Root “PG” ‘ As A Legal Term
Author: Robert L. Hubbard, Jr.

The Hebrew Root “PG” ‘ As A Legal Term

Robert L. Hubbard*

Scholars have long recognized that the verb pg’ in the Qal is a synonym for words meaning “to kill.”1 What has gone unnoticed, however, is the thesis of this article: The root is a constitutive element of execution command formulae in three judicial contexts and hence should be translated not as “to fall upon, strike down” but more specifically as “to execute, put to death.”

Careful examination of the three contexts confirms this thesis. That 1 Sam 22:6–19 reports a trial is clear from Boecker’s analysis of its terminology.2 Like Deborah the judge (Judg 4:5), Saul sits in judgment at Gibeah “under the tamarisk tree on the height” with the sign of his military and judicial authority, his spear, in his hand (v 6). He accuses his Benjamite servants of conspiring with David against him (vv 7–8), but Doeg the Edomite defends them by testifying to having seen David receive aid from Ahimelech, priest of Nob (vv 9–10). So, in technical legal language, Saul summons Ahimelech before the bar (v 11), formally accuses him of conspiracy against himself (v 13), listens to Ahimelech’s defense (vv 14–15), and pronounces the death penalty (v 16).3 Then he orders his runners to execute all the priests of Nob (v 17: sbw whmytw khny Yhwh),4 but when they refuse, he issues the order to Doeg the Edomite (v 18: sb ʾth wpgʾ bkhnym), who quickly obliges.5

In short, this text reports the trial and execution of the priests of Nob by authority of Saul. The crime is treason against the king. Our concern, however, is with the two execution command formulae just quoted. Two observations may be made concerning them. First, each begins with a command to “turn” (sbw//

* Robert Hubbard is associate professor of Old Testament at Denver Conservative Baptist Seminary in Colorado.

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