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צלה – to roast

Semantic Fields: Food Preparation   
Author(s): Kurtis Peters
First published: 2014-11-30
Last update: 2024-06-30
Citation: Kurtis Peters, צלה – to roast,
               Semantics of Ancient Hebrew Database (https://pthu.github.io/sahd), 2014 (update: 2024)

Introduction:

Grammatical Type: vb.
Occurrences: 3x HB (0/3/0); 0x Sir; 0x Qum.; 0x inscr. (Total: 3)

  • Nebiim: 1 Sam 2:15; Isa 44:16, 19.
  • Text Doubtful: –

Qere/Ketiv: None.

1. Root and Comparative Material

A.1 In the Hebrew Bible there is a related adjectival form צָלִי, and this also occurs three times in the biblical corpus, with a similar meaning — in this case ‘roasted’ or as a substantive ‘roasted (meat)’. It is found in Exod 12:8, 9; Isa 44:16.

A.2 Aramaic: The lexeme also occurs in Palestinian and Babylonian Jewish Aramaic as one of multiple words that use the root צלי, likewise meaning ‘roast’.1

A.3 Ethiopic retains a ‘broil’ or ‘roast’ meaning with the form ṣalawa (CDG, 556–557: ṣalawa II).

A.4 Arabic uses the root ṣly for ‘broil’, ‘roast’, or ‘fry’ (Lane, 4:1721b: ṣly).

A.5 Akkadian: The root is used in Akkadian and appears as ṣelû. However, the word has less to do with roasting for cooking purposes, and more to do with burning incense or sweet-smelling items (CAD Ṣ, 124: ṣelû A).

2. Formal Characteristics

A.1 The lexeme is a ל״ה (ל״י) verb.

A.2 Each occurrence is in the qal, two of which are prefixed forms, with the third being an infinitive construct.

A.3 There is, as mentioned above, a corresponding adjectival form צָלִי that occurs three times in the biblical text.

3. Syntagmatics

A.1 The subjects of this lexeme are human beings. In 1 Samuel 2:15, the subject of the infinitive is the priest, כֹּהֵן. In Isaiah 44:16 and 19, the subject is undoubtedly a human, but greater specificity is elusive. In verse 16, the subject may simply be a generic human, the grammatical subject being indicated only by the 3 masc.sg. verbs present. However, it is probable that the subject may be found as early as v. 13 where the text introduces a wood craftsman, חָרַשׁ עֵצִים.

A.2 The objects of this lexeme include בָּשָׂר (1 Sam 2:15, Isa 44:19) and צָלִי (Isa 44:16). Presumably the latter is, like the former, expected to be meat. Each of the other occurrences of both the verbal lexeme צלה and the adjectival form צָלִי are clearly concerned with meat and one can therefore assume the same for Isa 44:16.

4. Ancient Versions

a. Septuagint (LXX):

  • ὀπτάω, ‘roast, broil’: 1 Sam 2:15; Isa 44:16, 19.

b. Peshitta (Pesh):

  • ܛܘܝ (ṭwy), ‘roast, bake’: 1 Sam 2:15; Isa 44:16, 19.

c. Targum (Tg: J):

  • טוי, ‘roast, cook’: 1 Sam 2:15; Isa 44:16, 19.

d.Vulgate (Vg): 1 Sam 2:15; Isa 44:16, 19.

  • coquo, ‘cook, bake, boil, roast’.

A.1 Each of the above words consistently replaces the Hebrew צלה. However, they each appear in other places, where the Hebrew uses a different cooking verb. For example, ὀπτάω in the LXX also stands in where the Hebrew has בשׁל, both in Deut 16:7 and in 2 Chron 35:13 – two of the Passover texts.2 טוי in Tgs does the same in 2 Chron 35:13, but retains בשׁל in Deut 16:7. In Pesh, unlike Tg or LXX, the root ܒܫܠ (bšl) is used both in 2 Chronicles and Deuteronomy.

A.2 The case of Vg is slightly different than that of the other versions. Unlike these other versions, the Vulgate uses a generic cooking verb, coquo, where the Hebrew has צלה. Therefore, it is not surprising to find that this Latin verb is used in many other places translating a range of other cooking verbs. However, what is intriguing is that coquo is used for בשׁל in Deut 16:7, but a more specific roasting verb, asso, is used for בשׁל in 2 Chron 35:13. This change to asso in Chronicles agrees with the Tgs and LXX, though differs from Pesh. It is also odd that Vg avoids using asso to translate the clear roasting verb צלה, but chooses the generic coquo instead – a move that none of the other versions make.

5. Lexical/Semantic Field

A.1 The lexeme is part of a group of cooking verbs, which consists of the following other lexemes: בשׁל, אפה, בעה, זיד, לבב, עוג, קלה, and רתח (Peters 2016:90-138). Each of these lexemes denotes something different about cooking. Some are more specific or generic than others. Some are for dry cooking and others for cooking with liquid.

A.2 צלה ranks as one of the more specific terms as it denotes roasting with an open fire, as discussed in Exegesis below. It is, therefore, more specific than the broader terms אפה and בשׁל, for example.

A.3 In terms of their general meaning, צלה and קלה appear to be closely related, though they are never used in parallel or in the same kinds of contexts. צלה tends to refer to the roasting of meat, while the clearest cases of קלה have to do with roasting grain. However, one cannot be too confident as to the nature of their relationship, given that neither verb occurs very frequently.

6. Exegesis

A.1 צלה refers to the cooking of meat by means of an open fire. That meat is expected is supported by the fact that the objects of the verb, and the referents of the related adjective, are all meat items. This is also what distinguishes צלה from קלה.

A.2 That direct heat from an open fire is required is what separates this dry-cooking verb apart from the more common אפה, which typically designates indirect heat baking. Furthermore, אפה entails the making of bread-type items, as opposed to meat.

A.3 In support of the above statements, HALOT, BDB, and DCH all translate צלה as ‘roast’, the latter two of which also mention clearly that this process involves flesh or meat.

B.1 The Passover texts introduce a problem with the meaning of the present lexeme and its relationship to בשׁל. While Exod 12:8-9 requires that the Passover lamb be roasted (צלה) and specifically says that it ought not to be boiled (בשׁל) in water, Deut 16:7 expressly commands that the Passover lamb be boiled (בשׁל). There is of course a long history of exegetical wrestling as it relates to this passage. If it were true, as some argue, that בשׁל is a generic cooking verb and can likewise mean ‘boil’ and simply ‘cook’, then there would be no contradiction between the two texts.3 Exodus would still assert that the lamb is to be roasted and not ‘cooked in water’ (i.e. boiled), whereas Deuteronomy would simply assert that the lamb is to be cooked. If all this were true, the one might argue that בשׁל could stand in for צלה as a more generic cooking verb. However, this assertion, that בשׁל could be a generic cooking verb, is unlikely to be true. Both in medieval Jewish sources and in part of modern scholarship, the ideological starting point is that these two Passover texts (Exod 12:8-9; Deut 16:7) must not contradict one another. The other occurrences of בשׁל are, however, clearly related to some kind of liquid cooking. Furthermore, liquid cooking was a primary mode of cooking in ancient Palestine and it would be extremely odd for there to be no extant verb related specifically to boiling (in contrast to there being two different lexemes related to different kinds of roasting). While the argument receives more detailed treatment in the discussion of בשׁל (Peters 2016:97-106), one can at least here assert that בשׁל is unlikely to be a generic cooking verb, that Exodus and Deuteronomy therefore prescribe different cooking methods for the Passover lamb, and that בשׁל is not a more generic substitute for the more specific צלה (Peters 2016:176-86).4

7. Conclusions

The Hebrew lexeme צלה, though it occurs only rarely, is a verb that poses little difficulty for clarity. It is a root attested in other Semitic languages, though it is equally rare in most of these – most likely reflecting how authors of these ancient texts did not prioritize cooking vocabulary, especially not the more specific cooking terms. In Hebrew it entails the roasting of meat over a flame (Peters 2016:126-28), thereby distinguishing this word both from baking (אפה) and from roasting non-meat items (קלה).

Bibliography

For the abbreviations see the List of Abbreviations.

Becker 1988
Joachim Becker, 2 Chronik (NEchtB.AT), Würzburg: Echter.
Benzinger 1901
Immanuel Benzinger, Die Bücher der Chronik (KHC, 20) Tübingen: Mohr.
Ben Zvi 2006
Ehud Ben Zvi, ‘Revisiting “Boiling in Fire” in 2 Chronicles 35:13 and Related Passover Questions: Text, Exegetical Needs and Concerns, and General Implication’, in Biblical Interpretation in Judaism and Christianity, ed. by Isaac Kalimi and Peter J. Haas (LHB/OTS, 439), New York: T&T Clark, 238–50.
Clements 1972
Ronald. E. Clements, Exodus (CBC), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Dillard 1987
Raymond B. Dillard, 2 Chronicles (WBC, 15), Waco: Word.
Driver 1902
Samuel R. Driver, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Deuteronomy (ICC), Edinburgh: T&T Clark.
Fishbane 1985
Michael A. Fishbane, Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel, Oxford: Clarendon.
Galling 1984
Kurt Galling, Die Bücher der Chronik, Esra, Nehemia (ATD, 12), Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.
Japhet 1993
Sara Japhet, I & II Chronicles: A Commentary (OTL), London: SCM.
Labuschagne 1990
Cas J. Labuschagne, Deuteronomium, deel II (PredOT), Nijkerk: Callenbach.
McConville 1984
J. Gordon McConville, Law and Theology in Deuteronomy (JSOTSup, 33), Sheffield: JSOT Press.
McKenzie 2004
Steven L. McKenzie, 1-2 Chronicles (AOTC), Nashville: Abingdon.
Myers 1965
Jacob Martin Myers, II Chronicles (AB, 13), Garden City, NY: Doubleday.
Peters 2016
Kurtis Peters, Hebrew Lexical Semantics and Daily Life in Ancient Israel: What’s Cooking in Biblical Hebrew? (BibInt.S, 146), Leiden: Brill.
Phillips 1973
Anthony Phillips, Deuteronomy (CBC), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Roubos 1972
Klarinus Roubos, II Kronieken (PredOT), Nijkerk: Callenbach.
Sarna 1991
Nahum M. Sarna, Exodus (JPS Torah Commentary), Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society.
Shachter 2003
Jay F. Shachter, The Commentary of Abraham Ibn Ezra on the Pentateuch, vol. 5: Deuteronomy, Jersey City: Ktav.
Shaver 1989
Judson Rayford Shaver, Torah and the Chronicler’s History Work: An Inquiry into the Chronicler’s References to Laws, Festivals, and Cultic Institutions in Relationship to Pentateuchal Legislation (BJS, 196), Atlanta: Scholars Press.
Tigay 1996
Jeffrey H. Tigay, Deuteronomy (JPS Torah Commentary), Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society.
Tuell 2001
Steven Shawn Tuell, First and Second Chronicles (IBC), Louisville: John Knox.
Van den Born 1960
Adrianus van den Born, Kronieken (Boeken van het Oude Testament), Roermond: Romen.
Williamson 1982
Hugh G. M. Williamson, 1 and 2 Chronicles (NCBC), Grand Rapids: Eerdmans; London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott.

Notes


  1. Sokoloff, DJPA, 465: #2 צלי; Sokoloff, DJBA, 965: #3 צלי

  2. For more on the Passover texts, see Exegesis. ὀπτάω also translates שׂרף for baking bricks in Genesis 11:3. 

  3. For a representative set of examples, see Rashi ad Deut 16:7 and 2 Chron 35:13; Shachter 2003:75; Driver 1902:193–94; McConville 1984:117–18; Dillard 1987:285; Shaver 1989:116; Labuschagne 1990:98–99; Tigay 1996:155. 

  4. For those who represent this view, see, e.g., Benzinger 1901:132; Galling 1954:179–80; Van den Born 1960:232–33; Myers 1965:211; Williamson 1982:407; Fishbane 1985:135–36; Becker 1988:121; Sarna 1991:245; Japhet 1993:1052–53; Tuell 2001:240; McKenzie 2004:364; Ben Zvi 2006:240–41; Clements 1972:72; Phillips 1973:113. Both Clements and Phillips suggest a contradiction between Exodus and Deuteronomy. Roubos (1972:297) notes that there is a contradiction between Exodus and Deuteronomy, though he also argues that the verb בשׁל is flexible enough to cover both ‘bake’ and ‘boil’. 

Semantics of Ancient Hebrew Database