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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Nail (2)

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[of the finger], צַפֹּרֶן, tsippo'ren, so called from scraping), occurs in Deuteronomy 21:12, in connection with the verb עָשָׂה, 'asch, "to make" (Sept. περιονυχίζω , Vulg. circusmcido, A.V. "pare," but in marg. "dress," "suffer to grow"), which Gesenius explains "make neat." Much controversy has arisen on the meaning of this passage; one set of interpreters, including Josephus and Philo, regarding the action as indicative of mourning, while others refer it to the deposition of mourning. Some, who would thus belong to the latter class, refer it to the practice of staining the nails with hennia. The word asah, "make," is used both of" dressing," i.e., making clean-the feet, and also of "trimming," i.e., combing and making neat the beard, in the case of Mephibosheth (2 Samuel 19:24). It seems, therefore, on the whole to mean "make suitable" to the particular purpose intended, whatever that may be; unless, as Gesenius thinks, the passage refers to the completion of the female captive's month of seclusion, that purpose is evidently one of mourning a month's mourning interposed for the purpose of preventing on the one hand too hasty an approach on the part of the captor, and on the other too sudden a shock to natural feeling il the captive. Following this line of interpretation, the command will stand thus: The captive is to lay aside the "raiment of her captivity," viz. her ordinary dress in which she had been taken captive, and she is to remain in mourning retirement for a month with hair shortened and nails made suitable to the same purpose, thus presenting an appearance of woe to which the nails untrimmed and shortened hair would seem each in their wav most suitable (see Job 1:20). If, on the other hand, we suppose that the shaving the head, etc., indicate the time of retirement completed, we must suppose also a sort of Nazaritic initiation into her new condition, a supposition for which there is elsewhere no warrant in the law, besides the fact that the "making," whether paring the nails or letting them grow, is nowhere mentioned as a Nazaritic ceremony, and also that the shaving the head at the end of the month would seem an altogether unsuitable introduction to the condition of a bride. We conclude, therefore, that the captive's head was shaved at the commencement of the month, and that during that period her nails were to be allowed to grow in token of natural sorrow and consequent personal neglect. See Joseph. Ant. 4:8-23; Philo, περὶ φιλανθρ. chapter 14, volume 2, page 394 (ed. Mangey); Clem. Alex. Strom. 2, chapter 18; 3, chapter 11; volume 2, pages 475, 543 (ed. Potter); Calmet, Patrick. Crit. Sacr. on Deuteronomy 21:12; Schleusner, Lex. V.T. περιονυχίζω; Selden, De Jur. Nat. 5:13, page 644; Harmer, Obs. 4:104; Wilkinson, Anc. Eg. 2:345; Lane, M.E. 1:64; Gesenius, Thes. Hebr. page 1075; Michaelis, Laws of Moses, art. 88, volume 1, page 464 (ed. Smith); Numbers 6:2; Numbers 6:18. (See PAKE).

In Jeremiah 17:1 the same Heb. word occurs in the sense of the "point" of a stylus or metallic pen, which was often tipped with adamant or diamond (Pliny, Hist. Nat. 37:4, 15). (See PEN).

In Daniel 4:33; Daniel 7:19, the cognate Chald. טְפִר, tephar', occurs of the claws of a bird or beast.


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Nail (2)'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/n/nail-2.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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