The participial phrase ער וענה in Mal 2:12 has been a crux interpretum since the earliest versions of the Hebrew Bible. A comprehensive search reveals that at least ten distinct interpretations have been proposed for the obscure phrase by translators and commentators. Retroversion of ancient versions to a different Hebrew Vorlage, conjectural emendation, or various etymological and philological considerations of the homonymic verbs עור and ענה (some on the basis of cognate languages) do not yield a clear understanding of how to interpret the obscure phrase. This article therefore proposes a different methodological approach. By comparing the construction ל + כרת + two coordinated participles/nouns (often displaying alliteration and/or assonance) with other biblical texts, some progress is possible on discerning the meaning of this difficult phrase, even if an exact rendering remains beyond our grasp. Having established that the phrase is most likely a grammatical hendiadys, which constitutes an idiom for “offspring”— one's own “kith and kin”—this article engages with a recent proposal for an innerbiblical allusion to Genesis 38, and the sons of Judah, עֵר and אוֹנָן.

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