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21 Naphtali is a free running doe,[a]
he speaks delightful words.[b]
22 Joseph is a fruitful bough,[c]
a fruitful bough near a spring
whose branches[d] climb over the wall.
23 The archers will attack him,[e]
they will shoot at him and oppose him.

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Footnotes

  1. Genesis 49:21 tn Heb “a doe set free.”
  2. Genesis 49:21 tn Heb “the one who gives words of beauty.” The deer imagery probably does not continue into this line; Naphtali is the likely antecedent of the substantival participle, which is masculine, not feminine, in form. If the animal imagery is retained from the preceding line, the image of a talking deer is preposterous. For this reason some read the second line “the one who bears beautiful fawns,” interpreting אִמְרֵי (ʾimre) as a reference to young animals, not words (see HALOT 67 s.v. *אִמֵּר).sn Almost every word in the verse is difficult. Some take the imagery to mean that Naphtali will be swift and agile (like a doe), and be used to take good messages (reading “words of beauty”). Others argue that the tribe was free-spirited (free running), but then settled down with young children.
  3. Genesis 49:22 tn The Hebrew text appears to mean “[is] a son of fruitfulness.” The second word is an active participle, feminine singular, from the verb פָּרָה (parah, “to be fruitful”). The translation “bough” is employed for בֵּן (ben, elsewhere typically “son”) because Joseph is pictured as a healthy and fruitful vine growing by the wall. But there are difficulties with this interpretation. The word “son” nowhere else refers to a plant and the noun translated “branches” (Heb “daughters”) in the third line is a plural form whereas its verb is singular. In the other oracles of Gen 49 an animal is used for comparison and not a plant, leading some to translate the opening phrase בֵּן פָּרָה (ben parah, “fruitful bough”) as “wild donkey” (JPS, NAB). Various other interpretations involving more radical emendation of the text have also been offered.
  4. Genesis 49:22 tn Heb “daughters.”
  5. Genesis 49:23 tn The verb forms in vv. 23-24 are used in a rhetorical manner, describing future events as if they had already taken place.

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