The Creation of a New Hebrew Word

At the end of Chapter 51 in the Book of Isaiah the following words appear:

“Thus says your Lord, the LORD, your God who pleads the cause of his people: “Behold, I have taken from your hand the cup of staggering; the bowl of my wrath you shall drink no more.” (Isaiah 51:22)

This verse is not the first time we find the motif of ‘the Cup of the Lord’s wrath’ as an image for a punishment. In fact, the entire Chapter 25 of the Book of Jeremiah is evolves around this concept and here is an example:

“Thus the LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: “Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it.” (Jeremiah 25:15)

In the original Hebrew, the term ‘the cup of staggering’ is ‘Kos Ha-Tar’elah’ {כוס התרעלה} which literally means the ‘cup of the poison.’ The word that was translated to English as ‘bowl’ appears in the original Hebrew as ‘Kuba’at’ {קבעת} and it is one of the rarest words in the entire Hebrew Bible.

The scholars do not know for sure what the meaning of this word is and proposed a couple of theories. One of the most interesting theories suggests that this rare word was derived from the Hebrew word ‘Gavia’ {גביע} which means ‘goblet’ or ‘grail’ (the Hebrew term for the ‘holy grail’ is Ha-Gavia Ha-Kadosh’ {הגביע הקדוש}).

Over the years, the Hebrew letter ‘Gimmel’ {ג} was replaced by the letter ‘Kof’ {ק} because both letters are close in pronunciation, and that is how we received a ‘new’ Hebrew word for bowl-‘Kuba’at.’