Original Research

Hostility towards removal: A frame-semantic analysis of שׁמד in the Hebrew Bible

Izaak J.L. Connoway
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 45, No 1 | a3167 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v45i1.3167 | © 2024 Izaak J.L. Connoway | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 April 2024 | Published: 04 July 2024

About the author(s)

Izaak J.L. Connoway, Department of Biblical Studies, South African Theological Seminary, Sandton, South Africa


The verb שׁמד is a prominent verb of destruction that appears throughout the Hebrew Bible (HB). It is well represented in both Dtn-Dtr and the Prophetic Books. Many verses related to the conquest of Canaan and the exile feature this verb. Relevant scholarly literature also indicates that some elements of its meaning and usage remain obscure. All this makes it worthy of investigation. The last few decades have seen a rise in the utilisation of cognitive linguistics (CL) for the exegesis of the HB. A review of scholarly literature did not identify any robust attempt at utilising CL to gain insight into the meaning of שׁמד. In this study, frame semantics (FS) along with several other CL methodologies are used to gain greater insight into the semantic force of שׁמד in the HB. Three major discoveries were made. (1) While there usually are severe fatalities, all-encompassing fatality (i.e. annihilation) is not at the semantic core of שׁמד. Rather, decimation is the idea. (2) The destruction envisaged by שׁמד is conceptualised as removal from a location, whether dispossession or extermination. (3) Some insight was gained into the obscurity of when שׁמד takes במות as an object.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: This study traverses the fields of CL, Semitics, Biblical Studies, and Biblical Theology. It utilises CL to gain greater insight into a Hebrew verb. This insight enabled more accurate exegesis of the HB. These exegetical findings have implications for Biblical Theology, especially divine judgement and the conquest of Canaan.


frame semantics; cognitive linguistics; שׁמד; conquest; exile; destruction; Hebrew Bible; exegesis

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