Uses of Zakhar/Zekhur (“Male”) in the OT
HOMOSEXUALITY AND THE BIBLE, Supplement
By Bruce L. Gerig

Zakhar ("male," marked below in the specific applications with *) occurs 82 times in the OT, including 3 times as an adjective (Num 3:40,43 and Jer 20:15) – along with another noun zekhur (4 other references, in Ex 23:17, 34:23 and Deut 16:16, 20:13), which carries the same meaning. A companion word, neqebhah ("female"), occurs 22 times; and its joint appearance with zakhar/zekhur is noted below (with **). In Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, these words are as numbered as: zakhar (#2145), zekhur (#2138), and neqebhah (#5347). Zakhar/zekhur are most often translated in the King James Version (and in Strong) as "male" or "males," but in a few cases as "man" or "mankind." (Cf. Clements, R.E., "Zakhar; zekhur; neqebhah," in the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, ed. by G. Johannes Botterwick and Helmer Ringgren, English translation by David E. Green, vol. IV, 1980, p. 82-87.)

 

CATEGORIES OF USE

Zakhar/zekhur are found 86 times in the OT, applied in the following ways:
       11 times (12.8%) to Israelite priests, dedicated to Israel's worship
       10 times (11.6%) to circumcised men, set apart in Yahweh's community – including 6 times in a genuine use and 4 times in a perverted use (pagan application)
       11 times (12.8%) to sacrificial animals, given to Yahweh
       12 times (14.0%) to returning exiles, to renew Yahweh's worship in Jerusalem
       16 times (18.6%) to classes of Israelite males with special sacred duties – including 3 times to all Israelite men, who were to worship Yahweh three times a year at his sanctuary; 4 times to men tied to the Lord in a sacred vow; 3 times to men available for military service in Yahweh's holy war on Canaan; 2 times to firstborn sons in Israel, future spiritual heads of families; 3 times to all newborn sons in Israel, new members of God's community; and 1 time to a young boy dedicated to the Lord's service (like Samuel)
       7 times (8.1%) to males carrying other sacred significance – including 2 times to Adam and Eve, created to serve God and have fellowship with Him; 4 times to Noah's creatures, who would save their species in the Flood; and 1 time to a prophecy concerning the rapid birth of the Church in the future
       10 times (11.6%) to males dedicated to pagan gods – including 5 times to the Midianites, who first led Israel into worshipping the Canaanite Baal; 1 time to Canaanite males, in general, who will entice Israel to worship other gods; 2 times to Canaanite male cult prostitutes, whom the Israelite men were to avoid; and 2 times to Canaanite male idols, that Israelite men were not to worship.
        9 times (10.5%) to men in general (no discernable sacred significance) – including 2 times to Israelite men with a bodily discharge; and 7 times in other uses (see section H,2 below)

 

SPECIFIC APPLICATIONS

A. ISRAELITE PRIESTS, DEDICATED TO ISRAEL'S WORSHIP . . . . . 11 times - 12.8%

       Lev 6:18 - All males* (priests) among the children of Aaron may eat of the Cereal Offering, after presenting it to the Lord; it is to be eaten unleavened in the court of the Tent of Meeting.
       Lev 6:29 - All males* among the priests may eat of the Sin Offering, after the animal is killed
before the Lord; the cooked meat is to be eaten in the court of the Tent of Meeting.
       Lev 7:6 - Every male* among the priests may eat of the Guilt Offering, after the animal is killed before the Lord; the cooked meat is to be eaten in a holy place, for it is holy.
       Num 3:15 - God commanded Moses to count Levi's descendents, by his three sons, every male* a month old and upward; then their different sacred duties were outlined.
       Num 3:22 - Descendents from Levi's son Gershon were counted to be 7,500 males*; their special function was to care for the Tabernacle, its covering, door screen, and hangings (v. 25).
       Num 3:28 - Descendents from Levi's son Kohath were counted to be 8,600 males*; their special function was to care for the Ark, lampstand, altars, and vessels of the sanctuary (v. 31).
       Num 3:34 - Descendents from Levi's son Merari were counted to be 6,200 males*; their special function was to care for the frames, bars, pillars, and bases of the Tabernacle (v. 36).
       Num 3:39 - All of those who were numbered among the descendents of Levi totaled around
22,000 males* (actually 22,300), dedicated to caring for the Lord's sanctuary.
       Num 18:10 - Every male* descended from Aaron (the first high priest) may eat of all the meat offerings after sacrificed to the Lord, also of all the "first fruits" brought (grain, fruit, wine, etc.).
       Num 26:62 - In the second census (v. 2), the Levite priests (descended from Levi) were counted to include 23,000 males,* a month old or older.
       2 Chr 31:19 - Hezekiah designated that certain priests distribute portions to the males* among the priests living in the Levitical cities, so that the Law of Moses was once again followed.

 

B. CIRCUMCISED MEN, SET APART IN YAHWEH'S COMMUNITY . .10 times -11.6%

1. Genuine Use – 6 times

       Gen 17:10 - Abraham, his family and descendents were commanded by God to "keep my covenant" by carrying circumcision on the foreskin of every man* as a physical "sign" (v.11).
       Gen 17:12 - Every Israelite man,* when 8 days sold, was to be circumcised – as well as any foreign male who was bought for service; this shall be an everlasting practice (v.13).
       Gen 17:14 - Any uncircumcised man* shall be cut off from his people (Abraham's descendents), for he has "broken my covenant" – so said the Lord to Abraham.
       Gen 17:23 - Abraham took Ishmael his son, all the (male) slaves, and every male* among the men of his house, and circumcised them that very day, as the Lord commanded.
       Ex 12:48 - If, in the future, a stranger sojourning (living) among the Israelites wanted to observe the Passover, he could, but only if all the males* in his house were circumcised.
       Josh 5:4 - Joshua was commanded to circumcise Israel, because all the circumcised males* who had left Egypt had died and the sons born to them had not (yet) been circumcised.


2. Perverted Use – 4 times
By inserting zakhar in the story of the massacre at Shechem (Gen 34), the narrator shows what a misuse and abuse of Yahweh's covenant sign this was, requiring the pagan Canaanite men of Shechem to take Abraham's circumcision without any understanding of its real meaning or any true turning to worship and serve Yahweh.

       Gen 34:15 - When Hamor asks Jacob for Dinah as wife for his son Shechem (who had earlier
raped her), Jacob's sons demand first that every male* of Shechem be circumcised.
       Gen 34:22 - Hamor requests of the city elders a closer tie with Jacob's family, including intermarriage – if only every male* will submit to the Jacob family's custom of circumcision.
       Gen 34:24 - So "all who went out of the gate of his city [the adult, able-bodied men of Shechem] hearkened to Hamor … and every male* was circumcised…"
       Gen 34:25 - On the third day (when newly-circumcised men are the most sore), Simeon and Levi, two of Jacob's sons, took their swords and killed all the males* in the city of Shechem.

 

C. SACRIFICIAL ANIMALS, GIVEN TO YAHWEH . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11 times -12.8%

       Ex 12:5 - For the first Passover in Egypt, the Israelites were to kill a lamb, "a male* a year old,"and smear its blood on the door-posts and lintels of their houses.
       Ex 13:12 - In Canaan, "all that first opens the womb" belongs to the Lord, including all firstborn
males* [animals]; they are to be sacrificed, or "redeemed" (by another sacrifice).
       Ex 13:15 - Israelites are to sacrifice (or redeem) all firstborn males* born among their animals, to remember the firstborn Egyptian sons and animals that God slew in Egypt to free them.
       Lev 1:3 - For a Burnt Offering, the presenter is to bring "a male* without blemish" from his herd or flock to the Tent of Meeting.
       Lev 1:10 - For a Burnt Offering, the presenter is to bring "a male* without blemish" from his flock of sheep or goats, to be killed upon the altar before the Lord.
       Lev 3:1 - For a Fellowship Offering, the presenter may bring an animal from the herd that is either male* or female,** although it must be without blemish.
       Lev 3:6 - For a Peace Offering, the presenter may bring an animal from the flock that is either
male* or female,** although it must be without blemish.
       Lev 4:23 - For a Guilt Offering, a ruler who unwittingly sins is to bring a goat, "a male without blemish," and lay his hand on its head as he kills it in the place of Burnt Offering.
       Lev 22:19 - For a Burnt Offering brought to pay a vow or as a freewill offering, the presenter shall "offer a male* without blemish from his bulls, sheep, or goats.
       Deut 15:19 - For three annual pilgrimages made to the sanctuary, the Israelites are to bring one of the firstborn males* of their animals (which belong to Lord), to sacrifice (and then eat).
       Mal 1:14 - The Lord spoke through Malachi, saying: "Cursed is the cheat who has a [good] male* in the flock and vows it, but sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished."

 

D. RETURNING EXILES, TO RENEW WORSHIP IN JERUSALEM . . . .12 times -14.0%

       Ezra 8:3 - Of the family line of Parosh, under Zechariah the family head, were registered
150 males* who returned with Ezra to Jerusalem.
       Ezra 8:4 - Of the family line of Pahath-moab, under Eliehoenai the family head, were registered   200 males* who returned with Ezra to Jerusalem.
       Ezra 8:5 - Of the family line of Zattu, under Shecaniah the family head, were registered
300 males* who returned with Ezra to Jerusalem.
       Ezra 8:6 - Of the family line of Adin, under Ebed the family head, were registered
50 males* who returned with Ezra to Jerusalem.
       Ezra 8:7 - Of the family line of Elam, under Jeshaiah the family head, were registered
70 males* who returned with Ezra to Jerusalem.
       Ezra 8:8 - Of the family line of Shephatiah, under Zebadiah the family head, were registered
80 males* who returned with Ezra to Jerusalem.
       Ezra 8:9 - Of the family line of Joab, under Obadiah the family head, were registered
218 males* who returned with Ezra to Jerusalem.
       Ezra 8:10 - Of the family line of Bani, under Shelomith the family head, were registered
160 males* who returned with Ezra to Jerusalem.
       Ezra 8:11 - Of the family line of Bebai, under Zechariah the family head, were registered
28 males* who returned with Ezra to Jerusalem.
       Ezra 8:12 - Of the family line of Azgad, under Johanan the family head, were registered
110 males* who returned with Ezra to Jerusalem.
       Ezra 8:13 - Of the family line of Adonikam, under Eliphelet, Jeuel, and Shemaiah, were registered 60 males* who returned with Ezra to Jerusalem.
       Ezra 8:14 - Of the family line of Bigvai, under Uthai and Zaccur, were registered
70 males* who returned with Ezra to Jerusalem.

 

E. CLASSES OF ISRAELITE MALES W/ SPECIAL SACRED DUTIES   16 times 18.6%

1. All Israelite Males, to Worship the Lord Three Times a Year at His Sanctuary – 3 times

       Ex 23:17 - Three times a year all Israelite males* (zekhur) shall appear before the Lord (to worship him and bring sacrifice to his sanctuary).
       Ex 34:23 - Three times a year shall all your men* (zekhur) children appear before the Lord
(to worship him and bring sacrifice to his sanctuary).
       Deut 16:16 - Three times a year shall thy males* (zekhur) appear before the Lord, at the Feasts of Unleavened Bread, of Weeks, and of Tabernacles, bringing what each is able to offer.


2. Men Tied to the Lord in a Sacred Vow – 4 times

       Lev 27:3 - A person vowed (given) to the Lord for service could be "redeemed," e.g. by 50 shekels for a male* bet. 20-60 years and 30 shekels for a female** in the same age group (v. 4).
       Lev 27:5 - A male* or female** vowed to the Lord between 5-20 years of age could be redeemed by 20 shekels for the male and 10 shekels for the female.
       Lev 27:6 - A male* or female** vowed to the Lord between 1 month–5 years of age could be
redeemed by 5 shekels for the male and 3 shekels for the female.
       Lev 27:7 - A male* or female** vowed to the Lord 60 years old or older could be redeemed by 15 shekels for the male and 10 shekels for the female (or less in, cases of poverty).


3. Men Available for Military Service, in Yahweh's Holy War on Canaan – 3 times

       Num 1:2 - Before entering Canaan, God commanded Moses to take a census by family, house, and name, counting every male* 20 years or older, who would be able to go to war.
       Num 1:20 - Among Ruben's descendents, every male* 20 years or older was counted, who could go to war; and 46,500 able-bodied men were counted (v. 21).
       Num 1:22 - Among Simeon's descendents, every male* 20 years or older was counted, who could go to war; and 59,300 able-bodied men were counted (v. 23).


4. Firstborn Sons in Israel, Future Spiritual Heads of Families – 2 times

       Num 3:40 - Moses counted all the firstborn males,* for the Lord had saved them when He destroyed the Egyptian firstborn; now the Levites, dedicated to the Lord, have "redeemed" them.
       Num 3:43 - The firstborn males,* a month and older, that Moses counted numbered 22,273; then Moses offered the Levites to the Lord in their stead, as the Lord commanded (v. 44ff).


5. All Newborn Sons in Israel, New Members of God's Community – 3 times

       Lev 12:2 - When a woman gives birth to a man* child, a purification period shall follow of 7+33 days; for a maid [female]** child (v.5) the mother shall be unclean for 14+66 days.
       Lev 12:7 - After a mother's purification period is over, giving birth to either a male* or a female,** she shall then offer Burnt and Sin offerings and be clean from her flow of blood.
       Jer 20:15 - Foreseeing the destruction of Jerusalem, the prophet Jeremiah curses the day that he was born (v. 14) and the man who announced to his father that "a man* child is born to you."


6. Young Boys Dedicated to the Lord's Service (like Samuel) – 1 time

       2 Chr 31:16 - Under Hezekiah, young males* (3 years or older) dedicated by their parents to become apprentices in the Temple once again took up their duties as required.

 


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