In previous postings we have talked about words that occur relatively infrequently and how difficult it can be in such cases to detect a precise nuance. It is interesting that the same problem can occur with very common words as they divide into a variety of different usages. Often in language, the more common a word is, the more frequently idiomatic or special uses develop for the word dividing its meaning into categories. The translator then has to determine which meaning for a word was intended by the author.
Consider for a moment the very common Hebrew verb, lq̣h, “to take or receive”. This would seem straightforward enough, but can give translators all sorts of difficulty. One example (which I am not going to deal with here) is in Prov. 11:30, translated in the NIV, “he who wins souls is wise.” The verb translated “wins” is the verb “lq̣h”. Problematically, when this verb takes this object (“soul” = Hebrew nephesh) elsewhere, it usually means “to take a life”, i.e., to kill someone (cf. 1 Sam 24:11 [Heb. 12] and many others). In such cases a verb may have specialized meaning when it is packaged with a particular subject or object.
Another example with this verb is that when it is used with “wives/women” it refers to legitimate marriage rather than to a violent act. This impacts the usage and interpretation in Genesis 6:2.