I recently read a paper at the Pacific Northwest regional meeting of the society of Biblical Literature entitled “The Beth Essentiae (or, Beth of Identity) in Biblical Hebrew.” The paper was on a specific use of the Hebrew preposition beth (one letter; the letter “b”). For definition’s sake:
The beth essentiae “is used to indicate the predicate and especially of the predicative.” That is, at times beth + noun functions as the copula or serves to complement the subject of a clause.
What’s interesting about this is where other possible uses of beth occur in the Hebrew Bible. I’m going to note two here. If beth essentiae is the correct interpretation of the preposition’s syntax below, a couple of passages have significant implications for the second power (second Yahweh) idea in the Hebrew Bible.
Isaiah 66:15 is a verse noted by Gesenius as an example of the beth essentiae:
See, the LORD (YHWH) is coming with fire-His chariots are like a whirlwind-To vent His anger in fury, His rebuke in flaming fire.
The red “with” is the Tanakh translation of the beth preposition. If we translate this predicatively, we get “See, YHWH is coming as fire . . .” The context clearly hearkens back to the Sinai imagery in passages like 68:18; Exod. 19:18; 24:17 (and possibly, Deut 33:1-2, which is rife with text-critical problems). Why is this significant? Because of the Angel of YHWH description and the burning bush in Exod. 3:1-2-
1 Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the ?mountain of God. 2 ?And ?the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed.
Once again, the red “in” marks the occurrence of the preposition beth. If we translate this predicatively we get: “the angel of the Lord appeared to him as a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. This would conceptually align YHWH coming as a fire in Sinai imagery with the Angel as fire at Sinai.