Bees

tags:  Semitic pun · symbol   —   by Gerry · May 2018 · 1192 words

Bees are often used as symbols by spooks because the Semitic word root dbr means both “bee” and “leader”.

Semitic dbr for “bee”

The word deborah means “bee” in Hebrew & Aramaic. The word stem is dbr, with the H being a female suffix, even though bees have a male plural form.

Hebrew, Aramaic dbr = bee, wasp, hornet

דבורה dbwrh deborah : bee — Old Hebrew (Strong)

דבורה dbwrh debbōrā : bee, wasp — Aramaic (CAL)

דבורי dbwry debbōrī : bee, hornet — Aramaic (CAL)

Semitic dbr for “leader”

The same word root dbr also means “leader” & “governor” in Aramaic & Arabic, plus some attestations for Hebrew. This may be unrelated, or stem from the root meaning “to follow”, as bees follow each other in swarms, and the dbr root also means “swarm” in Arabic.

In any case, it’s a great pun: A spook-aristocrat uses a bee for a symbol, and other spooks will recognize him to be a secret “leader”.

Aramaic dbr for “leader”

The same word root dbr also means “leader” in Aramaic. This may be derived from dbr also meaning “words”, or from a general meaning of the √dbr root as “following behind”.

Aramaic dbr = leader, guide, driver

דבר dbr : to lead, to drive, to live, act, behave, to plow, to take as wife, to lead, to treat someone/something, to lead one’s life in a certain manner, to plant seed while plowing, to give precedence, treat as leader, to be taken, to be led away, to conduct oneself, live one’s life, to be plowed, to be led, guided, to conduct oneself, manage one’s life — Aramaic (CAL)

דבור dbwr : driver — Aramaic (CAL)

דבור dbwr : leadership — Aramaic (CAL)

דבורין dbwryn : conduct, guidance — Aramaic (CAL)

דביר dbyr : leading — Aramaic (CAL)

דבר dbr : leader — Aramaic (CAL)

דברה dbrh : guiding power, impulse — Aramaic (CAL)

דברו dbrw : leading — Aramaic (CAL)

דברי dbry : leader — Aramaic (CAL)

מדברן mdbrn : leader, guide, shepherd, administrator, governor, helmsman — Aramaic (CAL)

מדברנו mdbrnw : administration — Aramaic (CAL)

מדברני mdbrny : prudent, leader-like, governmental — Aramaic (CAL)

We even have Biblical attestation of the “leader” meaning in the Peshitta version of the New Testament.

But I say unto you, Love your enemies; bless them who execrate you; do that which is good to him who hateth you; and pray for them who lead you with a chain, and persecute you.

אנא דין אמר אנא לכון אחבו לבעלדבביכון וברכו למן דלאט לכון ועבדו דשפיר למן דסנא לכון וצלו על אילין דדברין לכון בקטירא ורדפין לכון

ܐܶܢܳܐ ܕ݁ܶܝܢ ܐܳܡܰܪ ܐ݈ܢܳܐ ܠܟ݂ܽܘܢ ܐܰܚܶܒ݂ܘ ܠܰܒ݂ܥܶܠܕ݁ܒ݂ܳܒ݂ܰܝܟ݁ܽܘܢ ܘܒ݂ܰܪܶܟ݂ܘ ܠܡܰܢ ܕ݁ܠܳܐܶܛ ܠܟ݂ܽܘܢ ܘܰܥܒ݂ܶܕ݂ܘ ܕ݁ܫܰܦ݁ܺܝܪ ܠܡܰܢ ܕ݁ܣܳܢܶܐ ܠܟ݂ܽܘܢ ܘܨܰܠܰܘ ܥܰܠ ܐܰܝܠܶܝܢ ܕ݁ܕ݂ܳܒ݂ܪܺܝܢ ܠܟ݂ܽܘܢ ܒ݁ܰܩܛܺܝܪܳܐ ܘܪܳܕ݂ܦ݁ܺܝܢ ܠܟ݂ܽܘܢ

Peshitta Matthew 5:44

Be persuaded by your leaders, and obey them; for they watch for your souls as men who must render an account of you, that with joy they may do this, and not with groans; for that is not profitable for you.

אתטפיסו למדברניכון ואשתמעו להון הנון גיר שהרין חלף נפשתכון איך אנשא דיהבין חושבנכון דבחדותא נהוון עבדין הדא ולא בתנחתא מטל דלא פקחא לכון

ܐܶܬ݁ܛܦ݁ܺܝܣܘ ܠܰܡܕ݂ܰܒ݁ܪܳܢܰܝܟ݁ܽܘܢ ܘܶܐܫܬ݁ܰܡ݈ܥܘ ܠܗܽܘܢ ܗܶܢܽܘܢ ܓ݁ܶܝܪ ܫܳܗܪܺܝܢ ܚܠܳܦ݂ ܢܰܦ݂ܫܳܬ݂ܟ݂ܽܘܢ ܐܰܝܟ݂ ܐ݈ܢܳܫܳܐ ܕ݁ܝܳܗܒ݁ܺܝܢ ܚܽܘܫܒ݁ܳܢܟ݂ܽܘܢ ܕ݁ܰܒ݂ܚܰܕ݂ܽܘܬ݂ܳܐ ܢܶܗܘܽܘܢ ܥܳܒ݂ܕ݁ܺܝܢ ܗܳܕ݂ܶܐ ܘܠܳܐ ܒ݁ܬ݂ܶܢܚܳܬ݂ܳܐ ܡܶܛܽܠ ܕ݁ܠܳܐ ܦ݁ܳܩܚܳܐ ܠܟ݂ܽܘܢ

Peshitta Hebrews 13:17

Ask for the peace of all your leaders, and of all the saints: they of Italia ask for your peace.

שאלו בשלמא דכלהון מדברניכון ודכלהון קדישא שאלין בשלמכון כלהון דמן איטליא

ܫܰܐܠܘ ܒ݁ܰܫܠܳܡܳܐ ܕ݁ܟ݂ܽܠܗܽܘܢ ܡܕ݂ܰܒ݁ܪܳܢܰܝܟ݁ܽܘܢ ܘܰܕ݂ܟ݂ܽܠܗܽܘܢ ܩܰܕ݁ܺܝܫܶܐ ܫܳܐܠܺܝܢ ܒ݁ܰܫܠܳܡܟ݂ܽܘܢ ܟ݁ܽܠܗܽܘܢ ܕ݁ܡܶܢ ܐܺܝܛܰܠܺܝܰܐ

Peshitta Hebrews 13:24

Arabic dbr as a governing title

In Arabic, we find the verb yudabbir for “governing”, in most translations euphemized to “arranging”. The T-prefixed form tadbir means “government”. There was even an official title mudabbir for “governor”, though that is kept out of modern dictionaries, and now only found in ancient names and in Urdu.

Arabic dbr = manage, order, governor, administrator

دَبَّرَ dabbara : to direct, to manage, to regulate; to set free; to arrange, to dispose, to plan, to prepare, to organize, to hatch, to contrive, to devise, to forecast — Arabic (Wikt)

تَدْبِير tadbīr : order; arrangement; administration; government; politics, policy — Arabic (Wikt)

دِبْر dibr : swarm, flock, drove; great wealth, much property — Arabic (Wikt)

مدبر mudabbir : disposing in order, governing; a governor, rector, moderator, director, administrator; a master; a scribe — Arabic (Richardson)

مدبر mudabbir : to devise, plan; managing, conducting; disposing in order, regulating, governing; one who manages (affairs of any kind), a counsellor, minister, governor, administrator, director — Urdu (Sufinama)

The Quran does not contain the noun tadbir for “government”, but the verb form yuddabir for “governing”. Both clearly show the root dbr for “following” and “making follow”.

Your Lord is God, who created the heavens and the earth in six days, then settled over the Throne, governing all things. There is no intercessor except after His permission. Such is God, your Lord, so serve Him. Will you not reflect?

إِنَّ رَبَّكُمُ اللَّهُ الَّذِي خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ فِي سِتَّةِ أَيَّامٍ ثُمَّ اسْتَوَىٰ عَلَى الْعَرْشِ ۖ يُدَبِّرُ الْأَمْرَ ۖ مَا مِنْ شَفِيعٍ إِلَّا مِنْ بَعْدِ إِذْنِهِ ۚ ذَٰلِكُمُ اللَّهُ رَبُّكُمْ فَاعْبُدُوهُ ۚ أَفَلَا تَذَكَّرُونَ

Quran Yunus 3

Mudabbir as a title is still attested for many texts about islamic administration. The fact that scholars cannot sort out if the “governor” is also the “ruler” or the “king” may also hint at a cryptocratic title used in administrations with hidden governors.

Al-Siyāsah al-Madaniyyah 84:6 speaks of “the governor of that city” (mudabbir tulka al-madinah); 84:11–12 speaks of “the governor of the city, i.e., the king” (mudabbir almadinah wa-huwa al-malik). Najjar notes malik as a variant reading for mudabbir at 84:6.

Najjar has “to manage” for yudabbir (Lerner & Mahdi 1963, p.40). I have substituted “to govern” to reflect the common root of “governor” and “to govern.”

Galston, Miriam. 2014. Politics and Excellence. p130

Lastly, there are many Islamic names having Mudabbir as a component, usually translated as “the planner”:

We may conclude that speakers of Arabic dialects and their precursors would also have recognized the root dbr as a “governor” in the right context.

Hebrew dbr for “leader”

The “leader” meaning of the dbr root is absent from the Hebrew Tanakh, possibly because of censoring to protect the bee pun. The Klein & Jastrow dictionaries however list this meaning, though both seems to cite Aramaic occurrences & etymologies.

Hebrew dbr = leader, guide

דבר dbr : leader, guide — Hebrew (Klein)

דבר dbr : leader — Hebrew (Jastrow)

דבר dbr : to join, arrange, lead (the flock); to make submissive, persuade — Hebrew (Jastrow)

דבר dbr : to seize, take, lead, drive; to lead, drive; to take, lead — Hebrew (Jastrow)

While this is not great evidence, we have more than enough evidence from Aramaic & Arabic: “Bees” have been written like “leaders” for a long time, and all Semitic-speaking spooks from the Phoenician empire onwards would have understood this pun.

tags:  Semitic pun · symbol