Last week, we introduced two words for “stoning” in Biblical Hebrew: sekilah and regimah. This week, we will continue to explore the interplay between these two terms and how they relate to one another.
Rabbi Eliyahu HaBachur points out in his work Meturgaman that Targum consistently renders the Hebrew term sekilah into Aramaic as regimah, but also translates the Hebrew regimah into Aramaic as regimah. Similarly, Rabbi Moshe Tedeschi Ashkenazi (1821-1898) writes in his book on Hebrew synonyms, Otzar Nirdafim, that there is no clear line of demarcation between when sekilah versus rigimah should be used.
In contrast, Rabbi Shlomo Pappenheim (1740-1814) explains that while regimah and sekilah both refer to stoning someone or something, there is a slight difference between them: sekilah refers to the act of throwing stones at the intended target, while regimah refers to the result of the stoning.
Rabbi Yaakov Tzvi Mecklenburg (1785-1865) in HaKtav V’Ha’Kabbalah (to Leviticus 24:16; see also Exodus 17:4) cites a similar explanation in the name of Rabbi Yitzchak Shmuel Reggio (1784-1855), known simply as Yashar. Like Rabbi Pappenheim, Rabbi Mecklenburg explains that sekilah refers to the act of throwing stones at somebody, but that this term does not necessarily entail killing said person by stoning. For instance, the term sekilah is used when Shimi ben Geira “stoned” King David to show his disapproval with the monarch (II Samuel 16:6, 16:13). He threw stones at King David, but did not kill him.
Because the term sekilah itself does not necessarily imply “stoning to death” but rather simply “stoning,” whenever the Bible prescribes sekilah as punishment for the perpetrator of a sin it also adds that the sinner in question “should be put to death” alongside saying that he should be subject to sekilah, writes Yashar; when regimah appears in a verse, it is not followed by an explicit reference to the person’s death because the death by stoning is implied.
Rabbi Yehuda Leib Shapira-Frankfurter (1743-1826) differentiates between sekilah and regimah in a different way. He argues that sekilah is just a means to killing somebody, and even if the victim was theoretically killed with one stone, that would be enough to count as sekilah. Regimah, on the other hand, entails a pelting an entire heap of stones on the victim, even if he is already dead. This explains why Scripture or Mishna typically says “the entire nation” did the stoning in a case of regimah – because it is a group effort! Since sekilah could theoretically be carried out with a single stone, a whole crew of people is not necessary.
As mentioned last week, the Bible actually uses both regimah and sekilah in the case of Achan (Joshua 7:25). Rashi explains that this is because Achan himself was subjected to regimah, while the animals he took as booty were subjected to sekilah (see also Targum and Radak there). According to Yashar, however, the Bible uses the term regimah first because it denotes killing somebody by way of stoning, which is exactly how Achan was killed. Afterwards, the Bible uses the term sekilah, which refers simply to the act of throwing rocks without necessarily killing somebody, to convey the idea that once Achan was already dead and subsequently burnt, people threw rocks at his corpse and ashes in order to further disgrace him.
In Hipuch Otioyot, Rabbi Avi Kobernick ties together the root reish-gimmel-mem with the roots derived from the various combinations of those same letters, like gimmel-mem–reish (“finish” or “finish off,” like in gomer) and mem–gimmel–reish (“destroy,” like u’timager in the Blessing on Heretics in the Daily Prayers), all of which convey the idea of destruction and annihilation.
Towards the beginning of the Second Temple period, the prophet Zechariah was asked by a delegation of Jews who remained in the Babylonian Diaspora about whether they should continue mourning and fasting the destruction of the Temple during the month of Av as they had been doing for the last 70 years. The people who sent this question were named Sarezer and Regem-Melech (Zechariah 7:2). As an aside, the Midrash Mishnat Rabbi Eliezer (ch. 3) claims that these two men were officers from Nebuchadnezzar’s entourage who converted to Judaism after they helped destroy the First Temple. Similarly, in the genealogical listings of Chronicles, there was a Jewish man from the Tribe of Judah named Regem (I Chronicles 2:47). The names Regem and Regem-Melech both seem to be somehow derived from the triliteral root reish-gimmel-mem.
In the case of Regem-Melech, Menachem Ibn Saruk (920-970) understands that it is not actually a proper name. Instead, he explains the word regem as meaning “grouping,” such that regem melech simply means “royal delegation.” Others explain regem as meaning “officers,” with regem melech meaning “royal officials” (see Ibn Ezra to Zechariah 7:2, Psalms 68:28).
Abarbanel (to Zechariah 7:7 and Mashmia Yeshua 14:2) suggests that perhaps Regem-Melech was a title or appellation that alludes to Regem-Melech’s professional role within the royal court. In fact, in Ugaritic – a Semitic language that bears many affinities to Hebrew – the root equivalent to the Hebrew reish-gimmel-mem means “say,” “announce,” or “answer.” Putting this together with what Abarbanel wrote would suggest that perhaps Regem-Melech served as the Babylonian king’s herald or secretary. (Similarly, we could argue that perhaps the name Sarezer ought to be parsed as sar (“officer”) and otzar (“treasury”), making him the treasurer of the Babylonian kingdom.)
Radak (to Zechariah 7:2 and Sefer HaShorashim) and Ibn Ezra (to Zechariah 7:2), on the other hand, favor the approach that sees Regem-Melech as an actual name.