Studies in Deuteronomy: Beth of Specification

Deuteronomy 1:1 is the prologue for the book, setting forth the theme of the work: Moses’ final words to Israel on the other side of the Jordan. His words are said to be spoken במדבר בערבה. I’m going to forego attempting to understand Moses’ exact location when he gave his discourse since scholars working in historical geography aren’t quite sure of the exact locations given in Deuteronomy. However, it is notable that Israel’s location is said to be “in the wilderness (that is, in Arabah)”. The Deuteronomic author uses ב epexegetically in order to either comment on the exact location of the Israelites in the wilderness or to clarify what he means by wilderness.
The Williams Syntax calls this variety of ב “the beth of specification”. The examples which he gives include Genesis 7:21 (ויגוע כל בשר בעול ובבהמה ובחיה “All flesh died: birds, cattle, and animals”) and Exodus 13:2 (קדש לי כל בכור … באדם ובבחמה “Consecrate to me every firstborn: … human and animal.”) However, is the beth in these examples and in Deut. 1:1 functioning as a “beth of specification” or is the second (or third) word in itself functioning epexegetically? In other words, is the beth the reason a word is epexegetical or is it merely the word’s position in the sentence that makes it so? Considering that Greek nouns can function epexegetically in every case, maybe this is the way that Hebrew makes up for dropping its case system, just as English makes use of “that is”. Thoughts?


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