[b-hebrew] Is 9:6 Mem clausum?
Daniel R. Pater
paterdr at hotmail.com
Thu Mar 24 00:04:22 EST 2005
23 March 2005
This is a masoretic look at Isa 9:6, where the first word in the verse,
lemarBe, "to the increase [of his government]" is written with mem finalis
in the middle of the word.
I am new to this forum and I was attracted first of all to this thread.
There are interesting and intriguing 'higher' comments here saying this mem
finalis signifies that the Holy Spirit caused the scribe to 'err' to
prophesy the 'closed womb' which bears the coming Messiah.
Here I address the 'lower' aspect of this phenonemon, i.e. the merely human
factor of the writing; I have no wish to claim any direct and intimate
understanding of the Holy Spirit's role in the mechanical copying of this
text or other scribal curiosities of the sacred text. The opinion has
already been expressed here that this is simply a scribal error. I thought
it might be useful to elaborate a bit on the masoretic evidence regarding
this. I would have liked to include some illustrations of the texts and
even the texts in the proper fonts but don't know if this list permits these
means. Kindly enlighten, and perhaps I shall be able to oblige if this
generates any interest.
Isa 9:6 The text in the great Qumran scroll scroll of Isiaih
(http://www.ao.net/~fmoeller/qum-8.htm , line 23) corresponds to the
marginal qere ("to be read") of the MT. It seems clear, then, that the
change in writing occured sometime thereafter (i.e. post 100 B.C.) and that
Isa 9:6 can be handily examined in the Aleppo Crown, our oldest Ben Asher
codex, at http://www.aleppocodex.org/aleppocodex.html
At that website enter the citation for searching, then locate the text on
the left-hand page, middle column, 8th line from bottom. There the mem
finalis is there, and perhaps a space after the mem finalis, so that the
consonental reading would be lm rbh. Paleographically it is difficult for me
to be sure of the space in the Aleppo facsimile between the two words - it's
very close but perhaps there is a little more space here. The masoretic
circule is written almost above the space where the separation could be.
Indeed, both the Hebrew University Bible (HUBP) edition of Isaiah and the
"Crown of Jerusalem" editions, both based on the Aleppo Codex, print this as
two words [lm rbh]. These are faithful reproductions of the Aleppo text,
where it has been preserved. HUBP is a virtually diplomatic text, and so we
bow to the experts' judgement regarding the space. The masoretic qere note
in the codex (and the HUBP) there says simply these two should be read as
one, dutifully omitting the space and using medial mem.
Thus, the change took place sometime between 100 BC (Qumran) and the 10th
cent. AD (Aleppo, Tiberian masoretic tradition). The Masoretes were careful
to note the change, presumed it was an error (hence the qere) but, as was
their custom, would notchange the text as they had received it.
This is confirmed in Leningrad B19a where, however, things are more
interesting. Here the same writing is found, but thereis more clearly no
space between the elements, thus showing it as one word. Thus B19a is noted
for this "one word" writing in the critical apparatus II of the above cited
HUBP, along with several other manuscripts. Indeed, both BHK3 and BHS
followthis reading and spacing (more about BHS in a minute...)
There is no Masorah magna (Mm) here, but thanks to Philippe Cassuto's
_Qeré-Ketib et Listes Massorétiques dans le ManuscriptB19a_ (Judentum und
Umwelt 26, Verlag Peter Lang 1989), p. 68, we can locate a pertinent Mm list
including Isa 9:6 at Gen30:11. In the Genesis passage something different
has happened, where "good fortune!" is written as one word, but the
qerenotes it should be read as two separate words.
The Mm at the bottom of the codex page (folio 17 verso, p. 46 in the
facsimile edition) note reads (my translation): "Fifteen times written [as]
one word but read as two (Gen 30:11, Ex 4:2 Dt 33:2, Isa 3:15, Jer 6:29,
18:3, Ex 8:6, Psa 10:10, 55:16,123:4, Jer 38:1, Jer 40:6, Gen 2:13, 1 Chr
9:4, I Chr 27:12) and, the contrary,  written as two but read as one
(Jud16:25, 1Sam 9:1; 1Sam 24:9; Isa 9:6; Isa 44:24; Lam 1:6; Lam 4:3; 2Chr
So, although in B19a the first word of Isa 9:6 is written as one word, the
note at Gen 30:11 clearly shows that it isconsidered, because of the mem
finalis, to be written as two words, necessitating the corrective qere note.
Regarding BHS. for better or worse, Weil's edited marginal masoretic note Mp
in BHS at Isa 6 and elsewhere has added to theoriginal (simple qere) note
the phrase (which is found only at 1Chr 34:6 in B19a and which is a part of
the Mm note at Gen30:11 in B19a) to the effect that this is one of 8 places
where the word is written as two words but read as one. Weil'sMasorah
Gedolah (Rome 1971), at Mm 214 repeats the note at Gen 30:11 listing the 15
and the 8 citations from the two parts of the note given above. I cannot
check, but presume that Frendsdorf Mm p 368 correspond to this list, as it
is cited in thecritical apparatus at I Chr 34:6 in BHK3.
In conclusion: the mem finalis was introduced into the text at some time
after the writing of the Qumran Isaiah scroll (ca 100 BC) and sometime
before the final flowering of the Tiberian masoretic school in the 10th
century AD, when the Aleppo Codex was produced. At that time the text was
written as two words but to be read as one. This is confirmed by the Mm
note in Leningrad B19a for Gen 30:11 and the Mp note at IChr 34:6.
Daniel R. Pater
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