Your sons or your Builder? (Is 62:5)

Shai Heijmans shaih at
Mon Jul 8 05:04:23 EDT 2002

Dear Mr. Larsson,

Here are a few comments on your interesting questions.


> * Does anyone have any comments on which 

> reading of BNYK is preferable

> or probable, sons or Builder? Which did Isiah 

> (and the Holy Spirit)

> have in mind when writing the text?


1. The interpretation "your Builder" would require YB(LK BNK (see BHS apparatus). But the text reads YB(LWK BNYK, and BHS/BHK don't give any evidence for their conjectural "Builder". My guess is that the editors were under the impression of Isaia 49:17 where the reading "bonayikh" instead of "banayikh" is perhaps justified (see the apparatus there).

2. Jewish interpreters all refer to "sons". E.g. Targum Jonatan: "kema demityatav olem im betula ken yityativ begavikh benakhy" (=like a young man settles down with a young girl, so also your children will settle down in you [zion]). Rashi quotes TJ word for word. See also Radaq and Metsudat Tsion.

3. In the Talmud we find once "banayikh" to be interpreted as "bonayikh" (Bavli, Brachot 64a; see also Ester Raba, parasha 10 and Yalqut Shimoni, remez 479), but it concerns Isaia 54:13, not this verse, and it concerns "builders" not "builder". (By the way, this interpretation can be easily explained due to the Babylonian and Tiberian traditions to pronunciate qamats very similarly to holam, qamats being a bit lower than [o]. It is not surprising we don't find this interpretation in palestinian sources, like bereshit raba or vayykra raba, since in the palestinian pronunciation qamats is [a] and holam is [o].)

4. I suppose the real reason for the swedish translation is that the sipmle reading, i.e. "your sons will have sexual intercourse with you" would have been to harsh on the delicate swedish ears. The translator took the easy way out by adopting the BHS conjectural reading. It wouldn't surprise me if the translator was more a man of the cloth rather than a hebraist.


> * Any thought about what motivations the 

> scribes had for vocalising BNYK

> as "sons"?


5. Apparently, that was their tradition, as we can learn form the Massora Parva stating that it is one of 18 occurrences of "banayikh" (so the MP of BHS; but I must admit that this note does not appear neither in the Leningrad codex, nor in the Aleppo codex).


> * Does the Builder reading require a 

> majestic plural with the yodh, or

> is the yodh part of the lamed-he verb

> stem in the singular participle?


6. The qal-participal-active of BNH with the 2fs pronominal suffix is B(W)NK (bonekh), without a yod. Indeed, _if_ we assume a majestic plural, we could expect BNYK (bonayikh).

7. But this solution - although a nice one! - can't hold, because maj. pl. is very rare in hebrew; it occurs practically only with four nouns: elohim, adonim, bealim and teraphim. It is certainly _not_ used in metaphores such as here.

8. If you insist on "Builder" I can suggest the following solution. Some nouns with the ending segol-he (like the participle "boneh", builder) can be declined in singular as if they were plural, e.g. MAR:)"YHEM insread of *MAR:)FM. See on this Jouon-Muraoka paragraph 96Ce (p. 307), Bauer-Leander p. 584c and the table on p. 586, "miqneh". Accordingly, one can argue that BNYK (bonayikh) is such a singular, exactly like "miqnayikh" is a singular.


Shai Heijmans

Tel Aviv University

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