[b-hebrew] Isaiah 53

Yigal Levin leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Sat May 15 15:54:28 EDT 2004

Dear Vadim,

> A few days ago, I posted a request for review of the article on Isaiah 53.
> Since I did not receive much replies, I realize that probably most
> participants are too busy to go through a long article. Therefore, let me
> posit here several most relevant questions on the chapter:

You are right. Thank you for laying it out this way. Here are my comments:
> Verse 4, nasa usually translated in the sense of took away or laid on
> To our knowledge, no other entry in Tanakh justifies such meaning, while
> nasa normally means lifted, with the sense took possession of, and in the
> case of sin - participated in.

"Took away or laid on himself" is a Christian interpretation, assuming that
Isaiah is referring to Jesus. "nasa" and "sabal" both mean "carry". When
referring to sin, it means that God (or a ruler) is willing to "take"
(forgive) sin, as in Exodus 32:32. In this case though, there is no sin: I
think that the good old KJV has it right: "he hath born our griefs,  and
carried our sorrows".

> Verse 5, avonot, usually translated as sins
> Sins is too broad; avon is specifically a delusion, without connotation of
> expiable sin

I don't see why, but if you don't like sin, try iniquities.
> Verse 5, meholal, usually translated as killed or cut through
> However, the word's semantics points to emptied out, which is how this and
> related words are employed in Tanakh. This emptying is often contraposed
> (like in Ezek32) to killing, thus not the same.
The root XLL can mean "empty" ( in fact in modern Hebrew "xalal xicon" is
"outer space"). It also means "killed" or "dead", usually by the sword, as
in Deut.21:1. My guess is that the two are related, that is, a "xalal" is
someone pierced by the sword. Look at Ez. 32:26, which seems to have that
double meaning. But xalal is also used in a general way for "dead". It can
also mean "desecrated".

> Verse 5, hevrah, usually translated as bruises
> To be sure, the word is in singular, as may refer to a single livid spot
> at the most. However, bruise (havurah) is grammatically impossible, since
> u cannot be short before reish, but must be written with vav. Therefore,
> probable reference is not to havurah (bruise), but to haverah, wife of the
> youth, a standard metaphor for religious orthodoxy.

You've lost me there. Look at Gen. 4:23 and Prov. 20:30. In both, the u is
short. Actually, I'd ask why there is no dagesh in the Bet. In any case,
your translation is forced.

> Verse 6, ifgia bo, usually translated as laid on him
> The word is never translated so anywhere else in Tanakh. Its root refers
> to clash, which produced different words from hit to demonstration. Its
> semantical meaning is, to clash with something, which is how it is
> approximated in Isaiah 59:16 with intercede.
> Moreover, preposition bo refers to the sin entering the man, not being
> laid on him, which would be denoted with preposition al.

Enough said about this!

> Verse 7, nigas, usually translated as oppressed
> Nowhere in Tanakh the word has this meaning.

What about Ex. 3:7 (and a dozen other places)?

> Verse 9, waiten, usually translated as was given or they gave
> The only two grammatically possible readings are, you (sing.masc.) gave,
> or he gave

It is "he gave". However the verb NTN/MTN/YTN has a very wide semantic
range. KJV has "he made", which sound good to me.

> Verse 9, bemotaw, usually translated in his death
> However, the word is in plural, and thus may be interpreted only as the
> reference to his altars

The context make "his death" the only possible meaning. Why in the plural?
I'm not sure, but give Isaiah SOME poetic license!

> Verse 10, tasim, usually translated as you made [his life an offering for
> sin]
> The word tasim means lay or bring, and is in future tense sing. either
> second-person masc, or third-person fem. A word nafsho (his soul), fem.,
> is perfectly relevant, thus, if his sould had brought an offering for his
> sin. In order to have something done to his soul, other interpreters have
> to presuppose a masc. object, such as the nation, who did this harm to the
> soul. However, nation is not mentioned anywhere close, and cannot be the
> antecedent.

The translation of "a$am" as "sin offering" is possible, but it could just
mean "blame" or "guilt". "Tasim a$am" may be a play on words, "lay on the

> Verse 11, izdak zadik larabim, usually translated, the righteous one shall
> make many righteous
> This translation is made impossible by the preposition le: for or before
> many, thus justified the righteous before multitude (obviously, Jews
> before gentiles)


> Verse 12, lapsheim ifgia, usually translated as interceded for criminals
> Interceded is always encountered in Tanakh with preposition be, meaning
> before someone, and with a clear definition of the goal of intercession,
> such as not to burn the scroll. Preposition le, when employed with ifgia,
> means attached to. Therefore, he was attached to criminals, or, regarded
> as one of the criminals.

You could be right there.

> There is no need to comment that this reading does not leave place for the
> Christian messianic interpretation.

As a non-Christian, I can see where the Christian interpretation is coming
from. I thing that the major thing to be learned here is that there are a
lot of faulty translations out there!


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