[b-hebrew] Isaiah 53: In his death?

Schmuel schmuel at escape.com
Sat May 15 11:32:49 EDT 2004

Hi b-Hebrew

Isaiah 53:9 (KJB)
And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; 
because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
(1611 footnote...Heb. deathes)

>>> Well, since the argument started to deviate into a messianic debate, may I
>>> suggest to concentrate, to begin with, on a single word: bemotav
>>> It is uniformly translated as in his death How so? The word is in plural in every mss, even in 
>>> Qumran.  So, it is either,  in his deathS, or, from boma, his altars
>>> I would love to read any arguments to the contrary.

>I'm far from being a Hebrew scholar yet, but Gesenius mentions something on intensive plurals (124 e) One might need to have a look at Ezk 28:10, where the same word is in the plural.

Hi Emmanuel and Vadim,

    A while back I heard about this question, when it was raised on Paltalk voice chat, as an example of a supposed deliberate Hebrew to English translation error in the King James Bible and other Christian Bibles.  I was rather new to such issues, so used it as a "textbook study case" to look at it from many angles, which led me to the points than Emmanuel mentions, as well as many others.

    So I ended up even indexing the analysis
 "E" and "F" below were probably the most directly appropos to your question here -- 

    Please note: in the general discussion I definitely DID discuss various doctrinal and wrote from a particular viewpoint -  most of my extracts here are from E and F, directly germane to the Hebrew scholarship, both of the grammars, and of rabbinics who looked at the passage from a Hebraic perspective.


First let me note that Flint and Abegg disgree vis a vis the Dead Sea Scrolls translation
Dead Sea Scrolls Bible - Flint/Abegg/Ulrich
Then they made his grave with the wicked, and with rich people* his tomb - 
although he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.
*(a rich man)

The DSS text  (Great Isaiah Scroll) is slightly different than the Masoretic Text,  and only allows for "his tomb" (rather than grave) and the plural is not possible (information from Lisbeth Fried, I believe on this forum) 

At least, that is my understanding so far :-)

Keil-Delitzch (Vol 7) p. 329
Motay is a plur. exaggerativus here, as in Ezekiel xxviii. 10 (compare memothe in Ezekiel xxviii 8 and Jer. xvi. 4); it is applied to a violent death, the very pain of which makes it like dying again and again

Jamieson, Fausset, Brown  
 <snip> in his death--Hebrew, "deaths." LOWTH translates, "His tomb"; bamoth, from a different root, meaning "high places," and so mounds for sepulture (Ezekiel 43:7). But all the versions oppose this, and the Hebrew hardly admits it. Rather translate, "after His death" [HENGSTENBERG]; as we say, "at His death." The plural, "deaths," intensifies the force; as Adam by sin "dying died" (Genesis 2:17, Margin); 

Genesius goes into the various forms, as well. 

Examples of  Plural of Majesty, Rank., Magnitude, Excellence, Plural of Intensity. 
SUMMARY FROM MICHAEL BROWN, PhD. (post 1603 below)
Third, the reason that the word “death” is in the plural in verse 9 is because it is an intensive plural, referring here to a violent death. Such usage of intensive plurals is extremely common in Hebrew, as recognized by even beginning students of the language. Thus, the word for compassion is an intensive plural, rahamîm, while the word for God is elohîm (see “Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus,” Vol. 2, 3.1). 
                      Singular versus plural
More specifically, in Ezek. 28:8, the prophet declares, “and you [singular] will die the deaths [plural] of one slain [singular] in the depths of the sea.” It is impossible to question the meaning here! A single person dies a plural death! (See also Ezek. 28:10, “the deaths of the uncircumcised [plural] you will die [singular].”) Whenever the Hebrew Bible refers to the deaths of an individual, it speaks of a violent death. 

A good complement to this is the study of the Elohim plurality form
Edward B. Pusey in The "Suffering Servant of Isaiah" According to the Jewish Interpreters

Objection 3:  The argument that (motav) "his death" (53:9) should be rendered, "deaths", and so implies that the one spoken of is not one, but many, is used by Lipmann, among others: 
      Answer: There is no more reason for making the word used here into a plural than there is for turning "hayim" ("life") into a plural, even though it seems outwardly to have a plural form. Many nouns in Hebrew are used in the plural were we, Westerners, could hardly account for it. The plural is used of a condition, as a period of life, or a condition of the body. (For example, in the words for "age", "youth", "maidenhood", "bridehood" (Jer.2:2), "embalming" (Gen. 50:3), "blindness". ) There is then no reason why "deaths" should not mean "the state of death", as "hayim" means "the state of life". And this agrees better with the usual use  of "b' ", "in", or "at".  In the only other case in which the plural occurs, Ezekiel 28:10, it is used of an individual, the prince of Tyre. ; (and 'a single man could not' (in Lippmann's words) 'die more than once'  

     In addition, the  earliest interpreters of the Isaiah passage rendered this as a singular. (For example, all the Greek versions have a singular. Saadiah has "in his dying"; the Persian and Tataric versions, "how the messiah will resign himself to die"; Yepheth b. Ali, "in his death"; Joseph b. Nathan; Abarbanel--using it of Josiah; Marini; Lopez; Mosheh of Salerno; Passani; and Tanchum.) 

Ezekiel 28:10 (KJV) (about the King of Tyre)
Thou shalt die the deaths of the uncircumcised by the hand of strangers: for I have spoken it, saith the Lord GOD.

By the hands of strangers you shall die 
The death of the uncircumcised;
For I have spoken - declares the Lord GOD.

"Many rabbinical writings had interpreted Isaiah 53 for an individual, 
 Messiah, Jeremiah, Hezekiah, Josiah (Joseph), and they all of course
 had no problem with motav being "virtually singular, or find some other 
 emphasis for the plural, or assign some other meaning for the whole word"  ....

"If regarded as a plural, the explanation of Herz Homberg (since the affix is singular), is more natural, 'the plural "deaths" is used, because piercing him as cruel men do, through and through, they would, so to speak, be putting him to death again and again;' much as we might say 'a thousand deaths in one.' 
Rashi               .   'any form of death'
Kimchi              .. 'the plural is employed, because they used to be put to death in many ways'
Nachmanides .. ... he will expect them to slay him by stoning, ... This is why motav is plural
Astruc              ..   the prophet uses death in the plural because they condemned 
                            them to different forms of punishment
Napthali Altschuler, Segre, David Altschuler..  ' any form of death'
Mordechai           .. 'death in two forms' (of his person and substance) 

Isaiah 53:9.... the "be-motav- in his death" question
A)  Introduction
B)  The accusation of "tampering" and mistranslating - five ants, a freethinker/skeptic, an islamist
C)  Christian false doctrine built upon misunderstanding Isaiah 53:9, Word of Faith
D)  Jewish translations do NOT support the accusation, 4 of 5 translate be-motav as singular
E)  E. B. Pusey refutes the Hebrew grammar argument, shows other Scriptural examples,
     and demonstrates that the writings of many Rabbinical commentators contradict the accusation
F)  More Hebrew grammar refutations - Keil-Delitsche, JFB, Ezekiel 28:8, Freeman and more
G)  The most dishonest anti-missionary accusation 
H)  Comparing Translations, two are in fact are very different
I)   Art Scroll - Translating through the Glasses of Rabbinical Commentaries
J)  Singer - A "made-to-order" Dishonest Mistranslation
K)  Michael Brown article in Messianic Times

links to the posts in the series (above)
A)   http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Messianic_Apologetic/message/1243
B)   http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Messianic_Apologetic/message/1245
C)  http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Messianic_Apologetic/message/1254
D)  http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Messianic_Apologetic/message/1255
E)  http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Messianic_Apologetic/message/1303
F)   http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Messianic_Apologetic/message/1312
G)  http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Messianic_Apologetic/message/1314
H)   http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Messianic_Apologetic/message/1335
 I)   http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Messianic_Apologetic/message/1353
J)   http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Messianic_Apologetic/message/1354
K)  http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Messianic_Apologetic/message/1603
The following adds additional examples of the references to rabbinic understanding above:
By the rich are meant the powerful men among the Gentiles, who are rich, while Israel in exile, is spoken of as poor and needy: at that time some of them will perish, and the prophet here declares, how the Messiah will resign himself to die, and be buried in their tomb.
Yapheth ben Ali (Karaite)

Hence it is here said that he himself "Made His grave with the wicked"; he also made it with the rich in his death; he was not poor, but in His death could be . counted with the rich.
R. Sh'muel Lanyado (circa 1600)

Shalom Shabbat,
Steven Avery
Queens, NY

Schmuel at escape.com

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