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

Harold R. Holmyard III hholmyard at ont.com
Sun May 16 07:41:34 EDT 2004

Dear Steve,

Thanks for taking the time to put together this 
information. I think one thing it shows is that 
although commentators may have come up with 
different explanations for why the word was in 
the plural, they showed a willingness to accept 
the word and to realize that it applies to the 
death of an individual. As you suggest, people 
who work regularly with the Hebrew need not 
stumble long over the appearance of a plural noun 
with a singular meaning, since there are so many 
of them. This is not a word like mayim or hayyim 
that is regularly in the plural, but those 
pluralized singulars help us to understand how a 
category like plural for emphasis could make 
sense in that language.

				Harold Holmyard

>     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, 
>                       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 
>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 
>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
>b-hebrew mailing list
>b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org

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