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

unikom at paco.net unikom at paco.net
Mon May 17 03:56:22 EDT 2004

Although wayiten is often translated as 'made,' the established meaning is
The verb is in the past, since prefix wa signals the tense reversal. While
there are examples in Tanakh to the contrary, their ratio among all verbs
prefixed with wa does not exceed the statistics for erroneous usage of
other verb forms, and therefore where wa makes semantic sense as tense
reversal' device, it should be employed thus.
The verb is in the third person sing. masc. While this form is sometimes
employed as an impersonal verb 'someone gave,' such reading is unusual and
Isaiah is not fond of it - even to the extent of excessive clarification,
like in the verse 3: [despised] by men. In our rendering, he gave and his
tomb have the same antecedent, while an impersonal verb' reading requires
two different antecedents in one phrase - and both unnamed, which is
highly unlikely. And even then, 'someone gave' is not easily stretched to
the common 'they gave.'
Still another problem with 'they gave' translation is suffix waw, meaning
his [tomb]; [gave] him would have been denoted with the preposition lo
The usual translation of altars as tomb or death is impossible, since the
word is in plural.
Plural here cannot point to intensity. The only example usually advanced
on application of the word deaths to a single person is Ezek28:10, 'You
will die [the] deaths of [the] uncircumcised.' However, while sing. you
nominally applies to the ruler of Tyre, it actually refers to the whole
nation. The verse continues, 'by hand of aliens.' Clearly, many aliens are
needed to kill not a single person, but multitude of the city dwellers.
Ezek27 addresses Tyre as a nation. Likewise, Ezek28 does to the people of
Sidon, addressing them as collective plural, akin to you in the
Certainly, plural of deaths cannot be meaningfully compared, as some do,
with life or water. These words are almost exclusively employed in plural
(because a moment of life or a piece of water cannot be singled out),
while death in employed is singular as often as any other word.
Moreover, evidently in order to comply with the gospel narration, mot is
usually translated not death, but tomb. While there at least exists one
labored reference to intensive plural of deaths in Ezekiel, there is not a
single instance of mot with the meaning of tomb used as intensive plural.
Therefore, it could be only tombs.
Still more, in order to read altars as death or tomb, the translations
usually disregard be. If not part of the word base bmt, altars, it could
be only a prefix, meaning in, which does not fit in the phrase without a
considerable semantic stretching.
Overall, the phrase is clear and readable, not significantly different
from how an Israeli newspaper would have written today: he gave: his
altars. Choosing the common reading, they will make his tomb, requires
seven significant changes or non-standard assumptions in two Hebrew words.

Vadim Cherny

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