[b-hebrew] Isaiah 53: pierced?

UUC unikom at paco.net
Wed May 19 15:25:08 EDT 2004

Dear Harold,

Just to be sure, let me clarify that I'm speaking of the semantic difference between mehulal and meholal (although I would suggest that meholal is not poal, but ayn-ayn root).

For example, consider this instance:

If Ezekiel's mehulal means the same as Isaiah's meholal, mhll in Ezekiel is not killed, because killed is denoted everywhere in Ez32 with hll. The difference is also evidenced by that mhll is employed only toward Meshech and Tubal, the only two tribes in the list, not described as smashed anywhere in Tanakh. That Ezekiel also did not consider them dead is clear from his continuation, with its sense, Shouldn't they have been among the dead, too?

In Proverbs 26:10, the rendering of mhll as killed is wrong. The proverb compares someone who hires a criminal or passer-by with rav mhll kol. The correct sense of the latter phrase is not archer who kills everyone (which does not have immediate relation to the hire of passer-by), but master who empties all, presumably by foolish management. The correct translation, therefore, is Like a master who empties all is he who hires a criminal or passer-by, meaning that such employer would be emptied of his wealth.

And more complicated argument below:

Isaiah's use is modeled upon Job 26:13, "His hand holelah the serpent." Serpent here is the traditional nahash, copper colored snake, the tempter, with no implication of the mythical monsters Tiamat or Leviathan. Is27:1 tells the same story in the same words, distinguishing nahash from the sea serpent. After successfully tempting Eve, the serpent was cursed, deprived of the covenant God gave to living beings. The serpent's life was made miserable, and he was emptied. 

Isaiah 51:9 "Are not you [the arm of God] the one cutting the monster [Egypt], meholelet the crocodile [pharaoh]?" The next verse clarifies the meaning by mentioning the passing through the Reed Sea. The Torah is explicit that Pharaoh did not die pursuing the Israelites. He was what could be described as emptied, losing his chariots: the cream of his army. 

(Cutting, incidentally, is incorrect, because the word has a positive, creative connotation, like cutting stone, but not destruction. The correct meaning is made the one who cut the stone [made the pyramids], showing that God can give power to the pharaoh and empty him of it.)

Best regards,


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