[b-hebrew] Isaiah 53: pierced?

Harold R. Holmyard III hholmyard at ont.com
Wed May 19 16:18:54 EDT 2004

Dear Vadim,

>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).

HH: The verb XLL is an ayn-ayn root. It can still be POAL. By the 
way, the lexicons have no trouble with the idea of one verb having 
both POAL and PUAL forms.

>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.

HH: That does not matter. XLL is an adjective and a verb. Ezekiel 
elsewhere uses the adjective but with Ezek 32:36 he uses the verb in 
a participle, which can be a verbal adjective.

>  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.

HH: XLL would indicate pierced, not smashed.

>  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?

HH: They are among the dead. Everybody mentioned is in the pit.

>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.

HH: Proverbs 26:10 is recognized as a proverb difficult to 
understand. There are many suggested interpretations. However, 
"empties" does not suit the context well even by your interpretation. 
A verb like "loses" might. And what verb are you taking it from to 
get the idea of "empty"? The idea in the normal translation is that 
an archer shooting passers-by would be exceedingly thoughtless and 
hurtful. So somebody who hires fools is thoughtless and hurtful, 
because the people he hires will bring harm to everyone around.

>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.

HH: Note that the contest in Job is mythological. The gliding serpent 
is another way to describe Rahab. And piercing is parallel to cutting 
to pieces:

Job 26:12 By his power he churned up the sea; by his wisdom he cut 
Rahab to pieces.
Job 26:13 By his breath the skies became fair; his hand pierced the 
gliding serpent. 

>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.)

HH: The imagery is the same here in Isaiah as in Job 26. Again there 
is Rahab, a sea monster, cutting to pieces (or striking), and 
piercing. The verb XCB ("hew") can certainly speak of destructive 
action. See the first verb in Hos 6:5:

Hos. 6:5 Therefore I cut you in pieces with my prophets, I killed you 
with the words of my mouth; my judgments flashed like lightning upon 

					Harold Holmyard

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