[b-hebrew] Is 9:6 Mem clausum?

Daniel R. Pater paterdr at hotmail.com
Thu Mar 24 00:04:22 EST 2005

23 March 2005

Hello, all,

This is a masoretic look at Isa 9:6, where the first word in the verse, 
lemarBe, "to the increase [of his government]" is written with mem finalis 
in the middle of the word.

I am new to this forum and I was attracted first of all to this thread. 
There are interesting and intriguing 'higher' comments here saying this mem 
finalis signifies  that the Holy Spirit caused the scribe to 'err' to 
prophesy the 'closed womb' which bears the coming Messiah.

Here I address the 'lower' aspect of this phenonemon, i.e. the merely human 
factor of the writing; I have no wish to claim any direct and intimate 
understanding of the Holy Spirit's role in the mechanical copying of this 
text or other scribal curiosities of the sacred text.  The opinion has 
already been expressed here that this is simply a scribal error.  I thought 
it might be useful to elaborate a bit on the masoretic evidence regarding 
this.  I would have liked to include some illustrations of the texts and 
even the texts in the proper fonts but don't know if this list permits these 
means.  Kindly enlighten, and perhaps I shall be able to oblige if this 
generates any interest.

Isa 9:6 The text in the great Qumran scroll scroll of Isiaih 
(http://www.ao.net/~fmoeller/qum-8.htm , line 23) corresponds to the 
marginal qere ("to be read") of the MT.  It seems clear, then, that the 
change in writing occured sometime thereafter (i.e. post 100 B.C.) and that 

Isa 9:6 can be handily examined in the Aleppo Crown, our oldest Ben Asher 
codex, at http://www.aleppocodex.org/aleppocodex.html
At that website enter the citation for searching, then locate the text on 
the left-hand page, middle column, 8th line from bottom. There the mem 
finalis is there, and perhaps a space after the mem finalis, so that the 
consonental reading would be lm rbh. Paleographically it is difficult for me 
to be sure of the space in the Aleppo facsimile between the two words - it's 
very close but perhaps there is a little more space here. The masoretic 
circule is written almost above the space where the separation could be.

Indeed, both the Hebrew University Bible (HUBP) edition of Isaiah and the 
"Crown of Jerusalem" editions, both based on the Aleppo Codex, print this as 
two words [lm rbh]. These are faithful reproductions of the Aleppo text, 
where it has been preserved.  HUBP is a virtually diplomatic text, and so we 
bow to the experts' judgement regarding the space.  The masoretic qere note 
in the codex (and the HUBP) there says simply these two should be read as 
one, dutifully omitting the space and using medial mem.

Thus, the change took place sometime between 100 BC (Qumran) and the 10th 
cent. AD (Aleppo, Tiberian masoretic tradition). The Masoretes were careful 
to note the change, presumed it was an error (hence the qere) but, as was 
their custom, would notchange the text as they had received it.

This is confirmed in Leningrad B19a where, however, things are more 
interesting.  Here the same writing is found, but thereis more clearly no 
space between the elements, thus showing it as one word. Thus B19a is noted 
for this "one word" writing in the critical apparatus II of the above cited 
HUBP, along with several other manuscripts.  Indeed, both BHK3 and BHS 
followthis reading and spacing (more about BHS in a minute...)

There is no Masorah magna (Mm) here, but thanks to Philippe Cassuto's 
_Qeré-Ketib et Listes Massorétiques dans le ManuscriptB19a_ (Judentum und 
Umwelt 26, Verlag Peter Lang 1989), p. 68, we can locate a pertinent Mm list 
including Isa 9:6 at Gen30:11.  In the Genesis passage something different 
has happened, where "good fortune!" is written as one word, but the 
qerenotes it should be read as two separate words.

The Mm at the bottom of the codex page (folio 17 verso, p. 46 in the 
facsimile edition) note reads (my translation): "Fifteen times written [as] 
one word but read as two (Gen 30:11, Ex 4:2 Dt 33:2, Isa 3:15, Jer 6:29, 
18:3, Ex 8:6, Psa 10:10, 55:16,123:4, Jer 38:1, Jer 40:6, Gen 2:13, 1 Chr 
9:4, I Chr 27:12) and, the contrary, [8] written as two but read as one 
(Jud16:25, 1Sam 9:1; 1Sam 24:9; Isa 9:6; Isa 44:24; Lam 1:6; Lam 4:3; 2Chr 

So, although in B19a the first word of Isa 9:6 is written as one word, the 
note at Gen 30:11 clearly shows that it isconsidered, because of the mem 
finalis, to be written as two words, necessitating the corrective qere note.

Regarding BHS. for better or worse, Weil's edited marginal masoretic note Mp 
in BHS at Isa 6 and elsewhere has added to theoriginal (simple qere) note 
the phrase (which is found only at 1Chr 34:6 in B19a and which is a part of 
the Mm note at Gen30:11 in B19a) to the effect that this is one of 8 places 
where the word is written as two words but read as one. Weil'sMasorah 
Gedolah (Rome 1971), at Mm 214 repeats the note at Gen 30:11 listing the 15 
and the 8 citations from the two parts of the note given above. I cannot 
check, but presume that Frendsdorf Mm p 368 correspond to this list, as it 
is cited in thecritical apparatus at I Chr 34:6 in BHK3.

In conclusion: the mem finalis was introduced into the text at some time 
after the writing of the Qumran Isaiah scroll (ca 100 BC) and sometime 
before the final flowering of the Tiberian masoretic school in the 10th 
century AD, when the Aleppo Codex was produced.  At that time the text was 
written as two words but to be read as one.  This is confirmed by the Mm 
note in Leningrad B19a for Gen 30:11 and the Mp note at IChr 34:6.

Respectfully submitted,
Daniel R. Pater 

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