[b-hebrew] Object of "lamo" in Isaiah 53

Steve Miller smille10 at sbcglobal.net
Thu Jul 5 23:54:30 EDT 2007

>> [Steve Miller] The Gen 9 verses refer to Seth's and Japheth's
>> descendants. I don't think these are questionable at all.
>> Genesis 9:26  And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan
>> shall be his servant.
>  [Karl] Look at the context. It mentions only that Canaan will be a
> slave, not his descendants, verse 25. ויאמר ארור כנען עבד עבדים יהיה
> לאחיו׃
> Then in verse 26 it mentions only Japheth, not his descendants. You
> are adding to the text. The same with verse 27. As far as I can tell,
> this adding is for philosophical reasons, not linguistic reasons,
> therefore not to be disputed on this list.

[Steve Miller] Karl, you are the 1st person I have ever met who requires
that this blessing/curse by Noah refers only to Japheth, Shem and Canaan,
and not also to their descendants. To be consistent, then, do you also
require that Isaac's blessings of his sons and Jacob's blessings to his sons
refer only to the sons themselves and not their descendants? 

>> In Job, I think you are referring to:
>> Job 40:4  Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine
>> hand upon my mouth.
>> I cannot tell what the antecedent of lamo is here. Neither "him" nor
>> "them" make sense. We should not use a verse in the dark to explain a
>> verse in the light.
> [Karl] Where do you get your translations? Within its context, this
> verse is very simple and easy to understand.

[Steve Miller] the translation is KJV, and is not significantly different
than yours. I am not saying that the verse is hard to understand. I am
saying that I cannot clearly identify the antecedent for "lamo" in the

> [Karl]:
> ידי שׂמתי למו פי "My hand I place on my own mouth" showing both the
> emphatic and reflexive uses of the מו suffix. This is a poetic way of
> saying "I don't have anything to say."
[Steve Miller] So, what is the antecedent of "lamo"? Apparently none,
because you are translating "lamo" as "own". You say this shows that "lamo"
is reflexive and emphatic, but then this is the only verse out of 57 verses
using "lamo" in which it is reflexive or emphatic. With no evidence, how can
you be sure of this unique meaning you assign to "lamo" in this verse? 

I think it is consistent with the other uses of lamo, that lamo here refers
back to the arguments in the preceding verses spoken by God. 
"To these [arguments] I lay my hand upon my mouth." This seems to be how the
LXX translates it.
My point here is that the meaning of "lamo" in Job 40:4 is not clear, so it
shouldn't be used to define the meaning of the word. 
>> [Steve]
>> In Isa, I think you are referring to:
>> Isaiah 44:15  And it hath been for man to burn, And he taketh of them,
>> and becometh warm, Yea, he kindleth it, and hath baked bread, Yea, he
>> maketh a god, and boweth himself, He hath made it a graven image, And
>> he falleth down to it.
>> I think it should be translated, He falls down to them, to more that
>> just the idol he just made.
> [Karl] Again you are adding to the text. Look at the context, in
> particular verse 19. The context makes clear that what's being bowed
> down to is a hunk of wood, i.e. the idol.

It is not uncommon for "idol" to be mentioned in the singular without a
definite article, and then to be referenced later as if it was plural. In
the same chapter, Isa 44:9, singular idol, is referenced by "they". Also Jer
10:14; 51:17 & Hab. 2:18 all refer back to a singular "idol" as plural. (So
do the 10 commandments (Exo 20:4-5), but more than one kind of idol is

Isaiah 44:9 They that form a graven image are all of them vanity, and their
delectable things are of no profit; and they are their own witnesses: they
see not, nor know; —that they may be ashamed.

Jeremiah 10:14  Every man is become brutish, bereft of knowledge; every
founder is put to shame by the graven image, for his molten image is
falsehood, and there is no breath in them.

Jeremiah 51:17  Every man is become brutish, so as to have no knowledge;
every founder is put to shame by the graven image, for his molten image is
falsehood, and there is no breath in them.

Habakkuk 2:18  What profits the graven image that the maker thereof hath
graven it? the molten image, and the teacher of falsehood, that the maker of
his work dependeth thereon, to make dumb idols?

My point is: In Isa 44:15, both "to it", and "to them" fits. So we can't use
the one instance of lamo in Isa 44:15 to define the meaning of "lamo" as
meaning either to "to him (it)" or "to them". I do not believe that lamo is
ambiguous in that way. It means "to them".
>>> It is true that a majority of the times it refers to plural subjects,
>>> but not always.
>>> As I mentioned before, the context of the verse is in a section that
>>> refers to a "slave" who is distinct from "my people", especially taken
>>> in context of the preceding and following chapters, that distinction
>>> made explicit in 52:14. Within the context, this verse also refers to
>>> that "slave".
>> [Steve Miller] I agree with the above
> [Karl] Look below, you disagree with yourself.
>>> Then to take one portion of the verse and have it refer
>>> to "my people" as the subject makes no contextual nor grammatical
>>> sense.
>> [Steve Miller] lamo following "my people" cannot refer back to "my
>> people"?? Sorry, I cannot agree.
> [Karl] You have to give me reasons, linguistic reasons, before I can
> even consider this.

[Steve Miller] Karl, please, I am not disagreeing with myself. I disagree
with your rule that a pronoun must refer back to the main subject of the
verse or passage. Or that a pronoun cannot refer to a noun that is part of
an adjectival phrase. 

1stly, the 1st use of lamo in the Bible, Gen 9:26 (which you brought up):
Shem is part of the adjectival phrase, "of Shem". Yet lamo unarguably refers
back to Shem.

2ndly, English, which has many more grammatical rules than b-Hebrew, has no
such rule as you state. For example:
Because of this mistake of my company, hard times came upon them.
"them" refers back to "my company", which is part of an adjectival phrase.

> [Karl]:
> From what I have told before, the -MW suffix has an emphatic and/or
> reflexive meaning, referring to the subject of the sentence. In this
> verse, "my people" is neither subject nor object, rather it is an
> adjective modifying "rebellion". Within the context, the subject of
> the sentence is the "slave" who is distinct from "my people".
> Therefore, "my people" linguistically cannot be the subject of LMW in
> Isaiah 53:8.

-Steve Miller

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