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

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Fri Jul 6 13:30:27 EDT 2007


On 7/5/07, Steve Miller <smille10 at sbcglobal.net> wrote:
> >> [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?
1) I don't "require" that it refers only to the individuals named

2) the context gives clues how to understand the verses in question.

The context of Genesis 9 gives no indication that people other than
the individuals specifically named are meant.

The context of Genesis 49 clearly indicates that we are dealing with
not the individuals named, rather with their descendants.

You must keep context in mind.

> >>[Steve]:
> >> 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,

Shows how much I know of that translation. It is because of
difficulties I had in understanding its archaic English that prompted
me to do all my studies of Tanakh in Hebrew, even just my casual
reading for my own enjoyment. Further, like all human endeavors, it
has mistakes, in this case mistakes in translation.

> .... and is not significantly different
> than yours.

Is there not a significant difference between vileness and insignificance?

> ... 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
> verse.
This is where the understanding of the -MW suffix comes into play: 1)
does it always refer to the plural and 2) does it always refer to the
third person? The answer to both is "No". Just because it is appended
onto the L- prefix does not change its uses. And as I stated before,
one of its purposes is to refer back to the subject of the sentence
and/or context.

In this verse, the subject is Job himself, so the antecedent for LMW is Job.

> 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.
You are trying to change the meaning of the -MW suffix according to
what it is appended to. When it is used consistently, it fits into the
context, grammar and meaning of the verse.

As for the LXX, the translator added much to explain the Hebrew,
making this more of a commentary than a strict translation.

> >> [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.
> >
> [Steve]:
> 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
> mentioned.)
> 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.
The subject of the plural is not the carved image, rather "those who form".

> 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.
"there is no spirit in them" can refer to both the carved image and
its creator together. Not a good example.

> 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.
Same as above.

> 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?
Here the use of the infinitive separates the singular from the plural.
Further, the infinitive is used here in Hebrew in a way that is better
rendered in English as "that he would make", indicating that the
teachers of falsehood induce the craftsman to make more than one.

Did you read these verses in Hebrew?

> My point is: In Isa 44:15, both "to it", and "to them" fits.

You have not made your point.

> ... 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".
Look also at Job 24:16–7 where LMW refers to a burglar, singular.
Again Psalm 28:8, 66:7.

I agree that one instance can be questioned when all others are
counter examples. But when there are several examples that the -MW
suffix refers back to a singular subject, for you to insist that it
always has a plural subject goes against good 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.
Here the construct chain is acting as a possessive, a more common use
of this grammatical form. The context is sufficiently different that
we understand it differently.

> 2ndly, English, which has many more grammatical rules than b-Hebrew, has no
> such rule as you state.

English is not Biblical Hebrew. Sometimes it has rules that parallel
Biblical Hebrew, sometimes it doesn't, sometimes it lacks rules that
Biblical Hebrew has.

> ... 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.
I find this a poor example, as it is rather ambiguous. More context is
needed to make it clear.

> > [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
> www.voiceInWilderness.info
Steve, you are grasping at straws. I can only speculate why.

Context, context, context. You must keep context in mind when reading.
The context of Isaiah 52:13–53:12 is the slave who is distinct from
"my people". He is the subject of this section. As Peter Kirk also
said it, the context already argues against the subject of LMW being
other than the slave, the grammatical considerations merely back up
the context.

Karl W. Randolph.

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