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

Harold Holmyard hholmyard3 at earthlink.net
Wed Jul 11 09:29:49 EDT 2007

Dear Steve,
>> HH; I don't know about Karl's second point, but on the first one let me
>> cite John Oswalt's commentary on Isaiah 40-66 (NICOT) as it looks at Isa
>> 53:8 in footnote 16 (p. 390):
>>  MT LeMo would usually be translated "(belonging) to them." But Ps 11:7
>> and Job 22:2 show that the suffix can be taken as a singular, as the
>> Syriac and Vulgate have it here. LXX has "he was led to death" (LeMoT?),
>> on the basis off which many commentators (e.g. Whybray) have adopted "he
>> was stricken to death." But the LXX reading is made suspect by the
>> tendency of this version to give creative readings for difficult MT
>> passages in this composition (as also do the Syr. and Vulg.).
>> HH: Oswalt translates the verse in literalistic fashion: "From
>> oppression and from judgment he was taken, and his generation, who has
>> considered it? For he was cut off from the land of the living, from the
>> transgressions of my people the blow is his.
> [Steve Miller] Thanks Harold. 
> These 2 verses do not show me that the -MW suffix can refer to an
> individual. 
> Ps 11:7 ... The upright will behold His face.
> PNYMW refers to the face of God. God can take a plural pronoun (Gen 1:26;
> 11:7; 3:22; Isa 6:8). This is the only occurrence of PNYMW in the Tanach
> (searching for the exact consonant spelling).

HH: Your logic is unconvincing to me because the other references to God 
in Ps 11:7 are singular. The adjective CDYQ ("righteous") is singular. 
The verb )HB ("he loves") is singular. Except for special cases (and 
this does not seem to be one of them), there is agreement between 
subjects, verbs, and their pronominal references in Hebrew.

None of your verses are good references because all they show is that 
God sometimes uses the first person plural when he speaks. He might 
include the angels when he talks this way (including the seraphim in Isa 
6:8, for example). You have to distinguish grammatical elements from 
merely contextual ones. Some other references to God are singular in 
these verses you cite. I agree that sometimes the word "elohim" does 
take plural pronouns and verbs, however, even if it is referring to the 
true God. These are exceptional cases, and the pattern is that if one 
reference is plural, they will all be. If one reference is singular, 
they will all be.
> Job 22:2 ... For he that is wise is profitable unto himself. 
> (LYMW here does refer to an individual. In Hebrew the 3ms can be the
> indefinite pronoun, best translated as "they" in English, (As Matthew did of
> Isa 7:14 DSS in Matt 1:23). Job 22:2 could be translated "For they that are
> wise are profitable to themselves." 
> (LYMW is used 11 times in the Tanach. None refer to an individual.

HH: The Hebrew 3ms can be translated as the indefinite, but the singular 
is used for the singular indefinite, and the plural for the plural 
indefinite. Hebrew uses both the singular and the plural for the 
indefinite, and although an English Bible or a Greek translation might 
choose to translate a Hebrew singular with a plural "they," in Hebrew 
the singular and plural indefinite are distinct.

It is obvious that (LYMW is to be translated in the singular, just like 
the rest of the verse. GBR ("man") is singular. The verb YSKN is 
singular twice.

And anyway, you are not translating the verse logically when you offer 
an alternative translation. Here is the proper translation:

NIV: Job 22:2 “Can a man be of benefit to God? Can even a wise man 
benefit him?

NRSV: Job 22:2 “Can a mortal be of use to God?
Can even the wisest be of service to him?

HH: Here are other references to the suffix -MW used for the singular. I 
found these in GKC 103g, footnote 3. The grammar says, "The question 
whether LMW can also stand for the singular LW . . . must be answered in 
the affirmative unless we conclude . . . that all the instances 
concerned are due to corruptions in the text." The grammar goes on to 
cite Isa 44:15; Job 27:23; 20:23.

The footnote includes the two cases above that Oswalt mentioned, and 
this is what the grammar says: "in all these places the most extreme 
exegetical artifices can only be avoided by simply admitting a singular 

Maybe these other references will help convince you.

Harold Holmyard

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