[b-hebrew] LMW with a singular referent

Steve Miller smille10 at sbcglobal.net
Sat Jul 21 18:46:07 EDT 2007

> From: Harold Holmyard
> This is for Steve Miller:
> Steve, you were talking about LMW always having a
> plural referent. In Job 14:21 it could, but the
> translations seem to be taking it as singular (the
> final word in the verse):
> NIV Job 14:21 If his sons are honored, he does not
> know it; if they are brought low, he does not see it.
> Amplified, and NCV.
> NAB does have "them."
> Yours,
> Harold Holmyard
Thanks Harold.
[Steve Miller] Thanks Harold. This is like many examples of the -MW suffix.
Yes it does refer back to a singular antecedent, but that antecedent is
indefinite. That is why NAB translates it as them.

The same is true of other examples you gave: Job 27:23; 20:23.

Karl also gave some more examples:
>Look also at Job 24:16-7 where LMW refers to a burglar, singular.
>Again Psalm 28:8, 66:7.

In Karl's examples above (burglar should be adulterers) lmw refers back to a
singular pronoun, but are usually translated in English with a plural
because the antecedent is not a specific adulterer, but adulterers in

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.

Steve: Thank you for this substantial answer. I have noticed both 3ms and
3mp pronouns in Hebrew having the meaning of the indefinite pronoun. Is
there any difference in meaning between the singular indefinite and plural
indefinite in Hebrew? Examples are: Isa 9:6 ... they (3ms) shall call his
name... Mal 1:4 ... they (3mp) shall call them a border of wickedness ...

Looking at all examples of the -MW suffix, I find all refer to 3rd person,
and none refer to an individual except for Ps 11:7 which refers to God. They
may refer back to a singular antecedent, but that singular antecedent is
either collective or indefinite. 

Contrast this with LW, the 3ms equivalent of LMW. It is impossible not to
find LW referring to a definite individual as antecedent. i.e. Gen 3:9 to
Adam, Gen 4:15 to Cain, Gen 4:19 to Lamech, etc.

Therefore, back to the original question, Isa 53:8, I believe lamo refers
back to "my people", which is a singular collective antecedent and is
closest to lmw, not to "My servant".

-Steve Miller


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