Calling all Hebraists (Eric, Denis et al)..

I’ve been asked about the translation of Isaiah 42:1 by a friend. He writes..

“The word in most manuscripts is atmak but I’ve heard it argued that the original could have been Ahmed”

PHOTO-2018-12-24-20-29-24

Isaiah 42:1 (NRSV)
42 Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.



Categories: Bible, Islam, Tanakh

15 replies

  1. [What follows are super quick thoughts off the cuff. This is not a subject I have given much thought to, and I am busy at the moment, so I am writing this in haste.]

    The claim is apparently based merely on how similar, graphically, the words look, mainly because, to the untrained eye, the taw (ת) looks a bit like the Het (ח) and the kaf-sophīt (ך) looks a bit like the dalet (ד) [see below].

    Personally, I think such a mistake is unlikely, though I suppose, in theory, it is possible. To my knowledge, there is no manuscript support for the alternative reading (though, at least within a Rabbinic paradigm, such a switch is not entirely absurd, as Rabbinic texts, especially those taking more esoteric approaches, occasionally reference readings with alternative characters that apparently lack manuscript support).

    On a side note, if one changes the verb etmakh to the noun aHmad, there is still the question of what one does with the preposition, bo, which immediately. I suppose, in theory, one might connect the preposition to the word which follows, b’Hīrī, thus, for one taking this alternative approach, the text might be reinterpreted, “behold my servant, aHmad, in/with him is my chosen…”.

    Those are my immediate two cents, anyway…

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    • Addendum: in my haste, I left one thing out which I wanted to mention. When I wrote “the noun aHmad,” I meant to write if one intends such a spelling as a noun (as a proper name). I offer that clarification because even with the switch in characters, one could still read it as a verb, where A7MD (אחמד) is understood along the lines of eHmod (i.e. an imperfect first person singular tense of the verb laHmod), and under such an approach, ᶜabdī eHmod bo might be understood along the lines of “my servant, in whom I delight”.

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    • Quick corrigendum: when I wrote…

        On a side note, if one changes the verb etmakh to the noun aHmad, there is still the question of what one does with the preposition, bo, which immediately.

      …at the end of that sentcence, I meant “the preposition, bo, which immediately follows.” In other words, bo is the very next word after etmakh (אתמך), and it is generally understood as connected to that verb. [In the Masoretic text, the preposition is explicitly connected to that verb by a maqaf (graphically akin to a Hebrew dash or hyphen). At the time of this writing, I have no idea if the maqaf appears in the Great Isaiah scroll found at Qumran (but I would not be surprised if it does not, hence why I did not make too big a deal about it).]

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  2. thanks Denis.

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  3. ADDENDUM: With a bit of a laugh, I just noticed a pretty glaring example of how hastily I’ve been submitting my comments, above. I mentioned that I don’t know what appears in the Great Isaiah Scroll (tacitly, I meant that I intend to look when time permits). However, just now, I noticed the verse in the Great Isaiah Scroll appears in the original blog entry above!

    Okay, looking now, the maqaf does not appear, but the text is nonetheless different. Below is an image comparing the first four words in the Qumrani reading and the Masoretic reading, with anything that appears in one but not the other marked in red:

    The Qumrani reading certainly moves farther away from the possibility of the relevant word possibly being understood as aHmad with a couple character changes.

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    • Yet another issue with haste (as I’m doing this all fast, while at the office), the image I shared had a typo, so here is a corrected version:

      Liked by 2 people

    • “The Qumrani reading certainly moves farther away from the possibility of the relevant word possibly being understood as aHmad with a couple character changes.”

      [Line 10: 3rd word Q = same word but a change in spelling. The word “tamak” (to
      hold up or support) imp 1cs in Q is ‘ethmokah’ in M is ‘etmak’. This is probably an
      illustration of changing the spelling to conform to the pronunciation in the
      Aramaic-Hebrew dialect that the Qumran community spoke]. Frid Miller.
      However, we are not sure if there’s a strong evidence for that. It’ could be a misspelling for a proper name.
      חֶמֶד (chemedِ ) (ح ِمد )
      חָמַד (chamadَ ) (ح َمد )
      חֶמְדָּה ( chemdahِ ( ) حمدا )
      מַחְמַד ( machmad) (محمد )
      חמוד (chamod) ( حمود )
      חמיד (chameed) ( حميد )
      חמודה ، חמודא (chamodah) ( حمودا )
      החמד (chemed’h () ھـحمد أو) (احمد

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  4. I think the subject needs to be investigated furthermore However, that chapter in Isaiah still makes a good case for Islam as it is.

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    • Textually, Denis destroyed any argument that the Hebrew text originally meant something supporting the crazy idea that Isaiah 42 is about Muhammad. You guys seem too desperate to try and find something in the OT and NT as somehow about Muhammad.

      The verse about Kedar is an example of areas outside of Israel who are Gentiles (nations, non-Jews), like the Arabs, who will rejoice when they get the gospel of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. It is not talking about the area that the servant is from, but an area that eventually get the gospel, as an example of the gospel spreading to all the nations.

      The New Testament is clear that Isaiah 42 is about the Messiah Jesus (Matthew 12:15-21; Luke 2:30-32; John 8:12; John 1:3-4), who came not to be served, but to serve, and give His life a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45) All this was fulfilled 600 years before Muhammad, so all arguments trying to make it into an argument for Muhammad rather than Jesus are ridiculous.

      Funny how that video claims that Isaiah 42 is about Muhammad who “brought a new song”, yet the Qur’an itself says that he brought “no new thing”
      https://quran.com/46/9

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      • No, I don’t think Denis provided any good evidence that the reading is wrong.

        Also, don’t take it personally, but I really don’t think that you are in a position to talk about Qur’an. You have no idea what you are talking about. Most of your comments have the smell of the fundamental christian approach which are not suitable in a Muslims-christians dialogue. Not to mention the double standards you apply.

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  5. Support for the Ahmad reading can be found in an unexpected place.

    Matthew 12:17-21 renders the word as “beloved” which is similar to the Chet Mem Dalet reading like in SoS 5:16.

    And also, I don’t see Matthew referencing Isaiah 42 in connection to Jesus as a problem because it is well-known that Matthew follows an interpretative method regarding OT connections to Jesus which does not require the cited text to actually be about Jesus personally. See “Out of Egypt I called my son” in Hosea vs in Matthew.

    And God knows best.

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  6. They are misleading their people and altering the Torah especially in the translations such as in Isaiah 35 and Isaiah 40

    In Isaiah 40 it says;
    “Comfort, comfort my people,
    says your God.
    2 Speak tenderly to *Jerusalem* ,
    and proclaim to her
    that *her hard service has been completed* ,
    that her sin has been paid for,
    that she has received from the Lord’s hand
    double for all her sins.

    3 A voice of one calling:
    “ *In the wilderness prepare*
    *the way for the Lord* ;
    make straight in the *Arabah* (בָּעֲרָבָ֔ה)
    a highway for our God.
    4 Every valley shall be raised up,
    every mountain and hill made low;
    the rough ground shall become level,
    the rugged places a plain.
    5 And *the glory of the Lord will be revealed* ,
    and all people will see it together.
    For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

    6 A voice says,
    *“qə·rā”* (Read / קְרָ֔א)

    And he said, *“māh ’eq·rā”*
    ( אֶק ְרָ֑א מָ֣ה / What shall I read)

    Source:
    https://biblehub.com/interlinear/isaiah/40.htm

    They translated the name “Arabah” to “desert” which isa name of place which means Arabia according to Hebrew speakers as it shows below:

    “The “name” Arabah is the feminine version of the Hebrew name for Arabia and is applied to the region east of the Jordan (Deuteronomy 1:1, 1:7, 3:17, 2 Samuel 2:29), to the region west of the Jordan (Deuteronomy 11:30, Joshua 8:14), apparently also to the region close to Mount Seir (Deuteronomy 2:8), and the area south of Gennesaret (Joshua 11:2, 12:3).”

    Source:
    http://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Arabah.html#.XCTE1RlRU0N

    This is the authentic Hadith of the first revelation from Angel Gabriel to Prophet Muhammad PBUH asking him to ‘Read’ (Eqra) and he replied ‘What shall I read’ (Mah Ana bi Qare):

    The angel came to him and asked him to read. The Prophet (ﷺ) replied, “I do not know how to read.” The Prophet (ﷺ) added, “The angel caught me (forcefully) and pressed me so hard that I could not bear it any more. He then released me and again asked me to read and I replied, ‘I do not know how to read.’ Thereupon he caught me again and pressed me a second time till I could not bear it any more. He then released me and again asked me to read but again I replied, ‘I do not know how to read (or what shall I read)?’ Thereupon he caught me for the third time and pressed me, and then released me and said, ‘Read in the name of your Lord, who has created (all that exists), created man from a clot. Read!

    Source:
    https://sunnah.com/bukhari/1/3

    Also in *Isaiah 35* which talks about
    *”Arabah/ בָּעֲרָבָ֔ה”* (Arabia) and the glory of G-d will come to them. This verse is altered in English Bible and the Hebrew word “Arabah” is changed to “desert” in English.

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  7. I’ve just finished reading a fascinating reaserch about this matter. The research is done in Arabic by a brother whose name Abdullah ibn Isa Aal abdul-Jabbar. In his research, he’s arguing that there’s a reading which has the word (אחמד). Here’re some of the main points why he thinks this is the case.

    1) There is a striking similarity between the skeletons of both words. (you may say that in the computerized script as Denis’ comment shows), so the possibility to get confused would be greater when we deal with hand scripts.
    The table shows the similarity between the letters we are talking about (i.e. the taw ת, the Het ח, the kaf ך, and the dalet ד)

    Here’s a comparsion between the two words.

    2) There are many cases which prove that scribes could easily fall in some mistakes because of this similarities between the letters.
    For example, Isaiah 14:4
    NIV has it (…: How the oppressor has come to an end! How his fury has ended!)
    KJV has it.(…How hath the oppressor ceased! the golden city ceased!)
    This is because of the similarity between the ד & ר .
    [[ Line 7: 3rd word: M = “madhebah” translated in KJV as golden city, but
    Q=”marhebah” (fury) which is cited by NASV as the favored reading. NIV does not
    see the resh in the Q text which seems apparent.
    For instance, compare the daleth in line 4: 3rd word with the resh in “marhebah”]] Frid Miller

    In fact, the researcher mentioned many examples of these mistakes and even worse in which the overlapping occurs between letters which are not similar to each other to the extent of similarity between the taw ת & the Het ח!

    Also, here’s a comparison between kaf ך in (Isaiah 9:1/ the word דֶּ֤רֶךְ ) and dalet ד in (Isaiah 9:6/the word יֶ֣לֶד). There’s no difference between the 2 letters!

    3)He said this reading was available for the author of Matthew seemingly (as brother Fawaz’s comment shows)
    The word beloved in Hebrew

    4)Finally, this reading was read by the Rabbi, Ka’ab al-Ahbarr, who converted to Islam during Omar’s (ra) era! He died 652.

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