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Isaiah 53:3 (LXX)

ἀλλὰ τὸ εἶδος αὐτοῦ ἄτιμον ἐκλεῖπον παρὰ πάντας ἀνθρώπους ἄνθρωπος ἐν πληγῇ ὢν καὶ εἰδὼς φέρειν μαλακίαν ὅτι ἀπέστραπται τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ ἠτιμάσθη καὶ οὐκ ἐλογίσθη

What does the Greek word μαλακιαν mean in Isaiah 53:3 (LXX)?

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  • I kind of enjoy questions like this, but the lack of context has left me a little puzzled about how it is that one who doesn't know the answer would care about the answer. ?
    – Susan
    Feb 26 '16 at 11:39
  • Hello @Susan, I am asking what does the Greek word μαλακιαν mean in Isaiah 53:3(L xx) because μαλακίανin the N.T. means "sickness" (Matthew 4:23;9:35;10:1). That would mean that Jesus Christ carried the sickness of his people. That means that he himself healed all the sickness of his people through his sacrifice. It is truly an act of pure love.
    – Radz Brown
    Mar 8 '16 at 9:47
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It means "sickness". The lexical form is μαλακία (malakia), for which BDAG gives:

condition of bodily weakness, debility, weakness, sickness

Isaiah 53:3ab is translated by NETS:

But his form was without honor, failing beyond all men,
   a man being in calamity and knowing how to bear sickness

The Greek malakia here provides a reasonable translation of the Hebrew ḥŏlı̂ (meaning "sickness" or "affliction").1 The Hebrew of this verse is notoriously difficult, but this clause is straightforward enough: "he knew sickness" (wı̂dûʿa ḥōlı̂). This is a normal extension of the Hebrew "to know" (cf. Deut 7:15). However, the Greek translator of Isaiah either found it awkward or just preferred to do things his own way (a habit for which he is well known).2 Instead of an exact translation, he anticipated the following verse where the servant bears (lit. "carries") the sickness (53:4):

οὗτος τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν φέρει
This one bears our sickness

אָכֵ֤ן חֳלָיֵנוּ ה֣וּא נָשָׂ֔א
ʾāḵēn ḥŏlāyēnû hûʾ nāśāʾ
Surely he has borne our sickness

Retrojecting the concept of "to bear" to verse 3 in the Greek, we now have:

εἰδὼς φέρειν μαλακίαν
knowing how to bear sickness

for the Hebrew:

וִיד֣וּעַ חֹ֑לִי
wı̂dûʿa ḥōlı̂
he knew sickness.


1. Isaiah 38:9 is another example that illustrates nicely the meaning and the lexical set of Greek to Hebrew correspondence.

2. I don't think anybody would conclude that the LXX reflects a superior reading here, but let me know if I'm wrong.

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