In Isa. 6:1, does "high and lifted up" modify "throne" or "the Lord"?
I noticed that some English translations differ, and I would like if someone is able offer some help with the Hebrew here.
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The phrase “high and lifted up” modifies the phrase “the Lord sitting on a throne” without discriminating between either the Lord or the throne. Instead, both the Lord and the throne (upon which the Lord is seated) are “high and lifted up.” There are several Jewish sources that support this view.
First, the Masoretic Text provides the logical schemata of the verse through the hierarchical divisions of cantillation. The following chart provides the schematic arrangement of the logical division of the verse based on the hierarchical structure of the dominant disjunctive accents.
The red star is next to the phrase “high and lifted up” (רָ֣ם וְנִשָּׂ֑א), which modifies the preceding two phrases וָאֶרְאֶ֧ה אֶת־אֲדֹנָ֛י (“and I saw the Lord...”) יֹשֵׁ֥ב עַל־כִּסֵּ֖א (“...sitting upon a throne”). Of these two phrases, the latter phrase modifies the former phrase. That is, both of these phrases are modified by the single phrase רָ֣ם וְנִשָּׂ֑א (“high and lifted up”), which is indicated by the red star. The idea here is that the Lord is seated on His throne in heaven “high and lifted up.”
Secondly, the medieval Jewish scholar, Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (“Rashi”), had understood this imagery in the same way. Rashi had understood Isaiah to mean that the Lord was in heaven and that his feet were resting on the Sanctuary on earth, since the Temple was his footstool of his feet (1 Chr 28:2). In other words, consistent with the Masoretic Text, “high and lifted up” modifies the phrase “the Lord sitting on a throne,” since the Lord is in heaven in this imagery.
Third, the Nineteenth Century Jewish scholar, Rabbi Meïr Leibush ben Yehiel Michel Wisser (“Malbim”), had understood this passage similar to Rashi. However, instead of taking 1 Chr 28:2 as the reference point, Malbim referenced the imagery from Isaiah 66:1, where the Lord is seen in heaven and the earth is the footstool of his feet. In this regard, again, “high and lifted up” is modifying the phrase “the Lord sitting on a throne.”
Finally, the Targum Jonathan (to the Prophets) is an early witness (First Century?) to the Jewish understanding of the Hebrew Bible, since the Targum is an Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible. (The rabbis often added flourish to the Aramaic translation in order to highlight the nuances which they saw in the Hebrew text.) The following citation appears for this verse. Please click on the image to view the source online.
Our proposed translation -
In the year in which King Uzziah was struck by it [leprosy], the prophet declared, “I saw the majesty of the Lord sitting upon the throne of exaltation [or, upon the Most High throne] and being carried in the heavens on high, and on account of the garment of His majesty was the temple [on earth] filled.”
The Aramaic words in the red box provide the two variants readings in the Targum. Irrespective of either reading, the Lord is on high, and his hanging garments fill the Temple sanctuary, which is the footstool of His feet on the earth.
In summary, the apparent Jewish view of this verse over the centuries was that the phrase “high and lifted up” is modifying the phrase “the Lord sitting on a throne” (because the imagery is that the Lord was on His throne in heaven and his feet were on the earth).