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Isaiah 53:9 says, "וַיִּתֵּ֤ן אֶת־רְשָׁעִים֙ קִבְרֹ֔ו וְאֶת־עָשִׁ֖יר בְּמֹתָ֑יו עַ֚ל לֹא־חָמָ֣ס עָשָׂ֔ה וְלֹ֥א מִרְמָ֖ה בְּפִֽיו׃(Westminster Leningrad Codex)

"Violence not Because in his death the rich and with his engrave the wicked with And he made in his mouth (was any) deceit neither he had done."(Interlinear)

I am not a Hebrew Scholar, but my understanding, as well as the common translations say that בְּמֹתָ֑יו is singular, yet the BDB lists the יו as being plural. If my assumption is correct, then why was בְּמֹתָ֑יו(death) translated Singular, and what would this passage mean if it were understood in the plural?

  • What is BDB ? – Cynthia Avishegnath Nov 6 '16 at 16:32
  • @CynthiaAvishegnath Brown Driver Briggs Lexicon – Tau Nov 7 '16 at 11:28
  • NET bible translation notes must be helpful here. – Michael16 Nov 7 '16 at 11:36
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    @Michael16 I studiously avoid the "latest" translations-I am an unabashed Majority View adherent and I've found numerous instances where "modern scholarship" has corrupted the Original Meaning of the text; and when further examined, have found that the translators have injected their "agnostic" or "post-modernist" views into the text. This happened in the late 19th and 20th centuries; the text has endured the test of time from......? – Tau Nov 7 '16 at 11:43
  • @Tau the textual advancement is only a matter of evidence and truth. Why would you adhere to majority text? translations may be biased and lose but that doesn't mean we should avoid latest text. NET has an interesting take on this verse and it gives good translation footnotes, you should consult it. NET 9 ​​​​​​​They intended to bury him with criminals, ​​​​​​but he ended up in a rich man’s tomb, ​​​​​​because he had committed no violent deeds, ​​​​​​nor had he spoken deceitfully. – Michael16 Nov 7 '16 at 16:20
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The Hebrew word בְּמֹתָיו literally translates into English as “by/ in/ with his deaths.”

Declension of מָוֶת

The lemma or lexical form is מָוֶת (mā'wet). The singular construct form is מוֹת (mot), meaning “death of.” The plural absolute form is מוֹתִים (mô'tîm), meaning “deaths.” The plural construct form is מוֹתֵי (mô'tê), meaning “deaths of.”

To the aforementioned construct forms may be affixed pronominal suffixes. For example, adding a 3rd person, masculine gender, singular number pronominal suffix to the singular construct form מוֹת yields מוֹתוֹ, meaning “his/its death.” Adding a 3rd person, masculine gender, singular number pronominal suffix to the plural construct form מוֹתֵי yields מוֹתָיו, meaning “his/its deaths.” This is the form that occurs in Isa. 53:9, with the addition of the prepositional prefix בְּ.

Exegesis

The plural declension of מָוֶת only occurs elsewhere besides Isa. 53:9 in Eze. 28:10 by means of the construct form מוֹתֵי, “deaths of”:1

10 “You shall die the deaths of the uncircumcised by the hand of strangers, for I have spoken it,” said Yahveh God.

י מוֹתֵי עֲרֵלִים תָּמוּת בְּיַד זָרִים כִּי אֲנִי דִבַּרְתִּי נְאֻם אֲדֹנָי יַהְוֶה

It is noteworthy that the subject, the prince of Tyre,2 is said to “die the deaths (plural) of the uncircumcised.” Thus, like Isa. 53:9, there is a singular individual who is said to die plural deaths.

In his commentary on Eze. 28:10, Carl Friedrich Keil wrote,3

The plural מְמוֹתֵי and מוֹתֵי here and Jer. xvi. 4 (mortes) is a pluralis exaggerativus, a death so painful as to be equivalent to dying many times (see the comm. on Isa. liii. 9).4

Similarly, in his commentary on Isa. 53:9, Franz Delitzsch wrote,5

“They assigned Him His grave with criminals, and after He had actually died a martyr's death, with a rich man;” i.e., He was to have lain where the bodies of criminals lie, but He was really laid in a grave that was intended for the corpse of a rich man.”

Furthermore,6

מותי is a plur. exaggerativus here, as in Ezekiel 28:10 (compare (memōthē) in Ezekiel 28:8 and Jeremiah 16:4); it is applied to a violent death, the very pain of which makes it like dying again and again. The first clause states with whom they at first assigned Him His grave; the second with whom it was assigned Him, after He had really died a painful death.


References

Delitzsch, Franz. Commentary on the Old Testament. 1900. Reprint. Trans. Martin, James. Vol. 7. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986.

Keil, Carl Friedrich. Commentary on the Old Testament. 1900. Reprint. Trans. Easton, M. G.; Martin, James. Vol. 9. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988.

Footnotes

1 A synonym of similar spelling, מָמוֹת (mā'môt), also occurs twice in the Tanakh. Coincidentally, it also occurs in Eze. 28:8 wherein the same subject, the prince of Tyre, is again said to die plural deaths: וָמַתָּה מְמֹותֵי חָלָל בְּלֵב יַמִּים (“...and you shall die [the] deaths of one slain in the heart of the seas.”).
2 Eze. 28:2
3 p. 408
4 It is noteworthy that the LXX translates the Hebrew of Isa. 53:9 into Greek as «τοῦ θανάτου αὐτοῦ» (“his death”) and Eze. 28:8 as «θανάτῳ» (“by the death”). (It does not appear to translate Eze. 28:10 word-for-word.)
5 p. 328
6 ibid, p. 329

  • There is some question (in my mind at least) about whether the "plur. exaggerativus" exists. I haven't seen any reference to it in modern linguistic research. Have you? My suspicion is that it is a mistake based on the commentaries of the metsudat david (David ben Solomon ibn Abi Zimra) and the Malbim which are in turn based on midrashim. I tend to think that in some of the above the usage is simple plural and in others it is the "plural of respect". – Abu Munir Ibn Ibrahim Nov 8 '16 at 16:45
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    @AbuMunirIbnIbrahim: See Gesenius, §124. – user862 Nov 8 '16 at 17:52
  • Which specific use did you see there that matches "plur. exaggerativus"? – Abu Munir Ibn Ibrahim Nov 8 '16 at 18:07
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    See also: Ember, Aaron. “The Pluralis Intensivus in Hebrew.” The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures. Vol. 21, No. 4. July, 1905: 195-231. – user862 Nov 8 '16 at 18:30
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    @SimplyaChristian Thank you for your response! You've confirmed I wasn't just "seeing things" but noticing an apparent contradiction; albeit with a deeper meaning. The fact that it's singular is a given, yet the "plural" form intensifies it's meaning, thus adding a deeper layer of understanding which doesn't translate well in English, yet is intentionally communicated by the author to reveal a deeper truth. Again, thanks! – Tau Nov 13 '16 at 2:47
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You need to differentiate between the plurality of the possessor vs plurality of the possession, and gerundization.

  • the 1st person singular-possession yod (preceded with Xiriq niqud)
  • the connective-plural yod (preceded with tsere niqud).
  • the 1st person plural-possession yod (preceded with pataX niqud).
  • Gerundization and collective verbal-noun from masculine-plural
    • .e.g {אלהים ELoHIM} = plural-passive-be-elevated = elevatedness
    • {רשעים RShAIM} = plural-active-be-wicked = the wicked
    • {אלהי ישראל ELoHaI ISRaEL} = Elevatedness-being of Israel
    • Gen 23:1 {חַיֵּי שרה Livings of Sarah} = life/life-span of Sarah
    • 2 Kings 25:30 {יְמֵי חַיָּו days of his-livings} days of his life

Note: you copied both the grammatical niqud and the cantillation marks.

בְּמֹתָ֑יו

We only need the niqud

בְּמֹתָיו


Legend
  • 1 = 1st Person
  • 2 = 2nd Person
  • 3 = 3rd Person
  • S = Singular
  • P = Plural
  • F = Feminine
  • M = Masculine
  • 1st Person does not differentiate Masc from Fem.


e.g. {בית house}

  1. {ביתִי my-house} possessor=1:S; possession=M:S
  2. {בָתִּים houses} M:P
  3. {בָּתֵּי גדולים big houses} Connective M:P, when connecting M:P to possessor/adjective {final ם} is dropped.
  4. {בֵּיתֹו his-house} possessor=M:3:S; possession=M:S
  5. {בָּתָּיו his-houses} possessor=M:3:S; possession=M:P



The whole verse ...

  • וַיִּתֵּן אֶת רְשָׁעִים קִבְרוֹ

    • and will be given to the wicked his grave
    • {קברו his-grave}
    • {את רשעים קברו to/of the wicked his grave}
    • compare with {את רשעי קברו to/of the wickedness of his grave}


  • וְאֶת עָשִׁיר בְּמֹתָיו

    • and to-with a rich in his death
    • {מֹתָיו MoThaV his-deadness} possessor=1:S; possession=3:M:Gerundized
    • {את} is accusative/dative indicator requiring an associated verb. Its associated verb is the previous {יתן}.
    • therefore {will be given to the wicked his grave and to a rich in his death}
  • compare with
    • {מֵתִים MeThIM those-who-die}
    • {מֵתֵי מצרים those-who-die of Egypt}
    • {מֹתֵי MoTheI deadness} Plural-connective-like = gerund


  • עַל לֹא חָמָס עָשָׂה

    • upon no violence he did


  • וְלֹא מִרְמָה בְּפִיו

    • and no grandstanding/false-declaration in his mouth
    • {פִיו his mouth} possessor=1:S; possession=F:S
  • Advisory - there is one niqud I'm not sure if I placed correctly. – Cynthia Avishegnath Nov 6 '16 at 22:02
  • @CynthiaAvishengnath Thank you for your thorough exposition! – Tau Nov 7 '16 at 11:34
  • Could the downvoter please educate me? Thx. – Cynthia Avishegnath Nov 9 '16 at 5:54
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בְּמֹתָ֑יו certainly makes this an interesting verse. However, there really isn't anything that would support the idea it is plural. The root of the word is מָוֶת (Strong's H4194), which means "death" or "the dead" or "the place of the dead". There really isn't any room for multiples of these things. 1.

Here is what the KJV has:

And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.

Here is what I have: enter image description here

Comments:

  • If you look at the Hebrew, you will notice there is no conjunction in the verse. The KJV have transformed the preposition עַ֚ל into a conjunction in order to join the two sentences. Why they imagined that to be necessary, is beyond me. The sentences are fine just as they are.

  • עָשִׁ֖יר is an adjective that stands alone without a noun to modify, which means it is modifying the generic noun "one" 2.. So, I have given it as "rich (one)", i.e. "one who is rich".

  • the ב prefix is generally rendered as in/by/with. The KJV have chosen "in", and it really doesn't change anything to use "with" or "by". But something stood out from the text when I rolled "by" into the slot, viz: the Servant was appointed a grave with the wicked, "and with rich (one) by death of him" or "and with the one rich by his death".


Notes:
1. The idea that the Servant dies multiple times makes a total mess of any Christian theology based on Romans 6:10 and Hebrews 10:10
2. Depending on the context the generic noun would be "one" in regard to persons, or "thing" in regard to objects, or "place" in regard to location.

  • Thank you for your response! My purpose for posting this question comes from a meditation written by Rabbi Jonathan Cahn, where he describes "death" as meaning both singular AND plural. Having no command of the Hebrew, I put it out there for inspection. He describes the usage of "death" in Hebrew to be of such a special significance that it could be said "one death for all time", or "death(s)" for every individual in time. Since the context is prophetic, such a rendering can be seen(יו) as meaning this-rather than a space/time 1 death, of which plural would be meaningless. – Tau Nov 7 '16 at 11:55
  • A meditation of mine, which supports this has been, "Why did Resurrected Jesus appear to the disciples with the marks of His wounds?" The stripes inflicted by the Romans had disappeared, as well as the imprint of the crown of thorns. Yet His wounds still show.....is that a reminder that His wounds and the blood lost through them are just as efficacious today, as they were when they were 1st inflicted? – Tau Nov 7 '16 at 12:02

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