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Malachi 1:12 in the Leningrad Codex has a literal "Lord", אֲדֹנָי֙, in "the table of the Lord", שֻׁלְחַ֤ן אֲדֹנָי֙.

Why does the King James Version signify an occurrence of the Tetragrammaton by capitalisation? Is it using a different Hebrew source?

(WLC) וְאַתֶּ֖ם מְחַלְּלִ֣ים אוֹת֑וֹ בֶּאֱמָרְכֶ֗ם שֻׁלְחַ֤ן אֲדֹנָי֙ מְגֹאָ֣ל ה֔וּא וְנִיב֖וֹ נִבְזֶ֥ה אָכְלֽוֹ׃
(KJV) But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of the LORD is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible.

Other translations also:

(YLT) And ye are polluting it in your saying, 'The table of Jehovah -- it is polluted, As to its fruit -- despicable is its food.'
(LSV) And you are defiling it in your saying, The table of YHWH—it is defiled, As for its fruit—its food is despicable.

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The problem is less complicated that it appears. There are two versions of "Lord" in Hebrew as follows:

  1. אָדוֹן (adon) = "Lord", or "master", etc.
  2. אֲדֹנָי (adonai) = an elevated (higher) form of #1 above and ALWAYS refers to the tetragrammaton, YHWH. It is THIS form of "Lord" that is substituted by a trained scribe when reading the Hebrew text to avoid pronouncing the tetragrammaton.

In Mal 1:12 we have the second form of "Lord" above. So, nearly all modern versions correctly translate it "Lord", eg, NIV, NLT, ESV, BSB, NASB, CSB, HCSB, GWT, NET, etc.

However, a few that follow the tradition of the KJV, unexpectedly (but with a stretched justification as per above) elect to translate the word אֲדֹנָי (adonai) in Mal 1:12 as "LORD" or "Jehovah", such as, KJV, NKJV, ASV, ESV, CEV, ISV, NHEB, YLT.

The same word occurs in many other places such as Gen 15:2, 8, 18:27, 30, etc, but these same versions translate (correctly) as "Lord". This is another instance where the translation practice of the KJV is inconsistent and somewhat unexplained.

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  • Do you mean that sometimes adoni has been added to cover YHWH? Jul 26 at 8:59
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    @DanielDahlberg - A well-trained Hebrew scribe when reading aloud would always say "adonai" when reading YHWH. Where "adonai" actually occurs in the text, it always refers to YHWH.
    – Dottard
    Jul 26 at 10:48
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In the Massorah, by Christian David Ginsburg (Ktav Publishing House, New York, 1975 [reprint], vol. IV, p. 28, § 115), we are informed about an amount of changes some ancient scribes (sopherim) operated on the TaNaKh text, the passage at issue here included:

We have seen that in many of these one hundred and thirty-four instances in which the present received text reads Adonaī in accordance with this Massorah, some of the best MSS. and early editions read the Tetragrammaton, and the question arises how did this variation obtain? The explanation is not far to seek. From time immemorial the Jewish canons decreed that the incommunicable name is to be pronounced Adonaī as if it were written אדני [ʼAdho·naiʹ] instead of יהוה [YHWH]. Nothing was, therefore, more natural for the copyists than to substitute the expression which exhibited the pronunciation for the Tetragrammaton which they were forbiden to pronounce.

I give here a list of these 134 spots, according to Ginsburg (ibid., vol. I, pp. 25-26, § 115 [I have 'modernized' some Bible book's abbreviations, as K = Kritai = Judges, or others]):

Gen 18:3, 27, 30, 31, 32; Gen 19:18; Gen 20:4; Exo 4:10, 13; Exo 5:22; Exo 15:17; Exo 34:9, 9; Num 14:17; Jos 7:8; K 6:15; K 13:8; 1Kin 3:10, 15; 1Kin 22:6; 2Kin 7:6; 2Kin 19:23; Ezr 10:3; Neh 1:11; Neh 4:14; Job 28:28; Psa 2:4; Psa 16:2; Psa 22:30; Psa 30:8; Psa 35:17, 22, 23; Psa 37:13; Psa 38:9, 15, 22; Psa 39:7; Psa 40:17; Psa 44:23; Psa 51:15; Psa 54:4; Psa 55:9; Psa 57:9; Psa 59:11; Psa 62:12; Psa 66:18; Psa 68:11, 17, 19, 22, 26, 32; Psa 73:20; Psa 77:2, 7; Psa 78:65; Psa 79:12; Psa 86:3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 12, 15; Psa 89:49, 50; Psa 90:1, 17; Psa 110:5; Psa 130:2, 3, 6; Isa 3:17, 18; Isa 4:4; Isa 6:1, 8, 11; Isa 7:14, 20; Isa 8:7; Isa 9:8, 17; Isa 10:12; Isa 11:11; Isa 21:6, 8, 16; Isa 28:2; Isa 29:13; Isa 30:20; Isa 37:24; Isa 38:14, 16; Isa 49:14; Lam 1:14, 15, 15; Lam 2:1, 2, 5, 7, 18, 19, 20; Lam 3:31, 36, 37, 58; Eze 18:25, 29; Eze 21:9; Eze 33:17, 20; Dan 1:2; Dan 9:3, 4, 7, 9, 15, 16, 17, 19, 19, 19; Amo 5:16; Amo 7:7, 8; Amo 9:1; Mic 1:2; Zec 9:4; Mal 1:12, 14.

Moreover, always according Ginsburg (Introduction to the Massoretico-Critical Edition of the Hebrew Bible, Ktav Publishing House, New York, 1966 [reprint], pp. 368-369), other similar changes were operated by the Soferim, substituting אלהים [ALEIM] for [יהוה] the Tetragrammaton. A (partial) list of these changes is: Psa 14:1, 2, 5; 53:1, 2, 4, 5, 6.

So, taking note of these scribal alterations - any reasons the scribes had to do so - it is only correct that a number of translation teams decided (or decide today) to restore the original reading.

I hope these information will be useful to you.

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  • In Mal 1:14 in the list above, KJV, YLT, and LSV all have "(un)to the Lord" for לַֽאדֹנָ֑י, without signifying Tetragrammaton. So the question is, why do they restore Mal 1:12 but not 1:14?
    – yawnoc
    Mar 21 at 12:45
  • This is a different question, which - however - Dottard has explained in this same section. The adjectives sequence he utilizes about the 'translation practice' of some translations are very nice: "inconsistent [...] unexplained". Mar 21 at 15:47

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