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I noticed that in the English חלי is some times translated as grief e.g. KJV, ESV, NASB. The NRSV translates it as infirmity which personally I think is a better translation of חלי. The LXX likewise translates it as μαλακιαν which in turn is translated disease.

Even though of the 24 occurrences חלי is used, 4 times its translated grief or griefs, the other 20 times its sickness, disease, sick or sicknesses.

What is the best translation of חלי suffering or sickness?

“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭53:3‬ ‭

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Whatever one says about חֱלִי in Isa 53;3 one must also say about its occurrence in V4 because the two appear in parallel - V4 builds on the meaning in V3.

It is certainly true that חֱלִי most often means sickness/infirmity. In fact, of the 24 times this word appears in the OT, 20 times it is translated sickness/affliction/disease, etc, and four times "grief". However, in the NASB, this ration rises to 22 times vs 2 times with Isa 53:3 & 4 being the notable exceptions.

Therefore, I will allow that the probable meaning in Isa 53:3 & 4 is probably "infirmity". That said, what does that mean?

Isa 52:13 - 53:12 is the fourth of the famous "servant songs" of Isaiah otherwise known as prophecies of Messiah. In Isa 53:3 & 4, we learn two major things about this (then) future Messiah:

  1. Messiah would know or be familiar with infirmity (V3). The LXX has μαλακία = sickness/infirmity
  2. Messiah would take or bear our infirmities (V4). The LXX has ἁμαρτία = sin

The simplest explanation here is that the "infirmity" of humanity itself because

  1. Messiah was definitely human and so understood us (Heb 4:14-16 - note V15 has ἀσθένεια = weaknesses/frailty)
  2. Messiah took all our infirmities, our sinful natures, our failings (1 John 2:2)

These two texts, Isa 53:3 & 4, contain, in a very kernel, the essence of the NT Gospel.

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  • "In fact, of the 24 times this word appears in the OT, 20 times it is translated sickness/affliction/disease, etc, and four times "grief". Can you please provide a reference? – Bach Apr 12 at 14:07
  • @Bach - see biblehub.com/hebrew/2483.htm – Dottard Apr 12 at 20:39

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