Elliot mentions the LXX here: https://biblehub.com/commentaries/amos/7-9.htm.

"The LXX. misunderstand the word, and render “altars of laughter,” in accordance with the etymological sense of the proper name."

I don't quite grasp that statement. What is the slightly different rendering and how might one interpret that?

My faith leans me in the direction perhaps there is an inspired reason for slightly different renderings at times.

Reading many answers on this site, I'm interested in what more can be learned about this phrase from those with deep hermeneutic study experience.

3 Answers 3


Laughter is etymologically very close to Isaac. But this is not a simple translation error. Let's look at the text:

the high places of Isaac/laughter shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste

There is a pun in the Hebrew of Amos which fits with the translation being "laughter," by contrasting laughter and desolation. Israelites had engaged in frolics at the high places that the prophet here denounced as unholy a doomed to being laid waste. We get a similar sense of this from the story of the Golden Calf in Exodus 32:

[Aaron] built an altar before it... And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.

In a similar vein, unauthorized worship of "other gods" was often denounced in the Bible as giving rise to revelry:

For they also built for themselves high places, and pillars, and Ashe′rim on every high hill and under every green tree; 24 and there were also male cult prostitutes in the land. They did according to all the abominations of the nations which the Lord drove out before the people of Israel. (1 Kings 23-24)

On the other hand, joyousness on the high places was sometimes approved of, as in Deut. 32:

He [the Lord] found him [Jacob] in a desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness; he encircled him, he cared for him, he kept him as the apple of his eye... He made him ride on the high places of the earth, and he ate the produce of the field; and he made him suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock. Curds from the herd, and milk from the flock, with fat of lambs and rams, herds of Bashan and goats, with the finest of the wheat— and of the blood of the grape you drank wine.

Thus, there is reason to associate the high places with joy and laughter, both in a holy sense and a pagan sense. This is not to say that "laughter" is the better translation; only that the Hebrew of Amos probably uses "Isaac" as a pun, in the same sense as when Isaac was originally named in Genesis.

I think it is likely that Amos was indeed punning, contrasting "laughter" vs. "desolation." But Isaac is still the better translation, even though the pun is unfortunately lost.

  • I'm keeping an eye out for a possible connection to something along these lines, "wake up you women at ease", Isa 32:9 i.e. laughter in the sense of complacency, carelessness, insensitive or something inappropriate per God's standard. That may not be doable via hermeneutics. Thus, asking the question. (I would not expect joy to be any problem at all. Rather, a lack of joy is a problem! being a fruit of the spirit).
    – Ben
    Aug 29, 2022 at 1:15

The Masoretic manuscript has "Isaac" יִשְׂחָ֔ק but Isaac comes from laughter, with the difference just in the yod (ignoring vowel markings, which did not exist when the LXX was translated). So the theory is that the LXX missed the yod and thought it was צחק instead of יצחק, thus putting in "laughter" for Isaac.

  • Good answer. +1.
    – Dottard
    Aug 28, 2022 at 23:04

I was looking for a personal association of the Patriarch with any "high places," aside from what Amos said. It may also be that the LXX were failing not only to reckon with the audible pun but to consider that Isaac was father both to Jacob AND TO Esau, thus making far broader the doom forecast. The repetition of the "house of Isaac" in v. 16 and the extensive references to both Zion and the little house that run right through this chapter all the way from 6:1 into 8:14 where the core concept of a plumb-line of righteousness (extended to mercy and truth as ever, following New Testament exegetical principle shown in John 1:17) determined that all the "house of Isaac" be held to a perfect upright. Where all the Torah's uprightness is shown in Leviticus 10:16 and where Moses resolved for Aaron's conscience's sake not to be abstemious about him keeping the "Letter of the Law." - New Testament amplifies the "eschatological" use of Amos (2 Peter 1, Galatians 1:4 for a few) to remind modern law-keepers that the seven faceted Stone will never blink at presumptuous sin.

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