Judges 4:4 says:

Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time.

The Hebrew word אִשָּׁ֣ה (Strong's number 802 and 801) can be translated either "woman" - "wife" or "burnt offering by fire". It is not translated into English at all, I'm wondering if some light can be shed here please?

Please look at link below. I'm concerned about the 2nd word in the verse. The spelling looks to be the word that means "burnt offering by fire"


1 Answer 1


The word "ishah", meaning "woman, wife, female" is translated together with "naviah" (the female form of "prophet) - these two words together mean "prophetess", or, as the NASB95 notes say, "lit. woman prophetess". The difference between the second word in the verse, "ishah" (Strongs 802) and "isheh" (Strongs 801) is in the vowel points under the consonants: the second vowel of the word meaning "wife" is qamets, while the second vowel of the word meaning "sacrifice" is seghol. The LXX agrees, translating it και Δεββωρα γυνη προφητισ γυνη Λαφιδωθ.

Bottom line: though the consonants of H801 (sacrifice) and H802 (wife/woman) are the same, the vowels are different. The vowels of the second word of Jdg 4:4 indicate that the word means "woman", not "sacrifice". It is translated together with the Hebrew "naviah", and together they mean "prophetess", or more literally, "female prophetess".

  • Yes I understand the vowels make the words differ, however, the vowels were added so much later, how are we to really know what was really meant?
    – Kate
    Jan 15, 2014 at 1:58
  • Though the vowels were added later, they were added based on a long oral tradition. The vowels are considered generally reliable just as the scibal transcription is considered generally reliable. In some places one can speculate about wrong vowel pointing or scribal error, but when the Masoretic text agrees with the LXX, Targums, and the Syriac versions, as is the case here, one can be pretty sure of the original, especially if the grammar makes sense. Moreover, if one in such a case does choose to speculate, the speculation must remain proofless conjecture.
    – Niobius
    Jan 15, 2014 at 9:16

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