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קָרָ֥אתִי‬ בְשִׁמְךָ֖

The Holman Christian standard version translates it, "I have called you by your name" (also NKJV). Technically the "you" is not there in the Hebrew but needed for a smooth translation.

NASB (1995), ESV, NAB "I have called you by name."

The 1985 Jewish Publication Society "I have singled you out by name."

Complete Jewish Bible (1992) "I am calling you by your name," apparently translating as prophetic perfect.

NIV (2011) "I have summoned you by name."

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2 Answers 2

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Let's look at this word-by-word.

קָרָ֥אתִי (karati) -- (Qatal verb with first-person pronominal suffix) literally means "I read" or "I called"; see this at Pealim.com

בְשִׁמְךָ֖ (beshimka) -- (prep. "in" + "name" + 2nd-person masculine singular pronominal suffix); the Hebrew prepositions are somewhat flexible, but this bet prefix is typically considered to mean in, among, or by, which is followed by the root for "shem" meaning "name"--with no article present, as indicated by the sheva under the bet instead of a qamatz or patach, and no corresponding dagesh in the shin. [on Pealim]

So a literal reading would have this as:

I called in your name. OR I called by your name.

This "I called" is probably the best translation of the verb, as the qatal is ordinarily converted to past tense in English. (Hebrew does not have a true tense system for verbs.) Those who question the Masoretes' niqqud may find it plausible to consider the verb as a qotel (participle) rather than qatal, which would lend itself to the "am calling" translation. However, if the Masoretes' decisions are not questioned, this would be an incorrect translation as it exists in the Masoretic text today.

As noted in the OP, saying "I called you by name" is more idiomatic in English, and really does not alter the meaning as compared to "I called by your name." It is, therefore, a reasonable translation. Others might insert a word to say "I called (you) by your name."

My preference, as a Bible translator, would be to exchange the noun and possessive pronoun instead of adding a word. Sometimes the same grammatical forms cannot be preserved in translation, as languages differ; so this sort of trade is commonplace.

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  • שם does not have the article because it is construct when adding the suffixed pronoun. I still gave you a +1.
    – Perry Webb
    Jul 9, 2023 at 11:31
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    @PerryWebb Yes, I could have added that with the suffixed pronoun, it is also necessarily made definite already, and does not need the article. But, while this does put it in construct state (as all nouns with pronominal suffixes), it is only in construct with itself, and has no genitive relationship with another word, i.e. no "name of ..." translation (unless you wanted to say "name of you", I suppose--but this isn't idiomatic in English). None of the translations to English would likely add "the" to the mix because of the word's definiteness--it just doesn't fit the English grammar or idiom.
    – Biblasia
    Jul 9, 2023 at 11:50
  • @ Biblasia -- Right I just wanted to make this clear, so it doesn't confuse someone.
    – Perry Webb
    Jul 9, 2023 at 12:02
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It is true that קָרָ֥אתִי‬ בְשִׁמְךָ֖ is literally, "I have called by your name", or perhaps a bit less literally, "I have called you by name".

However, a moment's reflections tells us that to call someone by name is, in good idiomatic English the same as saying, "I have called you by your name".

Despite this, I still prefer, "I have called you by name", as this gets closest to the original and avoids the extra second person pronoun.

The real matter at dispute here what the Hebrew is saying. Is it:

  • God calling Jacob back from backsliding?
  • God giving [nation] Jacob/Israel its name?

The latter appears unlikely despite the fact that it was God who actually did give Israel (= "God strives") that name. The reason is simple - the verse emphasizes several things about the relationship between God's people and God:

  1. God created the nation of Israel
  2. God formed Israel
  3. God redeemed/ransomed Israel
  4. God claims Israel as His own
  5. God calls Israel to return to Him
  6. Israel is told not to be fearful ("fear not") because of the implied protection of God's own property.

[I note that Isa 43:2-21 are poetic expansions of these six statements.]

Now, while Hebrew does not contain a vocative grammatical voice, we get close to that in the construction which uses nominative for vocative. Thus, the ESV gets closest (IMHO) to the Hebrew intent when it translates:

But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.

Thus, God, in this very verse, uses both Israel and Jacob to specifically address (ie the equivalent of vocative) the nation He calls His own.

The JPS, "single out" in English simply means to identify and not specifically to name. Thus, I prefer to use the verb "called", "summoned", "called to" or equivalent, as this is closer to the meaning of קָרָ֥אתִי.

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