‘Warning’ or ‘Turning’ in Isaiah 8.11

This text-critical problem has been my hobby horse for a while now. I’ve posted on the problem before, but since then I have changed my mind and completely reworked my paper as a critique of the solution offered by the Comité pour l’analyse textuelle de l’Ancien Testament hébru. I presented this last semester in the Isaiah seminar at SBTS, and I am posting it here for feedback. Though I have revised and rewritten the paper several times, it is still technically under construction. So whether you agree or disagree, your comments are welcome.
You can access the paper here. Below, I’ve included a portion of my introduction and conclusion without the footnotes:

In 1969 the United Bible Society launched the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project (HOTTP). As an aid to their translators, six scholars were commissioned to analyze roughly 5,000 of the most significant text critical problems in the Hebrew Bible. Dominique Barthélemy drafted the committee’s “final report” in his magisterial four-volume Critique textuelle de l’Ancien Testament. This paper is a critique of the committee’s report on וְיִסְּרֵנִי in Isaiah 8:11. The Masoretic Text reads as follows:

כִּי כֹה אָמַר יְהוָה אֵלַי כְּחֶזְקַת הַיָּד וְיִסְּרֵנִי מִלֶּכֶת בְּדֶרֶךְ הָעָם־הַזֶּה לֵאמֹר

The HOTTP committee proposed repointing the form as a hiphil wayyiqtol from סור (“and he turned me”). Barthélemy concludes as follows: “The reading וַיְסִירֵנִי, read here by Symmachus, appeared preferable to the committee, as holding an intermediate position between that of MT and those of 1Q-a and G…”

I propose, against Barthélemy, that MT’s וְיִסְּרֵנִי is the more original reading—a qalwəyiqtol 3ms of יסר, “to warn, instruct”… Reading ויסרני as a form of יסר allows one to better explain how the alternative readings might have arisen, and the form וְיִסְּרֵנִי, a qal wəyiqtol, can be translated in the context of Isaiah 8:11 in a way that fits with the conventions of Classical Hebrew syntax.

Isaiah 9:6 | BHS on 1QIsa-a

In Isaiah 9:6 the apparatus of BHS says that 1QIsa-a reads למ רבה, with a space between the mem and resh. I don’t think there is a space between the two letters.

  1. Without the high-resolution images we have access to today, one might not be able to see just how closely the tail of the mem extends toward the resh.
  2. It is true that in the DSS final mems are not always used, but in this case, as is clear in the photo below, the scribe used a final mem in the previous word. If he intended the text to read similar to the LXX’s μεγάλη ἡ ἀρχὴ αὐτοῦ, then one would expect to see a final mem or a waw after the mem.

What do you think? Does the distance between the top of the mem and the resh warrant reading the text as למ רבה?

John Meade on Isaiah 40:7-8

John Meade has posted the first of a four part series discussing an important textual problem associated with Isaiah 40:7-8. He doesn’t communicate with the world via the Twitter bird, so I thought I would post a notice here and tweet for him. If you are interested in textual criticism, this series will be a helpful example of how to think through the issues. If you have questions or disagree with John on some point, feel free to leave a comment on his posts. He is a nice guy, ready and willing to interact.

Concerning his plan for the series, he says in the first post,

I will present the texts in this post and the two theories used to explain the textual situation. In a second post, I will present the interpretation of Eugene Ulrich, “The Developmental Composition of the Book of Isaiah: Light from 1QIsaa on Additions in the MT,” Dead Sea Discoveries 8,3 (2001): 288-305. In a third post, I want to convey some of the main ideas in a recent article by Drew Longacre, “Developmental Stage, Scribal Lapse, or Physical Defect? 1QIsaa’s Damaged Exemplar for Isaiah Chapters 34-66,” Dead Sea Discoveries 20 (2013): 17-50. In a fourth post, I will offer my own conclusion to this textual problem.