Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Demons, Tribulation, Commands, or Incomprehensible Utterances?

Despite the somewhat provocative title, this is not a post about modern Pentecostal practices! :) Rather, it is about a certain orthographic variation I noticed in reading Isaiah 28:10, 13 in the Great Isaiah Scroll. In these verses, the MT has a very difficult series of repetitive expressions. The first is written ץו tsav, and many associate it with the root meaning "command." But the Isaiah Scroll reads ץי tsi, which may mean either "demon" or "ship." The LXX has θλιψιν "tribulation," apparently reading ץר tsar. All of these readings look remarkably similar, as seen in the letter combinations taken from the Isaiah Scroll below:

What does all this mean? The MT reading is likely to have given rise to the other two, but this just goes to show that semantic confusion can often be reflected in textual confusion. There can be little doubt that in the Second Temple period this phrase was just as incomprehensible as it is to us today!

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