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Did Wiseman get it backwards in 2 Kings


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#1 Calvin Lindstrom

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Posted 28 July 2011 - 03:27 PM

If this is not the place to ask such a question, then please forgive me.

My question concerns the commentary of Donald Wiseman (Tyndale OT) on 2 Kings 8:10. The context of this passage is the ministry of Elisha in Syria and the message he brought to Hazael, the future king of Syria. I am either confused (good possibility) or Wiseman has his comment backwards and perhaps there is a need for an editorial comment?

Here are Wiseman's comments on this passage:

10. You will certainly not recover or live (NIV mg; MT lō ḥāyōh tiḥĕyeh) is what is written (Kethib), but to avoid an embarrassing lie by the man of God many MSS have changed this to lô, 'to him', and so read this as 'you will surely live' (Qerē). (Wiseman, 227).

The NET Bible in contrast has: It is possible that a scribe has changed לוֹ, "to him," to לֹא, "not," because he felt that Elisha would not lie to the king.

If anyone can shed light on this, I would appreciate the input.

Edited by Calvin Lindstrom, 28 July 2011 - 10:24 PM.


#2 Ryan Gustason

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Posted 28 July 2011 - 11:18 PM

Perhaps the K&D will help shed some light.

Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament
According to the Chethb חיה לא, Elisha's answer was, "Thou wilt not live, and (for) Jehovah has shown me that he will die;" according to the Keri חיה לו, "tell him: Thou wilt live, but Jehovah," etc. Most of the commentators follow the ancient versions, and the Masoretes, who reckon our לא among the fifteen passages of the O.T. in which it stands for the pronoun לו (vid., Hilleri Arcan. Keri, p. 62f.), and some of the codices, and decide in favour of the Keri. (1) because the conjecture that לו was altered into לא in order that Elisha might not be made to utter an untruth, is a very natural one; and (2) on account of the extreme rarity with which a negative stands before the inf. abs. with the finite verb following. But there is not much force in either argument. The rarity of the position of לא before the inf. abs. followed by a finite verb, in connection with the omission of the pronoun לו after אמר, might be the very reason why לא was taken as a pronoun; and the confirmation of this opinion might be found in the fact that Hazael brought back this answer to the king: "Thou wilt live" (2 Kings 8:14). The reading in the text לא (non) is favoured by the circumstance that it is the more difficult of the two, partly because of the unusual position of the negative, and partly because of the contradiction to 2 Kings 8:14. But the לא is found in the same position in other passages (Genesis 3:4; Psalm 49:8, and Amos 9:8), where the emphasis lies upon the negation; and the contradiction to 2 Kings 8:14 may be explained very simply, from the fact that Hazael did not tell his king the truth, because he wanted to put him to death and usurp the throne. We therefore prefer the reading in the text, since it is not in harmony with the character of the prophets to utter an untruth; and the explanation, "thou wilt not die of thine illness, but come to a violent death," puts into the words a meaning which they do not possess. For even if Benhadad did not die of his illness, he did not recover from it.

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#3 Calvin Lindstrom

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Posted 29 July 2011 - 08:26 AM

Thanks, Ryan for the helpful posting from K&D. Based on what you quoted it again seems that Wiseman had it backwards. Can anyone else confirm this?

#4 Helen Brown

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Posted 29 July 2011 - 08:35 AM

I'm no scholar, but I think all are saying the same thing. The written text says לא (not) but the margin says לו (to him). The assumption is that there may be two corrections. The first is that the original read לו but a scribe may have decided that לא is better since that's what happened in the end. Then the Masoretes decided that the scribe was wrong, and they corrected the word in the margin to לו implying that it should be read and understood as meaning "to him."

Wiseman is referring to the second, Masoretic, correction. NET Notes is referring to the first.
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