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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