Did Herod Try to "Pierce" Yeshua?
James Scott Trimm
Recently while working on Project Davar I discovered an interesting nuance in the exact wording of the Hebrew text of Matthew 2:13. This is a great example of how the interlinear Strong's word numbers we are providing thru Project Davar can help one better understand Hebrew Matthew.
First a little background information. Psalm 22 reads:
For dogs have encompassed me;
a company of evildoers have enclosed me:
they have pierced my hands and my feet.
(Ps. 22:17 (16))
In his series Let's Get Biblical" Tovia Singer has made the claim that Christians changed Ps. 22:16 (17) to read "they have pierced" rather than "like a lion".
Now let us seek the TRUTH on this matter:
In the Hebrew the difference between these two readings is only one letter.
KARU (כארו) "They have pierced"
(כאר means "pierced" and the -U (ו) means "they")
KARI (כארי) "Like a lion"
(K- (כ) means "like" and ARI (ארי) means "lion")
The difference between these two words is between a VAV (ו) and a YOD ( י). The misreading of a VAV for a YUD or a YUD for a VAV is a frequent scribal error in Hebrew and Aramaic manuscripts. A VAV is simply a YUD with a long tail. This scribal error is clearly not an intentional change but a common scribal error.
Now let us determine which was the original reading.
Now if we look up this passage in the BHS (Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia). Here we find a footnote that reads:
"pc Mss Edd כארו, 2 Mss Edd כרו cf G(S)..."
To translate this note into lay terms it says:
"A few manuscripts read KARU (כארו) and two manuscripts read KARU (כרו) and the Greek Septuagint has [pierced]"
In other words while MOST Masoretic Text manuscripts read KARI ("like a lion") SEVERAL read "they have pierced" (two possible spellings) as does the Greek Septuagint.
The Greek Septuagint is a Greek translation of the Tanak that was completed by about 200 to 160 BCE.
The Peshitta Aramaic Tanak also has "they have pierced" in this passage. According to the Encyclopedia Judaica article on "Bible" The Peshitta Aramaic was produced by Jews for Assyrian and Syrian converts to Judaism in the first century BCE.
Now lets look at the oldest extant Hebrew copy of this Psalm which was found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. If we look in THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS BIBLE under Psalm 22 on pages 518-519 we read:
"They have pierced my hands and my feet."
We are directed to footnote 41 which says:
"5/6HevPs MT(mss) LXX. Like a lion are MT."
In layman's terms this note means:
In the Dead Sea Scroll manuscript designated "5/6HevPs", some Masoretic Text manuscripts and the Septuagint the reading is "they have pierced" while most Masoretic Text manuscripts read "like a lion are".
A header above this section of Psalm 22 reads:
"Psalm 22 is a favorite among Christians since it is often linked in the New Testament with the suffering and death of Jesus. A well-known and controversial reading is found in verse 16, where the Masoretic Text reads "Like a lion are my hands and feet," whereas the Septuagint has "They have pierced my hands and feet." Among the scrolls the reading in question is found only in the Psalms scroll found at Nahal Hever (abreviated 5/6HevPs), which reads "They have
pierced my hands and my feet"!"
Moreover the grammar does not work for "like a lion" since the phrase would lake a verb. Many insert additional words to MAKE the text read "Like a lion [they are at] my hands and my feet". The understood verb of being does not work here because "Like a lion are my hand and my feet" makes about as much sense as "Like a pizza are my hands and my feet".
Now let us look down to Zechariah 13:4-6:
4 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the prophets shall be brought to shame, every one through his vision, when he prophesies: neither shall they wear a hairy mantle to deceive.
5 And he shall say, I am no prophet. I am a tiller of the ground, for a man purchased me from my youth.
6 And he shall say to him, What are these wounds in the midst of your hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.
(Zech. 13:4-6 HRV)
In his lets Get Biblical tape set Anti-missionary Tovia Singer admits that this must be speaking of Yeshua of Nazareth. He says that Yeshua was the only figure in history that would fit this description.
Why would Singer make this admission? Because he bases his interpretation upon a misleading English translation.
In the King James Version this passage reads:
5 But he shall say, I am no prophet, I am an husbandman;
for man taught me to keep cattle from my youth.
6 And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds
in your hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which
I was wounded in the house of my friends.
(Zech. 13:5-6 KJV)
In the Hebrew both verse 5 and verse 6 open with exactly the same word/phrase "V'AMAR" meaning "And [he] shall say...". In verse 5 the KJV has "but he shall say" and in verse 6 the same phrase is translated "and one shall say". The result is to WRONGLY imply that the speaker has shifted at the beginning of verse 6. Thus if we were to use the format of a script we would read:
False Prophet: I am no prophet, I am an husbandman;
for man taught me to keep cattle from my youth.
Messianic Judge: What are these wounds in your hands?
False Prophet: Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.
However the HRV correctly translates both phrases the same as follows:
5 And he shall say:
"I am no prophet, I am a tiller of the ground;
for a man purchased me from my youth."
6 And he shall say to him: "What are these wounds
in the midst of your hands? Then he shall answer:
"Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends."
(Zech. 13:5-6 HRV)
Thus in the HRV the shift in speaker does not occur until verse 6b as follows:
False Prophet: I am no prophet, I am a tiller of the ground;
for a man purchased me from my youth."
What are these wounds in the midst of your hands?
Messianic Judge: Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.
In the KJV the figure with the wounds in the midst of his hands is the false prophet while in the Hebrew it is the Messianic Judge. Thus in the HRV version the passage points back to Zech. 12:10 and the one who is "pierced" and forward to Zech 13:7 where a "shepherd" is smitten and his sheep scatter.
Singer’s interpretation is based on a transition in speaker which only occurs in the English and is not even present in the Hebrew. Once again Singer does not use equal weights and measures. He bases his interpretations on the Hebrew against the English (which he should) when it benefits him, and then he bases them on the English against the Hebrew when THAT benefits him.
Now one may ask, how was this Messianic figure wounded in the midst of his hands in the house of his friends? The answer is Just a few verses earlier where we read:
And I will pour upon the house of David,
and upon the inhabitants of Yerushalayim,
the spirit of grace and of supplication.
And they shall look unto Me, whom they pierced through,
and they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for his only son:
and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness
for his firstborn.
(Zech. 12:10 HRV)
In the Talmud Rabbi Dosa (who lived around 250 CE) teaches regarding Zech. 12:10:
What is the cause of the mourning [of Zech. 12:12]--...
It is well according to him who explains that
the cause is the slaying of Messiah the son of Joseph,
since that well agrees with the Scriptural verse:
And they shall look upon me whom they have pierced,
And they shall mourn for him as one mourns for his
only son. (Zech. 12:10)
In fact the Targum Jonathan to Zechariah also identifies this one being pierced in Zechariah 12:10 as the “Messiah ben Ephraim”.
A key passage should be carefully examined here in the Hebrew:
והביטו אלי את אשר דקרו
“And they shall look toward me whom they pierced.”
Although many attempts have been made to translate this passage in other ways, the Hebrew is obvious. The article את points to the next term אשר דקרו “whom they have pierced” as receiving the action of the verb והביטו “and they shall look” while the preposition אלי must be understood “toward me” as the final י indicates the first person “me”. (I will address this in more detail in another blog soon.)
So here we have two prophecies that say that the Messiah would be "pierced".
Now the Munster Hebrew Text of Matthew 2:13 says "Herod seeks the lad [and] to execute/pierce him (ולאכרו)"
The Hebrew word here is the verb KARA (Strong's 3738) "to dig" or "bore thru" and is the root for the noun KARI (Strong's 3746) "one who pierces , an executioner" and is the same word used in Psalm 22 above.
Was Herod attempting to fulfill the prophecy before its time? It is indeed interesting that this particular word is used in Hebrew Matthew to describe Herod's attempt to kill Yeshua.
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