The Translation of Isaiah 53

There are no words in the Masoretic text of Isaiah 53 without its mate in a corresponding word in The Great Isaiah Scroll. There is only one extra word in the Scroll text that is not in the Masoretic text. The texts of both are nearly identical.

The Essenes in Qumran are not to be considered the protectors of an accurate text identical with the Tanach which would have been revered by the Rabbis. They were actually far from the main stream and it is clear that the Q text of Isaiah is a "dialect" of Hebrew. It is not a translation, but is characterized by modifications in spelling and personal pronouns to match the then current Aramaic dialect that the Essenes would have spoken. It was much like changing "ye," "thee" and "thou" to "you" and "thine" to "yours" would be to us. Thus the preservation of an identical letter for letter received text was not the motivation in their use of the scriptures. The Qumran texts that I have translated (1QaIsa) and (1QpHab) are dialects of Hebrew and not the Hebrew of the Tanach. Preservation of the original Hebrew letter for letter text was the role played by the Rabbis of the "main stream" in Jerusalem and Babylon (Pumbidita) and they had a special class, an office called Scribes, who carefully copied manuscripts then kept the new and destroyed the old. The Essenes were not and did not claim to be copiests of the same genre.

With this fact in mind, that the Qumran scribes used their own discretion to alter the text to fit their own dialect, the correspondance between the text of the Great Isaiah Scroll and the Masoretic text of Isaiah is all the more remarkable.

In the following translation I am only changing word order within some lines but not between lines; for instance the Hebrew word order in line 6 is "ground dry" and I am changing it to dry ground. In English adjectives usually precede nouns and in Hebrew they follow after the noun they modify. If you are able to make sense out of the word order even though it is clumsy in English I am leaving it as it is in a word for word order where possible. I am making as nearly as possible a word for word translation and using the person and number of verbs and number and gender of nouns and pronouns that is in the Q text. If the person number or gender of nouns, pronouns or verbs differs from the M text in this translation you can be fairly certain that the Q text contains that reading. There are idioms that are difficult to translate word for word. For instance "he has healed us" in verse 5 in line 11 is a possible rendering of the text. Most translators have chosen "with his stripes we are (or were) healed" The word for word Hebrew is idiomatic and hard to translate word for word. It is "in the wounds of him we are healed to us." (Heb. "u-va-chavuratiyv nirp'a lanu)

Words that are implied but not in the actual text I have placed in italics. I am certain that the rendering below is accurate but as it is possible for humans to make mistakes I would appreciate it if you find one to point it out to me.

The only additional word in Q not found in M is in line 19. It is marked {+ +}. There is also a repeated possessive form also marked [+ +] in line 6, ninth word "lo" (to him). There are no other extra words in the Q text that are not in M and there are no words in M that do not have a corresponding word in Q. The text is the same except for the person and number of some words which will be evident in the translation. If you check it with an English translation you will find that the KJV is more faithful to having an equivalent word in the translation for each word in the text.

One other variation that is frequent in Q but not in the M text is a superfluous use of the conjunction waw (and) which I am including as "and" each time it occurs however clumsy it makes the translation. Beside "and" the waw conjunction, is also often rendered by translators "also, for, but, as, when, then, etc."

Relative to the time of a verb: as to it being past or present time: Hebrew verbs are not time defined. Only the context can determine the time (past, present, or future) Thus in the translation it is legitimate for you to change the tense of the verb to suit what you believe to be the case. For instance line 8 it would be just as accurate to write "he is despised and we do not esteem him. Surely our griefs he bore."

I have not corrected idioms but left them word for word: for instance in line 15 at the end of verse 8 I have left the literal words "a wound was to him" instead of smoothing it out to "he had a wound" or "he was wounded."

Paragraphs which are part of the Q text are shown by adding (PP) to the end of the paragraph and leaving a blank line between the numbered lines.

Translation of Qumran Scroll Isaiah 53 begins with line 5 of Column 44

5. (Chapter 53:1) Who has believed our report and the arm of YHWH to whom has it been revealed (2) And he shall come up like a suckling before him
6. and as a root from dry ground there is no form to him and no beauty [+to him+] and in his being seen and there is no appearance
7. that we should desire him. (3) He is despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and knowing grief
8. and as though hiding faces from him he was despised and we did not esteem him. (4) Surely our griefs he
9. is bearing and our sorrows he carried them and we esteemed him beaten and struck by God
10. and afflicted. (5) and he is wounded for our transgressions, and crushed for our iniquities, the correction
11. of our peace was upon him and by his wounds he has healed us. (6) All of us like sheep have wandered each man to his own way
12. we have turned and YHWH has caused to light on him the iniquity of all of us (7) He was oppressed and he was afflicted and he did not
13. open his mouth, as a lamb to the slaughter he is brought and as a ewe before her shearers is made dumb he did not open
14. his mouth. (8) From prison and from judgement he was taken and his generation who shall discuss it because he was cut off from the land of
15. the living. Because from the transgressions of his people a wound was to him (PP)

16. (9) And they gave wicked ones to be his grave and [a scribbled word probably accusative sign "eth"] rich ones in his death
17. although he worked no violence neither deceit in his mouth (10) And YHWH was pleased to crush him and He has caused him grief. (PP)

18. If you will appoint his soul a sin offering he will see his seed and he will lengthen his days and the pleasure of YHWH
19. in his hand will advance. (11) Of the toil of his soul he shall see {+light+} and he shall be satisfied and by his knowledge shall he make righteous
20. even my righteous servant for many and their iniquities he will bear. (12) Therefore I will apportion to him among the great ones
21. and with the mighty ones he shall divide the spoil because he laid bare to death his soul and with the transgressors
22. he was numbered, and he, the sins of many, he bore, and for their transgressions he entreated.

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