e-3 The Role of Hebrew-Text Qere Marginal Notes
Isaiah 38:14 & Jeremiah 8:7 - A horse or a bird?
Scholars today think marginal notes (called qere) in the Hebrew text, correct error in the text (called the ketiv). Actually qere support the inerrancy of the Masoretic Text, often by their role in up-dating of language convention over all the centuries of text history. We consider some variant forms in which the Hebrew term that today means "horse" appears in the text.
Though the term in item #1 below now means horse, it appears in a context in Isa.38:14 that signifies a bird, and it is rendered as a type of bird in various English versions, indicating an early form of the term signified a bird. The related term for a bird today is that of item #2. A resolution of the matter is indicated by Jer.8:7, for the item #3 term looks like a transition between the other two, and is accompanied by a qere reflecting the current term of item #2. This is to be expected since Hebrew letters involved in the variance were once among a few consonants known as semi-vowels doing double duty as vowels, and that role ceased eventually, so we should see the very qere/ketiv variance indicated above. Changing spelling convention is indicated, and the three spelling forms have all been maintained to illustrate this. Evidently the reverent conscientious scribes would not change any ketiv word, preserving the spelling change to prove the differences are not errors, thus supporting the case for text inerrancy. No one should ever think that changing spelling convention is any type of error.
•סוּס 1 today this means horse
Other examples of changing spelling convention
מְרֻצָותָם Jer.8:6 ketiv today: the qere replaces ו with וּ. The ו is now strictly a consonant, and וּ is a long vowel that is logically positioned after ר where it sub- stitutes for the vowel ֻ that is the short form of וּ . Again the qere removes the former semi-vowel ו.
Eze.21:26 ketiv קָסֶם ,לִקְסָם No qere here
Eze.21:28 ketiv כִּקְסָום Qere removes ו here to up-date the spelling.
It seems likely scribes chose these two verses to illustrate changing spelling convention since the two are so close together. Again the qere removes the former semi-vowel ו.
2 Sam.1:8 וָיאֹמַר The qere removes י, once a semi-vowel, now a
consonant commonly used as a prefix,א but prevailed as the prefix in 1st א verbs, as indicated by the form אֹ . The qere removes another former semi-vowel, י.
Isaiah 9:3 Qere with
9:1 Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations.
9:2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined
9:3 Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.
9:3 Thou shalt multiply the nation, Thou shalt increase their gladness; They will be glad in Thy presence As with the gladness of harvest, As men rejoice when they divide the spoil.
The difference in the two verse 9:3 renderings is due to a qere note indicative of a positive sense of joy experienced by the Hebrew nation, in contrast with the text that indicates an absence of joy at this point. Some modern scholars think that the qere here corrects the Masoretic Text because two terms that determine the two different senses are similar in spelling, but they just fail to recognize unique roles of qere. At times qere offer valid alternatives to ketiv terms, or they indicate changing spelling convention, but in the present case the qere has a different role, supporting dispensational prophecy by adding an extra sense to the text in relation to the Millennium. The qere imparts a far- future sense that is the source of renderings of some modern translators in verse 9:3a, but they miss the significance of the ketiv present sense there. The NASV incorrectly substitutes the qere future sense for the text's past- tense verbs that are to be retained in verse 3a.
To elucidate this matter. we note chapter 8 concludes with God's judgment upon His Hebrew people, and the judgment becomes pronounced in 9:8-21. Yet verses 9:1,2 first interrupt this state of affairs with words that speak of a lessening of the dimness of the judgment, referring to a dispelling of dark- ness of the people in the sense of a hope that proves to be Messianic, and is indicative of Christ's First Advent that will give light only to those with open eyes. Then verse 3a tells us that the nation has been enlarged, but presently lacks the joy of its Messiah, while 3b tells of joy that will one day character- ize the nation when the Messiah returns, and institutes the Millennium. This future joy will be like that of a great harvest, and will involve defeat of great adversaries of Israel (9:4) that results in dividing of spoil in a great victory; this great joy, that of the Millennium, is emphasized in verses 9:6, 7.
It is as if the qere is telling Israel that it must endure God's judgment for the folly of its disloyalty, but its size enlargement will one day be accompanied by better things that are inferred in verse 9:1, then begin to be specified in verse 9:2 that speaks of the First Advent of Christ, and conclude in verses 9:6,7 that speak of His Second Advent.
Related passages in which qere are valid alternatives
1. Job 6:21
KJV: For now ye are nothing (Heb. ketiv); ye see my casting down, and are afraid.
NASV: Indeed, you have now become such (paraphrase referring to the unhelpful type of person in the previous verse), You see a terror and are afraid.
The verse presents Job's view of his friends who are anything but comforters in his time of adversity. Here the KJV presents a proper contextual sense in using the ketiv nothing, though the qere (Heb. in relation to him) is a valid alternative, referring to a type of person who is unhelpful in hard times, as described in the previous verse; NASV language inclines toward the qere, (which is evidently a general tendency). Again there is no significance to the similar spelling of the two terms.
Same Hebrew terms as above, with qere & ketiv roles reversed
2. 1 Samuel 2:16
The verse deals with a conversation between an arrogant servant of a priest and a man offering a sacrifice.
KJV: And if any man say unto him (the servant), Let them not fail to burn the fat presently, and then take as much as thy soul desireth; then he would ans- wer him (Heb. to him), Nay; but thou shalt give it to me now: and if not, I will take it by force.
NASV...then he would say (Heb, to him ignored) "No, but you shall give it to me now; and if not, I will take it by force."
Here the ketiv reads to him, and the qere offers a term of negation. The qere term is properly utilized in both versions for emphasis on negation, but even if this term is ignored, the sense of negation in the ketiv is clear. The altern- ate ketiv term to him would make the text read, "...then he would answer to him, but you shall give it to me now... The sense of meaning is the same with or without the qere.
3. 1 Samuel 20:2
KJV: And he (Jonathan) said unto him (David), God forbid; thou shalt not die: behold, my father will do nothing (Heb. ket. to him) either great or small, but that he will show it me: and why should my father hide this thing from me? it is not so.
NASV: And he said to him, "Far from it, you shall not die. Behold my father does nothing (Heb. ket. to him) either great or small without disclosing it to me. So why should my father hide this thing from me? It is not so."
A qere term of negation nothing is preferred in both versions as an alterna- tive to the ketiv term that means to him, and this is again for the purpose of emphasis on negation. Again the ketiv doesn't nullify a necessary negation in this context that speaks of Saul not failing to show Jonathan anything great or small that he plans, so the qere only serves to strengthen negation. Again the sense of meaning is the same with or without the qere.
It becomes evident that qere do not serve to correct error in the ketiv.