A Textual Contradiction?


Ancient Hebrew manuscript

Regarding Isaiah 9:3

Here is where various translations diametrically disagree, one taking a positive and another taking a negative disposition on the subject.

The positive are: ASV, Brenton, ESV, GNB, NASB, NKJV, YLT
The negative are: KJV, LEB, Webster

Without an understanding of textual criticism, I perceive a contradiction in the negative rendering, with the clause following it. Why would God tell us first, that He had multiplied the nation, and then that He had not increased its joy, followed by telling us of their joy as in harvest?

Albert Barnes addressed this issue thus:

And not increased the joy – The Masoretes here read in the margin לו  lô “to it,” instead of לא  lo’ “not.” Eleven manuscripts, two of them ancient, have this reading. This reading is followed by the Chaldee Paraphrase, the Syriac, and the Arabic. The Septuagint seems also to have so understood it. So also it is in the margin, and so the connection demands; and it is unquestionably the correct reading. It would then read, ‘thou hast increased for it (the nation) the joy.’ Hengstenberg, however, suggests that the phrase may mean, ‘whose joy thou didst not before enlarge,’ that is, upon whom thou hast before inflicted heavy sufferings. But this is harsh, and I see no reason to doubt that an error may have crept into the text.

I had tentatively sided with the KJV on textual issues, but here is a gross exception to that assumption, where the KJV makes no sense at all in its rendering. Please note that I did not title this piece, “A Biblical Contradiction.” While God faithfully preserves His Word’s meaning and application to our lives, in his sovereignty, he allows us to make mistakes where it contributes to His purposes.

What sayest ye?

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