What does lamo mean in Isaiah 53:8?

In this post, we find out the meaning of lamo, in Isaiah 53:8. Read on...

What does lamo mean in Isaiah 53:8?

Answer: In Isaiah 53:8, the Gentile spokesperson continues to acknowledge the fault of the nations for the trials and tribulations suffered by the servant, Israel, during his passage through history (cf. Isaiah 52:1, 15-53:1-2). Thus, he states: "As a result of the transgression of my people [the Gentile nations] he [Israel] has been afflicted." The literal translation of' this verse is: "From the transgression of' my people there has been affliction to him [or "to them"]." The poetic form of lahem, lamo, "to them," is used in this verse in reference to a collective noun (cf. Genesis 9:26). Lamo is rendered "to him" as it refers to the collective noun, "suffering servant of the Lord," that is, the Jewish people. In such an instance, lamo can be translated in the singular although it must always be understood to be in the plural in relation to what numerically constitutes the entity given the appellative "suffering servant of the Lord."

The proper rendering of lamo is sometimes unclear. For example, there appears to be a Question on how to render lamo in the verse, "Then a man uses it [a tree] for fuel: and he takes it, and warms himself; he kindles it and bakes bread; he makes a god, and worships it; he makes it a carved image, and falls down lamo ["to them," alternately suggested "to it,"]" (Isaiah 44:15). Since the noun, "god," is in the singular it would seem to show that lamo can mean "to it" as an actual singular and not just when used as a collective noun. This is not the case. Although the prophet's words are in the singular he uses the poetic form lamo, "to them," to show that the content of his message is to be understood as being in the plural. The translator of the Hebrew, into the Greek Septuagint, understood this and rendered the verse accordingly: "That it might be for men to burn: and having taken part of it he warms himself; and they burn part of it; and bake loaves thereon; and the rest they make for themselves gods, and they worship them."

The plural nature of the poetic form lamo is supported by the fifty four places it is used in the Hebrew Scriptures. That the plural lamo, in verse 8, refers to the suffering servant of the Lord as a collective noun excludes any possibility that it pertains to an individual. As a result, it cannot refer to Jesus. The suffering servant of the Lord is a collective noun and, as such, does not refer to a specific Israelite.

© Gerald Sigal