Which Verb in Isa 7:2

Isa 7:2 has the verb נָחָה. Morphologically this is ambiguous. It could be:

  • 3ms Qal perf from נָחָה meaning “to lead”
  • 3fs Qal perf from נוח meaning “to settle, rest” – remembering that Hollow (II-Yod/Waw) verbs in Qal perfect drop the middle radical.

The issue is made harder because the verb’s subject אֲרָם is common in gender. The gender of the verb must agree with its subject – so this cannot be the deciding factor!

Making it harder again is that both verbs make about as much sense as the other:

  • Syria has led on Ephraim
  • Syria has settled down on Ephraim

both suggesting some sort of joining of force between Syria and Israel.

What other factors to consider?

  • נוח is more common in Isa than נחה (x14 vs x3)
  • The other two occurences of נחה are both positive and spoken by God (57:18; 58:11)
  • the use of the preposition make more sense with נוח than with נחה
  • Oswalt (p192) notes the probable word play with נוע “tremble” later in the verse

It seems that נוח makes slightly more sense in context and its unusual use is explained by wordplay.

P.S. – Bibleworks 7 links this verb with נהה in Holladay which is just plain wrong. Wrong letters and wrong meaning. Just plain wrong!

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