Lamentations 3.35a

by James Dowden

I recently ran into this slightly unusual rendering from Beibl.net:

“a hawliau dynol yn cael eu diystyru”
(“and human rights being disregarded”)

My immediate thought was along the lines of, “This is political correctness gone mad! I shall write to the Daily Telegraph!” After all *the* Bible (meaning the ESV these days) says:

“to deny a man justice”

And being a typical Christian whose Greek is better than their Hebrew, I then looked at the LXX:

τοῦ ἐκκλῖναι κρίσιν ἀνδρὸς

So there we have it. It means “perverting justice from a man”. Ablatival genitive. Slam dunk. Silly PC Beibl.net.

Not so quick… Let’s have a look at the Hebrew:

לְהַטּוֹת, מִשְׁפַּט-גָּבֶר

Yep, the “to turn aside” bit is there, but what have we next? מִשְׁפַּט is the construct state of מִשְׁפָּט (yes, those nearly invisibly-different a-vowels do matter), and there’s no מִן (or at least מִ־) before גָּבֶר. The meaning isn’t ablative at all: it hyperliteralistically says “the justice of a man”.

So do I agree with Beibl.net’s interpretation now? Not quite. גָּבֶר is a markedly masculine word: it is more “man-at-arms” than “human being”. Readers will no doubt be familiar with the ἄνθρωπος (man (as opposed to beast), human being) vs ἀνήρ (man (as opposed to woman), man-at-arms, husband) distinction in Greek, and there’s a similar distinction in Welsh too between “dyn” and “gwr”. Those terrible liberals have only gone and gender-neutralized a passage that was gender-marked in the original.

So is “the justice of a man-at-arms” the same as human rights? Does anyone want to tell me I suck at Hebrew, and that the construct state can somehow be ablatival?

In any event, I would like to thank the folks at Beibl.net for spurring me to blog again.

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