Herbert M Wolf’s ‘Interpretating Isaiah; The Suffering and Glory of the Messiah’ >22;5, in context of Igbo language


Sampson Iroabuchi Onwuka

Herbert M Wolf’s treatment on ‘Interpretating Isaiah; The Suffering and Glory of the Messiah’, where instances of Isaiah 22; 5 was made especially evident in terms of its Hebrew meaning. By his interpretation of Isaiah 22;5, we read for instance “The lord has in store “a day of ‘tumult’ and ‘trampling’ and ‘terror'”, and in tems of his translations to Hebrew, these are his words, (me’huma, me’busa, me’buka). These connection to Hebrew via Wolf, suggest that story or prophesy about the day of destruction was to be done in context of several departures, that the event would be swift and then a realia of awe.


Preceeding this information and the prophesy of Isaiah is instances of a woman by name ‘Almah’, who is supposed to be a girl as opposed to a name of a woman. But out concern is that the statement in terms of Igbo was never about a man and his Amah or wife, rather a story about the destruction because of God’s wrath. For at least in Igbo, we are learn that that these Hebrew terms ‘m’huma’, ‘m’busa’,’m’buka’, literally means, trauma and shakes, destruction and scattering, and mbuka (mgbuka) in Igbo will mean ‘demolition’. That fact further complicates the claim that Yahu was a human being as opposed Yahu as a notable imperative, all part of the story.


While we can only be too careful about the language and selection of words from the language, we must indicate that Campbell for instance, may have relied on a text that was proven for right reasons to be accurate, yet the teachers of Modern Hebrew are the greatest of all the experts. The occasional error occur in the translation of Hebrew words into English for one major reason, that current Jews are not natural speakers of the language. The language has been forgotten and the lines of the text also forgotten.


Herbert M Wolf Campbell, not unlike Edward Campbell treated his topic very well, and Edward Campbell treatment of Ruth is of the greatest importance. In fact his work is seriously recommended, along with other works of E.A Speiser (Genesis), Nahum Sarno (Exodus), Robert Alter (5 books of Moses), Baruch Levine (Numbers), Jacob Milgrom (Leviticus), Joseph Blenkinsopp (Isaiah), George Wesley Buchanan (To The Hebrews), Craige R Koester (Hebrews), and a certain Mary Douglass (Leviticus). But in the above dedicate example, the translation is essentially wrong.


The main point is the word yahu, and several instances of the word essentially appear in several parts of the Bible, for instance, in Biblical Hebrew, Isaiah 22;15-16, it reads ‘This is (sepulcher of…) Yahu who is over the house. There is no silver and no gold here, but (his bones) and the bones of his ‘amah’ with him” This particular translation or adaption is from a book on ‘Ruth’ written by Edward Campbell, published by Anchor Bible Series. Campbell argument was quite simple that the word Amah refers to a slave Girl or any kind of girl, where the word Yahu, is meant to be the owner of the slave girl, who carried the sepulcher of the young wide or slave. It is possible to note that can that current Biblical interpretation of these two verses may be more accurate than the Hebrew, for at least we know that the Yahu in the way the book of Isaiah portrays refers to a third person, which chimes well in Igbo with the saying ‘Onye ahu’.


We may pretend that the lessons concerning the transition of the words from Yahu to Onye ahu, may explain how and why the domestic term yahu in Isaiah may now be noted as a name or a noun form when it is really an adjective. Onye ahu or Ye-ahu in Igbo, means ‘that person’, and the word ‘amah’ means his house or his square, or his domain which makes all the point accurate in the context of the discourses. As such the mistake with the Hebrew translation began with the definition of Yahu as a personal name or a name, which means it a noun, and the inscription ‘amah’ with indirect respect to corpse or sepulcher, relate the story to Israeli practice of preparing the body of the dead wife.


In very clear sense, the word amah as a woman or young girl, may have also descended from Isaiah 7;14, where the story abounds of a virgin who shall conceive and bear the child called Emmanuel. In all, the theme of the Virgin appearing in Isaiah as almah, refers to a ‘girl’ and not particularly a virgin girl, and by Igbo, Alma which some Hebrew experts interpreted as ‘nma, means any young girl.


The difference between amah and alma (nma) in Igbo, will here clarify the confusion behind Isaiah 22;15-16, where the word amah does not refer to a woman but a personal place in the public or a lot, and the Isaiah 7;14, alma or nma which in Igbo refers to a young girl and not necessarily a virgin. The whole fact is that Yahu considered also as a personal name, perhaps at the initiation of other names in Hebrew relating to the word Yahu, added to the confusion. In Igbo, ye – ahu, or onye – ahu, essentially means ‘that person’ where the imperative in the line ‘onye ahu’ could not have led to a particular name of a person, as such wrong to claim that he brought the corpse of his amah with him.


The words are similar in comparative performance to other words in the Bible, but in the whole, they are two different. The same conclusion affect our knowing of God’s name, believed by name Israelite as Yahweh, whose meaning may yet yield a third person singular like Yahu, which is a definition, an imperative, but no particular name.


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