Another King James Bible Believer

 1 Samuel 13:21 - “A file” or “a pim” or “two-thirds shekel" or "dullness"?


1 Samuel 13:21 KJB - “Yet THEY HAD A FILE for the mattocks, and for the coulters, and for the forks, and for the axes, and to sharpen the goads. “

 

1 Samuel 13:21 NKJV - "AND THE CHARGE FOR SHARPENING WAS A PIM for the plowshares, the mattocks, the forks, and the axes, and to set the points of the goads."

 

1 Samuel 13:21 NIV - “THE PRICE WAS TWO THIRDS OF A SHEKEL  for sharpening plowshares and mattocks, AND A THIRD OF A SHEKEL for sharpening forks and axes and for repointing goads.”

 

1 Samuel 13:21 The Work of God’s Children Illustrated Bible 2011 - “So that their shares, and their spades, and their forks, and their axes, WERE BLUNT, even to the goad, which was to be mended.”


There is much confusion and a wide variety of ways the various Bible versions have translated this verse. 

 

James Snapp, who is in the process of writing his own bible version, says: “The second kind of flaw in the KJV consists of instances where the KJV’s rendering does not convey the meaning of the original text.  In First Samuel 13:21, the KJV says, “Yet they had a file for the mattocks.”

 

In 1611 the meaning of the base-text of this passage was obscure, and so the KJV’s translators resorted to the renderings found in more ancient translations (the Peshitta, Septuagint, and Vulgate) and the educated guesses of earlier scholars. But subsequently – in excavations at Gezer in the early 1900’s – stone weights were discovered with this word on them. “Pim” is a measure of weight, and thus the meaning of First Samuel 13:21 is that there was a fee of a certain weight of silver – a pim being two-third of a shekel – for sharpening tools." (End of Mr. Snapp's comments)

 

 

I have heard this theory and criticism of the King James Bible before, and Mr. Snapp's fellow bible agnostics and unbelievers in the existence of an inerrant Bible in ANY language like Hank Hannegraff also bring up this example of what they think is an indisputable error in the King James Bible.  However, not even bible correctors like Dan Wallace and company are convinced this is a proven error, and obviously not all Bible translators, even modern ones, do either.  

 

So, let's take a closer look at the passage in 1 Samuel 13:21.

 

The NIV and the NKJV have a very different translation in this verse.  The NIV reads: “THE PRICE WAS TWO THIRDS OF A SHEKEL  for sharpening plowshares and mattocks, and a third of a shekel for sharpening forks and axes and for repointing goads.”


Then they have a footnote that presumptuously says: “Hebrew pim; that is, about 1/4 ounce (about 8 grams).”  Why do I say presumptuously?  Because the meaning of the Hebrew in this verse is not at all so cut and dried as these modern version editors want you to think it is.  


For instance, the King James Bible has a marginal note that says: “Hebrew - A FILE WITH MOUTHS.” This helps explain why the KJB is correct.  Even some of the modern critics admit that the word translated as “file” comes from a root that can mean to cut, to rub hard or to sharpen. 

 

The word “pim” was seen by the KJB translators, and many others as well, as being a Semitic cognate in the plural for the usual word “peh” which has multiple meanings that even the modern versions translate as: “edges, devour, ate, beak, and sharpen.”

 

The little grooves or edges on the file would be the “mouths” that gradually ate away at the blunted metal in the sharpening process.  Thus, to translate this phrase literally as “a file of mouths” would be superfluous; the simple translation of “file” is much better.

 

The RSV 1971 also reads in a similar fashion like the NKJV, NIV with: “and THE CHARGE WAS A PIM for the plowshares and for the mattocks, and a third of a shekel for sharpening the axes and for setting the goads.” 

 

But then their footnote says: “THE HEBREW OF THIS VERSE IS OBSCURE."  Keep in mind that this is long after the early 1900’s when somebody found some rocks with the word “pim” on them and the new theory had been advanced.  Not everybody was convinced it was right then, and they still aren't now.  


The NKJV also reads very differently than the King James Bible.  It basically goes along with the liberal RSV and reads: “AND THE CHARGE FOR A SHARPENING WAS A PIM for the plowshares, the mattocks, the forks, and the axes, and to set the points of the goads.” Then the NKJV has a footnote that reads like the NIV saying that a pim is “About two-thirds shekel weight.”


Other versions that read like the NIV (“two-thirds of a shekel”) are the NASB, RSV, NRSV, ESV, several Catholic versions and the Holman Standard.  However as we shall soon see, this interpretation of the meaning of the verse is a fairly recent development and one that is not at all shared by many other Bible translators.


Some versions just omit the phrase altogether, with no mention of a file, a charge or a pim.  Such is the case with Darby’s translation.  It says: 13:20-21: “And all Israel went down to the Philistines, every man to get his ploughshare, and his hoe, and his axe, and his sickle sharpened, (21) when the edges of the sickles, and the hoes, and the forks, and the axes WERE BLUNTED; and to set the goads.” 

 

A very similar translation is found in the 2011 Orthodox Jewish Bible we read - "And a DULLNESS of the edges occurred in the plowshares, hoes, three pronged pitchforks, axes, and for repointing the darvon (goad)." - No mention of a Pim, 2/3rds shekel nor of a file. 


The so called Greek Septuagint LXX version is, as usual, quite different from them all.  It says: “And it was near the time of vintage; and THEIR TOOLS WERE VALUED AT THREE SHEKELS for a ploughshare, and there was the same rate for the axe and the sickle.” OoooKaaaay ;-)

 

By the way, this shows that Mr. Snapp is wrong in his remarks in connection with this verse about "KJV’s translators resorted to the renderings found in more ancient translations (the Peshitta, Septuagint, and Vulgate)". Neither the Septuagint reads this way, nor does the Latin Vulgate, and Lamsa's translation of the Peshitta actually reads like the KJB with its "THERE WAS A BROAD FILE...TO SHARPEN the goads."


The Vulgate says NOTHING about a FILE at all. The Douay-Rheims of 1610, translating from the Latin Vulgate, says: "So that their shares, and their spades, and their forks, and their axes, were blunt, even to the goad, which was to be mended."  Nothing about a FILE or two-thirds shekel or the PIM. So much for Mr. Snapp's expertise in this matter.


 

But since 1950 all new Catholic versions like the St. Joseph New American Bible 1970 and the New Jerusalem bible 1985 read like the RSV, NASB, NIV and NKJV. The 1985 Catholic New Jerusalem bible says: "The price was two-thirds of a shekel for ploughshares and axes..." 

 

Oh, but wait.  Now the latest Catholic bible translation has come out in 2009. It is called The Catholic Public Domain Version of 2009 and once again they have omitted any reference to "a pim" or the "two-thirds of a shekel" thingy.  And so too does the Revised Douay-Rheims Bible of 2012 - "and their axes WERE BLUNT"

 

It now reads: "{13:20} Therefore, all of Israel descended to the Philistines, so that each man could sharpen his plowshare, or pick axe, or hatchet, or hoe.{13:21} For their plow blades, and pick axes, and pitch forks, and axes had become BLUNT, and even the handles needed to be repaired." 

 

Welcome to the ever-evolving world of modern scholarship.  

 

It is also of interest to see what the ancient Syriac version says. Lamsa translated the ancient Syriac Peshitta (Aramaic) version in 1933 and it reads very much like the King James Bible.  It says: “And there was A BROAD FILE for the sickle and for the ploughshare and his axe and to sharpen the goads.” 

 

The ancient Syriac translation gives a lot of weight to the accuracy of the King James Bible reading.  Here is a related Semitic language that views the Hebrew text as having the same meaning as that found in the King James Bible and many others.


The Hebrew word translated as “file” in the King James Bible and many others is a combination of two words.  That is why the KJB margin says “Hebrew - file of mouths".  One word is used only once in all the Old Testament - petsirah (“file” in KJB, “charge” in NKJV, NIV, NASB).  The other word is the one that gives rise to all the controversy.  


The actual Hebrew word found here seems to be “pim” and it is used only one time in the entire Old Testament.  The early Jewish Hebraists like Rashi and Radak and other Bible translators considered this unique Hebrew word to be directly related to the other common Hebrew word “peh” meaning ‘mouth’ or ‘edge’.  Some modern scholars, including several Jewish ones, still do. 


Others have taken the view that the true meaning of the word pim was unknown until the early 1900’s when some rocks were found inscribed with the letters ‘pim’, and so a new theory arose that what was being talked about in 1 Samuel 13:21 was some sort of a unit of weight equalling two-thirds of a shekel.  And so we have many modern versions  like the RSV, NKJV, NASB, NET and NIV adopting this view.


However not all are in agreement with their line of reasoning. Others think that the letters ‘pim’ recently found on those rocks was an abbreviation for something else, and there are still those who think the word “pim” is simply a Semitic cognate in the plural form for the common Hebrew word “peh” meaning “mouths or edges”.

 

Dan Wallace and company's NET Version 2006


For some to dogmatically affirm, as do Mr. James Snapp, Hank Hannegraff and the NKJV as well, that the Hebrew says “two-thirds of a shekel” is more than a little presumptuous.  Even Daniel Wallace’s NET version of 2006 notes that “THE MEANING OF THE HEBREW IS UNCERTAIN."

 

 

29 tn Heb “the price was.” The meaning of the Hebrew word פְּצִירָה (pÿtsirah) is UNCERTAIN. This is the only place it occurs in the OT. Some propose the meaning “sharpening,” but “price” is a more LIKELY meaning IF the following term refers to a weight


 

30 tn This word (pim), which appears only here in the OT, PROBABLY refers to a stone weight. Stones marked  (pim) have been found in excavations of Palestinian sites. The average weight of such stones is 0.268 ounces, which is equivalent to about two-thirds of a shekel. This PROBABLY refers to the price charged by the Philistines for the services listed. (End of Dan Wallace's footnotes)


The Lexham English Bible of 2012.

 

 

Notice both the translation and the footnotes of one of the latest bible versions to come on the scene. 1 Samuel 13:21 -  "The charge[a] was two-thirds of a shekel[b] for the plowshare and for the mattock, and a third of a shekel for the pick[c] and for the axe, and to set the goading sticks.


Footnotes:
1 Samuel 13:21 Or “fee”
1 Samuel 13:21 Literally “a pim” (POSSIBLY (Caps are mine) a stone weight used as a measure)
1 Samuel 13:21 Literally “and for three, a pick” (UNCERTAIN; PERHAPS meaning “a third of a shekel,” or a three-pronged pick”

 

Another very recent translation differs from them all. It is called the Orthodox Jewish Bible of 2011 and it reads: "And a DULLNESS of the edges occurred in the plowshares, hoes, three pronged pitchforks, axes, and for repointing the darvon (goad)."  Here there is no mention of a file, nor a pim nor even the alleged price that was paid to sharpen their tools.  Go figure.


Bible commentators are often at odds with each other as well when it comes to what they think this verse means.

 

Commentary by Rashi on 1 Samuel 13:21 

http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/15842#showrashi=true

And there was the file for the mattocks: And those who found it overly troublesome to go down to the Philistines to sharpen had an implement called ‘pezirah pim,’ ‘lime’ in French (a file), which has many mouths, i.e., many sharp surfaces. They had this to sharpen the mattocks and the colters.
 

 

Commentary by Rashi at Judaica Press Complete Tanach

 

"And there was the file for the mattocks: And those who found it overly troublesome to go down to the Philistines to sharpen had an implement called ‘pezirah pim,’ ‘lime’ in French (a file), which has many mouths, i.e., many sharp surfaces. They had this to sharpen the mattocks and the colters."

 

http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/15842#showrashi=true 


 

Adam Clarke  says in his commentary: “Yet they had a file - The Hebrew petsirah, from patsar, TO RUB HARD, is translated very differently by the versions and by critics. OUR TRANSLATION MAY BE AS LIKELY AS ANY: they permitted them the use of FILES, (I believe the word means grindstone,) to restore the blunted edges of their tridents axes, and goads.”


John Gill sticks to the translation found in the King James Bible saying: “Those that would not go to the Philistines kept FILES by them to sharpen those several instruments with upon occasion... when the mouths, or edges, of the mattocks, coulter were dull or "blunt" and so needed sharpening.”


Jamieson, Fausset and Brown agree with the KJB reading as well - 19, 20. Now there was no smith found throughout . . . Israel - ”The country was in the lowest state of depression and degradation. The Philistines, after the great victory over the sons of Eli, had become the virtual masters of the land. Their policy in disarming the natives has been often followed in the East. For repairing any serious damage to their agricultural implements, they had to apply to the neighboring forts.  21. Yet they had A FILE -- as a kind of privilege, for the purpose of sharpening sundry smaller utensils of husbandry.”


Ellicott’s Commentary For English Readers - Yet they had a file for the mattocks . . .—This translation... is supported by the Targum and by many of the great Hebrew commentators—Rashi, for instance. Gesenius and the majority of modern scholars, however, render the word in the original translated “file” (p’tsirah) by “BLUNTNESS."


Peter Pett’s Commentary - “The Philistine strategy is described. They had allowed no smiths in Israel, and the result was that if the farmers wished to sharpen their tools properly, and to point their goads, they had to go to a Philistine smith. In between times they had to make do with using A FILE, which was of limited use. (A coulter is a cutting blade for a ploughshare). The aim in this was in order to make it impossible for Israel to produce swords and spears."

 

The Biblical Illustrator - “What a scalding subjugation for the Israelites! The Philistines had carried off all the blacksmiths, and torn down all the blacksmith’s shops, and abolished the blacksmith’s trade in the land of Israel. The farmers and the mechanics having nothing to whet up the coulter, and the goad, and the pick-axe, SAVE A SIMPLE FILE, industry was hindered, and work practically disgraced. The great idea of these Philistines was to keep the Israelites disarmed….Yes; these Philistines shut up the mines, and then they took the spears and the swords, then they took the blacksmiths, then they took the grindstones, and THEY TOOK EVERYTHING BUT A FILE.


Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges YET THEY HAD A FILE - So the Targum and some Rabbinic commentators. If the rendering is correct, the meaning will be that for the ordinary sharpening of tools they had files, but for any forging work they had to go to the Philistines. But the best rendering appears to be either, “When the edges, &c. were blunt:” or that of the Vulgate, “So the edges of the mattocks … used to be blunt.” 

 


The Pulpit Commentary shows some of the differing opinions, saying: - “Verse 21. - A FILE. Margin, a file with mouths. The word only occurs here, and is translated A FILE on the authority of Rashi. Almost all modern commentators agree that it means BLUNTNESS, and that this verse should be joined on to the preceding, and the two be translated, "But all the Israelites went down to the Philistines TO SHARPEN his sickle, and his ploughshare, and his axe, and his mattock, whenever the edges of the mattocks, and the ploughshares, and the forks, and the axes were BLUNT.”  

 

(Note: The KJB translators were well aware of this "BLUNT" theory. Wycliffe, the Great Bible and Matthew's Bible all had "blunt" instead of "a file" - and they rejected it in favor of "A FILE")

 

King James Bible and others that say A FILE -

 

Agreeing with the King James Bible translation of “YET THEY HAD A FILE for the mattocks, and for the coulters, and for the forks, and for the axes, and to sharpen the goads.” are the following Bible translations: the Bishops’ Bible 1568, the Geneva Bible 1560-1602, the Bill Bible 1671 - "they had a FILE for sharpening", The Patrick Paraphrase Bible 1822, Webster’s 1833, the Longman Version 1841, the Lesser Old Testament 1953, The Wellbeloved Scriptures 1862, The Jewish Family Bible 1864 - "they had A FILE for the mattocks", the Revised Version 1881, the Sharpe Bible 1876, the American Standard Version 1901 - "and they had A FILE for the mattocks", Rotherham’s Emphasized bible 1902, The Ancient Hebrew Bible 1907 - "they had A FILE for the mattocks", the 1936 Hebrew Publishing Company version, the Sacred Scriptures Family of Jah 2001 - "yet they had A FILE for the mattocks", the 2004 Judaica Press Complete Tanach - "And there was A FILE for the mattocks", the 2007 Context Group Version reads like the KJB with - "yet they had A FILE for the mattocks, and for the coulters, and for the three-pronged fork, and for the axes, and to set the goads.", The Ancient Roots Translinear Bible 2008  - “They had a station to FILE the mouth of the mattocks, plowshares, three pitch-forks, axes, and goads.”,  the 2008 Torah Transliteration Scripture, the 2001 Urim-Thummin Version done by a Jewish Christian translates the passage as: “Still they had A FILE for the mattocks, and for the diggers, and for the forks and for the axes, and to sharpen the goads.”, The Hebraic Transliteration Scripture 2010 (Yerusha Shen) - "Yet they had A FILE for the mattocks"


 Still others that match the meaning found in the King James Bible are the 1898 Young’s ‘literal’ "THE FILE for mattocks", the Bible in Basic English 1961 - "For they had INSTRUMENTS FOR PUTTING AN EDGE ON  their ploughs and blades and forks and axes", The Fenton Bible 1966, The Word of Yah Bible 1993,  the 21st Century KJV 1994, the Third Millennium Bible 1998, The Sacred Scriptures Family of Yah 2001 - "they had A FILE for the mattocks", A Conservative Version 2005 - "Yet they had A FILE for the mattocks, and for the coulters, and for the forks, and for the axes, and to set the goads.", The Revised Geneva Bible 2005 - "they had A FILE for the shares",The Concordant Literal Version 2009 -"and there was a FILE for the mattocks",  the 2010 New Heart English Bible - "they had A FILE for the mattocks", the 2011 Biblos Interlinear Bible  = "Yet they had A FILE",  The Bond Slave Version 2012 and the Hebrew Names Version 2014.

 

Other Translations

 

The Smith Bible of 1876 had:  "and there was a NOTCHING OF MOUTHS for the plowshares"

 

The Ancient Roots Bible 2010 - "They had A STATION TO FILE THE MOUTH of the mattocks, plowshares, three pitch-forks, axes, and goads.”

 

The Revised English Bible 1877, The Improved Bible 1913 both have - "and there was a BLUNTNESS on the edge of the mattocks" 

 

The Orthodox Jewish Bible 2011 - “And A DULLNESS of the edges occurred in the plowshares, hoes, three pronged pitchforks, axes, and for repointing the goad.”

 

The Interlinear Hebrew Old Testament 

 

 http://studybible.info/IHOT/1%20Samuel%2013:21

 

H196

והיתה Yet they had

H6477

הפצירה a file

H6310

פים a file

H4281

למחרשׁת for the mattocks

 

Foreign Language Bibles -

 

The Spanish Cipriano de Valera Bible of 1602 - "Pero aún tenían UNA LIMA para las rejas..." = "But they did have A FILE...",  the 2010 Spanish Reina Valera Gomez, - "y tenían UN AFILADOR para las rejas de arado y para los azadones, y para los tridentes y para las hachas, y para componer las aguijadas.",  the Portuguese Almeida Actualizada - "Tinham porém LIMAS para os sachos, para as enxadas", the 2009 Portuguese Almeida Corregida - "Tinham, porém, LIMAS ADENTADAS  para os seus sachos" = "they had TEETHED FILES",  the 1649 Italian Diodati - "E si servivano DI LIME  per le vanghe".


Not only that, but there is another very recent Hebrew translation of the Bible done in January of 2005.  It is the Artscroll Stone edition of the Hebrew Scriptures. These Orthodox Jewish scholars have translated the verse as: "There was A MULTI-GROOVED FILE for the mattocks..."

 

So, whatever the Hebrew word pim means, it should be obvious that not everybody agrees on how it should be translated.

 

 

Some of the more recent translations have now omitted any reference to either "a file" or "a pim" or any reference to an amount of money being paid.  For example, the 2011 Orthodox Jewish Bible says: "And a DULLNESS of the edges occurred in the plowshares, hoes, three pronged pitchforks, axes, and for repointing the darvon (goad)." and the 2012 Knox Bible, Westminster Diocese, has: "BLUNTED were share and spade, fork and axe; even the goads needed to be straightened."

 

  I suspect that the modern versionists who tell us that the King James Bible translators and others “didn’t know how to translate the Hebrew text” and that some recent discovery made in the early 1900’s about the word pim being found on some rocks suddenly sheds “new light” on the passage as it has stood for hundreds of years is a bunch of BALONEY. 


Their new theory fits right into the modern and widespread mentality of unbelief in the existence of any Bible in any language that is or ever has been the complete, inspired and 100% true Holy Scriptures. 

 

In their way of thinking there never has been a complete and 100% true Bible in any language.  They think the sovereign God of the universe is still trying to piece together His perfect Book and we STILL do not have it.  NOT ONE of these people believes that any Bible in any language IS the perfect, preserved and infallible words of the living God.  Don’t believe me?  Just ask them.

 


The King James Bible translators were by no means perfect or sinless; but it should be pointed out that neither were the men used by God to give us the long lost originals in the first place!  They were merely the clay vessels God chose to bring into the world His perfect “book of the LORD” in the English language.  


The King James Bible translators expressed no doubt or uncertainty about what the words mean in 1 Samuel 13:21.  They said nothing remotely close to “Well, we’re not really sure what this means” or “The Hebrew is uncertain”, but rather stated in no uncertain terms “Hebrew - a FILE with mouths” -  and they were right.

 


There is absolutely no overwhelming proof, reason or evidence to think that the modern versions (that are so wrong in so many other places and are only getting worse and not better) have suddenly managed to find some kind of an error in the King James Bible.

 

We have seen that there are at least 6 modern day Jewish translations that still believe the Hebrew text is best translated as it has stood in the King James Bible for almost 400 years now - "they had A FILE...to sharpen the goads."  

 

This Holy Bible, to which even the NASB testifies in its Preface - “In the history of English Bible translations, the King James Version is the most prestigious.” - has unshakably withstood the tests of both time and its critics. 

 

It is the ONLY Bible believed by thousands all over the world to be the complete, preserved, inspired and infallible words of God, and the Standard by which all others are to be measured.


Will Kinney

 Return to Articles -  http://brandplucked.webs.com/kjbarticles.htm

30tn This word (pim), which appears only here in the OT, PROBABLY refers to a stone weight. Stones marked  (pim) have been found in excavations of Palestinian sites. The average weight of such stones is 0.268 ounces, which is equivalent to about two-thirds of a shekel. This PROBABLY refers to the price charged by the Philistines for the services listed. See P. K. McCarter, I Samuel (AB), 238; DNWSI 2:910; and G. I. Davies, Ancient Hebrew Inscriptions, 259.
Notice both the translation and the footnotes of one of the latest bible versions to come on the scene.