Numbers 11:25 KJB - "And the LORD came down in a cloud, and spake unto him (Moses), and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, AND DID NOT CEASE."
NKJV - (ESV, NIV, NASB, NET, Jehovah Witness NWT, some Catholic versions) - “…and it happened, when the Spirit rested upon them that they prophesied, ALTHOUGH THEY NEVER DID SO AGAIN.”
At one of the Bible clubs I belong to, a man named Frank brought up this passage in the King James Bible, and told us it is "just flat wrong". Frank writes: "Like it or not, the KJV has translation errors. One I know of is Numbers 11:25. At the end, the KJV reads "and they did not cease." All well and good except that the Hebrew reads "and they did not do so again." The KJV totally misses it. This is the only time (out of 213) they translate yasaph (increase, repeat) as "cease" and it is just flat wrong. "Cease" isn't even close to the meaning of yasaph: e.g. more, again, add, increase."[End of Bible critic's comments]
Before addressing the alleged error Frank brings up, it is always a good idea to know more about your opponent's views of Scripture, and whether he believes such a thing as the inerrant words of God actually exist or not. Fortunately, Frank has provided abundant evidence of where he stands regarding the inerrancy of Scripture. Here are some of Frank's direct quotes:
I posted: "One of the points of my post was to point out that most Christians today do not believe ANY Bible or any text in any language is now the inerrant, complete and 100% true words of God. This is true of you as well as most Christians today."
Frank then answered with the following quotes: "Well, that's partly true of me. I believe that the autographs were innerant, but that today's texts are inerrant only in so far as they are accurately copied and translated. I believe they are the complete and 100% true words of God...The MT is very well preserved but not without error... there are actual scribal errors in the MT. Actually, my final authority is God, not my own mind. I BELIEVED (my note: notice the past tense) that the originals WERE PRESERVED also until undeniable facts brought it down. I do believe in inerrancy. That of the autographs, not of the modern copies. They are inerrant only so far as they are accurate copies of the original."
Frank is a very confused and inconsistent individual. Notice that Frank says on the one hand that he USED TO believe the originals were preserved, but then "undeniable facts" caused him to no longer believe this. Yet he still says "I believe in inerrancy". Then Frank tells us that today's texts are inerrant "only so far as they are accurate copies of the original".
Do you see how confused Frank is? He admits there are no originals, and they have not been preserved without error, yet Frank insists that what we have today is inerrant when it follows the non-existent, non-preserved, and never seen by him "original".
How would Frank know if they followed the originals or not if he has never seen them and doesn't believe they have been preserved? Helloooo? Is anybody home?
I am reminded here of the verse in Judges 21:25 "In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes."
Now to address the Numbers 11:25 issue - "they prophesied, and did NOT CEASE."
Not only does the King James Bible say "they prophesied, AND DID NOT CEASE" but so also do Wycliffe 1395, Tyndale 1534 - "and did not ease", Coverdale 1535, The Great Bible 1540, Matthew's Bible 15649, the Bishops' Bible 1568, the Geneva Bible 1599, Webster's 1833, The Longman Version 1841, the Julia Smith Translation 1855, the Smith Bible 1876, the Douay version 1950, YOUNG'S 'literal' 1898, The Ancient Hebrew Bible 1907 - "and they did not cease.", The Word of Yah 1993, the KJV 21st Century Version 1994, the Third Millennium Bible 1998, The Revised Geneva Bible 2005, The Sacred Bible Public Domain Version 2009, Bond Slave Version 2009, the Jubilee Bible 2010, The Hebraic Transliteration Scripture 2010 - "and did not cease.", The Work of God’s Children Bible 2011 - “they prophesied, nor did they cease afterwards.”
And this online Hebrew Interlinear Old Testament - "and they did not cease."
Foreign Language Bibles
Foreign language Bibles that also read "they prophesied and did not cease." are the Spanish Cipriano de Valera, Reina Valera 1960, 1977 - "profetizaron y no cesaron." and the Reina Valera Contemporánea 2011 - “comenzaron a profetizar, y no dejaban de hacerlo.” = “the prophesied and did not cease to do it.”
Even though the NIV reads: "they prophesied, but they did not do so again", yet in its footnote it says: "Or, prophesied and continued to do so." The NIV editors allow for the validity of the KJB reading.
Both Rashi's Commentary on the Complete Tanach and the NKJV mention that the Jewish Targum, a Rabbinic commentary, reads "and they did not cease.", meaning that their prophetic powers remained. (Rashi)
Likewise the Catholic New Jerusalem bible of 1985 reads: "they prophesied, but only once", yet in its footnote it says: "Alternative translation - "and could not stop".
Lamsa's 1936 translation of the Syriac Peshitta is a bit different, but it doesn't match many modern versions like the NKJV, NASB, NIV, ESV or Holman either. Lamsa's translation says: "they prophesied, and ceased to complain."
Versions like the NASB, NKJV, NIV, RSV, ESV, and Holman all say something like "and they prophesied BUT THEY DID NOT DO SO AGAIN." This is the reading Frank thinks is the correct one and that the KJB reading is "just flat wrong".
The Catholic Connection
The earlier Douay-Rheims 1610 as well as the Douay Version 1950 both read like the KJB, saying, “and when the spirit had rested upon them they prophesied, NOR DID THEY CEASE AFTERWARDS.”
But then the 1970 St. Joseph New American Bible just omitted the phrase altogether. It reads: “as the spirit came to rest on them they prophesied.” They just omit the words.
Then the New Jerusalem bible 1985 adopted the reading found in the NKJV, NIV, ESV, NASB, NET, etc. It now reads: “When the spirit came on them they prophesied - BUT ONLY ONCE.”
Frank is correct when he says that the King James Bible usually translates this Hebrew verb as "to add, to proceed, more, to continue, or again", but I say, So what? Hebrew words often have multiple meanings and frequently the resultant meanings are totally opposite from each other.
For example: The "scholarly" NASB has translated the same Hebrew word barak #1288 as "to bless" some 300 times, but also as "TO CURSE" some 7 times. It also translated the same word as "to kneel", to "salute" and "thanked". All synonyms? Not hardly.
The NASB translates the same Hebrew word abbir #47 as "angels (only once), bulls, chief, mighty man, stallions, stouthearted, stubborn minded, and valient". The NIV does the same type of thing. Not quite all synonyms, are they?
The NASB has the same word yom # 3117 as "day, age, year, battle (only once), entire, forever, eternity, length (only once), life, lifetime (only once), long, midday (only once), holiday, now, older (only once), reigns (only once), period, time, today (only once), usual (only once), very old (only once), whenever (only once), whole, and yesterday (only once). The NIV does the same.
The NASB, NIV both translate the single Hebrew verb halal # 1984 as "to shine, to boast, to deride (only once), to give praise, to go mad, to be foolish, to be renowned (only once) and wedding songs (only once).
The Hebrew word chesed #2671 is most often translated in the NASB, NIV as "mercy, favor, righteousness (only once), lovingkindness, good (only once in NASB), deeds of devotion, loyalty, and unchanging love (only once in NASB), BUT this same Hebrew word is translated as "a disgrace" or "a reproach" in Proverbs 14:34 "Sin is a REPROACH to any people", and in Leviticus 20:17 as "if she sees his nakedness, it is A DISGRACE". Completely different meanings for the same Hebrew word.
The Hebrew word #2398 ghah-dah is translated in the NASB as SIN some 180 times, yet this very same word is also translated as TO CLEANSE, or TO PURIFY some 12 times. In Psalms 51:4-7 the exact same Hebrew word is found twice, yet translated in opposite ways. In Psalm 51:4 David says: "Against thee, thee only have I SINNED, and done this evil in thy sight." But in Psalm 51:7 we read the same word as: "PURGE me with hyssop, and I shall be clean."
The "simple" Hebrew word yad, #3027 is translated as HAND in the NASB some 963 times, yet we find this same Hebrew word translated in the following ways: "arms, abandon (once), afford, armpits (once), bank, because (once), become (once), beside, boldly, borders, bounty, care, charge, close (once), coast (once), commands, compulsion, consecrate, control, courage, creditor (once), custody, debt (once), delivered (once), deserve, direction, DIScourage, ENcourage, enough, entrust, exhausted, fist, force, four-fifths (once), go (once), guarantor (once), had (once), helpless (once), herself (once), himself (once), idle (once), influence (once), jaws (once), labor (once), large, lose (once), manhood (once), means, memorial (once), next, occasion (once), ordain, part, paw, place, pledged allegiance (once), possess, power, prepared (once), rebelled, representative, responsible, rule, seize, service (once), side, support (once), tenuous, times, war (once), wrists, yield (once) and yourselves."
So when some scholar tries to tell you: "Well, the Hebrew REALLY MEANS...yada, yada, yada" you should know that he frequently is just giving us his own personal opinion, and many others of equal or superiour learning do not agree with him.
Words clearly have very different meanings in different contexts. The context of Numbers 11:25 is when Moses complains to God that he cannot bear the burden of all the people by himself and God then tells Moses to gather 70 men of the elders of Israel - "And I will come down and talk with thee there: and I will take of the spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them: and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou shalt not bear it thyself alone." Numbers 11:17.
Then in Numbers 11:25 God gave the same spirit of leadership to the 70 elders and "they prophesied and DID NOT CEASE." They continued to be fellow leaders and helpers to Moses throughout the rest of the wilderness journey.
The Hebrew word used here is capable of carrying different meanings. Sometimes it means to add to something that has been going on before, but at other times it can mean "to add to" in the sense of changing a past behaviour for that of another course of action.
For instance, in Proverbs 10:22 we read: "The blessing of the LORD maketh rich, and he ADDETH no sorrow with it." Here the idea is that the Lord does not change his continued action of past blessings by adding or changing it to sorrow.
Likewise in Proverbs 30:5-6 we read: "Every word of God is pure; he is a shield unto them which put their trust in him. ADD NOT thou unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar." Here again, the idea is of continuing along in the path of following the true words of God and not changing this course of action for that of adding your own words.
So too in the example we have before us in Numbers 11:25 where the 70 elders were given the spirit of leadership. They prophesied and did not stop this course of action and ADD something else, but instead they continued prophesying and CEASED NOT.
Here is what some commentators have to say regarding this verse:
John Gill offers BOTH views, saying: "and did not cease from prophesying; the spirit of prophecy continued with them, which, in some cases, might be necessary: OR, they ceased not to prophesy all that day, though they afterwards did: and in the Hebrew text it is, "they added not", that is, to prophesy, and Jarchi says they only prophesied that day, as IT IS INTERPRETED in an ancient book of theirs, called Siphre: wherefore this spirit of prophecy IS THOUGHT only to be given them as a temporary thing."
John Wesley agrees with the King James reading, saying: "They did not cease - Either for that day, they continued in that exercise all that day, and, it may be, all the night too, as it is said of Saul, 1 Samuel 19:24, or, afterwards also, to note that this was a continued gift conferred upon them to enable them the better to discharge their magistracy; which was more expedient for them than for the rulers of other people, because the Jews were under a theocracy or the government of God, and even their civil controversies were decided out of that word of God which the prophets expounded."
Jamieson, Faussett and Brown also agree with the King James reading - "when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease--As those elders were constituted civil governors, their "prophesying" must be understood as meaning the performance of their civil and sacred duties by the help of those extraordinary endowments they had received; and by their not "ceasing" we understand, either that they continued to exercise their gifts uninterruptedly the first day (see 1 Samuel 19:24), or that these were permanent gifts, which qualified them in an eminent degree for discharging the duty of public magistrates."
The Geneva Bible translators, Young, the Spanish Bible translators and many others certainly were not following the Vulgate reading, but looked at the context of Numbers chapter 11 and understood the passage to be speaking about the continued ministry of the 70 elders upon whom God had placed His spirit.
The King James Bible is right, as always. Get used to it.
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