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Buy - impliction of trading for money. 
Posted: 01 August 2013 02:38 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Isaiah 55:1(RSV) concludes with the line “Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” Most of the English translations use buy in this verse. I know that sellan in OE did not originally carry the implication of trading for money. Was the same true for bycgan (buy)?

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Posted: 01 August 2013 05:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Bicgan is assumed to refer to a purchase with money.

This is unlike sellan, which could mean give as well as the modern sell.

The Vulgate uses emere in this passage. I don’t know what the original Hebrew was.

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Posted: 01 August 2013 04:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Hoping one of our Hebrew experts can clock in.  Odd that they would use buy when they are specifically saying you can do it if you don’t have any money.

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Posted: 01 August 2013 09:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Odd that they would use buy when they are specifically saying you can do it if you don’t have any money.
---

Strikes me as a colourful but not outlandish turn of phrase. Some flavour of irony, perhaps.

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Posted: 01 August 2013 11:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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The Hebrew verb in Isaiah 55:1, translated as “buy”, is lishbor/shavar. My dictionaries tell me that one of the Biblical senses of lishbor is “to trade for food or grain”.This verb, lishbor, is also used in the Bible to mean “ to break, to smash”. When Moses, in a rage, smashes the tablets of the Law, the text (Exodus 32:19) says vayeshaber (using the binyan pi’el for emphasis). In modern Hebrew, lishbor has only the sense of “to break”, both literally and figuratively (e.g. in a financial sense).

When speaking of Abraham’s purchase of the Cave of Machpelah from Ephron the Hittite for four hundred shekels of silver, the Book of Genesis (25:10) uses the verb liknot/kanah for “to purchase" -- in this case, for money (or rather, for what passed in those days for money, i.e. precious metal by weight). Liknot is used in modern Hebrew to mean “to purchase”.

Isaiah says “come buy wine and milk without money and without price”. What he means, I can’t say. He is clearly speaking in figures; and it would need a Biblical scholar (which I’m not) to explain his words. Let’s hope Reb Wlm shows up with a glimmer of light!

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Posted: 02 August 2013 05:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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There’s an interesting discussion in Jan L. Koole’s Isaiah III, Vol. 2: Isaiah 49-55, pp. 404ff; I won’t try to reproduce the paragraph at the bottom of p. 406, which is full of Hebrew and Greek (if you google “no longer talks about drink, like” you should be able to read it), but here’s the following paragraph, at the top of p. 407:

The third line, v. bB, repeats some of the words used in the previous distich. It urges people once again to buy free corn, those without silver should understand that the purchase can take place without silver. Perhaps the line thus responds to an objection made by the addressees that one cannot conclude a transaction without money. But this purchase does not require any payment, the price (ב pretii) consists of לוֹא-כֶּסֶף = ‘non-money’ (for such compounds, cf. Ges-K § 152a, n.1); the only condition for legally obtaining salvation is to accept it.

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Posted: 02 August 2013 01:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Good Lord. Is Biblical exegesis always as dense as this?

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Posted: 02 August 2013 03:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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the only condition for legally obtaining salvation is to accept it.

That’s what I’ve always understood it to mean. Seems pretty self evident to me; just a bit of ironic wordplay to emphasize the point.

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Posted: 02 August 2013 06:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Yeah.  That makes sense.  Thanks.

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Posted: 03 August 2013 05:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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That’s what I’ve always understood it to mean. Seems pretty self evident to me; just a bit of ironic wordplay to emphasize the point.

Exactly, Dave. And to Lionello, yes, scholarly biblical exegesis can be arcane as any scholarship in any discipline. For the rest in the church, hymns and liturgy tend to do our exegesis for us.

There is a popular, relatively new, hymn, “Come to the Water” by John Foley that sums things up this way,

1. O let all who thirst,
let them come to the water.
And let all who have nothing,
let them come to the Lord:
without money, without price.
Why should you pay the price,
except for the Lord?

[ Edited: 03 August 2013 07:25 AM by Oecolampadius ]
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Posted: 03 August 2013 06:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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the only condition for legally obtaining salvation is to accept it.

I’ve been thinking.  That would certainly be the Christian explanation.  What would the Jewish explanation be?

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Posted: 04 August 2013 03:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Faldage - 03 August 2013 06:27 PM

I’ve been thinking.  That would certainly be the Christian explanation.  What would the Jewish explanation be?

I’ll withdraw my speculation until the good Reb shows up.
[ Edited: 04 August 2013 04:51 AM by Oecolampadius ]
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Posted: 04 August 2013 05:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Oecolampadius - 04 August 2013 03:35 AM

Faldage - 03 August 2013 06:27 PM

I’ve been thinking.  That would certainly be the Christian explanation.  What would the Jewish explanation be?

I’ll withdraw my speculation until the good Reb shows up.
I think your speculation is perfectly good from a Christian point of view.  Isaiah in particular is a gold mine for Christian apologists.
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Posted: 04 August 2013 09:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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I think your speculation is perfectly good from a Christian point of view.  Isaiah in particular is a gold mine for Christian apologists.

Oh, sorry Faldage. I sounded defensive. I didn’t mean to. What happened was I had posted a lengthy quote from a Rabbi commenting on this passage (and using other ancient Rabinnical commentaries, such as Rashi), then I thought that all that would be better coming from Reb Wlm. So, I “withdrew” my note. I didn’t mean to suggest that I’m withdrawing my Christian exegesis.

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Posted: 04 August 2013 03:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Thanks for asking me to weigh in. I have little to add to the foregoing, except to affirm and point out a few things. Excuse the length, please, but there does seem to be some genuine interest in understanding this verse. First, as has been pointed out, the Hebrew word root “shavar” can mean both “break” and “obtain grain.” The two meanings are not related, they are homonyms. (There are many in Hebrew and can lead to rather extravagant folk etymologies).

“Shavar” as “break” has roots in Ugaritic and Akkadian, and parallels in Aramaic. “Shavar” as “obtain (buy) grain” (or “distribute grain”) is of less clear origin, and is not easy to explain if one does not have a background in Aramaic grammar.

(For those that might: “Shavar” is likely a “Shafel” construction rooted in the word “bar”, an uncommon word for “grain”, related to the Aramaic “ ‘ibura”, meaning “grain.” The “shafel” back construction would be “sha’a’ver”, shortened to “shavar” in Hebrew. I can comment on this more at length if anyone is interested).

In any case, I would translate this verse (as literally as possible) as

“Ho!  All who are thirsty, go to water and one who has no silver /
go, obtain grain, eat
and go, obtain grain with no silver,
and without price, wine and milk.”

As has been noted, the word root “qanah” means “buy, acquire by exchange or money”, but “shavar” only implies “buy”, but etymologically probably just means “obtain grain” (Just as if I said to someone, “go the market and get some bread”, it implies buy, but not necessarily, especially if I knew that someone is giving it away for free). This seems clear here, because of the words “without silver (money)” are used emphatically.

Beyond the literal translation, what is being said here? First of all, this is Second Isaiah (roughly, Isaiah 40-55), meaning the prophet writing around the time of the Persian king Cyrus (Koresh). Cyrus defeated the Babylonians in around 537 BCE, and the Judeans exiled in Babylon saw redemption back to the land of Israel on the horizon. The dominant theme in Second Isaiah is that God has graciously and lovingly forgiven Israel for the sins that resulted in the Exile in 586 BCE.

The next verse tells us that first one is metaphoric:

“Why do you weight out silver/money for no-bread, and tire yourselves for no-satiety //
indeed, hearken to me and eat well (or “ingest goodness”), and become delighted in the deshen of your souls.”

“Deshen” is word that can be translated as “rich or fatty grain”, but is very often used in the Bible to refer to the spiritual delight of communion with God; see Psalms 36:9. (I find Psalms 36:8-11 utterly beautiful). In essence, they are being asked to take what is graciously, lovingly and freely offered: redemption and salvation. (see the following verses, and Second Isaiah in general).

This poetic meaning can generate a reinterpretation of the words connected to “Shavar”, “obtain grain.” One obscure, but perhaps present meaning of “shavar” is related to this word root’s use in Judges 7:15, “When Gideon heard the recounting of the dream and its “shever”, he bowed down.”

“Shever” can be connected to an interpretation or a teaching, especially one that communicates hope, in that the Hebrew word “sever” means “hope”, spelled just like “shever” in an un-vocalized text.

The Isaiah verse at hand, therefore, is certainly a poetic/metaphoric prophecy offering redemption “at no price”, i.e., in love and grace, and perhaps playfully brings in a nuance of how the word root is used in the Gideon context.

The image of “God’s food” is well portrayed in many places in the Hebrew Bible, e.g., Proverbs 9, where the bread and wine of God are metaphors for wisdom and knowledge of the sacred.

There is much more to say on this, but suffice here to point out that Christian use of these images, i.e., wine and bread related to God’s grace, is unsurprisingly rooted in the Hebrew Bible.

[ Edited: 05 August 2013 07:48 AM by Reb Wlm ]
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Posted: 04 August 2013 07:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Much to digest here.  Thank you very much, Reb Wlm.

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