Notes by Autumn Light

On Hebrew, English, translation, editing, and more—by Jonathan Orr-Stav

How do rabbis explain the similarities between the texts of Isaiah and Micah?

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Micah was the youngest of four prophets of the Hebrew Bible who lived in the latter half of the 700s BCE (the others being Hosea, Amos, and Isaiah). The similarities of language (the use of tongue twisters, alliteration, rhetorical questions) are due in part to the fact that they are contemporary, and in part (according to certain Talmudic commentaries) that Micah was one of Isaiah’s disciples (limudim).

A typical example of similar wording is the following:

Source Square Hebrew SimHebrew* King James translation
Isaiah 3:13–15 נצב לריב, יהוה; ועמד, לדין עמים. | יהוה במשפט יבוֹא, עם-זקני עמוֹ ושריו; ואתם בערתם הכרם, גזלת העני בבתיכם.  | מלכם (מה-לכם) תדכאוּ עמי, וּפני עניים תטחנוּ:  נאם-אדני יהוה, צבאוֹת nxb lrib, ihvh; vymd, ldin ymim.  | ihvh bmwp’t iboa, ym-zqni ymo vwriv; vatm byrtm hcrm, gzlt hyni bbticm.  | mlcm [mhlcm] tdcau ymi, upni yniim t’tknu:  nam-adni ihvh, xbaot THE LORD standeth up to plead, and standeth to judge the people. / THE LORD will enter into judgment with the ancients of his people, and the princes thereof: for ye have eaten up the vineyard; the spoil of the poor is in your houses. / What mean ye that ye beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor? saith the Lord GOD of hosts.
Micah 6:2–3: כי ריב ליהוה עם-עמו, ועם-ישראל יתוכח.| עמי מה-עשיתי לך, ומה הלאתיך:  ענה בי. ci rib lihvh ym-ymo, vym-iwral itvck.  g ymi mh-ywiti , umh hlatiç:  ynh bi. for the Lord hath a controversy with his people, and he will plead with Israel. / O my people, what have I done unto thee? and wherein have I wearied thee? testify against me.

But there are many differences between the two—primarily due to the fact that Isaiah was of a high-ranking family in Jerusalem, while Micah was from a modest background from the small peripheral town or village of Moreshet, and thus avoided, for example, addressing issues of international relations or political policy.


*For the benefit of non-Hebrew readers, SimHebrew (simulated Hebrew) renditions are provided as well, to show the linguistic patterns that may not be apparent in translation.

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Author: יונתן אור-סתיו | Jonathan Orr-Stav

Hebrew-English translator, editor, author. מתרגם עברית–אנגלית, עורך באנגלית, וסופר.

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