Tuesday, August 5, 2008

'The Trees of the Field Do WHAT!....' Isaiah 55:12

One of the very popular 'folk hymns' (shudder) at the childrens' school starts 'You shall go out with joy and be led forth in peace...' which gets them rollicking in the aisles as it gets faster and faster. The chorus goes 'And the trees of the fields shall clap their hands (x 3) as you go forth with joy.' Clap their hands? Where did that come from?
Looking in my Swete copy of the Septuagint I find

καὶ πάντα τὰ ξύλα τοῦ ἀγροῦ ἐπικροτήσει τοῖς κλάδοις

which, if my LSJM is correct, translates as

'and all the trees of the field shall rattle their branches'

which rather lacks the anthropomorphic element! My Biblical Hebrew is not up to much, so I can't tell whether the original Hebrew text

ה וְכָל־עֲצֵי הַשָּׂדֶ ה יִמְחֲאוּ־כָֽף׃

is echoed more correctly by the LXX ἐπικροτήσει τοῖς κλάδοις , or by the English translations (from KJV onwards) of 'clap their hands'.
I am rather puzzled. How did this strange interpretation come about? Are their any other similar examples?

1 comment:

Richard said...

I noticed your comments on the anthropomorphic translation of Iaiah 55:12 final clause. I have noticed other places in the Bible where the translators have been 'liberal' with the original.

However, after looking at Strong's Concordance on the key words, it does seem to indicate that 'clap their hands' is a reasonable rendition of the original. The 2 references follow:

4222. macha' (maw-khaw')
A primitive root; to rub or strike the hands together (in exultation)

3709. kaph (kaf)
From kaphaph; the hollow hand or palm (so of the paw of an animal, of the sole, and even of the bowl of a dish or sling, the handle of a bolt, the leaves of a palm-tree); figuratively, power -- branch, + foot, hand((-ful), -dle, (-led)), hollow, middle, palm, paw, power, sole, spoon.