Spelling Mistakes in the Bible



I am indebted to Yoel Haalmoni for this information, as I have almost no knowledge of Hebrew. Yoel used to teach Hebrew.

Naturally, any errors in this article are my responsibility.

Did you know that the Hebrew text has many spelling errors that are cleaned up in translations?

Here is an example, the first in the Bible:

Genesis 8:17-
uvekhol haremes         haromes         al haaretz      hvtzeh  itakh
and all the creepers    that creep      on the ground           with you

hvtzeh is misspelled. It should be haytseh. A vav was printed in the original instead of a yud. The word that appears there is non existent. It is known to be an error, but Jews do not fix the errors. Rather, they leave it in the text without vowel points and print the correction in the margin with vowel points.


In Genesis 30:11
vatomar    leah  bagad                vatikra   et      shemo   gad
and said   Leah  he has betrayed      and she called his name   Gad

Gad means fortune.

bagad means "he has betrayed". It is an obvious mistake. Again, the correction appears in the margin. It should have been ba-gad. This means "fortune has come" and makes sense in the context, especially since Gad means "fortune". An alef was left out and one word was formed from two, which radically changed the meaning of the verse.

Gen 24:33
vayiysem (meaningless) appears instead of vayusam (and was put)

Gen 25:23
shnei gayyim (two valleys) appears instead of shnei goyyim (two nations)

Gen 36:5, Gen 36:15
The name ya'ush is misspelt as ya'ish

Gen 39:20
Asurei- hamelech (the prohibited of the king) appears instead of asirei ha-melech (the prisoners of the king)

Exodus 4:2
The text reads mizeh beyadekha (which means "from this in your hand") when it should read, mah zeh beyadekha ("what is this in your hand")

Exodus 37:8, Exodus 39:4
The word "katzotav" ("it's ends") is misspelt, with an extra vav appearing in the word.

Leviticus 11:21
asher-lo ("which to it" [means "which has"]) is mis-spelt with an alef, making it asher-lo' (which means "which not" and makes no sense in the context)

Numbers 1:16
kru'ei is spelled with a yud instead of a vav, changing its meaning from "called/appointed" to "read" or "readable"

Numbers 32:7
lamah tani'un (why do you hinder) is spelt lamah tanu'un making it meaningless.

Numbers 34:4
vehayu totze'otav ("it's terminations will be") The verb "to be" is in third person singular instead of third person plural, and appears incorrectly in the text as vehayah..., which is very wrong. It's like saying "ils sera" in French or "ellos sera" in Spanish.

Deut 5:10
Accidentally reads "to those who love me and keep his commandment" instead of "those who love me and keep my commandments".

Deuteronomy 21:7
"Our hands did not spill this blood" The "did not spill" is in third person singular even though "our hands" is clearly plural. It should read lo shafkhu instead of the textual error lo shafkhah. This is sort of like saying "They did not did" instead of "they did not do" in English.

Deut 32:13
"the heights of the land" has a double-plural. It's like saying "heightses" in English.

Deut 33:2
Ashdat lamo means nothing. Ashdat is the first part of a semikhut (a compound conjugation) for the word ashedah, which is the slope of a mountain (The NIV goes this route, but admits textual difficulty in a footnote). But this interpretation is wrong grammatically, since the word appearing is ashdat, not ashedah which means that another noun should appear following it.

Ashdat har would mean "mountain slope", but ashedah would be "slope". Ashdat by itself means nothing.

The marginal text shows that this was a mistake and should be esh-dat , spelt the same, but with a space in between the first two and last two letters. This would mean "fire of judgement for them" (or "fire of religion"- since the word for "religion" in Hebrew, also means "judgement".) The NASB uses this rabbinic correction for their interpretation, but they interpret this as refering to lightning- which is a liberty taken by them, which, although logical, may or may not be correct.

All these Hebrew spelling errors are fixed up in Christian translations.

Obscenities in the Bible

Yoel also pointed out that there are many places where the Biblical word in the text is obscene. The ancient scribes often used to censor the Bible by writing milder words in the margins. The milder words were read out in place of the obscene words.

As an example of the sort of words which were not changed, there is Malachi 2:3 "Behold, I will corrupt thy seed, and will spread dung upon your faces."

vezeriti                   peresh      al                   peneikhem
and I will spread          dung       on/over/above         your faces

To give an example of censored words, take 2 Kings 18

The word appearing in the text (Hara) means "shit", and is a curse-word in modern Hebrew, while the word in the margin (tso'ah) means "faeces". The sages did the same thing with "piss". The phrase appearing in the margins is "meymei raglayhem" ("waters of their legs") (an idiomatic archaism for "urine"), while the word in the actual text is "sheten", or literally, "piss".

Actually, someone had even previously tried to clean these words up as well in the text, since in the textual "Hara" (shit), the letter "yud" is used in place of the letter "alef", and in "sheten" (piss), the letter "yud" is used in place of the letter "tav".

This is common practice in orthodox Judaism; when pronouncing a word that you would prefer not to be pronounced or written, an alternate letter is often substituted for another letter. For example, Jews often say "elokim" instead of "elohim", or the "daled" is used in place of the "heh".

However, not even I, an atheist, would try to translate Isaiah 3:17 accurately, which the RSV translates as 'secret parts'.

In 1 Samuel 5, the word in the text is 'afolim' (haemorrhoids). The marginal word is 'tehorim' (tumours). It seems the ancient scribes were embarrassed that YHWH gave all the Philistines piles and would not removed the curse until the Philistines made piles of gold.

Exactly, the same substitution happens in Deuteronomy 28:27 where the text says that God will afflict the Israelites with piles if they disobey him, but the margin substitutes tumours.

Prophecies of Jesus in the Old Testament

Isaiah 7:14

It is often stated that there are many prophecies in the Old Testament about Jesus. One of the most famous is Isaiah 7:14 'The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel'.

That is how the New International Version translates this passage. The word translated 'virgin' is 'aalmah'. However, 'aalmah' does not mean 'virgin'. It simply means 'young woman'.

Yoel explains as follows
You form the feminine by adding heh
Yeled (boy)/Yaldah (girl)
Kelev (male dog)/Kalbah (bitch)
Eved (male servant)/Avdah (female servant)
Melekh (king)/Malkah (queen)
Elem (young man)/Aalmah (young woman)

The few variations in melech/malkah and kelev/kalbah are only phonetic. It is the same letter used, but the pronounciation goes from soft to harsh when the female ending is added.

Betulah means virgin
Aalmah means young woman

Apparently, Strong's entry for 'aalmah (5959) admits that it is the feminine of 'elem' (5958). That entry lists "lad, young man, stripling" but accurately mentions nothing of virginity.

There is another word which can mean 'young woman'.

In Deuteronomy 22:25 we have 'naarah betulah' to mean ' young woman who is a virgin'. It does not mean 'young woman who is a young woman'.

Naarah is the feminine of naar (a youth) .

Saying that 'aalmah' does not mean 'young woman' because some young women are virgins is like a Turkish-speaker trying to convince an English-speaker that 'princess', although the feminine form of 'prince', actually means 'red-head' because some princesses have red hair.

Apologists try to get around this by pointing to Joel 1:8 where 'betulah' is used of a married woman. Therefore, they say, 'betulah' cannot mean virgin.

However, even the New International Version translates Joel 1:8 as virgin. Normally, a woman does not lose her virginity during the marriage ceremony. It is quite in order for Joel to talk of a virgin who has suffered a grevious loss and lost her husband. The loss would be especially grevious if the marriage had not yet been consummated.

Micah 5:2

'But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel'

Is this a clear prophecy that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem? It can't be all that clear, because Matthew 2:6 has to change the wording to get it to fit. He drops Ephrathah and he drops 'ruler' over Israel and changes it to shepherd, because Jesus never became a ruler over Israel.

As few Christians know, there was a person called Bethlehem (1 Chronicles 4:4). Is Micah 5:2 talking about the person or the place?

It is necessary to look at the Hebrew before deciding this. All cities ,towns , villages etc are feminine in Hebrew. All men are masculine in Hebrew. If the verse in Hebrew uses masculine words it is talking about the person Bethlehem. If it uses feminine words, it is talking about the place Bethlehem.



Veatah          beit lekhem     efratah
and you (masc)  bethlehem       efratah

tsair           lihiot  bealfei                         yehudah
young (masc)    to be   in the clans/thousands  (of)    Judah

mimkha          li      yetze
from you (masc) to me   will go out

lihiyot         moshel  beyisrael
to be           ruler   in israel

Veatah - female would be veat
Tsair - female is tseirah
Mimkha - female would be mimekh

The word "city" (ir) is feminine.City names are feminine

Here is an example:

Psalm 122:2 (which is all about Jerusalem, a city):

...bish'arayikh            yerushalayim
...at your (f) gates,      Jerusalem

yerushalayim habenuyah kair      shekhuvrah            la     yakhdav
Jerusalem    built (f) as a city that is connected (f) to her together

shaalu  shalom  yerushalayim    yishlavu             ohavayikh
request peace   Jerusalem     shall dwell serenely those who love you (f)

vyihi                   shalom          beheilekh
and may there be        peace           in your (f) walls

shalvah         bearmonotayikh...
peace           in your (f) palaces...

So the prophecy in Micah 5:2 is about a person and not a place, because it addresses Bethlehem using the male forms of words.

Isaiah 9:7

'For unto us a child is born , to us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulders and he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.'

Why wasn't Jesus called Pele Yoetz El Gibor Avi Ad Sar Shalom.

From Isaiah 8:3, Christian Bibles have the Hebrew words "Maher Shalal Hash Baz", meaning "Fast is the plunder, quick is the spoil".

In Christian Bibles, the names Shear Yashuv (7:3), Immanuel (7:14), and Maher Shalal Hash Baz (8:3) are all retained in Hebrew, but then we get to Is 9:6 we could see this:

"For to us a child is born, a son is given to us, and the government shall be on his shoulder, and his name will be called Pele Yoetz El Gibor Avi Ad Sar Shalom."

This name means "Wonderful counsellor is God the almighty, everlasting father, prince of peace."

But, in stark contrast to the instances in the past two chapters of Isaiah where children were born and named with strange Hebrew names, in Christian Bibles we always have this name in Isaiah 9:6 as a title in English.

In the cases, She'ar Yashuv (Isaiah 7:3), Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14), Maher Shalal Hash Baz (Isaiah 8:3), in all these instances of children being born with strange names, the names are left in Hebrew .

However, in Isaiah 9:6 Bibles are translated one way while no mention is made either of the other more likely translation possibility (which is the Jewish interpretation and parallels the previous compound names), nor of the Hebrew name itself. In Christian Bibles, this verse seems to be different than the others... but why?

Is this just Christian bias to make one verse seem like a prophecy?


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