Textual Issue (sample)

Isa 53:11, plus & t'mm, ... he will see 'light'[ ] he will be satisfied[,] ...


A rendering similar to 'he will see light' is recommended where MT has 'he will see.' The word אור 'light' is attested in three Qumran scrolls, 1QIsaa, 1QIsab, and 4QIsad, and 'light' (φῶς) is likewise found in the Septuagint. The Qumran evidence is particularly significant, since 1QIsab differs from MT in relatively few places, so few that it exemplifies the proto-MT or early rabbinic text. Thus we have agreement between proto-MT and the Hebrew behind the Septuagint, not to mention the other two scrolls. If we accept יראה אור 'he will see light' as original, an explanation of why some manuscripts lack the word אור suggests itself. Due to the visual similarity of יראה and אור, a scribe could have written יראה then glanced back to the wrong place in the exemplar, mistaking אור for the word just copied, and thus omitted אור by accident.
Grp Source Reading Retroversion Gloss V TRV Variant Classes Comments
a MT יִרְאֶ֣ה - he will see - - - Does 'see' have an object? Some read in context, 'He will see [what results] from the trouble of his soul.'
a Syr ܝܚܙܐ יראה he will see NV - -
a Targ יִחזוֹן יראה he will see NV - - Considering the first half of the verse, the differences between Targ and MT are not uninteresting, though it seems that Targ is based on a text essentially like MT. In any case, there is no equivalent to אור , so Targ agrees with MT with regard to the variant in focus.
a Vulg videbit יראה he will see NV - -
b 1QIsa\a יראה אור - he will see light V TRV Plus
b 1QIsa\b יראה אור - he will see light V TRV Plus cf. van der Kooij, Old Greek of Isaiah.
b 4QIsa\d יראה א[ור - he will see light V TRV Plus cf. van der Kooij, Old Greek of Isaiah. It would be good to cite DJD here (*check) and follow its reconstruction precisely.
b LXX δεῖξαι αὐτῷ φῶς יראה אור to show him light V TRV Plus the plus (אור=φῶς) is present; there are other differences between MT and LXX. Revised CATSS (Tov-Polak 2004) indicates that LXX reflects a different vocalization of יראה than does MT.

TRV = a translatable variant / variation, a difference from MT that is distinguishable in translation.

Grp Ref Pages Ref. Argument Ref. Conclusion CTP Comments
1 Keil & Delitzsch Vol. 7, 520 'He will see' Accepts MT with no mention of this particular issue.
1 Seeligman, Tarbiz 27 ? According to Kutscher, Seeligman viewed the plus as tendential and late. would imply reading MT (*check)
2 BHK 684 ins c G אוֹר follow LXX, read אוֹר 'light'
2 HALOT e "—b. to see, meaning to get to know Is 53:11 (ins. אוֹר after יִרְאֶה with 1Q Isa, b, Sept., see BHS); NRSV he shall see light :: Driver BZAW 103 (1968) 97f: ראה = רוה "he was drowned, overwhelmed with light"; cf. NEB he shall be bathed in light :: REB he will see light;" insert אוֹר but do not follow Driver's suggestion of a conj. em. to the preceding verb. Useful summary of background to BHS note and some ETs.
2 HPR Vol. 4, 146 יראה אור is preferred (certainty B, Factor 12 = scribal error) read יראה אור 'he will see light'
2 CTAT Vol. 2, 403-407 cor יראה אור [B] 1Q-a.b 4Q-d G // theol vel err: M ThAqSym V S T om אור read יראה אור 'he will see light'
2 de Waard, Isaiah 196-97 Summary: אור has dropped out of some witnessed due to accident or "a correction of theological nature." read יראה אור 'he will see light'
3 Kutscher, Isaiah (Heb.) 433 Summary: The word אוֹר is listed among words that occur in 1QIsaa but not in MT. The plus is also found in 1QIsa and LXX; Targ and Syr = MT. information, notes agreement of 1QIsaa and 1QIsa; also notes, however, that Seeligman regarded the plus as tendential and late. For Seeligman's views see Tarbiz 27
3 BHS e Qab G ad אוֹר, sed רוה = ראה information/viewpoint, Q (2 Mss) and G have an additional word 'light'; sed רוה = ראה means 'however, instead of the root ראה , the root רוה (in reference to יראה in MT). BHS refers to the sense 'he will be refreshed/overwhelmed/bathed with light.' See Driver's suggestion as given in HALOT (below).
Grp Trans. Eng. Rend. [or Gloss] [Other Lang. Rend.] Marginal Note Other Note C TC Comments
n KJV He shall see (of the travail of his soul) NC -
n RV He shall see (of the travail of his soul) NC -
n ASV e shall see (of the travail of his soul) NC -
n JPS (Of the travail of his soul) he shall see (to the full) NC - 'to the full' is a different rendering of the following word than appears in KJV et al.
n AT The fruit of his suffering shall he see NC - amelioration
n RSV he shall see (the fruit of the travail of his soul) NC -
o JB he shall see the light 'the light' Greek, DSIa and DSIb; absent from Hebr. C TC-n
o NAB (Because of his affliction) he shall see the light (in fullness of days) Hartman 416: (yireh) 'or weyisba9; so 1QIsa-b, LXX; for the sense cf Eccl 11,7f. C TC-n Eccl 11:7 Light is sweet! and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun (NAB). The note adds a conj. we- to yisba9.
o NEB he shall be bathed in light light: so Scroll; Heb. om. יִרְאֶ֣ה + אוֹר with Scroll (Brockington 195) C TC-n According to Brockington's note, NEB 'shall be bathed in' is a rendering of MT יִרְאֶ֣ה , but Driver suggested an emendation ירוה אור (see on HALOT, above). Either Br's notes omit this detail or Driver did not insist. The rendering is such that either Hebrew verb could be behind it. In any case, REB revises.
p NASB (As a result of the anguish of His soul,) He will see it * * Another reading is light NC 'it' is supplied contextually, it would appear; the textual plus is indicated in the margin. Revised NASB is the same here.
o TEV After a life of suffering, he will again have joy TEV Notes: Isaiah (81) 'have joy': Reading 'see light' with DSI and LXX,… C TC-n
o NIV he will see the light of life Dead Sea Scrolls (see also Septuagint); Masoretic Text does not have the light of life. C TC-n 'of life' is italicized, indicating that the translators added phrase for clarification.
n NKJV He shall see (the labor of His soul) NC - amelioration as 'of' is dropped for style.
o NJB he will see the light 'the light' Gk. 1QIsa, Hebr. omits. Here Yahweh speaks to explain the mystery of the sufferings of the 'upright servant'; he is not suffering for any guilt of his own but takes the rebellious acts of the many on himself and intercedes for them. C TC-n
p NJPS (of his anguish) he shall see it; (He shall enjoy it to the full) NC - 'it' is supplied as object
o REB he will see light light: so Scroll; Heb omits. C TC-n
o NRSV (Out of his anguish) he shall see light; (he shall find satisfaction) Q Mss: MT lacks light C TC-n
n NLT When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish NC -
q ESV (Out of the anguish of his soul) he shall see (and be satisfied) Masoretic Text; Dead Sea Scroll he shall see light NC
n NET Having suffered, he will reflect on his work, NC - There is a long note on this verse but no mention of the textual plus. Here yir'eh is rendered as 'reflect on' and the restructuring follows from there; (me)'amal = work.


MT מֵעֲמַ֤ל נַפְשׁוֹ֙ יִרְאֶ֣ה יִשְׂבָּ֔ע , lit. 'from the travail of his soul he will see he will be satisfied,' is initially puzzling. In particular, the verb יִרְאֶ֣ה seems to lack an object--he will see what? Two scrolls from Qumran cave 1, 1QIsaa, 1QIsab, and one from cave 4, 4QIsad read יראה אור 'he will see light.' Attestation in the scrolls helps to confirm the assumption that the word אור 'light' was also present in the Hebrew text that was before the translators of the Greek Septuagint, where we read δεῖξαι αὐτῷ φῶς, 'to show him light.' The Revised CATSS (Tov-Polak 2004) indicates that the Greek text probably reflects a different vocalization of יראה, which would explain why the sense of the Greek is 'to show him' rather than 'he will see.' Other ancient sources, the Syriac Peshitta, the Aramaic Targums, and the Latin Vulgate reflect the Masoretic text.

In their comments, Keil and Delitzsch accept MT, rendering 'he will see' without an object, and Kutscher (Isaiah Scroll, 433, Heb.) sites the distribution of the plus (אור 'light') without further comment. He does however note that Seeligman (Tarbiz 27) regarded the plus as secondary. BHS is also matter-of-fact in citing the plus and the texts that contain it, whereas the earlier BHK had recommended it ("ins c G אוֹר," insert אוֹר 'light' on the evidence of the Septuagint), even before any of the Qumran scrolls had been discovered. HALOT records a clear preference for the plus, as do HPR (Vol. 4, 146), CTAT (Vol. 2, 403-407), and de Waard (Isaiah, 196-97).

Translations are nearly unanimous in seeking an explicit object for the verb יראה, even when the plus is not adopted. KJV and a number of others construe the opening phrase of the verse מֵעֲמַ֤ל נַפְשׁוֹ֙ 'from the travail of his soul' as the object of יִרְאֶ֣ה 'he will see.' A typical rendering is thus 'he shall see of the travail of his soul' but some translations that follow essentially the same strategy are different on the surface. For example, NET has 'Having suffered, he will reflect on his work.' NASB and NJPS have 'it' as the object of see. ESV, however, renders without an object, 'Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied.'

Translations that adopt the variant attested in three scrolls from Qumran and the Septuagint include JB, NJB, NAB, NEB, REB, NIV, TEV, and NRSV. Of these, NIV, TEV, and NRSV can be regarded as moderately eclectic, less quick to adopt non-MT variants than some other translations. NRSV provides a fairly literal rendering, 'Out of his anguish he shall see light.'


Only in a relatively small number of places does the scroll 1QIsab differ substantively from MT. It is a prime example of the proto-MT group. That it does so here, sharing the plus אור 'light' with 1QIsaa, 4QIsad, and the Septuagint, adds significant weight to an argument for the authenticity and originality of this "variant." In addition, a text with the reading יראה אור is liable to suffer in transmission due to the graphic similarity of these two words. Perhaps we should allow that the second word has indeed dropped out accidentally (through haplography) in some witnesses, including MT. That the resulting reading in MT is not "impossible" allows a number of translations (ancient and modern) to render it. With אור 'light' the text is more natural in both structure and meaning.

Among the translations sampled, there are two noteworthy progressions. First, the KJV 'He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied' is revised in the NKJV 'He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied.' It seems that the NKJV simply improves the English of the KJV by removing 'of,' leaving 'the labor of His soul' as direct object of 'see.' Comparing the NKJV to the Hebrew one notes that the translation is now smoother than the source. We sometimes refer to this as amelioration, by which we mean 'improvement.'

Second, NRSV has been noted to be somewhat less inclined to depart from MT than its predecessor, RSV. In this case, however, NRSV moves away from MT where RSV had followed it. It would seem that this contrary motion should be attributed to the weight of the evidence, perhaps the Qumran evidence in particular (the RSV reflects some readings from 1QIsaa but was completed before the full implications of the scrolls could be taken into account).

Common Text

יִרְאֶה אוֹר (vqi3ms ראה; ncmsa אוֹר) 'he will see light'
Textual Evidence
1QIsaa Parry, Donald W., and Elisha Qimron, eds. 1999. The Great Isaiah Scroll (1QIsaa), A New Edition. Leiden: Brill.
Ulrich, Eugene, ed. 2010. The Biblical Qumran Scrolls: Transcriptions and Textual Variants. Vetus Testamentum, Supplements, 134. Leiden: Brill.
1QIsab Ulrich, Eugene, ed. 2010. The Biblical Qumran Scrolls: Transcriptions and Textual Variants. Vetus Testamentum, Supplements, 134. Leiden: Brill.
4QIsad Ulrich, Eugene, ed. 2010. The Biblical Qumran Scrolls: Transcriptions and Textual Variants. Vetus Testamentum, Supplements, 134. Leiden: Brill.
LXX Rahlfs, A., ed. 1935. Septuaginta, id est Vetus Testamentum graece iuxta LXX interpretes. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft.
Septuaginta, Vetus Testamentum graecum auctoritate academiae scientiarum gottingensis editum. 1931-. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.
MT Freedman, David Noel, ed. 1998. The Leningrad Codex: A Facsimile Edition. Grand Rapids / Leiden: Eerdmans / Brill.
Syr Jenner, K. D., and Arie van der Kooij, eds. 1966-. The Old Testament in Syriac according to the Peshitta Version. Leiden: Brill.
Targ The Aramaic Targums according to Cohen, Menachem, ed. 1992-. Mikra'ot Gedolot 'Haketer'. Ramat-Gan: Bar Ilan University (as reproduced in the database of the Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon Project) with variants from Sperber, Alexander, ed. 1959-73. The Bible in Aramaic: Based on Old Manuscripts and Printed Texts. 4 in 5 vols. Leiden: Brill.
Vulg Weber, R., ed. 1994. Biblia Sacra iuxta vulgatam versionem. 4th ed. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft.
Published Evaluations
BHK Kittel, R., and P. Kahle, eds. 1937/62. Biblia Hebraica. 3/7 ed. Stuttgart: Württembergische Bibelanstalt.
BHS Elliger, K., and W. Rudolph, eds. 1967/77, 1983. Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft.
CTAT Barthélemy, Dominique, et al. 1982-2015. Critique textuelle de l'Ancien Testament, Rapport final du Comité pour l'analyse textuelle de l'Ancien Testament hébreu, OBO 50/1-5. Fribourg: Éditions universitaires; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.
de Waard, Isaiah de Waard, Jan. 1997. A Handbook on Isaiah. Textual Criticism and the Translator, 1. Edited by H. P. Scanlin. Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns.
HALOT Koehler, Ludwig, M. E. J. Richardson, W. Baumgartner, and J. J. Stamm. 1994-2000. The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament. 1st English ed. 5 vols. Leiden; New York, N.Y.: Brill.
HPR Barthélemy, Dominique, et al. 1979-1980. Preliminary and Interim Report on the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project / Compte rendu préliminaire et provisoire sur le travail d'analyse textuelle de l'Ancien Testament hébreu. 5 vols. New York, N.Y.: United Bible Societies.
Keil & Delitzsch Keil, C. F. and F. Delitzsch. 1866-91. Commentary on the Old Testament. 10 vols. Peabody, Mass. (repr. 2006): Hendrickson Publishers.
Kutscher, Isaiah (Heb.) Kutscher, Edward Y. 1959. הלשון והרקע הלשוני של מגילת ישעיהו השלמה ממגילות ים המלח / The Language and Linguistic Background of the Complete Isaiah Scroll. Jerusalem: Magnes Press.
Modern Translations
KJV 1611 The Authorized Version / King James Version (London)
RV 1885 The Revised Version (Oxford / Cambridge)
ASV 1901 American Standard Version (Nashville)
JPS 1917 The Holy Scriptures According to the Masoretic Text (Philadelphia / New York)
AT 1931 An American Translation (Chicago)
RSV 1952 Revised Standard Version (London / Glasgow)
JB 1966 The Jerusalem Bible (London)
NAB 1970 The New American Bible (New York / London)
NEB 1970 The New English Bible (Oxford / Cambridge)
NASB 1971 New American Standard Bible (Carol Stream)
TEV 1976 Good News Bible / Today's English Version (New York)
NIV 1978 New International Version (Grand Rapids)
NKJV 1982 The New King James Version (Nashville)
NJB 1985 The New Jerusalem Bible (London)
NJPS 1985 Tanakh, The New JPS Translation (Philadelphia)
REB 1989 The Revised English Bible (Oxford / Cambridge)
NRSV 1989 New Revised Standard Version (New York / Oxford)
NLT 1996 New Living Translation (Wheaton)
ESV 2001 English Standard Version (Wheaton)
NET 2004 New English Translation (Richardson)