Errata: Isaac in the East

Oh, the troubles a little comma can make! Yesterday’s post on the separation of Abraham’s family after the Binding of Isaac had an error: I mistakenly said that Isaac had gone eastward between the time his mother died and when his father did. It’s a simple mistake and it’s because I was reading Genesis 25 using an archaic translation:

But unto the sons of the concubines, that Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts; and he sent them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived, eastward, unto the east country.

Genesis 25:6 (JPS, 1917 Edition)

Somehow in my reading and my note-taking, I got confused by the clauses. It was the sons of the concubines that were “unto the east country” and not Isaac. While the bible doesn’t say, Isaac was probably at Beer-lahai-roi, where he was both before and after this passage.

This doesn’t change my explanation much, except to say that Isaac didn’t choose this as his special place to go when his father passed away. It does drive home me a lesson for me that I should know already: translations matter. I use the 1917 JPS for this blog because it’s so cut-and-paste-able, but it is also not the most modern of translations. The meaning of words drift over even a hundred years and I like to be sure that words mean what I think they mean. Still, this is more a case of misreading than a text gone bad.

The New International Version (1984) gives a clearer translation:

But while he was still living, he gave gifts to the sons of his concubines and sent them away from his son Isaac to the land of the east.

Genesis 25:6 (New International Version, 1984)

Much more understandable!

Up next: Back on Moriah!

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