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Old 07-13-2009, 12:48 PM
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Will Kinney Will Kinney is offline
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Default 1 Samuel 13:21 a file, a pim or two-thirds shekel?

Hi saints and fellow Bible believers. Here is basically the final draft of my study on this verse. I hope it is of benefit to others here who believe The Book.

“A file” or “a pim”?

1 Samuel 13:21 “Yet THEY HAD A FILE for the mattocks, and for the coulters, and for the forks, and for the axes, and to sharpen the goads. “

There is much confusion and a wide variety of ways the various Bible versions have translated this verse. The reason I bring it up is because at one of the Bible clubs I belong to an NIV user posted it as an example of an indisputable “error” in the King James Bible.

The NIV and some other perhaps surprising modern versions, like the NKJV, have a very different translation in this verse. The NIV reads: “THE PRICE WAS TWO THIRDS OF A SHEKEL for sharpening plowshares and mattocks, and a third of a shekel for sharpening forks and axes and for repointing goads.”

Then they have a footnote that (mistakenly) says: “Hebrew pim; that is, about 1/4 ounce (about 8 grams).” Why do I say mistakenly? Because the meaning of the Hebrew in this verse is not at all so cut and dried as the NIV editors want you to think it is.

For instance, the King James Bible has a marginal note that says: “Hebrew - a file with mouths.” This helps explain why the KJB is correct. Even some of the modern critics admit that the word translated as “file” comes from a root that can mean to cut, to rub hard or to sharpen. The word “mouth” has multiple meanings that even the modern versionists admit such as “edges, devour, ate, beak, and sharpen.” The little grooves or edges on the file would be the “mouths” that gradually ate away at the blunted metal in the sharpening process. Thus, to translate this phrase literally as “a file of mouths” would be superfluous; the simple translation of “file” is much better.

As we shall soon see, even the modern versions have to add or omit words in order to come up with the meanings found in them.

The RSV also reads similarly to the NKJV, NIV with: “and THE CHARGE WAS A PIM for the plowshares and for the mattocks, and a third of a shekel for sharpening the axes and for setting the goads.” But then their footnote says: “The Hebrew of this verse is obscure.” Keep in mind that this is long after the early 1900’s when somebody found some rocks with the word “pim” on them.

The NKJV also reads very differently than the King James Bible. It basically goes along with the liberal RSV and reads: “AND THE CHARGE FOR A SHARPENING WAS A PIM for the plowshares, the mattocks, the forks, and the axes, and to set the points of the goads.” Then the NKJV has a footnote that reads like the NIV saying that a pim is “About two-thirds shekel weight.”

Other versions that read like the NIV (“two-thirds of a shekel”) are the NASB, RSV, NRSV, ESV, the recent Catholic versions and the Holman Standard. However as we shall soon see, this interpretation of the meaning of the verse is a fairly recent development and one that is not at all shared by many other Bible translators.

Some versions just omit the phrase altogether, with no mention of a file, a charge or a pim. Such is the case with Darby’s translation. It says: 13:20-21: “And all Israel went down to the Philistines, every man to get his ploughshare, and his hoe, and his axe, and his sickle sharpened, (21) when the edges of the sickles, and the hoes, and the forks, and the axes were blunted; and to set the goads.”

The so called Greek Septuagint LXX version is, as usual, quite different from them all. It says: “And it was near the time of vintage; and THEIR TOOLS WERE VALUED AT THREE SHEKELS for a ploughshare, and there was the same rate for the axe and the sickle.” OoooKaaaay ;-)

The Catholic Douay-Rheims also omits any referrence to either a file or a pim, or any two-thirds of a shekel to be paid and reads: “So that their shares, and their spades, and their forks, and their axes, were blunt, even to the goad, which was to be mended.” But since 1950 all new Catholic versions like the St. Joseph New American Bible 1970 and the New Jerusalem bible 1985 read like the RSV, NASB, NIV and NKJV.

It is also very interesting to see what the ancient Syriac version says. Lamsa translated the ancient Syriac (Aramaic)version in 1936 and it reads very much like the King James Bible. It says: “And there was A BROAD FILE for the sickle and for the ploughshare and his axe and to sharpen the goads.”

The Hebrew word translated as “file” in the King James Bible and many others is a combination of two words. That is why the KJB margin says “Hebrew - file of mouths. One word is used only once in all the Old Testament - petsirah (“file” in KJB, “charge” in NKJV, NIV, NASB) - and the other one is quite common - peh - (not translated in KJB and others, “two-thirds shekel in NIV, NASB, “pim” in NKJV).

This common word is “peh” and is generally translated (or often the translation is omitted as being superfluous)*as mouth, commandment, word, according to, hole, edge, sharpen or parts. The NIV concordance shows that they have not translated this word at all ten times, and have given it over 60 very different meanings including “jaws, edge, fruit, collar, neck, face, number, double-edged, hunger, share and taste”. The NIV only translated it as “two-thirds shekel” just once, and that is here in 1 Samuel 13:21. So for them to dogmatically affirm, as does the NKJV as well, that the Hebrew says “two-thirds of a shekel” is more than a little presumptuous. Even Daniel Wallace’s NET version notes that “THE MEANING OF THE HEBREW IS UNCERTAIN.”

Bible commentators are often at odds with each other as well when it comes to what they think this verse means.

Adam Clarke says in his commentary: “Yet they had a file - The Hebrew petsirah, from patsar, to rub hard, is translated very differently by the versions and by critics. Our translation may be as likely as any: they permitted them the use of files, (I believe the word means grindstone,) to restore the blunted edges of their tridents axes, and goads.”

John Gill sticks to the translation found in the King James Bible saying: “Those that would not go to the Philistines kept files by them to sharpen those several instruments with upon occasion... when the mouths, or edges, of the mattocks, coulter were dull or "blunt" and so needed sharpening.”

Jamieson, Fausset and Brown agree with the KJB reading as well - 19, 20. Now there was no smith found throughout .*.*. Israel--”The country was in the lowest state of depression and degradation. The Philistines, after the great victory over the sons of Eli, had become the virtual masters of the land. Their policy in disarming the natives has been often followed in the East. For repairing any serious damage to their agricultural implements, they had to apply to the neighboring forts. 21. Yet they had a file--as a kind of privilege, for the purpose of sharpening sundry smaller utensils of husbandry.”

Agreeing with the King James Bible translation of “YET THEY HAD A FILE for the mattocks, and for the coulters, and for the forks, and for the axes, and to sharpen the goads.” are the following Bible translations: the Bishops’ Bible 1568, the Geneva Bible 1560-1602, Webster’s 1833, the Revised Version 1881, the American Standard Version 1901, Rotherham’s Emphasized bible 1902, the Hebrew Names Version (which is so new, the translation is still in progress), the 1936 Hebrew Publishing Company version, the Judaica Press Tanach “And there was a file for the mattocks...”, *Young’s ‘literal’, the World English Bible, the Bible in Basic English 1960, Lamsa’s 1936 translation of the Syriac, the 21st Century KJV, the 1998 Third Millenium Bible, the 2005 Spanish Reina Valera Gomez, the Portuguese Almeida, and the 1649 Italian Diodati.

In the recent Judaica Press Complete Tanach, published by Orthodox Jews in 1963, they often use the commentry of the well known early Hebrew scholar Rashi, and they translate the whole verse as it stands in the King James Bble. 1 Samuel 13:21 - “And there was A FILE for the mattocks and for the colters and for the three-pronged pitchforks and for the axes, and to set the goad.

So, as we can well see, many other Bible commentators and Bible translators agree that the King James Bible translation found in 1 Samuel 13:21 is the correct one.

Daniel Wallace’s (and company) Notes are very confusing. They translate 1 Samuel 13:21 as: “ They CHARGED(29) TWO-THIRDS OF A SHEKEL (30) to sharpen plowshares and cutting instruments...”

He then footnotes: 29tn Heb “the price was.” The meaning of the Hebrew word (ptsirah) is uncertain. This is the only place it occurs in the OT. Some propose the meaning “sharpening,” but “price” is a more likely meaning IF the following term refers to a weight

So right here even the NET version folks admit both that the meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain, and the condition of “IF the following term refers to a weight.” In other words - lots of conjecture, guesses and supposition. He then goes on to say:

30tn This word, which appears only here in the OT, PROBABLY refers to a stone weight. Stones marked (pim) have been found in excavations of Palestinian sites. The average weight of such stones is 0.268 ounces, which is equivalent to about two-thirds of a shekel. This PROBABLY refers to the price charged by the Philistines for the services listed. See P. K. McCarter, I Samuel (AB), 238; DNWSI 2:910; and G. I. Davies, Ancient Hebrew Inscriptions, 259.

There is also a problem here with Mr. Wallace’s explanation of “two-thirds of a shekel”. He says this word occurs only here in the Old Testament. But according to Wigram’s Englishman’s Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance of the Old Testament page 1012, Strongs concordance page 93, and The Complete Word Study Old Testament, AMG publishers 1994, Zodhiates page 752 the word in question is peh # 6310 and not pim, and the word peh occurs hundreds of times.

I also have another book that presents the same double-speak phenomenon as many modern versionists do. I have right here in front of me The Interlinear Hebrew-Aramaic Old Testament by Jay P. Green, copyrighted 1985, the 15th printing done in 1991.

In 1 Samuel 13:21, found in Volume Two on page 742 his Hebrew TEXT says the word in question is #6310 - peh, but his translation says “the charge was a PIM for the plowshares...” Now, How is that for being a double-minded man?

The word he translates as pim, which isn’t “pim” but “peh” is # 6310 and it is found hundreds of times with a huge variety of meanings. Both the NIV and NASB give it many meanings including “mouth, accord, apt, as much as, BEAK, boast, collar, commandment, counsel, EDGE, evidence, face, from one end to another, HUNGER, intent, JAWS, lips, mouth (289 times in the NASB), parts, portion, promised, settled, so, speech, sound, taste, terms, TWO- EDGED, whenever, wishes, hole, tenor, skirt, and words”!!!

So, is the word peh or pim? I suspect that the modern versionists who tell us that the King James Bible translators and others “didn’t know how to translate the Hebrew text” and that some recent discovery made in the early 1900’s about the word pim being found on some rocks suddenly sheds “new light” on the passage as it has stood for hundreds of years is a bunch of baloney.

Their new theory fits right into the modern and widespread mentality of unbelief in the existence of any Bible in any language that is or ever has been the complete, inspired and 100% true Holy Scriptures. In their way of thinking there never has been a complete and 100% true Bible in any language. They think the sovereign God of the universe is still trying to piece together His perfect Book and we still do not have it. Not one of these people believes that any Bible in any language IS the perfect, preserved and infallible words of the living God. Don’t believe me? Just ask them.

The King James Bible translators were by no means perfect or sinless; but it should be pointed out that neither were the men used by God to give us the long lost originals in the first place! They were merely the clay vessels God chose to bring into the world His perfect “book of the LORD” in the English language.

The King James Bible translators expressed no doubt or uncertainty about what the words mean in 1 Samuel 13:21. They said nothing remotely close to “Well, we’re not really sure what this means” or “The Hebrew is uncertain”, but rather stated in no uncertain terms “Hebrew - a FILE with mouths” - and they were right.

Even Daniel Wallace shows some very real uncertainty about the whole pim theory. Remember the NET version crew themselves stated: “The meaning of the Hebrew word (ptsirah) is uncertain. This is the only place it occurs in the OT. Some propose the meaning “sharpening,” but “price” is a more likely meaning IF THE FOLLOWING TERM REFERS TO A WEIGHT.”

There is absolutely no proof, reason or evidence to think that the modern versions (that are so wrong in so many other places and are only getting worse and not better) have suddenly managed to find some kind of an error in the King James Bible. This Holy Bible, to which even the NASB testifies in its Preface - “In the history of English Bible translations, the King James Version is the most prestigious.” - has unshakably withstood the tests of both time and its critics. It is the ONLY Bible believed by thousands all over the world to be the complete, preserved, inspired and infallible words of God, and the Standard by which all others are to be measured.

Will Kinney