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B'reshit 49:10 was the first text discussed in the Disputation of Barcelona (July 20-24, 1263), a formal debate ordered by the king between representatives of Christianity and Judaism regarding whether the Moshiach had come. This indicates how important this passage was.

B'réshit 49:10

לֹא-יָסוּר שֵׁבֶט מִיהוּדָה, וּמְחֹקֵק מִבֵּין רַגְלָיו, עַד כִּי-יָבֹא שִׁילֹה, וְלוֹ יִקְּהַת עַמִּים.

Here occurs the puzzling term shiloh (שִׁילֹה), which the Leeser Bible (1853), agreeing with the 1611 King James Bible of Christians, read as a name of Moshiach (but the New Jewish Publication Bible says: 'Meaning of Heb[rew] uncertain'). Onkelos in his Aramaic translation read this word as shelloh (so Rashi), the archaic form for his, 1 understanding a segol in the first syllable and no yod: '. . . until Meshicha comes, whose (דְּדִילֵיהּ הִיא) is the kingdom':

לָא יִעְדֵּי עָבֵיד שׁוּלְטָן מִדְּבֵית יְהוּדָה וְסָפְרָא מִבְּנֵי בְנוֹהִי עַד עָלְמָא עַד דְּיֵיתֵי מְשִׁיחָא דְּדִילֵיהּ הִיא מַלְכוּתָא וְלֵיהּ יִשְׁתַּמְעוּן עַמְמַיָּא׃

The Masoretes, on the other hand, transcribed this word with a chireq and yod in the first syllable.

Why is 'shiloh' read as if it were transcribed 'shelloh' by Onkelos in Genesis 49:10 when the Masoretes, who give the traditional reading, transcribed it differently?

In order to avoid merely personal opinion, I am asking for medieval and modern commentators. The question does not concern the Hebrew, but rather the way the text was allowed to be treated.

See my recently written answer to a related question for more on the term: What's the Meaning of Shiloh in the Last Blessing of Yaakov on his Children?


1 R' J. H. Hertz, The Pentateuch and Haftorahs, p. 202: 'It is a strange circumstance that the older Jewish versions and commentators (Septuagint, Targums, Saadyah and Rashi) read this word without a 'yod,' as if written 'shelloh' the archaic form for 'his'; or as if it were a poetic form for 'peace.'

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    Could you please link to the various texts? I was looking at the biblical text on sefaria and the Onkelos there reads " עַד דְּיֵיתֵי מְשִׁיחָא" so I'd like to see to what you refer. – rosends Mar 17 '19 at 16:28
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    Maybe Onkleos departed from the traditional reading preserved by the Masoretes? – Double AA Mar 17 '19 at 16:58
  • I'm not the downvoter, but calling this "famous crux" is a major overstatement from a Jewish perspective (except in reference to people who are responding to Christians). We're perfectly satisfied with believing that it can be a hint to any number of future events, each hinted to by a different aspect of the verse. It doesn't have to have one single meaning. One explanation doesn't fit perfectly because the word is spelled wrong, another explanation is difficult because some words are missing, but together they explain why the verse is written as it is and we move on. – Heshy Mar 22 '19 at 17:33
  • @Heshy I will edit the offending adjective out. I appreciate your feedback. I also deleted the reference to the non-Jewish scholar, G. R. Driver. Better now.? – Clifford Durousseau Mar 22 '19 at 18:00
  • The problem isn't the references to non-Jewish scholars. I think the real issue here, which is not your fault, is your perspective in looking at this verse is completely different than mine and, I believe, that of most people who use this site. Personally I think the answer is quite boring: Shiloh doesn't refer to anything obvious, so you have to stretch to come up with midrashic explanations, which as I said are each hinted to by different references in the text. So everyone is going to agree that each answer has nice aspects and difficult aspects. (cont) – Heshy Mar 22 '19 at 18:19
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It seems that the Targum is playing on the word (קרי/כתיב) and using both signifiers with his doubled translation,

עַד דְּיֵיתֵי מְשִׁיחָא (Shiloh)

דְּדִילֵיהּ הִיא מַלְכוּתָא (Shelloh)

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    The kesiv has a yud. – Heshy Mar 18 '19 at 11:52
  • @simyou - In the question above, I specifically asked for the views of medieval and modern commentators in order to avoid mere personal opinion. – Clifford Durousseau Mar 18 '19 at 12:06

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