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After reading the description of the Zohar from the Chabad website, I got confused:

What is the correct translation for Job 35:10: 'My Maker', ' Our Maker', or Makers?

After searching the internet I crossed some more verses: like Kohelet 12:1 בוראיך of which some say the word Creator is plural. Is this true or false?

Isn't Adonai Elohim the only Creator and Maker of all?! Could someone explain what is meant by these plural references?

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Basically, in unusual instances of seeming grammatical mismatches in the Bible, a linguistic phenomenon called “attraction” has likely occurred. This phenomenon occurs in many languages, including English.

An example in English of linguistic “attraction” – a technical grammatical mismatch – is: “Turn left at the street where there is a carwash and a fast food restaurant.” Due to there being two landmarks, the sentence should have a plural verb. But, “there are a carwash” (even with addition of another landmark), grates on the ear. This type of grammatical error is called “attraction,” where verbs or adjectives or even pronouns are so strongly connected to the form of a nearby noun that proximity overtakes the proper grammatical construction.

So, in connection to the few examples of where Elohim (for Israel’s God) is clearly the subject, though used with plural forms of verbs or adjectives, we now can see that this is an instance where linguistic “attraction” has likely occurred. For instance, even though it literally says this in the Hebrew, we know the Hebrew Bible is not saying that “the gods” caused Abraham to wander from his father’s home (Gen. 20:13), “the gods” revealed themselves to Jacob at the place called El Beth El (Gen. 35:7), “the gods” redeemed Israel (2 Sam.7:23), or “the gods” judge the earth so that humankind can be pleased that justice prevails (Ps. 58:11[12]). Rather, we can understand that we are reading instances in the Hebrew where linguistic “attraction” has occurred.

There are still other instances where certain Hebrew adjectives refer to Israel’s God using plural forms. A potential for confusion develops because these adjectives translate into nouns in English (e.g., Job 35:10; Ps. 149:2; Ecc. 12:1; Is. 54:5). It is difficult to convey the sense of this in English. These are not expressed in verbs or nouns, but rather by adjectives in Hebrew. The instances are: Job 35:10, which conveys the idea of God (eloah, singular form) who (are) making humanity (osai, pl. [= plural]); Psalm 149:2, the idea of HaShem who (are) making Israel (osav, pl.); Ecclesiastes 12:1, the idea that we are to remember God (ha-elohim, plural form) who (are) creating us (bor'eikha, pl.); and Isaiah 54:5, the idea that HaShem of hosts (ADONAI ts'vaot[h]), God of the whole earth (elohei khol ha-arets, plural form), who (are) mastering/husbanding Jerusalem (boalaikh, pl.), who (are) making her (osaikh, pl.).

When conveyed in this fashion, it is apparent that there are more grammatical oddities here. Yet, Hebrew language scholars who translate the Hebrew text into English are not caught off guard. They translate these into English in singular forms, knowing there is no mysterious thing happening here.

Unfortunately, however, the fact that these adjectives translate into English as nouns – “my makers” (Job 35:10); “his makers” (Ps. 149:2); “your creators” (Ecc. 12:1); “your masters/husbands, your makers” (Is. 54:5) – has opened the door to speculation that these texts are really saying the God of Israel is a mysterious plurality of makers-creators. In reality this continues to be a matter of linguistic “attraction” that has become an occasion for mistakes to be made by those looking for hidden hints of plurality to the godhead.

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It seems that the Chabad translation is a mistake. The verse in Job literally says "my makers". Similarly, the verse in Kohelet says "your (singular) creators".

However, we do find that God is referred to using the plural, and we understand it as the singular. For example, most instances of אלהים in Tanakh refer to God, and they take a singular verb (eg. Bereishit 1:1). Therefore, the standard understanding and translation of these verses are as in JPS translation (as linked in the question). This can also be seen by reading the commentaries on these verses, which understand a singular referent.

  • I do understand the comments that have been given, but I still don't get the point of using these plural facets: 'my makers, and your creators' what are they refering to if not to the One and Only Creator/Maker G-d Himself? And if they do as it seems, then why use the plural facets in the first place? – J.Levi Mar 13 '15 at 18:49
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The New JPS Translation to Job 35:10 reads:

But none says, “Where is my God, my Maker, Who gives strength in the night

Both expressions (עשי in Job and בוראיך in Koheles) are a kind of pluralis majestatis or "plurales excellentiae" (see Gesenius GKC §124.k).

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From: http://m.chabad.org/dailystudy/tanya.asp?tDate=3/4/2015

The word translated “in its Maker” (בעושיו) shares a common root with עשיה, the lowest level of creation. With this abode in particular ought Israel rejoice, knowing that G‑d’s joy is especially great when the creations in Asiyah, the very lowest world, become an abode for Him.

וזה שכתוב: בעושיו, לשון רבים

For this reason the plural form —בעשיו — is used.

The literal meaning of the verse is: “Let Israel rejoice in its Makers.” Why the use of a plural expression in reference to G‑d

The Alter Rebbe explains that since G‑d is spoken of here as the “Maker” of the world of Asiyah, the domain of kelipot whose nature is arrogance and therefore separation and self-centeredness, the Divine creative power is referred to in the plural — for it is fragmented, so to speak. There is a multitude of created beings, each separate from the other, each animated by the Divine creative power; hence, a plurality of “Makers”, so to speak.

But this fault becomes a cause for still greater Divine joy, when these separate beings at the level of Asiyahunite in G‑d’s unity. This unification of creation is another achievement of man’s faith in G‑d’s unity, for this faith subdues the sitra achra which causes disunity.

As stated above, it is the earlier darkness which enhances the light that replaces it. Thus, the greater the darkness, the more superior the subsequent light.

In the Alter Rebbe’s words:

שהוא עולם הזה הגשמי, המלא קליפות וסטרא אחרא, שנקרא רשות הרבים וטורי דפרודא

This plural expression — “Makers” — refers to our physical world that is filled with kelipot and sitra achra, which are called “a public domain,” i.e., a domain of multiplicity,and “mountains of separation,” in that they are arrogant and separate from one another.

ואתהפכן לנהורא, ונעשים רשות היחיד ליחודו יתברך, באמונה זו

G‑d’s joy in the fusion of this plurality is aroused whenthrough this faith in G‑d’s unity they (the kelipot) are transformed into light, and they become a “private domain”— i.e., a unified realm — for G‑d’s unity.

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A feature of the Hebrew language are plurals, Those verses, they are both in the plural. But this is common for words which refer to power and mastery, whether talking about God or humans. Some common examples are Exodus 22:14 בְּעָלָ֥יו - "Its owners are not with it" and Genesis 39:20 - אֲדֹנֵ֨י "The lords of Joseph took him" - where both verses are talking about a single person.

In the case of Osai, it has a pronominal suffix (plural) "ai" בָּנַי my children, however there are many Hebrew words that have Pronominal Suffixes "ai" and have "singular" sense,, example: Genesis 43: 3 my face (singular) פָנַ֔י in Hebrew reads my faces, (plural) but it is obvious that human beings have one face. Job 13:26 my youth (singular) נְעוּרָֽי Hebrew reads, my youths (plural) it is obvious that human beings have a single youth.

In the case of "Boreika" it has a pronominal suffix (plural) , eg סוּסֶ֫יךָ your horses.

Also it has singular sense example: Gen. 24:51 אֲדֹנֶ֔יךָ your Lord, in this case is talking about Abraham, one Lord , despite having plural pronominal suffix,, has sense "singular, in Hebrew it is literally your lords (plural) In Hebrew there are many examples in plural with singular sense

On of the most common words for God - Elohim - is a plural word - although the vast majority of the time it is conjugated with singular verbs (e.g. Gen. 1:1, 1:3, 1:4, 1:5). The continuation of Job 35:10 is also in the singular.

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The word used in Job is "Osai," which is the object-form for the verb "Osainu" and distinct from "Osi." The latter is "My Maker," the former is "Our Maker." The one in Koheles is also translated the same way.

Due to word constructs in Hebrew, you can have words that are object plural, subject plural, or both.

There is no "plurality of gods/makers" being referenced here. It all refers to a single God. A good analogy is to think of the different synonyms people use to refer to their marital partner. That they say "wife" and "my love" and "my girl" and etc. doesn't mean that they are married to multiple people, but rather that they are referencing aspects of a single relationship.

  • How would you translate these verses based on your commentary? – J.Levi Mar 13 '15 at 7:09
  • @J.Levi The plurality is on the part of the audience - your (plural) Maker (singular), not your (singular) Makers (plural). Why do you consider the translation you linked to be unsatisfactory? – Isaac Kotlicky Mar 13 '15 at 12:57
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    @IsaacKotlicky In Kohelet 12:1, the noun is plural and the possessive suffix is singular. It literally says "your (sing.) makers". – magicker72 Mar 13 '15 at 16:47
  • I didn't linked those translations, but possibly someone did this so people could read these verses. I did read a lot of translations but some of those said that it are plural nouns with singular suffix, while others state it are plural participles with pronominal suffixes, and other say these are plural participles (mostly translations with a christian/trinity background). I myself believe its correct translation is 'my Maker' and 'your Creator', but I just wondered if this verse could be rendered any other way based on the principles of Hebrew grammar. – J.Levi Mar 13 '15 at 16:50
  • @J.Levi They are plural participles with singular pronominal suffixes. But since the active participles in Hebrew are substantival participles, ie. essentially nouns, it's just a vocabulary issue. – magicker72 Mar 13 '15 at 17:01

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