I have always wondered what would we see if we could travel back in time 1,000 years prior to that and be privy to see a much older scroll. Would they exhibit the same nuances and scribal traditions?That would truly be a fantastic thing!
Today we have the incredible resource of being able to see a scroll of Yishaya found in Qumran which forms part of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The sefer dates back to approximately the year 100 bce. How is Lemarbe written there? Let's take a look!
|Yishaya 9:6 - Courtesy of the Israel Museum|
If you read carefully you will see that it is also written in two words! This is an amazing find, because it documents and substantiates the tradition of the Aleppo Codex! Lemarbe was being written in two words already from 1,100 years prior to when Ben Asher documented it for us! This makes it extremely clear to us that when Ben Asher wrote Lemarbe in two words, he was already following a clear and already long-established scribal tradition.
However, we also have a monkey wrench. The MEM of Lemarbe is a regular MEM and not SOFIT! Why? If one continues to check the scroll, one will also notice that although the SOFIT form is often used, it is not universally applied at the end of a word. Sometimes, the scribe uses a regular MEM instead. For example, look at the word MAYIM in the picture below.
|Yishaya 1:30 - Courtesy of the Israel Museum|
What emerges from this? It appears that at the time, the use of a regular MEM vs. it's SOFIT form at the end of a word was clearly fluid, and not a hard and fast rule. That is, scribes were still using both forms at the end of the word, but not in the middle.
Once, the SOFIT convention became the sole standard for the end of the words, it would not be appropriate for the MEM of MAYIM to be a regular MEM anymore. Likewise, the MEM of Lemarbe had to be a MEM SOFIT only! The stricter writing standards could not tolerate such a deviation. All final MEMS had to be SOFIT including that of LM RBH (Lemarbe). Hence, we can now begin to appreciate the reason for why the MEM of Lemarbe is SOFIT.
I hope you have found this as fascinating as I have. There are many other things I have learned from briefly taking a look at this chapter of Yishaya. However, they will have to wait for another post.