the problem with pronouns

You would think the inspired writers of the Scriptures would have been inspired in their writing techniques as well. And perhaps they were. But it seems to me they needed a lesson or two in pronoun usage. As in passages like this:

When the Lord has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, he will punish the speech of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the boastful look in his eyes.

For HE says: “By the strength of MY hand I have done it, and by MY wisdom, for I have understanding; I remove the boundaries of peoples, and plunder their treasures; like a bull I bring down those who sit on thrones. MY hand has found like a nest the wealth of the people; and as one gathers eggs that have been forsaken, so I have gathered all the earth; and there was none that moved a wing or opened the mouth or chirped.”

Isaiah 10:12-14

I’ve pulled Isaiah 7-12 apart for the past two months, and I still have no idea who is to be identified by the above bold-print pronouns.

Could it be the all-powerful God who is jealous for his glory? Ok, read it and insert “God.” It works.

Could it be the seemingly all-powerful Assyrians who like to pretend as though they can claim all glory for themselves? Read and insert “Assyria.” That works, too.

Backing up a few chapters, another pronoun-fail from Isaiah:

Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.”

But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.”

And HE said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

Isaiah 7:10-14

Ahaz was just speaking, but that final quotation sure doesn’t sound like Ahaz unless he’s got multi-personality issues.

pronoun problems

To properly interpret the Scriptures, it’s important to know who’s writing, who’s speaking, and to whom and about whom. We can get some things gravely wrong otherwise.

May I encourage you, as you study the Scriptures . . . don’t make assumptions, and do ask questions. Identify pronouns. And when they can’t be identified to your satisfaction, thank Isaiah and the other authors who failed their English and grammar exams. Because now you actually have to think about the Bible as you read it. When you think, you learn. When you learn, you grow. Goal achieved.

And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You, therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

2 Peter 3:15-18

[image credit: wikipedia.org, journeyoftheword.com]


4 thoughts on “the problem with pronouns

  1. Ha, Lydia! The snark and the wisdom here. Love it. I just finished reading through Isaiah again and often had to stop and ask who was speaking. Reading from several versions sometimes helps…but mostly, really paying attention and reading carefully. Thanks for the wisdom!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve heard people complain over the years that Scripture reading being boring because “I’ve already read it.” Your post is a perfect example of what Bible study SHOULD be. The Word is living and active…we can find things anew if we approach with a seeking heart. Little words like pronouns can show us more of the Father. Our pastor is a student of Greek and Hebrew, and frequently brings the original text to light when he teaches. I find it fascinating, as languages have such individual nuance that we often miss if that’s not our language.

    Liked by 1 person

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