NIV TURNS “LAND OF SINIM” INTO “REGION OF ASWAN” BY A
TWIST OF THE BALL-PEN!
The translation of KJV of Isaiah 49:12, “Behold, these
shall come from far: and, lo, these from the north and from the west; and
these from the land of Sinim” from the Hebrew text,
.<ynys Jram hLaw <YmW /opXm
hLa-hNhw Waby qojrm hLa-hNh
is correct. How does the NIV differ to translate
Jram into “from the region of Aswan”?
The word “Sinim” in Hebrew is
<ynys. And the word for
“Aswan” according to the NIV in Ezekiel 29:10 and 30:6 is
hnws. Now <ynys
is pronounced “Sinim” but hnws which is pronounced “Seveneh” is translated
“Aswan.” But why is <ynys at Isaiah 49:12 by a twist of the NIV’s ball-pen
also become “Aswan?” Even the non-Hebrew reader can see that Sinim (<ynys)
and Aswan (hnws) are two different words. Perhaps the NIV translators
think they can palm off their ware to the unwary non-Hebrew English
Another difference between the KJV and NIV
translations is the NIV rendering of Jra into “region” whereas
almost always been translated “land,” “earth,” or “ground.” Now if the NIV
translates “the land of Zebulon and the land of Naphtali from the word
(Isa 9:1) and Zebulon and Naphtali are small tribes, why does not NIV use
the word “region” here? The right word for “region” in Hebrew is
according to the Hebrew lexicon.1 There is no valid reason to translate
Jra as “region” except for the sinister purpose of demoting the Land of
Sinim into some Egyptian outback.
The land of Sinim, according to Hastings’
of the Bible, from the context, must have been the extreme south or east
of the known world.2 The LXX favours the view that a country in the east
is intended, and some modern commentators have identified Sinim with
China, the land of the Sinae. The ancients’ view that Sinim refers to
China is attested overwhelmingly by continuing modern Hebrew usage. My
English-Hebrew, Hebrew-English lexicon by Prof M Segal and Prof M B Dagut,
says China is /ys (Sin) and Chinese is ynys.3 The root of “Sinim” is
“Sin,” so “Sinim” points most assuredly to China and not to Aswan, which
is translated from a different word hnws as stated above. Thus, one who is
well-versed in Chinese is called a sinologue and sinology is the study of
Chinese language, history, customs, etc; and the war between China and
Japan was called the Sino-Japanese war.
Let me quote from Dr Allan A MacRae my teacher on the
above subject under discussion. In his Studies in Isaiah, Dr MacRae says
as a matter of fact:
In verse 12 the remarkable extent of the work of the
servant is clearly indicated with people coming to his light from the
north and from the west and even from the land of Sinim (China). What a
marvelous prediction of the extension of the gospel of deliverance from
sin through the servant of the Lord to the very ends of the world! How
wonderfully it has been fulfilled in these days when groups of believers
have come to the Savior from so many sections of the earth, even including
this very land of China, which must have seemed in the days of Isaiah to
be the utmost fringe of civilization. Truly He has become “a light to the
Furthermore, let us see how the translators of the
Chinese Bible () treat the Hebrew text. They translate the land of Sinim
as , the Kingdom or Country of Chin, and “Chin” is a root word for China,
verily, as it was Chin Shih Hwang Ti the first Emperor who united the many
ancient states into one China. This is a good translation in the tradition
of the LXX, and in line with time-honoured Hebrew usage to this day.
Speaking from my experience as a Certified Chinese
Interpreter of the Supreme Court, Singapore in my young days, whenever
there was any doubt in the translation of a Chinese document into English,
the Judge would know exactly and objectively what the original says, and
not some dynamic equivalent, the subjective NIV style. The KJV renders the
Hebrew and Greek of the Bible without subtraction or addition, least by
juggling, when <ynys Jram can be twisted to read “from the region of
Aswan.” Let us have an answer from the learned NIV translators.
1 BDB, 286.
2 Dictionary of the Bible, ed James Hastings, s.v. “Sinim.”
yrbu-ygna/wlm English-Hebrew Dictionary, s.v.
4 Allan A MacRae,
Studies in Isaiah (Hatfield PA:
Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute, 1995), 237. See also MacRae's
The Gospel of Isaiah (Chicago: Moody Press, 1977): 109-12. Edward
J Young wrote likewise, “In any attempt to identify the land of Sinim we
must look for a place far from Palestine. An ancient interpretation would
identify it with China, . . .” (Edward J Young, The Book of Isaiah, NICOT
[Grand Rapids: Wm B Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1972], 3:282, 294).
Rev Dr Timothy Tow is pastor of True Life
Bible-Presbyterian Church, and principal of Far Eastern Bible College.
- Published in
The Burning Bush,
Volume 2 Number
2 (July 1996)