Joseph and the hidden souls


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Joseph and the hidden souls

Psalm 105:16-22 (JDV)

Psalm 105:16 He called down famine against the land and destroyed the entire food supply.
Psalm 105:17 He had sent a man ahead of them – Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
Psalm 105:18 They hurt his feet with shackles; his neck was put in an iron collar.
Psalm 105:19 Until the time his prediction came true, the word of Yahveh tested him.
Psalm 105:20 The king sent for him and released him; the ruler of peoples set him free.
Psalm 105:21 He made him master of his household, ruler over all his possessions –
Psalm 105:22 binding his officials by his throat and instructing his elders.

This passage contains two instances of the Hebrew word nefesh (נֶפֶשׁ), a word which (the theologians tell us) designates the immortal part of human beings that survives their death.

You cannot find the word soul in my translation above, because I don’t think the word means that.

In verse 18, the word נֶפֶשׁ obviously means neck. You cannot put a soul in an iron collar. This rendering is also reflected in several modern versions: NLT, NIV, ESV, CSB, NET, HNV.

Several modern versions follow the KJV in treating נֶפֶשׁ as a pronoun here: NKJV, NASB20, LSB, ASV, WEB.

But the NASB20 attaches a footnote stating that the literal rendering would be “his soul came into” irons. Really? Can an immortal soul be chained with physical chains?

In verse 22, the idea is that Joseph’s throat (נֶפֶשׁ) became the binding law of the land in Egypt, so all the other leaders were bound to obey him, at Pharaoh’s orders.

Here all the modern versions abandon literalness altogether. Most follow the KJV and render נֶפֶשׁ as “pleasure” or “will” or something like that. This is the same word as that used for neck four verses above.

One of the reasons I am using my own translation in my daily devotions is that our current English translations are filled with inconsistancies like those cited above. Until the church repents of its theological heresies, those mistranslations will continue to hide the clear meaning of the original texts.

LORD, give your church the courage to repent of its unbiblical traditions.


About Jefferson Vann

Jefferson Vann is pastor of Piney Grove Advent Christian Church in Delco, North Carolina. You can contact him at -- !
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