Thursday, February 28, 2013

Who is Chemdath?

A few days back a user going by the name of Ali posted a series of leading questions over at Mi Yodeya one of which seemed to be an attempt at arguing Muhammad was predicted in the book of Haggai.  This line of argument is stated more explicitly (if not more cogently) over at www.answering-christianity[dot]com/adeel_khan/Prophet_Muhammad.htm:

Haggai 2:7
I will shake all nations, and the Muhammad of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,' says the LORD Almighty.
 This prophecy in Haggai not just says [sic] that Prophet Muhammad (s) is to come but also confirms that Prophet Muhammad (s) has been prophesied in various scriptures as he will be the desire of all nations.
 Translators have used incorrect words to translate the word Muhammad.
 Ben Yehuda's Hebrew-English Dictionary defines Muhammad as praised one.
This is the correct word to use but it better that the translations use the original word “Muhammad”.

We have already discussed this passage in our post How was the Glory of the Second Temple Greater than that of the First? but this argument takes a wildly divergent (though to some degree parallel) direction from the arguments we discussed there.

First we must ask what is the word that is claimed to be, in the "original word", Muhammad?  The word there is חמדת--chemdath. Although I do not have a great library on Arabic, to my ear (and somewhat supported by Wikipedia) the root in our verse is cognate with the root of the name Muhammad. Nevertheless our verse does not say Muhammad any more than any Arabic text mentioning the word "praise" mentions Muhammad. Here too our method to analyzing such claims is relevant.  We must look at the context and determine its normal implication based on an informed reading. To illustrate the difficulty of the above interpretation, surely even though the shoresh (root) חמד is used no one would accept "I am Muhammad and I took them, and behold they (the stolen goods) are hidden in the ground within my tent" as a legitimate interpretation of Joshua 7:21!! Such an interpretation would be false and offensive. Yet the only way to avoid such abuses is to make certain that our interpretations are grounded in solid exegesis of Scripture or to understand that a statement's connection to the verse is only illustrative while its veracity is subject to a different authority, and of course a true predictive prophecy can practically only be of the former.

It is clear that chemdath is not equivalent to Muhammad simply by enunciating the words. Furthermore it is patently false that the words used to translate it are "incorrect".  Whether or not there is justification for transliterating the word chemdath, the major translations I have encountered use appropriate translations that accurately reflect the words meaning. As we will see this is more than can be said for its citation in the quote above.

To identify our subject it is best to look next door to its predicate, specifically the verb. Adapted from above we see that "chemdath of all nations will come". Yet  if we look in the original we see that while the translation "will come" may be acceptable but it is an imprecise rendition of the Hebrew ובאו which means "and they will come". We are dealing with a plural subject here, there is more than one חמד that will come! Indeed that chemdath is plural is seen from the Hebrew word itself which is the plural construct form.

This of course leads us to consider the construct itself "chemdath kol hagoyim" Although associating Muhammad with "the nations" would be appropriate insofar as he was a gentile, to call him "Muhammad of all the nations" makes little sense whatsoever.

And we mustn't forget to ask where chemdath "comes" to? As we discussed in our previous article this passage, as most of Haggai, is expressly about the Second Temple.  The verse explains that the chemdas of all the nations will come "and I [G-d] will fill this House with glory!" The house is the Temple, as is clear from the usage of the word through Haggai as well as other places in Bible. And this passage makes it clear at the outset that we are discussing the Second Temple. The chemdath would come and the Temple would be filled with glory, yet Muhammad came many centuries after the Temple was destroyed.  He clearly was not the chemdath of our verse.

So what was the chemdath of our verse?  Chemdath can be translated by a number of different words but it essentially means valuables.  The valuables of all the nations would be brought to the Temple of Jerusalem and fill it with splendor. Those who had seen the Temple of Solomon were disappointed by the more modest  replacement (Haggai 2:3) but G-d reassured them that this was only temporary and it would eventually be more grandiose.  This was fulfilled by the famous renovations of the Herod.   The valuables of all the nations would be brought to glorify G-d's house because "Mine is the sliver and mine is the gold" (Haggai 2:8).


in the vanguard said...

It is interesting and also revealing that christians and muslims see a need to DIG for their proofs, always searching for HINTS and SUGGESTIONS to "prove" their way of looking at things. As if the Torah, as if Tanach, as if God would have a problem just coming right out to say so clearly. So DIG and DIG they merrily go on. It is also interesting and quite telling that they just cannot give up their fascination with our Jewish Torah. Seems they sense its greatness and will just keep trying to undermine it, by DIGGING and DIGGING - for fool's gold.

in the vanguard said...

Yirmiyahu; Perhaps you just enjoy the calisthenics involved in arguing a point, because surely you don't take a muslim, who sees his "prophet" mentioned in Tanach, seriously. Take the Rambam, for example, he simply dismissed these people as "fools", or their "prophet" as an idiot.

Yirmiahu said...

ITV: See Ibn Ezra on Shemos 1:7

in the vanguard said...

Yirmiyahu - saw Ibn Ezra there and only scratch my head to understand what you meant for me to understand therefrom. Perhaps you can elaborate for this birdbrain.

Yirmiahu said...

ITV--No need to scratch your head, there was not direct relationship, just showing that a claim need not be particularly compelling to justify a response that illustrates the proper meaning of the T'nakh.

Loch Wade said...

If I understand you correctly, you see the fulfillment of "chemdath" in the gold and silver (that which is desired of) the gentiles being deposited in the renovated Temple by Herod.

But did Herod have the power to demand tribute (gold and silver) from the Gentiles?

History manifestly declares that the Gentiles (Rome) demanded and received, tribute from Herod!

Josephus himself records that Quinirus demanded a census taken of Judea for the purposes of taxation, echoed in the Gospel of Luke.

I do not mean to belabor any point of New Testament accuracy- only to demonstrate that history itself destroys your tortured and blasphemous gloss of the T'nach. The "desire"(chemdath) of the Nations is Jesus of Nazareth, Messiah and King of the Jews