In modern non-legal English is a synonym of "pray" or "beseech," but in legal phraseology "plea," "plead," and "pleading" have a great variety of technical meanings, with "present a case before the court" as the idea common to all. All the uses of "plead" in English Versions of the Bible are connected with this legal sense, so that outside of the set phrase "plead a cause" (1 Samuel 24:15, etc.) there is hardly a use of the word in the King James Version, the English Revised Version, or the American Standard Revised Version that is clear modern English The most obscure instances are due to The King James Version's employment of "plead" to translate the niphal of shaphaT. ShaphaT means "judge," so its niphal means "bring oneself into a case to be judged," "enter into controversy with," and so "plead" in the legal sense. Hence, "None pleadeth in truth" (Isaiah 59:4) means "none of their lawsuits are honest." Accordingly, when God is said to "plead with" man (Isaiah 66:16 the King James Version, the English Revised Version, etc.), the meaning is that God states His side of the case and not at all that He supplicates man to repent. And this statement by God is a judicial act that of course admits of no reply. Hence, the Revised Version (British and American) has changed "plead with" into "enter into judgment with" in Jeremiah 2:35, and the American Standard Revised Version has carried this change into all the other passages (Jeremiah 25:31; Ezekiel 17:20; 20:35,36; 38:22), with "execute judgment" in Isaiah 66:16; Joel 3:2. The same verb form occurs also in Isaiah 43:26: "Let us plead together," where "Let us present our arguments on both sides" would be a fair paraphrase. Otherwise "plead" usually represents ribh, for which the Revised Version (British and American) gives "strive" in place of "plead" in Psalms 35:1, and "contend" in Job 13:19; 23:6 (the American Standard Revised Version also in Judges 6:31,32; Isaiah 3:13; Jeremiah 2:9; 12:1; Hosea 2:2, retaining "plead" only in Isaiah 1:17 and in the phrase "plead a cause"). yakhach, is rendered "plead" in Job 19:5 ("plead against me my reproach," where the meaning is "convict me of"), in Micah 6:2 the King James Version and the English Revised Version (the American Standard Revised Version "contend"), and Job 16:21 the King James Version (the Revised Version (British and American) "maintain the right"). "Plead" is used also for din, in Jeremiah 30:13 and Proverbs 31:9 the King James Version (the Revised Version (British and American) "minister justice to"), and Jeremiah 5:28 the Revised Version (British and American) (the King James Version "judge"; compare Jeremiah 22:16, the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American) "judge"). the Revised Version (British and American) would have done vastly better if the use of "plead" had been avoided altogether.
Pleadings (i.e. "arguments") occurs in Job 13:6 (for ribh), and "plea" (din, in a specific legal sense) in Deuteronomy 17:8. the King James Version uses "implead" in Acts 19:38 for egkaleo, the Revised Version (British and American) "accuse," literally, "call into court"; compare also "pleaded the cause" in 2 Macc 4:44 (literally, "argued the case") and 4:47, the Revised Version (British and American) "pleaded" (literally, "spoken," the King James Version "told their cause").
Burton Scott Easton
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