“Sinim” or “Syrene/Aswan” in Isaiah 49:12?
Isaiah 49:12 in the KJV:
"Behold, these shall come from far: and, lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim."
Isaiah 49:12, Chinese Union Version:
The KJV transliterates “סינים (sinim)" as "Sinim". The Chinese Union Version translates “סינים (sinim)" as "秦國 (Qin Country)" (with an in-text note of the Hebrew transliteration). "Qin Country" is the country of the Qin dynasty - China. Since the establishment of the Qin (“Chin” or “Sin”) dynasty in 221 BC, the large Far East nation has been called “China” or “Sina.” Some translations (NIV, ESV) refuse the reading, “סינים (sinim)" as found in the Masoretic text. These modern scholars assume that Isaiah could not have referred to China because “Sinim” came to mean “China” only after 221 BC, hundreds of years after the life of Isaiah. During Isaiah’s life (8th century BC), the Qin state was just a small state among hundreds of other states in the region. However, if Isaiah was able to prophetically call the future king Cyrus by his name (Isaiah 44:28, 45:1), it would not have been unusual for Isaiah to have referred to the name of a future nation. These critics who substitute “Syrene” or “Aswan” for “Sinim” completely destroy Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the establishment of China.
More important than the prophecy of the establishment of a future nation is the prophecy that people of these distant lands will come to know the true God. Isaiah 49:12 encouraged the early missionaries such as Hudson Taylor. This verse in their Chinese Union Version continues to encourage millions of Chinese believers today. Liberal scholars who deny the Masoretic reading deprive this wonderful promise of God to Chinese believers. These critics substitute “Sinim” with “Syrene” based on the reading in the Dead Sea Scrolls. However, this reading could simply reflect the Dead Sea Scroll scribes’ attempt at identifying the exact location of this mysterious place based on their knowledge of local geography, just like how the Septuagint scribes substituted “Sinim” with “Land of Persia” (γῆς Περσῶν).
Moreover, the context of Isaiah’s prophecy indicates that “Sinim” refers to a “far” county to the “east". The verse mentions north and west, which means the location of Sinim might indicate either south or east. Although Syrene or Aswan is to the south, this is not "far" from Israel. The verse says that people will come from “far,” which would preclude such a close community in Egypt. The scope of Isaiah’s prophecy is global and pan-directional; thus, it would only make sense if “Sinim” is a far region to the east. The Septuagint and the Vulgate also point to an eastern country. The NKJV and NASB also have “Sinim.”
Read more articles from: The King James Version is Demonstrably Inerrant
Also read: Masoretic Readings Defended