Another Verse in the KJV You Probably Don’t Understand Either

What profiteth the graven image that the maker thereof hath graven it; the molten image, and a teacher of lies, that the maker of his work trusteth therein, to make dumb idols? (Hab 2:18 KJV)

Is “the graven image” a direct object of “profiteth” or the subject of “profiteth”?

In contemporary English syntax it reads most naturally as a direct object. “What profits the graven image?” Or we might say, “What brings benefit to the graven image?”

But Habakkuk didn’t mean that. He meant, as all the modern versions render this, “What profit is an idol?” or “Of what value is an idol?”

If “graven image” is a direct object, the rest of the first part of the verse is nonsensical. “What brings benefit to the graven image that its maker has graven it?”

I’ve heard a lot of people say, “I know others have trouble understanding the KJV, but I grew up on it so I have no trouble.” I used to say that, too, and there’s certainly some truth to it. I can read the KJV much better than the low-income teenagers in my neighborhood can. But I still challenge what I’ve heard a lot of people say. I’m convinced that KJV readers are missing more than they’re aware.

Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

1 Comment

  1. Wes Hedrick on October 12, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    Thanks, Mark! I will use this verse in Sunday School this weekend and give you credit for pointing it out.

Leave a Reply