Keri and Chethib

Concise Bible Dictionary:

These terms refer to the various readings appended to the printed Hebrew Bible. The keri (or qeri) are placed in the notes, and signify “to be read,” instead of what is in the text, which latter is called chethib (or kethib), “written.” A small circle or star is placed in the text to call attention to the alteration, and where one word is substituted for another the word to be read is printed in the notes, without points, the points that belong to it being given in the text, though they do not belong to the word there printed. The total number of these alterations has been calculated to amount to 1353.
Several different accounts have been given as to the origin of these various readings, some endeavoring to trace them back to Moses; others, to Ezra; and others to the Sanhedrim; so that there seems no reliable clue to their authority. The great bulk of the alterations are corrections of errors made by mistaking one letter for another, or similar faults of the copyist; but there are some variations of importance, and what may seem strange is that in the AV in some instances the keri is adopted and in others the chethib, without its being stated why. What influenced the selection is now unknown. For instance there are above a dozen places in which the keri; substitutes לו, the personal pronoun, for לא, the negative particle, which greatly alters the sense. A few of these are adopted in the AV as Job 13:1515Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him. (Job 13:15); Psalm 100:33Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. (Psalm 100:3); Isa. 63:99In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old. (Isaiah 63:9). May we not be assured that even in this God has guarded His own Book, and especially the version most widely circulated—the English Bible?