Posted by: mattcolvin | June 6, 2020

Notes on LXX Genesis 13-17


I’ve taken up a habit of reading the LXX, two or three chapters per day, with the ulterior motive of catching more Richard Hays-style echoes in the NT. (Hays’ comments on the verb παρέλθειν in Job 9:11 and Exodus 33:17-23, 34:6 and Mark 6:48 impressed upon me the need to have a memory full of phrases and diction from the LXX in order to detect such NT echoes.) I don’t have any grand project in mind for this; this category of my blog will serve simply as a notebook where I will record observations and questions.

Gen 12:12 – Abraham says of Sarah: “They will kill me, but they will save thee alive.” The LXX’s verb περιποιησονται means more than this. The middle of περιποιέω means “to acquire, procure, gain possession of for oneself.” The idea is not that Sarah will simply be spared, but that she will be taken into Pharaoh’s harem.

Gen 13:7 – Why is there a mention of Canaanites and Perizites right after the statement that a quarrel broke out between Abraham’s herdsmen and those of Lot? Is the implication that Abraham and Lot ought to be united against them instead of divided against each other?

Gen 13:8 – the phrase ἄνθρωποι ἀδελφοὶ doesn’t bode well. It will appear again in Acts in contexts where people are not getting along. We may also see a connection with Psalm 133: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity.” This expression, “to dwell together” is a technical legal idea, and it is precisely what Abraham’s and Lot’s herdsmen are unable to do.

Gen 13:10 – Lot “lifted up his eyes” and saw the region of Sodom. An ominous phrase. After the city is destroyed, we will have another distant shot of it, but this time from Abraham’s perspective (Gen. 19:28) when he “beheld, and lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace.”

Gen 14:1 The LXX is somewhat notorious for different, and sometimes bizarre, transliterations of foreign names. Nebuchadnezzar, for instance, becomes Ναβουχοδονοσορ. Similarly, Chedorlaomer is Xοδολλογομορ (Chodollogomor).

Gen 14:21 – The king of Sodom tells Abraham, “δός μοι τοὺς ἄνδρας τὴν δε ἵππον λαβὲ σεαυτῷ.” “Give me the men and take the horse for yourself.” Horse? A bizarre translation choice. The MT has וְהָרְכֻ֖שׁ “the goods.” I note also that the LXX has ἄνδρας, specifically male men, not ἀνθρώπους, persons, which might have been more appropriate as a translation of the Hebrew הַנֶּ֔פֶשׁ, “soul,” “living being.” It is possible that the LXX has in mind the homosexuality of Sodom, in which case the request of the king takes on the sinister appearance of requesting victims for homosexual rape.

Gen 14:23 – Abraham’s oath that he will not take so much as a “cord or a sandal-strap” (εἰ ἀπὸ σπαρτίου ἕως σϕαιρωτῆρος ὑποδήματος) is oddly like John the Baptist’s “the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to “carry” (Mt. 3:11) or “unloose” (Lk 3:16, Mk. 1:7).” Comparison with this verse – which looks like an idiom – might help to clear up the puzzling divergence of verbs in those gospel passages.

16:1-3 – Hagar is first introduced as Sarah’s maidservant; it is in this capacity and with this legal status that Sarah “gave her to her husband to be his wife,” thereby bestowing a new legal status upon her. Hagar’s mistake is in supposing that she has thereby passed out of her mistress’ authority; Abram corrects this by reinstating Hagar under Sarah’s authority: “Behold, thy maid is in thy hand; do to her as it please thee.” These words sound like a legal formula, in which case Hagar really had passed out of Sarah’s manus, and really was put back into it by Abraham’s formula. If so, it is something like a divorce; certainly there is no further report of Abraham sleeping with Hagar hereafter.

16:11 – Ishmael’s birth is foretold by the angel of the Lord according to the usual pattern of annunciation typescenes. What is especially interesting here is that the name “Ishmael” is revealed to Hagar alone, with etymological wordplay (Ishmael < shm’), but this name is actually applied to the child by Abram (16:15).


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