Posted by: mattcolvin | July 12, 2020

Notes on LXX Genesis 45-46

Notes on LXX Genesis 45-46

45:1-2 – Joseph sends everyone out of his presence except his brothers. The next verse focalizes the scene from outside, via the sense of hearing of those who were not in the room: ἤκουσαν δὲ πάντες οἱ Αἰγύπτιοι, καὶ ἀκουστὸν ἐγένετο εἰς οἶκον Φαραω. It is a very effective technique for highlighting the emotion of Joseph.

45:3-4 – εἶπεν δὲ Ιωσηφ πρὸς τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς αὐτοῦ Ἐγώ εἰμι Ιωσηφ· ἔτι ὁ πατήρ μου ζῇ; καὶ οὐκ ἐδύναντο οἱ ἀδελφοὶ ἀποκριθῆναι αὐτῷ· ἐταράχθησαν γάρ. εἶπεν δὲ Ιωσηφ πρὸς τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς αὐτοῦ Ἐγγίσατε πρὸς με. καὶ ἤγγισαν. καὶ εἶπεν Ἐγώ εἰμι Ιωσηφ ὁ ἀδελφὸς ὑμῶν… As often in Biblical narrative, the lack of a reply from Joseph’s brothers (“Joseph said to his brothers…and Joseph said…”) is indicative of significant emotion or aporia. (Another instance is the silent Israelites before the multiple challenges of Goliath of Gath. See R. Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative, on this point.) Joseph actually has to repeat his self-identification to his brothers because they are so dumbstruck.

45:9 – Ἐποίησεν με ὁ θεὸς κύριον πάσης γῆς Αἰγύπτου. “God has made me lord of all the land of Egypt.” It is hard to read the first five words and not immediately think of Peter’s statement in Acts 2:36, “God has made (ὁ θεὸς ἐποίησε) this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord (κύριον) and Christ.” But then, it has always required a veil over the heart not to see Jesus at every turn in the Joseph story.

45:12 – ἰδοὺ οἱ ὀφθαλμοὶ ὑμῶν βλέπουσιν…ὅτι τὸ στόμα μου τὸ λαλοῦν πρὸς ὑμᾶς – “Behold, your eyes see…that it is my mouth that is speaking to you.” Presumably, Joseph has switched into Hebrew, and is no longer using an interpreter, so that his language confirms his identity.

45:14 – The last such scene of weeping on each other’s necks was between Jacob and Esau, whose relationship was considerably more strained than that of Joseph and Benjamin, sons of the same mother.

45:24 – After Pharaoh’s generous invitation for Joseph’s brothers to bring their family down to Egypt, and Joseph’s provision of goods for them, we are told that Joseph gave them a parting admonition for their journey back to Canaan, which the ESV “Do not quarrel on the road.” The Hebrew is אַֽל־תִּרְגְּז֖וּ, which the LXX slightly mistranslates as μὴ ὀργίζεσθε, “Do not be angry.” These are both inappropriate, it seems to me. The Hebrew רגז seems to have given translators trouble; it has a rather wider semantic range than any Greek equivalent, and can mean “to tremble with fear” or “to quake with excitement” (cf. HALOT רגז). There doesn’t appear to be much reason for Joseph’s brothers to quarrel at this point; fear or apprehension, however, is to be expected, since the last time they departed from Egypt for Canaan, Joseph played them a nasty trick with his divining cup and their bags. Given the wider range of the Hebrew רגז, it is possible that it, rather than the same root in Aramaic, lies behind the puzzles that arise in Mark 1:40-45, where it is again translated inappropriately with a form of ὀργίζομαι. (Jesus would not have been “angry” in the context. See here for discussion of that passage.)

45:26 – “Your son Joseph is alive, and he is ruling over all the land of Egypt.” This is astonishing stuff; the shock of the first half is powerful enough; the second is nigh unbelievable, like a Guatemalan father being told that his long-lost son is now the Vice-President of the United States. Well might we expect Jacob to have the reaction that he has: καὶ ἐξέστη ἡ διάνοια Ιακωβ. The KJV says, “Jacob’s heart fainted within him,” but the Greek says that “Jacob’s faculty of understanding was astonished.”

46:2 – God appears to Jacob in another dream, and calls him by name, “Jacob, Jacob.” The Hebrew has the standard response to such an address: הִנֵּֽנִי, “Here I am” or “Behold, me.” (Cf. 1 Samuel 3, where the child Samuel gives this answer several times.) But the Greek has departed from the Hebrew: ὁ δὲ εἶπεν Τί ἐστιν; “And he said, What is it?”

46:26 – “all the souls who came into Egypt with Jacob, those who came from his loins…” The Greek has “from his thighs” (ἐκ τῶν μηρῶν αὐτοῦ). The Hebrew has יְרֵכֹ֔ו, using a word that can mean “thigh” or “loin” (metonymy for organs of generation), so it is understandable why the LXX opts for μηρός for this word.

46:28 – The city to which Jacob sends Judah ahead is Ἡρώων πόλιν, “the city of heroes” or “Heroopolis.” This name is not in the Hebrew, which says only “in the land of Goshen;” the name Heroopolis has been added by the LXX. The translators, being Alexandrian Jews, will have been familiar with the geography, and have supplied the name of a contemporary Hellenistic Egyptian city in the proper location. (So Keil and Delitzsch.)

46:30 – Jacob’s words to Joseph, Ἀποθανοῦμαι ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν, ἐπεὶ ἑώρακα τὸ πρόσωπόν σου, “Now I will die, since I have seen your face” is interesting in two directions: it points back to 43:3, “The man did solemnly protest unto us, saying, Ye shall not see my face, except your brother be with you.” Well, they did bring his brother, and now Jacob has seen his face. The verse also is picked up and echoed in the Nunc Dimittis or Song of Simeon in Luke 2:29-30, “Lord lettest now thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation…”

46:33-34 – Joseph instructs his brothers to tell Pharaoh, if he inquires about their profession, that they are herdsmen. This appears to be a strategem to prevent them from being asked leave Goshen to assimilate or live with the Egyptians. Nahum Sarna notes that although Joseph had requested Goshen as a habitation for his family, Pharaoh had not specified any location (45:17-20). This is presumably why Joseph shrewdly tells his brothers to respond in such a way that the standing Egyptian prejudice against shepherds (βδέλυγμα γάρ ἐστιν Αἰγυπτίοις πᾶς ποιμὴν προβάτων) will ensure that his family is assigned land in Goshen.

It is elegant that the saga Joseph and his brothers concludes with Joseph confirming his brothers in their vocation as shepherds. Remember that he had “brought a bad report about them to their father” for being bad shepherds at the beginning of the story (Gen. 37:2)!

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