Posted by: mattcolvin | July 13, 2020

Notes on LXX Genesis 47-48

Notes on LXX Genesis 47-48

47:5 – κατάστησον αὐτοὺς ἄρχοντας τῶν ἐμῶν κτηνῶν – “Appoint them rulers over my livestock.” The verb to appoint is the same verb (καθίστημι) that is used in the NT for appointment to church office.

47:8 – καὶ εὐλόγησεν Ιακωβ τὸν Φαραω – “And Jacob blessed Pharaoh.” The lesser is blessed by the greater.

47:25 – καὶ εἶπαν Σέσωκας ἡμᾶς – “And they said, you have saved us” – The Egyptians are grateful to have been made slaves, to have lost all their property, and to be under a 20% tax on their crops.

47:29 – ὐπόθες τὴν χεῖρα σου ὑπὸ τὸν μηρόν μου – “Place your hand under my thigh” – The same oath ritual that was used by Abraham when he sent his servant to find a wife for Isaac.

καὶ ποιήσεις ἐπ᾽ ἐμὲ ἐλεημοσύνην καὶ ἀλήθειαν… – “And you shall do mercy and truth upon me” This is the Hebrew חֶ֣סֶד וֶאֱמֶ֔ת, faithfulness and covenant love.

47:31 – “And he said, ‘Swear to me.’ And he swore to him. And Israel worshipped [leaning] upon the top of his staff.” The word “worshipped” here is προσεκύνησεν, “bowed down.” Here, though we might miss it in the English, is the fulfillment of Joseph’s dream and the answer to Jacob’s indignant question (37:10), “Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down (προσκύνησαι) ourselves to thee to the earth?”

48:5 – Jacob’s adoption of Ephraim and Manasseh is an odd arrangement. Jacob compares the two to his oldest two sons, Reuben and Simeon, who are also given curses in the next chapter because of their respective sins (Reuben for sleeping with Bilhah and Simeon for his cruelty in the matter of the Shechemites).

48:6 – Because of the elevation of Ephraim and Manasseh to the status of heirs of Jacob rather than of Joseph, the remaining offspring of Joseph are in line to receive a larger portion of inheritance from Jacob.

48:7 – Jacob says that he buried Rachel “in the land of Canaan in the way, when yet there was but a little way to come unto Ephrath.” The LXX has, instead, ἐγγίζοντός μου κατὰ τὸν ἱππόδρομον χαβραθα – “when I was drawing near to the hippodrome (i.e. race-course, circus) of Chabratha.” One wonders whether this is another instance of the LXX translators identifying the spot by a contemporary landmark that was not present in the time of the Hebrew author. A hippodrome is a Hellenistic or Roman-era structure, a seeming anachronism in the patriarchal period.

48:18 – εἶπεν δὲ Ιωσηφ τῷ πατρὶ αὐτοῦ Οὐκ οὕτως, πάτερ – “And Joseph said to his father, Not so, father.” The objection “not so” is an (unwitting?, but at least narratorially intended) near-quotation of Laban, who had told Jacob, “It must not be done so (οὐκ ἐστιν οὕτως) in our country, to give the younger [daughter in marriage] before the firstborn.” (Gen. 29:26)

48:19 – Οἶδα, τέκνον, οἶδα· καὶ οὗτος ἔσται εἰς λαόν… “I know, child, I know. This one too shall become a people…” An echo of the fates of Esau (ch. 36) and Ishmael (17:20), the unchosen brothers in prior generations.

Rembrandt van Rijn, Jacob Blessing the Sons of Joseph, 1656, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Kassel, Germany.



  1. “In court we swear to tell the truth with a hand placed on the Bible. But in the book itself, Jacob, nearing death in Egypt, asks Joseph to swear an oath not to bury him there by “put[ting] your hand under my thigh” (Gen. 47:29). Earlier in Genesis, Jacob wrestles with God, who touches “the hollow of his [Jacob’s] thigh” (32:25). “Thigh” happens to be a biblical euphemism for male genitalia; it’s from Jacob’s “thigh” or “loins” that his numerous offspring sprang.”

    “The practice of swearing an oath while touching one’s or someone else’s testicles was common in the ancient Near East (Abraham also orders a servant to do just that in Genesis 24:2). Its linguistic memory survives in our word “testify”–testis being the Latin both for “witness” and the male generative gland.”

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