Posted by: mattcolvin | July 28, 2020

Notes on LXX Exodus 1-2

1:5 Ιωσηφ δὲ ἦν ἐν Αἰγύπτῳ – Joseph was already in Egypt, and so is not listed along with the other brothers who εἰσήλθοσαν (1:1). He is the forerunner and is similar to Jesus in this respect (Heb. 6:20).

1:7 – The sons of Israel “became overflowing” (χυδαῖοι).

1:10 – The Pharaoh who does not know Joseph visualizes a series of events that he wishes to avoid. This sequence culminates in the Israelites joining their enemies and “going out of the land.” In the event, though there are no foreign enemies, the effect on Egypt will be the same, as Pharaoh’s servants say in 10:7: “Do you not yet understand that Egypt is ruined?”–followed, of course, by the Hebrews going out of the land.

1:11 – καὶ Ων, ἥ ἐστιν Ἡλίου πόλις – Another LXX addition, glossing the ancient geography with the name of a contemporary Egyptian city in the same location. Heliopolis is of course a Greek name, and would not have been used in the time of Moses, nearly a thousand years before the Hellenization of Egypt beginning in 332 BC after its conquest by Alexander the Great.

1:12 – καθότι δὲ αὐτοὺς ἐταπείνουν, τοσούτῳ πλείους ἐγίνοντο – A nice correlative construction: “the more they humiliated them, so much the more numerous they became…” The people’s numerical multiplication is in proportion to the persecution they suffer.

1:15 – The names of the Hebrew midwives in the LXX differ from the MT: instead of “Shiphrah”, we have Σεπφωρα, “Sepphora.” The Brooklyn papyrus 35.1446 records a list of slaves and includes the name Shiphrah, but it is from the 18th dynasty, and too early to coincide with our Shiphrah. It is, however, valuable as evidence for the existence of such a name among Canaanites at an early date. (Note that the name of Zipporah is also spelled Σεπφωρα in 2:21.)

Rashi’s identification of Shiphrah with Moses’ mother Jochebed, and of Puah (“little girl”) with her daughter Miriam, is an almost certainly mistaken, but fascinating conjecture. Likewise, Exodus Rabbah’s claim that Amram divorced Jochebed when she was three months pregnant with Moses cannot be supported from the text, though it makes for a parallel with Joseph’s intended divorce of Mary when she was found to be pregnant with Jesus (Mt. 1:18-19).

1:19 – The midwives’ lie that “the Hebrew women are not like the women of Egypt; they give birth before the midwives come to them” is calculated to place the cause of the survival of the male children beyond the reach of human control: birth happens when it happens, and it is not subject to royal decrees.

2:9 – Pharaoh’s daughter offers the mother of Moses μισθός, wages, for nursing her own child. There is more than a little of the trickster story in this detail. Not only is Moses’ mother evading the royal order commanding infanticide, but she is being paid to do so!

2:10 – καὶ ἐγενήθη αὐτῇ εἰς υἱόν – “and he became as a son to her.” The bargain between Pharaoh’s daughter and Moses’ mother is a surrogacy arrangement.

Above: Jan de Bray, Pharaoh’s Daughter with Attendants and Moses in the Reed Basket, 1661. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.

2:12 – καὶ πατάξας τὸν Αἰγύπτιον ἔκρυψεν αὐτὸν ἐν τῇ ἄμμῳ – “he struck the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.” Here, the action of Moses is a proleptic miniature of the Exodus as a whole, which culminates in 14:30’s statement that “Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore.”

2:16 – Ιοθορ – “Jothor,” the LXX’s odd transliteration of Jethro.

2:18 – Raguel (Ραγουηλ) is the LXX’s transliteration of Re’uel, where the ‘ represents Hebrew ayin. The identity of Jethro and Reuel/Raguel is a vexed question.

2:19 – The account of Raguel’s daughters is an inversion of other motifs in the Pentateuch: rather than the woman drawing water for the man, Moses draws for the women “and watered our flocks,” an action that was part of the foreordained sign performed by Rebekah (24:14) Ironically, they refer to Moses as “an Egyptian” when he rescued them. The violence of this episode is a contrast with other instances of the woman-at-the-well typescene, as is fitting for the book of Exodus, where God fights for His bride.

2:25 – καὶ ἐπεῖδεν ὁ θεὸς τοὺς υἱοὺς Ισραηλ καὶ ἐγνώσθη αὐτοῖς – “and God looked upon the children of Israel and acknowledged them.” The ESV says “…and God knew.” The KJV is more correct, with “and had respect unto them,” but this still makes it sound as though the verse meant that “God heard their cry.” The correct meaning, which the LXX accurately captures, is acknowledging paternity: God’s public recognition that the Israelites are His children. From that recognition, everything else follows.

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