Posted by: mattcolvin | December 6, 2020

Notes on LXX Exodus 8: Dog-flies and Snarky Moses

Exodus 8

8:1 – καὶ ἐπὶ τὰς διώρυγας “and over the ditches,” a reference to irrigation channels in Egypt.

καὶ ἐπὶ τὰ ἕλη – “and over the marshes”

8:2 – καὶ ἀνεβιβάσθη ὁ βάτραχος καὶ ἐκάλυψεν τὴν γῆν Αἰγύπτου – “and the frog was brought up and covered the land of Egypt.” Note the collective singular “the frog.”

8:3 – As usual so far, the enchanters (ἐπαοιδοὶ, from ἀείδω, the same verb that is the second word of the Iliad) are able to counterfeit the plague inflicted by Aaron; as usual, their activity only makes things worse, since they bring up even more frogs. And of course, they play no role in the ending of the plague.

8:4 – Pharaoh beseeches Moses to pray for him and his people “to the Lord.” There is no difficulty in recognizing which god is behind the plagues. Pharaoh also promises to send the people out, that they may sacrifice to the Lord.

8:5 – In response to this abject begging, Moses twists the knife by giving Pharaoh the choice of time: Τάξαι πρός με, πότε εὔξωμαι περὶ σοῦ…”Command me, when shall I pray for you…?” This is subtle condescension, mocking the idea that Pharaoh is really in control.

8:6 – The mockery continues. Pharaoh answers Moses’ “When?” question with the clipped, desperate Εἰς αὔριον, “Tomorrow!” Moses replies Ὡς εἴρηκας, “As you have said,” again rubbing salt in the wounds by an obsequious pretense that Pharaoh is in control.

8:7 – Moses then lists, in a polysyndetic catalogue, all the places full of frogs right now.

8:14 – The same collective singular is used of the gnats: “the enchanters worked likewise with their sorceries to bring forth the gnat (τὸν σκνῖφα)”

καὶ οὐκ ἠδύναντο – “and they could not.” Walter Brueggemann waxes poetical over this in The Prophetic Imagination : “The Egyptian empire could not! The gods of Egypt could not! The scientists of the regime could not! The imperial religion was dead! The politics of oppression had failed! That is the ultimate criticism, that the assured and alleged power of the dominant culture is now shown to be fraudulent. Criticism is not carping and denouncing. It is asserting that false claims to authority and power cannot keep their promises, which they could not in the face of the free God. It is only a matter of time until they are dead on the seashore.”

8:17 – The next threat is κυνόμυιαν, “the dog-fly,” a larger and more fearsome sequel to the gnats. This word is used as an insult by Ares when he is attempts to attack Athena in Iliad 21.394.

8:18 – καὶ παραδοξάσω…τὴν γῆν Γεσεμ, “and I will marvelously glorify the land of Goshen…” This is an outright mistranslation by the LXX translators. In choosing παραδοξάζω, they have misunderstood the Hebrew וְהִפְלֵיתִי as though it came from פלא, “to do something wonderful” rather than from פלה, “to make a difference between.”

That this is the correct understanding of וְהִפְלֵיתִי is proven by the parallelism with which 8:19 begins: καὶ δώσω διαστολὴν ἀνὰ μέσον τοῦ ἐμοῦ λαοῦ καὶ ἀνὰ μέσον τοῦ σοῦ λαοῦ – “and I will put a difference (sundering, distinction) between my people and yours”

8:22 – In answer to Pharaoh’s suggestion that Israel should sacrifice to YHWH in Egypt, Moses replies that “It is impossible for it to be so. For we will sacrifice τὰ βδελύγματα τῶν Αἰγυπτίων to the Lord our God.” The immediately following verse makes clear that this means “things abominable to the Egyptians,” i.e. that it is a subjective genitive, denoting things that the Egyptians abhor, not things belonging to Egypt that the Lord abhors. We should remember Gen. 46:34, where “every shepherd of livestock is a βδελύγμα to the Egyptians.”

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