Posted by: mattcolvin | May 1, 2021

Notes on LXX Exodus 9: Exceedingly Great Death


Hailstones from England in August, 2019. (From The Times, thetimes.co.uk)

Exodus 9

9:3 – ἐν τοῖς κτήνεσίν σου…ἐν τοῖς ἵπποις καὶ ἐν τοῖς ὑποζυγίοις καὶ ταῖς καμήλοις καὶ βουσὶν καὶ προβάτοις – Moses enumerates the livestock of Egypt in a polysyndetic list for emphasis. We are reminded of Apollo shooting his plague-arrows in Iliad 1.50: οὐρῆας μὲν πρῶτον ἐπῴχετο καὶ κύνας ἀργούς, “he went for the mules first and the lazy dogs”—before turning his weapons on the men themselves.

The threatened plague is called θάνατος μέγας σφόδρα, “exceedingly great death.”

9:4 – καὶ παραδοξάσω…ἀνὰ μέσον τῶν κτηνῶν τῶν Αἰγυπτίων καὶ ἀνὰ μέσον τῶν κτηνῶν τῶν υἱῶν Ισραηλ – On παραδοξάσω as a mistranslation of Heb. וְהִפְלֵיתִי, “I will make a distinction between”, see my comments on 8:18 here.

It is remarkable that even LSJ lists “make a distinction between” as a meaning for παραδοξάζω (with only Ex. 9:4 and 8:22 as authorities), because that is the meaning of פלה, even though the LXX has misconstrued it as though it were פלא, “to do something wonderful.” Note that the LXX has followed it with ἀνὰ μέσον…καὶ ἀνὰ μέσον, which is not Greek idiom for “between X and Y,” but is a literalism for the Hebrew בֵּ֚ין… וּבֵ֖ין construction.

οὐ τελευτήσει ἀπὸ πάντων τῶν τοῦ Ισραηλ υἱῶν ῥητόν – literally, “there shall not perish a word from all the possessions of the sons of Israel,” using ῥητόν, which is a literalism for the Hebrew דָּבָֽר, which unlike the Greek, can have the sense of “a thing” as well as “a word.” (Also in the next verse, 9:5.)

9:5 – καὶ ἔδωκεν ὁ θεὸς ὅρον – lit. “and God gave a boundary,” but here ὅρος is used in a temporal sense, so “a deadline.”

9:7 – After the deaths of “all the livestock of the Egyptians,” Pharaoh sees that “there did not die anything from all the livestock of the sons of Israel.” This very contrast is what causes Pharoah to become stubborn again: ἐβαρύνθη ἡ καρδία Φαραω, “Pharaoh’s heart was made heavy.”

9:8 – The soot of a furnace (αἰθάλης καμιναίας) which Moses is to scatter (πασάτω) to the sky will become a κονιορτός, “dust-cloud” or perhaps “dust-storm,” though the word is used in the NT for “dust” such as is shaken off one’s feet or thrown into the air in anger (Acts 13:51, 22:23, Lk 9:5, 10:11, Mt 10:14). This in turn will produce ulcers (ἕλκη, used also of the ulcers produced by the plague of Athens in Thucydides 2:49) and boils (φλυκτίδες), which are described rather graphically as “bubbling up” (ἀναζέουσαι).

9:13 – God commands Moses, ὄρθρισον τὸ πρωί, “rise up early in the morning.”

9:14 – Moses is told to threaten Pharaoh and his people with πάντα τὰ συναντήματά μου, “all my visitations,” a rendering of the Hebrew מַגֵּפֹתַי֙, “my plagues.”

9:16 – The LXX confirms a conjecture of A.S. Yahuda (The Language of the Pentateuch in its Relation to Egyptian, 11) concerning הֶעֱמַדְתִּ֔יךָ, “I have caused you to stand” from ‘amadh, “to cause to stand.” Most English versions follow the KJV in rendering it as “I have raised thee up.” But Yahuda points out that it is a rendering of the Egyptian ‘ch’.w , meaning “lifetime, term of life, period of time,” so that a prayer of Rameses III for his son asks Amon-Re to “make his lifetime (‘ch’.w-f = “his standing”) on earth as enduring as the polar star.” Accordingly, he argues that הֶעֱמַדְתִּ֔יךָ should be rendered, “I have let you live” or “I have preserved your life.” The LXX confirms this interpretation by its unusual choice of διετηρήθης: “you have been kept/preserved.” In other words, if God were not designing to get glory from Pharaoh’s further humiliations, he would have killed him already.

9:17 – “you still lay claim to (ἐμποιῇ, middle) my people, to not send them out.” The KJV punctuates this as a question: “As yet exaltest thou thyself against my people, that thou wilt not let them go?” Sarna comments on מִסְתֹּולֵ֣ל, the verb which the LXX renders with ἐμποιῇ and the KJV with “exaltest against”, but which he renders “thwart”: “the meaning of this unique Hebrew phrase is uncertain.”

9:18 – The hail that is threatened is “such as there has not been in Egypt from the day it was founded (ἀφ᾽ ἧς ἡμέρας ἔκτισται) until this day.” Yahuda comments that this phrase is common in Egyptian “to characterize a thing or event as unusual, monstrous, unheard of, from the earliest times within human memory.” The Hebrew למן היום with the infinitive הוסדה reflects, so Yahuda claims, an Egyptian construction (The Language of the Pentateuch, 84).

9:20-21 – As with the death of the firstborn, the fate of each household is decided by its reaction to the announced plague of hail: “he who did not pay heed with his thought to the word of the Lord” is contrasted with “the one fearing the word of the Lord” – with the former leaving his beasts in the field to be killed by hail, and the latter gathering them into buildings for shelter.

9:23 – As soon as Moses stretches out his hand, the Lord makes good on the threatened hail, and indeed outdoes the threat by the addition of fire (τὸ πῦρ) and voices (φωνάς – thunder?). We are perhaps to be reminded of Isaiah 30:30: “And the LORD shall cause his glorious voice to be heard, and shall shew the lighting down of his arm, with the indignation of his anger, and with the flame of a devouring fire, with scattering, and tempest, and hailstones.”

9:24 – The hail is described as “very, very great” (πολλὴ σφόδρα σφόδρα), and again, is extolled by comparison with all the hailstorms that have ever been “in Egypt since there was not a people upon it.” This, explains Yahuda (84), is a reference to the time when Upper and Lower Egypt became united (c. 3100 BC, under Narmer or Menes).

9:27 – After the destruction wrought by the hail, Pharaoh acknowledges himself to be in the wrong. He uses covenant-lawsuit terms: “I have sinned (ἡμάρτηκα) now. The Lord is righteous, and I and my people are impious.” For a similar concession, cf. the self-pronounced verdict of Judah in acknowledging Tamar’s victory (Gen. 38).

9:28 – Having ackonwledged that he is himself in the wrong, and that YHWH is in the right, Pharaoh accordingly asks Moses to pray for him; he cannot pray to YHWH himself.

This repentance is short-lived. Pharaoh renews his hard-hearted (ἐσκληρύνθη ἡ καρδία, 9:35) ways as soon as the rain and hail and thunder had been stopped (πέπαυται 9:34).


Responses

  1. Is Sora’s “Kingdom Songs” book and music still available anywhere? Has she written any more songs for other portions of the Bible?

    • It’s out of print, unfortunately.


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