Posted by: mattcolvin | July 3, 2020

Notes on LXX Genesis 41-42

41:42 – Among the other insignia of office which Pharaoh bestows on Joseph, he gives him his δακτύλιον, “signet-ring.” We may recall the earlier instance of this term: it is among the emblems of personal authority that Judah gives to Tamar-disguised-as-a-prostitute. The loss and bestowal, respectively, of these two rings is thus a physical manifestation of a neat symmetry: while Judah, who engineered Joseph’s sale into slavery, is squandering his reputation and authority by failing to recognize his own daughter-in-law, Joseph is being elevated to the second highest position in Egypt for interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams.

41:49 – The description of how uncountably plentiful was the grain of the seven good years is rendered in the same language as God’s promise to Abraham about his descendants: ὥσει τὴν ἄμμον τῆς θαλάσσης, “like the sand of the sea.”

Bacchiaca, Joseph Receivers His Brothers, 1515 (National Gallery, London).

42:6 – Joseph’s brothers bow down to Joseph with their faces to the ground (προσεκύνησαν αὐτῷ ἐπὶ πρόσωπον ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν). The same locution is used of Jacob attempting to placate Esau when he meets him after leaving Laban. The two situations are quite different in many respects: the ten brothers do not know Joseph’s identity, for one. Yet in both cases, there is a tremendous power imbalance, and a past wrong and cause for enmity; in both cases, the wronged brother will display generosity toward the suppliant sibling(s).

42:9 and 12 – Joseph accuses his brothers of being spies who have come “to spy out the tracks of the land” (τὰ ἴχνη τῆς γῆς). This is an attempt to render the Hebrew עֶרְוַ֥ת הָאָ֖רֶץ, “bare, undefended places of the land” (HALOT, sv. ערוה), with the idea perhaps being that τὰ ἴχνη are places that have been worn bare of vegetation by repeated use.

42:17 – Joseph puts his brothers in prison for three days, the same significant number that the chief baker and butler of Pharaoh were also in prison.

42:18 – “Do this and live–for I fear God” – implying, perhaps, that Joseph is not like his brothers in this respect.

42:22 – It’s a low blow for Reuben to say “I told you so” to his brothers in this situation!

42:23 – The use of a needless interpreter is a masterstroke on Joseph’s part. It disguises his knowledge of his brothers’ language.

42:37 – Reuben, attempting to reassure his father that he will bring Benjamin back safe from Egypt, tells him, “Kill my two sons if I do not bring him back to you.” This has always baffled me: Would losing two grandsons do anything to comfort Jacob for the loss of a second son? But I suppose it is supposed to show just how much skin Reuben has in the game.

42:38 – Jacob becomes melodramatic and lets his morbid imagination run wild: “it will happen that he [Benjamin] will fall sick on the journey you are going on, and you will bring my old age down with sorrow to Hades.”

Posted by: mattcolvin | June 30, 2020

Notes on LXX Genesis 35, 39, and 40

35:4 – “And they gave Jacob their foreign gods (τοὺς θεοὺς τοὺς ἀλλοτρίους) which were in their hands, and the earrings that were in their ears…” The phrase “in their hands” is used with the word “violence” in Jonah 3:8 (“Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands”), where it indicates responsibility for the sin in question.

35:5 – “And Israel rose up from Shechem, and the fear of God came upon the cities round about them, and they did not pursue after the sins of Israel.” So Levi and Simeon’s act of terror against the Shechemites had a helpful effect, better than Jacob had feared (34:30).

(I am skipping over 36-38 because I have recently read them with my WHA Greek class this summer.)

39:1 – Πετεφρης (Potiphar) is called Pharaoh’s ἀρχιμάγειρος, which some lexicons gloss as “chief cook,” but is really “title of a great officer in Oriental courts” (LSJ).

39:5 – Joseph in Potiphar’s household should be read as a variation on the “monarch takes the wife of a patriarch” typescene that we have seen three times already (Pharaoh and Sarah, Abimelech and Sarah, Abimelech and Rebekah). But the typescene is inverted, so that the wife of the authority figure tries, and fails, to take Joseph; and God blesses Potiphar’s household rather than afflicting it.

Orazio Gentileschi,
Joseph Leaving Potiphar’s Wife, 1630 (Windsor Castle). Two things are remarkable about this painting: first, that it was painted by the father of Artemisia Gentileschi, who is famous for her paintings for female vengeance (Judith and Holofernes, Jael and Sisera, etc), all of which she painted out of her own experience as a rape survivor. Second, we may note that this painting must not be depicting the last encounter between Joseph and Mrs. Potiphar, since Joseph is still very much clothed.

Govaert Flinck (Dutch, 1615 – 1660), Joseph in Prison Interpreting the Dreams of Pharaoh’s Baker and Butler

40:8-23 – Joseph as a dream-interpreter invites comparison with other interpreters such as Eteocles, who interprets the pictures on the shields of the seven Argive champions in Aeschylus’ Seven Against Thebes 397-675), or Enkidu, who interprets the dreams of Gilgamesh in in tablet 4 of the Epic of Gilgamesh. In those two instances, the interpreter is not merely a solver of objective puzzles, but is engaged in an agonistic contest to turn the dream or symbol to his own purposes, even using fairly circular arguments (“My friend, the mountain you saw [could not be Humbaba:]/ [we] shall capture Humbaba, [him] we [shall slay]…” IV.30-31). Joseph’s interpretations are different: he seizes upon numbers first: “The three grape-stems are three days”; “the three baskets are three days.” He then proceeds to use wordplay to translate the dream-symbolism into the real world: the word αἴρειν, “to lift up” is used both for the baskets lifted up above the head of the baker, and for Pharaoh removing (ἀφελεῖ) the baker’s head from him.

40:17-19 – This is really remarkable, but I’m not really sure what to make of it: Pharaoh’s chief baker (ἀρχισιτοποιὸς) is the first person in the Bible whose flesh is said to be bread (φάγεται τὰ ὄρνεα τοῦ οὐρανοῦ τὰς σάρκας σου), and who is hanged on a cross (κρεμάσει σε ἐπὶ ξύλου). It stands out more in the LXX because of the use of ξύλον and σάρξ.

Posted by: mattcolvin | June 24, 2020

Notes on LXX Genesis 32-33

Notes on LXX Genesis 32-33

32:11 – The phrase ἀπὸ πάσης δικαιοσύνης καὶ ἀπὸ πάσης ἀληθείας is the LXX’s attempt to render מִכֹּ֤ל הַחֲסָדִים֙ וּמִכָּל־הָ֣אֱמֶ֔ת, which is a fascinating piece of Hebrew idiom. Hesed and emeth are terms for love and faithfulness especially within the context of a covenant.

32:26 – While Jacob is wrestling with the angel, the angel touches τοῦ πλάτους τοῦ μηροῦ αὐτοῦ. This is literally “the breadth of his thigh.” The result is that the affected body part ἐνάρκησεν, “became numb” or “deadened.”

32:29 – ὅτι ἐνίσχυσας μετὰ θεοῦ καὶ μετὰ ἀνθρώπων δυνατός – “because you have striven with God and with men mightily.”

32:30 – ἵνα τί τοῦτο ἐρωτᾷς τὸ ὄνομά μου; – “Why do you ask my name?” This is exactly the same rhetorical question posed by the angel of the Lord who announced the conception of Samson to Manoah and his wife in Judges 13:18.

33:2 – “And he made the two maidservants [Bilhah and Zilpah] and their sons among the first and Leah and her children behind, and Rachel and Joseph last.” Nothing like danger to manifest favouritism. The first are literally last here.

33:4 – “…and fell upon his neck and they both wailed.” Joseph and his brothers will do the same in their reconciliation scene in 45:14-15.

33:9-10 – Esau’s refusal of Jacob’s gifts (ἔστιν μοι πολλά, ἄδελφε· ἔστω σόι τὰ σά – “I have many things, brother; let your things be yours”), and Jacob’s insistence (δέξαι τὰ δῶρα – “receive the gifts”) is reminiscent of Abraham and Ephron’s haggling over the cave of Macpelah (Gen. 23) and the refusal of Abraham to take anything from the king of Sodom (Gen 14).

33:17 – καὶ Ιακωβ ἀπαίρει εἰς Σκηνάς – The LXX renders the place-name Sukkoth as Σκηναί, “tents.” It is odd that neither the MT nor the LXX says what the name of the place was before Jacob named it Sukkoth.

33:19 – “And acquired the portion of the field, where he had pitched his tent, from Hamor the father of Shechem for a hundred lambs (ἑκατὸν ἀμνῶν)…” As with Abraham’s purchase of Macpelah, Jacob’s legal acquisition of land near Shalem from the Shechemites is carefully documented with the price of the sale. The LXX says the price was 100 lambs; the MT has בְּמֵאָ֖ה קְשִׂיטָֽה, “a hundred qesîtahs.” Alter comments that this term is either “are either measures of weight for gold and silver, or units for the barter of livestock.” The LXX opts for the latter.

Posted by: mattcolvin | June 19, 2020

Notes on LXX Genesis 30-31

Notes on LXX Genesis 30

30:2 – Jacob’s reaction to Rachel’s complaint uses an interesting verb: Μὴ ἀντὶ θεοῦ ἐγώ εἰμι, ὅς ἐστέρησἐν σε καρπὸν κοιλίας; – “Am I in the place of God, who has deprived you of the fruit of your womb?” Obviously, in this instance, he is speaking of divinely ordained sterility or infertility. But the verb is also used in 1 Cor. 7:5’s instructions to married couples: μὴ ἀποστερεῖτε ἀλλήλους, εἰ μή τι ἂν ἐκ συμφώνου πρὸς καιρὸν – “Do not deprive each other, except perhaps temporarily and by mutual agreement.” In that instance, Paul has in mind not divinely ordained infertility, but humanly inflicted infertility. The temporal qualifier πρὸς καιρὸν, “for a time” shows that Paul does not believe all marital congress must be open to fertility, but at the same time, he knows nothing of deliberately childless marriages.

30:3 – καὶ τέξεται έπὶ τῶν γονάτων μου, καὶ τεκνοποιήσομαι κἀγὼ ἐξ αὐτῆς – “And she will bear [children] upon my knees, and I will procreate from her.” This is technical language expressing a surrogacy relationship. A similar arrangement is seen at the end of the book of Ruth, where Obed counts as Naomi’s son (4:16).

30:39 – In the description of Jacob’s method of breeding spotted sheep and goats despite Laban’s removal of all the spotted animals from the herd in Jacob’s care, the LXX uses a hapax legomenon, ἐγκισσήσωσιν. This is from κισσάω, and appears to mean “to conceive.” The method is utterly baffling to most scholars. I incline to Scott Noegel’s explanation.

31:2 – “And Jacob saw the face of Laban, and behold, it was not towards him as it was yesterday and the third day (ὡς ἐχθὲς καὶ τρίτην ἡμέραν).” This is an odd Hebrew idiom (כִּתְמֹ֥ול שִׁלְשֹֽׁום), which the LXX has preserved by literal translation. Most English versions say merely “as in time past.”

31:7 – ὁ δὲ πατὴρ ὑμῶν παρεκρούσατό με – “But your father cheated me” – A delicious irony, coming from the mouth of Jacob, the arch-trickster, and not one chapter after he has won his tricksters’ duel against Laban.

“…and changed my wages of ten lambs (τῶν δέκα ἀμνῶν)” – The Hebrew has עֲשֶׂ֣רֶת מֹנִ֑ים, using a fairly rare word meaning “times” or “occasions.” The LXX has misunderstood it as meaning “lambs.”

31:14-15 – “There isn’t any portion or inheritance in our father’s house for us, is there? Has he not counted us as though were foreigners to him? (οὐχ ὡς αἱ ἀλλότριαι λελογίσμεθα αὐτῷ;) He has sold us and has devoured our money.” The daughters of Laban are faced with a choice between allegiance to their husband and allegiance to their father. The choice is easy for them.

31:19 – As Jacob prepares to depart from Haran, we are told that “Laban went off to shear his sheep.” Sheep-shearing is a merry time, and a frequent occasion for men to get fleeced in the Bible. (Cf. Gen. 38)

31:22 – τῇ τρίτῇ ἡμέρᾳ – Jacob has a 3 day head start, and Laban catches up with him 7 days after that. David Daube argues that the number of days is legally significant, as fixing the “statute of limitations” or the deadline within which the host may catch up with a guest suspected of theft (the technical term is vestigii minatio, the “hounding of the footprint”) may demand that his former guest submit to an audit of his goods. This, then, accounts for why Laban is able to go through Jacob’s baggage looking for his stolen gods.

31:26 – “and you have led away my daughters like captives by the sword” – Hardly. Rachel and Leah have chosen to go with Jacob very willingly.

31:27 – “And if you have told me, I would have sent you off with rejoicing and music and drums and stringed instruments.” Both these verses are highly comical. Laban’s protestations of love and affection and generosity are blatantly belied by the words of his daughters and the general pattern of his behaviour. But it is true that he kisses his offspring and blesses them in the end (32:1).

31:32 – “with whomever you find your gods, let him not live” – Jacob words his curse carefully, so that it is hard to say whether it fails to fall on anyone (since Laban does not, in fact, find his gods with anyone), or whether it does come home to Rachel later when she dies giving birth to Benjamin.

Posted by: mattcolvin | June 17, 2020

Notes on LXX Genesis 28-29

Genesis 28 LXX

28:18 – καὶ ἔστησεν [τὸν λίθον] στήλην καὶ ἐπέχεεν ἔλαιον ἐπὶ τὸ ἄκρον αὐτῆς. – Note that the Greek word is not pillar (στῦλος), but upright slab (στήλη), which is true to the Hebrew מַצֵּבָ֑ה, from the root (ntsb) meaning “to set upright.” It is not clear to me why Jacob anoints the top of his stone at Bethel with oil. Jacob will do the same thing again in 35:14 when he returns to Bethel from Haran. N. Sarna comments that it may be an ANE covenant-making or contractual ritual between a person and a god.

28:19 – καὶ Ουλαμλους ἦν ὄνομα τῇ πόλει τὸ πρότερον. The LXX has misconstrued the Hebrew וְאוּלָ֛ם (“but indeed” or “howbeit” or some other strong adversative conjunction) in the phrase וְאוּלָ֛ם ל֥וּז שֵׁם־הָעִ֖יר, and has made it part of the name. The name of the place was not Ουλαμλους, but Luz (= Λους, if the LXX had construed properly).

28:21 – καὶ ἔσται μοι κύριος εἰς θεόν – “And the Lord will be [for a] god to me,” with purposive εἰς indicating the role that YHWH is to take on relative to Jacob.

28:22 – Jacob appears to have spontaneously undertaken to tithe to YHWH, without YHWH commanding him to do so. Since tithing has already been seen in the case of Abraham and Melchizedek (Gen. 14), and since it is an ANE custom with good antecedents in Babylonian sources (Wikipedia cites the term ešretū from the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary, which gives various instances of people giving tithes to ANE gods via their priests), we need not wonder how he came up with the idea. Still, it is a puzzle: who will receive this tithe for YHWH? There aren’t any priests yet.

29:10 – I was a little surprised to see that this sentence places “Laban’s daughter Rachel” and “Laban’s flocks” in parallel, as though both were equally object of Jacob’s gaze and desire. And indeed, it will prove to be so in the story: having served 7 years for Leah and 7 for Rachel, he serves another 6 years for the livestock (Gen. 31:41).

29:14-15 – David Daube points out that Laban’s initial welcome of Jacob in 29:14 is as generous as could be hoped for: “You are of my bones (ἐκ τῶν ὀστῶν μου) and of my flesh (ἐκ τῆς σαρκός μου)” – i.e. a recognition of Jacob as a member of the family. The immediately following verse has been misunderstood by most English versions and by the LXX as further generosity; it is actually the reverse of that. Laban’s question is הֲכִי־אָחִ֣י אַ֔תָּה has been taken as though כִי meant “because,” and as though the interrogative הֲ were not present: “Because you are my brother, you will not serve me gratis.” In reality, the entire combination הֲכִי simply serves to introduce a pointed question: “Are you my brother, and should you serve me gratis?” Implication: “You are not actually my brother, and you should be demoted from having been welcomed as a family member, and made like a hired hand instead.” See this post with explanation from David Daube.

29:23 – καὶ ἐγένετο ἑσπέρα, καὶ λαβών Λαβαν Λειαν… – A nice piece of alliteration.

καὶ εἰσῆλθεν πρὸς αὐτὴν Ιάκωβ – This is as frank and explicit a statement as the Hebrew language has. The Pottery Barn rule applies.

29:29 – Βαλλαν τὴν παιδίσκην – Bilhah. Another weird LXX transliteration.

Posted by: mattcolvin | June 15, 2020

Notes on LXX Genesis 27

Genesis 27 LXX

The chapter concerns Jacob’s theft of Esau’s blessing. Here is Rembrandt’s painting of it, with the sagacious Rebekah looking on as Jacob perpetrates the deception that she has planned with him. It is interesting to see how much of it is her devising, and how much is Jacob’s.

27:20-21 παρέδωκεν κύριος θεός σου ναντίον μου – “the Lord your God provided it before me.” This is Jacob’s answer to Isaac’s puzzled question about how he has come so soon with game Isaac had requested of Esau. It is truly an inspired lie by Jacob, since he knows, no doubt, that his father was himself spared at the Aqedah by God’s provision of a ram caught in a thicket. It is almost a direct refutation of Jacob’s question about how he was able to find the game so fast: “You doubt me? Don’t you remember that God can provide?” Notice the use of the second person σου: “the Lord your God…”

27:21 – Isaac demands that Jacob come near “and I will handle you” (ψηλαφίσω σε), using the same verb as 1 John 1:1: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled (αἱ χεῖρες ἡμῶν ἐψηλάφησαν), of the Word of life.”

27:33 – καὶ εὐλογημένος ἔστω – An odd translation choice. We would have expected a future indicative (“I have blessed him and he shall be blessed”), not a third person imperative (“…and let him be blessed”). The Hebrew uses a mere imperfect: גַּם־בָּר֖וּךְ יִהְיֶֽה.

27:36 – ἐπτέρνικεν γάρ με – A clever pun. “He has tripped me by the heel” – the very body part of Esau that Jacob was grasping when the two of them were born. This is lost in the English (“Is not he rightly named Jacob? for he hath supplanted me these two times”), but it is present in the Hebrew: …הֲכִי֩ קָרָ֨א שְׁמֹ֜ו יַעֲקֹ֗ב וַֽיַּעְקְבֵ֨נִי֙ זֶ֣ה פַעֲמַ֔יִם

27:43-44 – “…run away to the land of Mesopotamia to Laban my brother, to Haran, and stay with him a few days (ἡμέρας τινὰς)…” In light of the sequel (Jacob will stay with Laban for 20 years), Rebekah’s confident optimism is comical.

27:46 – “I am weary of my life because of the daughters of the sons of Heth (sc. Esau’s wives). If Jacob takes a wife from the daughters of this land, why should I live?” Sexual/marital apostasy by children is a tremendous grief to parents, even to those who do not express their grief to their apostate children.

Posted by: mattcolvin | June 15, 2020

Notes on LXX Genesis 24-26

Genesis 24-26 LXX

24:4 – Abraham tells his servant not to take a wife for Isaac from the daughters of the Canaanites, but to go “to my land, and to my clan” (εἰς τὴν γῆν μου…καὶ εἰς τὴν φυλὴν μου). I guess the man who married his half-sister had no problem with endogamy.

24:8 – If the woman is unwilling to come with Abraham’s servant, he shall be “pure from this oath” (καθαρὸς ἔσῃ ἀπὸ τοῦ ὅρκου τούτου). This choice of words raises interesting questions about the workings of oaths, and how men are defiled by breaking them.

24:10 – The prominent mention of the camels here serves to introduce them as a motif that recurs several times in this passage. They will prove to be the test by which Rebekah is revealed to be the God-appointed wife for Isaac; they will also serve to transport her back to Abraham’s household.

In my teaching of Art History, I cover the Vienna Genesis, a 6th century Syrian manuscript that visually captures the prominence of the camels in the story with its diachronic narrative illuminations:

24:31 – The words εὐλογητὸς κύριος appear here as a sentence unto themselves. The MT has בְּר֣וּךְ יְהוָ֑ה, “blessed of the Lord,” serving as a vocative (direct address) of Abraham’s servant. But the LXX make it nominative, as though it were “Blessed is the Lord.”

24:55 – The request for Rebekah to remain for ten days is reminiscent of Laban’s delaying ways that he will manifest in the matter of Rachel and Leah as well.

24:62 – Isaac was going down to Beer-Lahai-Roi. This name the LXX renders as τὸ φρέαρ τῆς ὁράσεως, “the well of vision.”

25:22 – ἐσκιρτῶν – as has been pointed out by Tim Gallant, this verb appears rarely in the Bible, making its recurrence in the story of Jesus and John the Baptist in utero a striking invitation to compare that story with this one.

25:26 – πτερνη, heel, has resonances from Gen 3 and will also connect to Psalms and Judas.

26:8 – Abimelech sees Isaac “sporting with” (παίζοντα μετὰ) Rebekah, which is the same expression used for what Ishmael was doing with Isaac (παίζοντα μετὰ Iσαακ, 21:9). We may wonder, though the thought is horrid, whether this is a euphemism for some activity that a man might do with his wife, but which, if an older half-brother did it to a younger, would earn the wrath of the latter’s mother.

26:11 – Abimelech tells Isaac that “someone of my nation” – I wonder who! – “would have lain with your wife, and you would have brought ἄγνοιαν upon us.” Here ἄγνοιαν does not mean merely “ignorance,” but “sin committed in ignorance.”

26:12 – Isaac’s crop of wheat is described as ἑκατοστεύουσαν, “multiplying a hundredfold.” I wonder if this is in the background of Jesus’ parable of the soils, with its “thirty, sixty, a hundredfold” multiplication of the successful seed (Mt. 13:8, Lk. 8:8).

26:17 – Abimelech’s command to Isaac, “Depart from us, for you have become much mightier than we,” is reminiscent of the words of the “Pharaoh who did not know Joseph” in Exodus 1:9: “Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we.” The Greek words are different (δυνατώτερος, Gen. 26:17; ἰσχύει ὑπὲρ ἡμᾶς, Ex. 1:9), but similar enough in meaning that we ought to see an echo.

26:20 – καὶ ἐμαχέσαντο οἱ ποιμένες Γεραρων μετὰ τῶν ποιμένων Ισαακ – The quarrel between Isaac’s herdsmen and those of Gerar is similar to the falling out between the herdsmen of Lot and Abraham (Gen. 13:7).

26:32 – “And the servants of Isaac reported to him concerning the well, which they had dug, and they said, ‘We have not found water.’ (οὐκ εὕρομεν ὕδωρ).” This is contrary to the Masoretic Text, which has, “We have found water” (מָצָ֥אנוּ מָֽיִם). It is just possible that the LXX translator misread (or misheard?) the word before this phrase, וַיֹּ֥אמְרוּ לֹ֖ו, “he said to him” since the pronominally suffixed preposition לֹ֖ו, “to him” would sound the same as the negative לא, “not.” The plot of the story changes significantly depending on which reading is correct: the LXX’s reading makes the well’s water a temporary provision from God until Isaac could conclude peace with Abimelech, which may perhaps be an echo of the later provision of water from the rock during the wilderness wanderings of the Israelites under Moses (Ex. 17).

Posted by: mattcolvin | June 11, 2020

Notes on LXX Genesis 20-23

Genesis 20-23

20:3 – God tells Abimelech that Sarah is συνῳκηκυῖα ἀνδρί, “having been appropriated by a husband.”

20:11 – Abraham, when asked by Abimelech why he did this, replies, “ἄρα οὐκ ἔστιν θεοσέβεια ἐν τῷ τόπῳ τούτῳ” – “there is no fear of God in this place.” It seems an oddly offensive charge, and not really true, since Abimelech obeyed God.

20:12 – Abraham follows this up with the most shocking quibble: “Besides, she really is my sister from the same father, though not from the same mother.” It would be interesting to know what the law in Ur was about this sort of consanguinity.

20:13 – Abraham told Sarah “this is the righteousness (δικαιοσύνην) which you shall do for me.” A bizarre notion: that a woman’s righteousness might consist in lying about whether she is married.

20:16 – Abimelech gives Sarah money and tells her that it is the τιμην του προσωπου σου – literally, the price of your face, but idiomatically, the sign of your innocence.

21:14 – Abraham ἐπέθηκεν ἐπὶ τὸν ὦμον καὶ τὸ παιδίον – which looks like it means
“placed on her shoulder also the child,” as though Abraham had put 16-year-old Ishmael on Hagar’s shoulders, piggyback-style! The JPS commentary by Nahum Sarna notes the same impression given by the MT, while assuring us that this cannot have been what is meant. It makes me wonder if there was some ritual significance, perhaps manumission.

τὸ φρέαρ τοῦ ὅρκου – the LXX’s literal rendering of Beersheba (“well of oath” or “well of seven”; the LXX picks the former option).

21:16 – μακρόθεν ὡσεὶ τόξου βολήν – “about a bow-shot away” – a significant distance in light of the fact that Ishmael later becomes an archer (ἐγένετο τοξότης, 21:20).

21:21 – Hagar takes a wife for Ishmael from Egypt, because she is herself an Egyptian.

21:22 – The LXX includes an official named Οχοζαθ, whom the MT omits entirely. The LXX calls him Abimelech’s νυμφαγωγός. This word, which the LSJ claims, rather incredibly, should be rendered “friend”, is almost certainly something else, such as a marriage-arranger for the king. It is, etymologically, “one who brings the bride.” It is possible that the MT omits him out of deference to Sarah, whom Abimelech had taken into his harem, possibly by the agency of this “bride-bringer.”

22:4 – εἶδεν τὸν τόπον μακρόθεν – This is Abraham-focalization, intended to work upon us emotionally.

22:5 – Abraham’s instructions to his servants “Sit down (καθίσατε) here with the donkey, and I and the boy will go over there and worship and come back to you” is reminiscent of Jesus’ words to his disciples in Gethsemane, which is, situationally and emotionally, a very similar scene. Mark 14:32 and Matthew 26:36 use the same verb (καθίσατε).

Posted by: mattcolvin | June 8, 2020

Notes on LXX Genesis 18-19

Genesis 18

18:12 – where the MT has Sarah say, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure (הָֽיְתָה־לִּ֣י עֶדְנָ֔ה)?” the LXX is too embarrassed to include this oblique reference to Abraham’s elderly impotence, and replaces it with οὔπω μέν μοι γέγονεν ἕως τοῦ νῦν, ὁ δὲ κύριος μου πρεσβύτερος – “It hasn’t happened for me hitherto, and my lord is old.”

Genesis 19

19:2 – Lot ἐξανέστη εἰς συνάντησιν – “got up to meet them.” The sense of συνάντησις is similar to 1 Th. 4:17’s εἰς ἀπάντησιν τοῦ Κυρίου εἰς ἀέρα. That is, Lot gets up, meets the strangers, and escorts them in a welcoming manner to the place from which he got up.

19:3 – Lot gave the angels ἀζύμους, unleavened bread. Very ironic and appropriate, since he is about to experience an Exodus, and they are angels about to bring death to the land he is presently inhabiting.

19.4 – The men of Sodom, intent on evil, surround Lot’s house, all the men of the city, from young man to elder, απο νεανισκου εως πρεσβυτερου – Possible reverse echo with the accusers of the woman in the pericope adulterae?

19:8 “Only do not do anything unrighteous to these men (ἄνδρας).” Lot uses the specifically male word for men.

19:11 – επαταξαν αορασια – similar to Babel.

19:14-15 – Lot’s nameless sons in law are the immediate audience of his preaching of the coming destruction. They do not heed, and his daughters are thereby widowed. There is something like the story of Ruth here, but badly wrong, as though in a reversing mirror: Lot: Elimelech; Lot’s wife: Naomi; Ruth and Orpah: Lot’s daughters; Mahlon and Qilyon: Lot’s sons-in-law. Lots of interesting comparisons to be had.

19:14 – Lot seemed to his sons in law to γελοιάζειν. Noah had seemed to be mocking too before the flood came.

19:16 – While the English follows with MT with “And while he lingered,…” the LXX has και εταραχθησαν – “the angels were disturbed and seized him by the hand….”

19:17 – σωζου μηποτε συμπαραλημφθης, “save yourself lest you be consumed along with [the city].” The root is λαμβάνω, the verb “to take,” as in “one will be taken and the other left.” No rapture here.

19:21 – Seems to indicate that Zoar would have been destroyed also, had not Lot singled it out as a refuge for himself. Thus, it is spared for his sake.

19:26 – εγενετο στηλη αλος, not “she became a pillar of salt,” but ”she became a stele of salt” – a monument, a tombstone.

19:30 – Lot is afraid to dwell in Zoar. Why? Possibly because it was originally also marked out for destruction.

19:33 – ουκ ηδει εν τω κοιμηθηναι αυτην και αναστηναι – “he did not know in her lying down and rising up” – Lot’s guilt for the incest is thus mitigated, in that he did not have incestuous intent.

19:37 – The LXX includes an etymology for Moab that the MT omits: εκαλεσεν το ονομα αυτου μωαβ λεγουσα εκ του πατρος μου – “she called his name Moab, saying, “from my father.” This, though preserved only in the Greek version, is evidently a genuine Hebrew wordplay: Mo = from, ab = father.

19:38 – Another Hebrew wordplay is given for Ammon’s name: εκαλεσεν το ονομα αυτου αμμαν υιος του γενους μου – “she called his name Ammon, son of my race/nation.” Ironically, the LXX omits any transliteration of the Hebrew of which this is the etymology: ben-Ammi.

Posted by: mattcolvin | June 6, 2020

Notes on LXX Genesis 13-17

I’ve taken up a habit of reading the LXX, two or three chapters per day, with the ulterior motive of catching more Richard Hays-style echoes in the NT. (Hays’ comments on the verb παρέλθειν in Job 9:11 and Exodus 33:17-23, 34:6 and Mark 6:48 impressed upon me the need to have a memory full of phrases and diction from the LXX in order to detect such NT echoes.) I don’t have any grand project in mind for this; this category of my blog will serve simply as a notebook where I will record observations and questions.

Gen 12:12 – Abraham says of Sarah: “They will kill me, but they will save thee alive.” The LXX’s verb περιποιησονται means more than this. The middle of περιποιέω means “to acquire, procure, gain possession of for oneself.” The idea is not that Sarah will simply be spared, but that she will be taken into Pharaoh’s harem.

Gen 13:7 – Why is there a mention of Canaanites and Perizites right after the statement that a quarrel broke out between Abraham’s herdsmen and those of Lot? Is the implication that Abraham and Lot ought to be united against them instead of divided against each other?

Gen 13:8 – the phrase ἄνθρωποι ἀδελφοὶ doesn’t bode well. It will appear again in Acts in contexts where people are not getting along. We may also see a connection with Psalm 133: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity.” This expression, “to dwell together” is a technical legal idea, and it is precisely what Abraham’s and Lot’s herdsmen are unable to do.

Gen 13:10 – Lot “lifted up his eyes” and saw the region of Sodom. An ominous phrase. After the city is destroyed, we will have another distant shot of it, but this time from Abraham’s perspective (Gen. 19:28) when he “beheld, and lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace.”

Gen 14:1 The LXX is somewhat notorious for different, and sometimes bizarre, transliterations of foreign names. Nebuchadnezzar, for instance, becomes Ναβουχοδονοσορ. Similarly, Chedorlaomer is Xοδολλογομορ (Chodollogomor).

Gen 14:21 – The king of Sodom tells Abraham, “δός μοι τοὺς ἄνδρας τὴν δε ἵππον λαβὲ σεαυτῷ.” “Give me the men and take the horse for yourself.” Horse? A bizarre translation choice. The MT has וְהָרְכֻ֖שׁ “the goods.” I note also that the LXX has ἄνδρας, specifically male men, not ἀνθρώπους, persons, which might have been more appropriate as a translation of the Hebrew הַנֶּ֔פֶשׁ, “soul,” “living being.” It is possible that the LXX has in mind the homosexuality of Sodom, in which case the request of the king takes on the sinister appearance of requesting victims for homosexual rape.

Gen 14:23 – Abraham’s oath that he will not take so much as a “cord or a sandal-strap” (εἰ ἀπὸ σπαρτίου ἕως σϕαιρωτῆρος ὑποδήματος) is oddly like John the Baptist’s “the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to “carry” (Mt. 3:11) or “unloose” (Lk 3:16, Mk. 1:7).” Comparison with this verse – which looks like an idiom – might help to clear up the puzzling divergence of verbs in those gospel passages.

16:1-3 – Hagar is first introduced as Sarah’s maidservant; it is in this capacity and with this legal status that Sarah “gave her to her husband to be his wife,” thereby bestowing a new legal status upon her. Hagar’s mistake is in supposing that she has thereby passed out of her mistress’ authority; Abram corrects this by reinstating Hagar under Sarah’s authority: “Behold, thy maid is in thy hand; do to her as it please thee.” These words sound like a legal formula, in which case Hagar really had passed out of Sarah’s manus, and really was put back into it by Abraham’s formula. If so, it is something like a divorce; certainly there is no further report of Abraham sleeping with Hagar hereafter.

16:11 – Ishmael’s birth is foretold by the angel of the Lord according to the usual pattern of annunciation typescenes. What is especially interesting here is that the name “Ishmael” is revealed to Hagar alone, with etymological wordplay (Ishmael < shm’), but this name is actually applied to the child by Abram (16:15).

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