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Saul: The King Who Should Have Never Been (The Kings of Chronicles)

27th February 2011

[Chronicles is another one of my research areas. This post was originally uploaded 10/2009]

King Saul is a tragic figure in the biblical narrative. According to the Deuteronomistic History (his reign is recorded in 1Samuel 9-31), it seems as soon as Saul is chosen by Yahweh as the first king of Israel (and yes, Saul is chosen by Yahweh, not the people; see 1Sam 9:16-17; 10:1-8, 23; 11:6-14; etc.), the monarchy is taken away because of his lack of obedience (see 1Sam 13 and 15). King Saul isn’t even afforded a proper regnal formula in 1Sam 13:1! (While some consider this a mere textual issue to be corrected through text criticism, I wonder if it is purposeful considering the abortive nature of Saul’s reign).

When we turn to the book of Chronicles, Saul’s fate is even worse! All that is left of Saul’s reign is a couple geneological notes (1Chron 8:33; 9:39) and a short chapter detailing his death on Mount Gilboa (1Chron 10:1-14).  Furthermore, while Saul enjoyed some victories and blessing by Yahweh in 1Samuel, in Chronicles his entire reign is written off and his death is understood as the direct intervention of Yahweh (1Chron 10:13-14).

Transition to David: The Death of Saul and His House (1 Chron 10:1-14)

The genealogy of Jerusalem’s inhabitants in chapter nine of 1Chronicles ends with the list of Saul’s descendants. Chapter ten only provides a very brief summary of the demise of Saul and his dynasty, though it seems to presuppose knowledge of other events in the life of Saul. Most significantly, the Chronicler provides his own theological assessment of Saul’s reign in the two verses at the end of the chapter.

Since this chapter is only fourteen verses long, let’s display the text as a whole (with the parallel text from 1Samuel; I have marked significant differences in the Hebrew texts in italics):

1 Chronicles 10:1-14 1 Samuel 31:1-13
(1) Now the Philistines fought against Israel; and the men of Israel fled before the Philistines, and fell slain on Mount Gilboa. (1) Now the Philistines were fighting against Israel; and the men of Israel fled before the Philistines, and fell slain on Mount Gilboa
(2) The Philistines pursued closely (דבק) after Saul and his sons; and the Philistines killed Jonathan and Abinadab and Malchishua, the sons of Saul. (2) The Philistines overtook (דבק) Saul and his sons; and the Philistines killed Jonathan and Abinadab and Malchishua, the sons of Saul.
(3) The battle pressed hard upon Saul; and the archers found him, and he was wounded by the archers. (3) The battle pressed hard on Saul; the archers found him, and he was badly wounded by the archers.
(4) Then Saul said to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it, so that these uncircumcised may not come and make sport of me.” But his armor-bearer was unwilling, for he was terrified. So Saul took his own sword and fell upon it. (4) Then Saul said to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword and thrust me through with it, so that these uncircumcised may not come and thrust me through, and make sport of me.” But his armor-bearer was unwilling; for he was terrified. So Saul took his own sword and fell upon it.
(5) When his armor-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell upon the sword and died. (5) When his armor-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell upon his sword and died with him.
(6) So Saul died; he and his three sons, and all his house, together they died. (6) So Saul died; he and his three sons, and his armor-bearer, also all his men on that day together.
(7) When all the men of Israel who were in the valley saw that they had fled and that Saul and his sons were dead, they abandoned the towns and fled; and the Philistines came and occupied them. (7) When the men of Israel who were on the other side of the valley and those beyond the Jordan saw that the men of Israel had fled and that Saul and his sons were dead, they abandoned their towns and fled; and the Philistines came and occupied them.
(8) The next day when the Philistines came to strip the dead, they found Saul and his sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. (8) The next day when the Philistines came to strip the dead, they found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa.
(9) They stripped him and took his head and his armor, and sent messengers throughout the land of the Philistines to carry the good news to their idols and to the people. (9) They cut off his head, stripped off his armor, and sent messengers throughout the land of the Philistines to carry the good news to the houses of their idols and to the people.
(10) They put his armor in the temple of their gods, and fastened his head in the temple of Dagon. (10) They put his armor in the temple of Astarte; and they fastened his body to the wall of Beth-shan.
(11) But when all Jabesh-gilead heard all what the Philistines had done to Saul, (11) But when the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul,
(12) all the valiant warriors got up and took up the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons, and brought them to Jabesh. Then they buried their bones under the oak in Jabesh, and fasted seven days. (12) all the valiant men got up and traveled all night long, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth-shan. They came to Jabesh and burned them there. (13) Then they took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree in Jabesh, and fasted seven days.
(13) So Saul died for his unfaithfulness; he was unfaithful to Yahweh in that he did not keep the word of Yahweh; moreover, he had consulted a medium, seeking guidance, -
(14) and did not seek guidance from Yahweh. Therefore Yahweh put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse. -

Notes on the Text(s)

As can be seen from the table above, the material of this chapter is derived from 1 Samuel 31, though a number of scholars have argued that it is based on a shorter text than MT Samuel (see especially, Craig Y.S. Ho, “Conjectures and Refutations: Is 1 Samuel xxxi 1-13 Really the Source of 1 Chronicles x 1-12?” VT 45 [1995], 85-106).  While it is clear that the Chronicler’s text of Samuel and Kings is not identical with the MT, without textual evidence it is very difficult to determine where the Chronicler’s Vorlage may have been different. Each case needs to be evaluated on its own merit, and clear indications of the theological tendenz of the Chronicler may help us in this process.

The Chronicler’s account of Saul’s reign is divided into three main sections:

  1. The death of Saul and His House (vv. 1-10). This is largely based on 1Sam 31.
  2. The good works of the people of Jabesh Gilead (vv. 11-12). Again, largely based on 1Sam 31.
  3. Theological commentary on Saul’s reign and death (vv. 13-14). This is unique to the Chronicler; although it assumes knowledge of Saul’s inquiry of a medium in 1Sam 28.

1. The Death of Saul and his House (vv. 1-10)
1 There is no historical context provided for the battle with the Philistines (their only previous mention is found in 1Chr 1:12). The change from a participle (“were fighting” (1Sam 31:1) to a suffix verb form (“fought”) serves to disconnect the narrative from its larger context in 1Samuel. Indeed, in the context of the Chronicler, the “Philistines” may be best understood as representing the “heathen” in general.

2 Saul’s sons are previously mentioned in 1Chr 8:33 and 9:39, where his fourth son, Esh-Baal, is also noted. The abortive two-year reign of Esh-Baal, and his subsequent death, is not mentioned by the Chronicler (see 2 Sam 2:8-4:12).

4 It is interesting to note that Saul’s suicide probably did not have any negative moral connotations in the ancient Near East (see Knoppers), but would have been seen as honourable.

6 The Chroniclers appears to have modified the description of the death of Saul to include “all his house.” How to understand this reference is unclear. Ho argues that the shorter text in 1Chron 10:6 (and the reference to “all his house”) may in fact be a better reading, since 1Sam 14:49-51 presents Saul as only having three sons, and thus his “house” did die that fateful day on Mount Gilboa (Ho 86-87). While Ho may have a point, I tend to side with those scholars who understand the changes in the Chronicler’s text as a theological judgement about the end of Saul’s dynasty, despite the tension it creates with the Saulide genealogies in 1Chron 8:33-40 and 9:39-44.  Either way, it is crystal clear that Saul’s royal dynasty ended on Mount Gilboa for the Chronicler, and there is no further mention of Saul’s descendants in Chronicles (e.g., no mention of David’s dealing with Mephibosheth in 2Sam 9:1-13 or the death of Saul’s descendants in 2Sam 21:1-14).  The verse itself reflects a chiastic structure: Died (a) – Saul (b) – three sons and his whole house (b) – died (a)

9-10 The Chronicler’s lack of interest in Saul’s corpse is interesting (see Ho for a textual solution for the differences between the texts). Saul’s head and armour are sent throughout Philistine territory and end up displayed in their temples. Perhaps there is a parallel with David’s beheading of Goliath (1Sam 17:51) and his depositing of his head in Jerusalem (1Sam 17:54), which could either display the complete defeat of Israel (Williamson), or could be taken as a further polemic against Saul in that he himself is treated in the same manner as David treated the Philistine Goliath. (Ackroyd also suggests that the differences between the accounts should not be pressed as they may only indicate differing traditions surrounding the death of Saul.)

2. The Good Works of the People of Jabesh Gilead (vv. 11-12)
11-12 The kinds acts of the people of Jabesh-Gilead are repeated with minor alteration in Chronicles. The backstory to this verse is found in 1Sam 11, where Saul delivers the people of Jabesh-Gilead from Nahash the Ammonite (In addition, Saul’s descendants include those from Jabesh-Gilead, according to Judges 21).

3. Theological Commentary on Saul’s Reign and Death (vv. 13-14)

The Chronicler provides his own assessment of Saul’s reign and death in which he levels four charges against Saul: he was “unfaithful” (ma’al), he failed to keep “the word of Yahweh,” he sought a medium, and failed to seek Yahweh. Stylistically, the verses are organized in a nice chiasm:

A. Saul died (MT) because of his ma’al
B. He was ma’al and did not keep the word of Yahweh
B.’ He sought (drsh) a Medium (1 Sam 28) but did not seek (drsh) Yahweh
A.’ Saul was killed (MT) by Yahweh

He died because of his unfaithfulness (ma’al), which is one of the Chronicler’s favourite terms (see 2:7, etc.). Not keeping “the word of Yahweh” is likely a specific allusion to 1 Sam 13 and 16.  The Chronicler makes it clear that Saul died because of his unfaithfulness and that Yahweh turned His kingdom over to David.

The Purpose of the Chronicler’s Accout of Saul

As a whole, this chapter in Chronicles functions as a transition from the global focus of the genealogical section of Chronicles to the narrative account of the history the monarchy of Israel. The transition is made by a brief account of Saul’s reign; an account that focuses solely on his death and the end of his dynasty. This account in Chronicles is remarkable for its brevity; there is no mention of the events of Saul’s reign or the stories of his remaining heirs – only his death is important for the Chronicler, since it provides the bridge to the reign of the house of David. In this way, the account of the death of Israel’s first king, serves to place David in Israel’s history. “David is not a beginning ex nihilo but rather represents the continuation of a preexisting monarchy” (Trotter 300).

Furthermore, as Zalewski demonstrates, the account exonerates David from any complicity in Saul’s death and clearly establishes Yahweh as the one who removes Saul from the throne and gives it to David (1 Chron 10:14). Moreover, it is not only Saul’s reign that is cut short by Yahweh; Saul and “his entire house” (1Chron 10:6) died that fateful day on Mount Gilboa (see discussion below). David did not usurp Saul’s throne or end his dynasty; God himself orchestrated David’s rise to power. Significantly, this is the only place in the Chronicler’s history that Yahweh directly intervenes and deposes on monarch and replaces him with another (De Vries 119).

Rather than serving merely as a transition or foil to the reign of David, a number of scholars also see the reign of Saul as paradigmatic of the exilic situation (Ackroyd 3-9; Williamson 92-93; relying on Mosis).  Mosis, for instance, sees “Saul as the embodiment of many of the key flaws that brought disaster on Israel, and indeed he embodies the disaster himself” (Trotter 302). This understanding is reinforced by the typically Chronistic ways Saul’s death is described: he died for his unfaithfulness (מעל; ma’al) and did not seek (דרש; darash) Yahweh. This understanding of Saul’s reign as typifying judgment and exile is then complemented, in Mosis’s scheme, by David’s reign as a preparation for Solomon’s idealized reign standing for Israel’s eschatological future. While Saul’s reign may or may not be a prototype of the exile (I am not convinced by Mosis), he does serve as a warning to the unfaithful who do not seek Yahweh.

Select Bibliography

Simon John De Vries, 1 and 2 Chronicles (FOTL 11; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989); Raymond B. Dillard, 2 Chronicles (WBC 15; Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1987); Gary Knoppers, I Chronicles 10-29 (AB; Doubleday, 2004);  Craig Y. S. Ho, “Conjectures and Refutations: Is 1 Samuel Xxxi 1-13 Really the Source of 1 Chronicles X 1-12?” VT 45 (1995): 82-106; Sara Japhet, I & II Chronicles: A Commentary (OTL; Louisville, Ky.: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993); Ralph W. Klein, 1 Chronicles (Hermeneia; Fortress, 2006);  Martin J. Selman, 2 Chronicles: A Commentary (TOTC; Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1994); James M. Trotter, “Reading, Readers and Reading Readers Reading the Account of Saul’s Death in 1 Chronicles 10,” in Chronicler as Author (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999), 294-310; H. G. M. Williamson, 1 and 2 Chronicles (NCBC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982); Saul Zalewski, “The Purpose of the Story of the Death of Saul in 1 Chronicles 10,” VT 39 (1989): 449-67.


Posted in 1Chronicles, Chronicles, Series, The Kings of Chronicles | 1 Comment »

Jesus Junk and Christian Kitsch, Volume 4 – What is Kitsch? (Best of Codex)

25th February 2011

[I have an abiding interest in kitsch and this post provides some theoretical background into kitsch. Originally posted 20th October 2005]

I’ve been asked by some readers “What is ‘Kitsch’?” In this post I will attempt to define it, or more accurately, I will show some ways that it has been used in the discussion of religion & popular culture. I should say at the onset that much of my thoughts on kitsch have been formed in part by the following books:

McDannell’s work is perhaps the classic work on the material culture of different religions from an outsider religious studies perspective, while Brown’s monograph focuses more on the aesthetics of taste. I have not had a chance to examine Spackerman’s work yet, though it looks intriguing. Miller’s absolutely excellent work is an analysis of the effect of advanced capitalism on religion, especially on the effects of the commodification of religion in our culture.

While I am primarily interested in “Christian” kitsch, all religions have their own material culture, and consequently their own kitsch. There are many examples of “Judaikitsch,” Islamic kitsch, and kitsch from eastern religions. Thus you can buy Mitsvah Bears, Krishnah action figures (as well as Shiva and Buddah), or “I Love Allah” rulers.

nonChristian_kitsch

What is “Kitsch”?

The term “kitsch” gained popularly by the 1930s when it was used to describe poor art. While the etymology of the word is unclear, many suggest the term was coined by German painters during the mid-1800s to deride the cheap “tourist art” bought in Munich (Kitschen with the sense “to make cheap”). Thus, the term “kitsch” is used by many to denote trivial literature, low quality materials, sentimental arts, or vulgar merchandise. Beyond this, McDannell finds that there are three distinct ways or approaches that scholars, artists, and cultural critics use the term “kitsch”: cultural, aesthetic, and ethical.

A Cultural Approach
Sociologists, anthropologists, and cultural studies specialists note that for many the term “kitsch” is pejorative and reflects a cultural bias. In contrast to this understanding of the term, proponents of this perspective understand kitsch as a reflection of educational and economic levels, among other things. Thus Bourdieu notes, “art and cultural consumption are predisposed, consciously and deliberately or not, to fulfill a social function of legitimating social differences.” One person’s art will be another person’s kitsch.

GodBlessPlaque

Every social group has its own artistic expression that include a system of aesthetics with its own internal logic and we should not judge one group’s material culture by the standard’s of another.

An Aesthetic Response
Artists and cultural critics are not as forgiving as social scientists, and some tend to see kitsch as mass produced and inferior art, a cheap imitation of good art.

Last_supper_lunchbox2This approach places kitsch as a subset of art — it tries to be art, but it ultimately fails. Some proponents of ths approach understand this low quality art as an attempt to identify with the “real art” of the upper classes. Thus, kitsch required the existence of a mature cultural tradition from which inferior copies could be made (Greenberg). Of course, this approach begs the question of who gets to decide what is real art and what is not!

An Ethical Response: Kitsch as Anti-art
PreciousMomentsA final approach to kitsch understands it as containing a negative moral dimension. It holds that art should reflect the true, the good, and the beautiful — and kitsch does not. “Art, then, is, in its own way — no less than theology — a revelation of the Divine” (Lindsay). If this is the case, then kitsch is “the element of evil in the value system of art” (Broch). For example, the ability of kitsch to “sentimentalize the infinite” has ethical connotations as it reduces something meaningful to a bauble and divorces it from its original meaning-providing context. I can’t help but think of all of the “Precious Moments” figurines that elicit an “aww… isn’t that cute” response.

Kitsch and Commodification

The rise of Christian retailing in the 19th and 20th centuries added a new dimension to the whole kitsch debate. While “Jesus junk” has its origins in the 1800s, it exploded with the development of advanced capitalism in the late 1900s. In the 1990s the sales of Christian products exceeded 3 billion annually — and that’s just in the United States! Advanced capitalism, with its outsourcing, niche marketing, and new marketing and advertising techniques has clearly demonstrated that anything — absolutely anything — can become a commodity. This results in the reduction of beliefs, symbols, and religious practices into “free-floating signifiers” to be consumed like anything else. The result is the proliferation of what some would consider “kitsch.”

Final Thoughts

I have sympathies for all of the approaches to kitsch noted above. The more neutral social-scientific study of kitsch is crucial for understanding the material culture of different groups within Christianity. This I believe has to be the first step in any analysis of kitsch. In regards to the aesthetic approach, I think it is very difficult to maintain a rigid dualism between good art and kitsch — especially in the light of blurred distinctions between camp, pop art, hyper-realism, and even kitsch art.

But when I put on the hat of a theologian and take an “insider” perspective, I find it difficult to maintain neutrality. But rather than take an ethical stance based on some idea of aesthetics, I would base my ethical repsonse based on the affect of advanced capitalism on Christianity. In this sense, I am more concerned with the commodification that much of Christian kitsch represents, than with any evaluation of its artistic merit. I can’t help but think that much of what I would consider “kitsch” devalues and cheapens Christianity (or Judaism, Islam, Hinudism, or any religion) by taking it out of its faith context and reducing it to a product to be consumed like anything else. But then again, I could be wrong!


Posted in Best of Codex, Jesus Junk & Christian Kitsch, Popular Culture | 1 Comment »

The Septuagint and Textual Criticism: Retroverting the Text

23rd February 2011

[One of my main areas of research is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, the Septuagint. This post talks about how the Greek text can be used to help us understand the Hebrew original. It was originally published 08/2009]

In this post I am laying a foundation for my next installment in my series on Psalm 151 in the Biblical Tradition, by discussing how to retrovert a text from one language into another. This is most commonly done when using the Septuagint in the textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. Thus, in order to employ the LXX in textual criticism one must retrovert the Greek text back into Hebrew (for more information on the Septuagint and textual criticism in general see my series of posts on Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible). In many cases retroverting a text is easier said than done.

Here are some tips for retroverting a text:

Focus on the translation technique of the individual book in question. The LXX is not a uniform translation. Various translators at different times, with varying philosophies of translation and different language capability, translated different portions of the Hebrew Bible to make up the LXX. For example, the translation of the Torah is a good formal translation, the translation of the Psalter is very formal, while the translations of Proverbs and Isaiah are less so. Thus one cannot assume that the way one translator rendered a particular Hebrew word or construction will be the same fora translator of a different book. Each individual book of the LXX has its own idiosyncrasies to its translation; thus a careful examination of its translation technique is necessary before one can retrovert the text with any confidence.

Examine the different ways a translator renders a particular word. In order to figure out what Hebrew word may be behind a particular Greek word in a passage, you need to look up every instance of the Greek word in question within the biblical book and note what Hebrew word was being rendered. There are a number of useful resources that will help you with this task. If you have a Bible software package with the original language modules, then you can do a Greek lemma search and see what Hebrew was being translated. Even more ideal is if you have Emauel Tov’s The Parallel Aligned Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Texts of Jewish Scripture module where you can see the equivalent elements of the MT and the LXX (as reconstructed by the editor). For more on the different software programs available for Biblical Studies, see my Bible Software pages. If you do not have a Bible software package, then you can manually look up how a word is with Takamitsu Muraoka’s Hebrew/Aramaic Index to the Septuagint: Keyed to the Hatch-Redpath Concordance (Baker Academic, 1998; Buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com) which also comes included in Edwin Hatch, Henry A. Redpath, A Concordance to the Septuagint: And the other Greek Versions of the Old Testament – Including the Apocryphal Books (Second edition, two volumes in one; Includes Muraoka, “Hebrew/Aramaic Index”; Baker Academic, 1998; Buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com).

Identify a pattern. If a clear pattern emerges, propose a retroversion. When you examine the different ways an individual book tends to translate a word into Greek, and if there is a clear default rendering, then you can be fairly confident in proposing the retroversion. While you can never be 100% certain with any retroversion, some will be more certain than others.  If a clear pattern doesn’t emerge, or if the words in question do not occur frequently enough in the book under study, then you will need to broaden your investigation to see how the word is rendered elsewhere in the LXX. While this will not produce as clear of results as the previous situation, you can still produce a workable retroversion.

With these principles in mind, the Septuagint may be employed quite fruitfully in the textual criticism of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible. Of course, retroversion may also be used with texts of other languages, and even in ascertaining the relationship between Hebrew Dead Sea  Scroll texts and the Septuagint (as I will seek to do in my next post on Psalm 151).


Posted in Dead Sea Scrolls, Psalm 151 in the Biblical Tradition, Septuagint, Text Criticism, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible | 2 Comments »

Merry Kitschmas – Meat Nativities

17th December 2010

I haven’t posted anything on kitsch lately (that’s the understatement of the year!), but when I saw these tasty nativity scenes I just had to post them. Perhaps they were inspired by Lady Gaga’s meat dress. Who knows?!

This one looks tasty:

Sausage Nativity

This one, on the other hand, would need a lot of mustard:

Bologna Nativity

(HT pharyngula)


Posted in Christmas, Jesus Junk & Christian Kitsch, Nativity Story | Comments Off

More Thoughts on Saul and His Regnal Formula

19th October 2009

Claude Mariottini caught me in an inadvertent historical “error” (or is it an error? it is accurate according to the MT) when he noticed my reference to King Saul’s “two year” reign in my post, “Saul: The King Who Should Have Never Been.”  I hadn’t meant to make a point out of how long his reign actually was historically; while some scholars would agree with the MT and maintain that Saul’s reign was only two years, most would suggest there is a textual error in the MT.  My concern in the post, however, was not how long the historical Saul may or may not have reigned, but rather, I was making a point about the anti-Saul polemic in Samuel and especially in Chronicles.

That being said, I find Saul’s problematic regnal formula in 1Samuel 13:1 intriguing. A quick look at the Hebrew text of this verse will quickly highlight the problems with this verse:

בֶּן־שָׁנָה שָׁאוּל בְּמָלְכוֹ וּשְׁתֵּי שָׁנִים מָלַךְ עַל־יִשְׂרָאֵל

Literally translated the text would read: “Saul was son of __ years when he began to reign, and he reigned two years over Israel.” There are two issues with this verse.

  1. The most obvious problem with this verse is that there is no number associated with Saul’s age when he took the throne. The Hebrew convention to say someone is twenty-five years, for example, is to say literally, “he was son of twenty and five years.” This is more than likely a textual problem.
  2. The second issue is both grammatical and historical in nature. Historically, most scholars consider two years to be too short for Saul’s reign if you need to fit all the events narrated in 1Samuel. Grammatically, the syntax of the regnal formula is usually an cardinal in absolute state followed by the absolute noun “years”; in this verse you have a cardinal in construct form followed by an absolute noun (e.g., in 2Samuel 2:10 Ishbaal’s two-year reign is found with the expected form: וּשְׁתַּיִם שָׁנִים מָלָךְ). This departure from the standard formula may suggest a textual issue where some numbers dropped out.

When we look to other textual witnesses, there is little help. Codex Vaticanus omits the verse, while some of the Lucianic Greek manuscripts put Saul’s age at thirty, but they reproduce the two year duration of his reign. The Aramaic Targums translate the verse creatively as “Saul was like a one year old with no sins when he became king; then he reigned two years over Israel.”  Josephus puts Saul reign as twenty years long in Ant. 10.143, but as forty years in Ant. 6.378 (The latter agrees with Acts 13:21).  And modern scholars have suggested a bunch of different numbers (For a good discussion trying to figure out how long Saul’s reign actually was, I encourage you to check out Claude’s post, Rereading 1 Samuel 13:1; Chris Heard over at Higgaion also has a related post dealing with the length of Saul’s reign on the Accordance timeline).

All of the apparent textual issues aside, I still wonder if the MT text may be purposeful — it would certainly fit in with the anti-Saul polemic found in the Deuteronomistic History, Chronicles, and other parts of the Hebrew Bible (e.g., Esther). I recall a course I was in at the University of Toronto with Dr. Stanley D. Walters on 1 and 2 Samuel and I believe he suggested that the reading of the MT was intentional. This is also the perspective of Hertzberg in his commentary on Samuel in the OTL series. He suggests in regards to the awkward syntax of the MT’s two year reign that

the number is given because it was the later view that Saul was actually ‘king’ for only quite a short time (cf. also on 15.1). In fact, the number 40, which is geven both in Josephus and in Acts 13.21 as the length of Saul’s reign, may originally have stood here; as has been said, it would have been replaced by the figure two on dogmatic-historical grounds” (I & II Samuel: A Commentary, p. 103; emphasis mine).

Thus, while historically Saul’s reign was perhaps over a decade or two, in reality, from a theological perspective, his reign was only two years since Yahweh removed the crown from him and “turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse” (1Chron 10:14). And the MT reflects precisely this theological reading.


Posted in 1Chronicles, 1Samuel, King Saul, Kings of Israel, Old Testament, The Kings of Chronicles | Comments Off

The End of Historiography and Prophecy?

23rd September 2009

The End of Historiography?

We had an interesting discussion in my course on ancient historiography the other day. We were discussing Arnaldo Momigliano’s article, “Persian Historiography, Greek Historiography, and Jewish Historiography,” in The Classical Foundations of Modern Historiography (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), and how historiographic writing in Judaism died off in the late Second Temple period (i.e., after the writing of 1 Maccabbees). According to Momigliano, the reason for the demise of the specifically Hebrew way of writing historiography is due in part to the disappearance of the Jewish state, although the primary reason why Jews lost interest in historical research was the singular focus on the Torah that developed in this period.  Interestingly, a small Jewish sect that emerged in the first century CE retained an interest in historiography. This sect is, of course, the early Christ followers who preserved a historiographic record in the biographies of Jesus (better known as the gospels) and, more specifically, in the Acts of the Apostles.

The End of Prophecy?

I don’t think many would contest Momigliano’s perspective on the “end” of Jewish historiography at the turn of the common era, though I could be wrong.  One of the students in my class brought up a related question about the end of prophecy during that same period.  The traditional (or do I dare say “canonical”) position is that prophecy ceased with the closure of the Hebrew canon. This perspective appears to be reflected in 1 Maccabees 4:46 where in the process of cleansing and rededicating the temple, Judas Maccabeus stores the defiled stones of the altar of burnt offering, “until a prophet should come to tell what to do with them”; and more explicitly in 1 Macc 14:41 where it says, “The Jews and their priests have resolved that Simon should be their leader and high priest forever, until a trustworthy prophet should arise….” Both of these texts seem to assume that there was no prophet at the present time and they had to make do until one arises — the hope of which was likely inspired by Deuteronomy 18:15.  This perspective is also held by Jewish authors such as Josephus, who after narrating the biblical history of Israel, notes that, “From Artaxerxes to our own time the complete history has been written, but has not been deemed worthy of equal credit with the earlier records, because of the failure of the exact succession of the prophets” (Against Apion 1.41). This view is also reflected in the much later teaching of the Talmud, where it reads: “When the latter prophets died, that is Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, then the Holy Spirit came to an end in Israel. But even so, they made them hear [messages] through an echo” (t.Sot 13.3).

What is noteworthy, however, is that while the “official” view may have been that prophecy ceased after the closure of the canon, its seems that no one informed the common person! Even Josephus is inconsistent. He  appears to hold the official party line, yet he notes that John Hyrcanus I (135-104), “was accounted by God worthy of three of the greatest privileges, the rule of the nation, the office of high priest, and the gift of prophecy; for the Deity was with him and enabled him to foresee and foretell the future” (War 1.68-69). Some suggest that Josephus considered himself a “clerical” prophet, though he never uses the actual term “prophet.” Josephus also mentions a number of individuals among the Essenes who “profess to tell the future”, as well as some from among the Pharisees. He further (negatively) identifies a number of “popular prophets”, such as Theudas, Joshua ben Hananiah,  who managed to gain significant followings among the masses.  John the Baptist, according to the Gospels, appears to fit nicely in to this category of popular prophet.

The End of the Matter…

So, did prophecy cease after the “canonical” prophets? Yes and no. While Josephus seems to suggests that the type of prophet and prophecy found in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament ceased, there were many individuals who — wrongly or rightly — were willing to don the prophetic mantle and proclaim God’s message to the people.

I have always imagined that during the time of Christ there would have been many self-proclaimed prophets around, kind of like this great scene from Monty Python’s The Life of Brian:


Posted in Historiography, History of Ancient Israel, Prophecy | 1 Comment »

The Relationship between the Septuagint and Qumran Psalm 151

6th August 2009

As I mentioned in my previous posts on Psalm 151 in the Biblical Tradition, there is significant debate on the relationship between the Septuagint Psalm 151 and the version of the Psalm found in the Qumran Psalms scroll (11Q5 Psalm 151A and B).

The editor of 11Q5 Psalm 151A and B, James Sanders, argues that 11QPsa 151A and B, while related to, are not identical with the Vorlage of LXX Ps 151. He further argues that “there can be no hesitancy whatever in affirming that 11QPs 151 is the original psalm” (The Psalms Scroll of Qumrân Cave 11 (11QPsa); DJD 4 [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965; buy from Amazon.com], 60), and that the LXX Psalm is a later translation of an “amalgam” of the Qumran originals (63). Most (but not all) scholars have followed Sanders in his reconstruction of the relationship between the Greek and Hebrew versions of Psalm 151.  Peter Flint considers the Greek version a “transformation of two separate psalms into a single piece” (“Apocryphal Psalms,” Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls [2 volumes; Oxford University Press, 2000; buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com. ],  2:708), while his Dead Sea Scrolls Bible (HarperCollins, 1999; buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com) also popularizes Sanders’s view:

The text found in 11QPs-a represents the original Hebrew with two originally separate Psalms, which the Greek translator has reworked and synthesized into a single Psalm (p. 585).

Beyond the question of the relationship between these psalms, Sanders has little good to say about LXX Psalm 151.  He calls it “meaningless” (DJD, p. 60), and maintains that without the background provided in Psalm 151A, the LXX psalm “makes little or no sense at all” (p. 59). Furthermore, he argues that the individual who brought together the Vorlage of LXX Psalm 151 destroyed “the beauty and integrity of the original” and “sacrificed not only the artistry but also the sense of the one, and probably as well of the other” (p. 63). In his popular work, The Dead Sea Psalms Scroll (Cornell University Press, 1967; buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com), Sanders further refers to the Greek version of Psalm 151 as “nearly meaningless” (p. 94) and “comparatively ridiculous” (p. 95).  Sanders is not alone in his low opinion of the Septuagint Psalm 151. For instance, Strugnell echoes Sanders when he describes it as “largely meaningless” (“Notes on the Text,” 259), while Meyer considered it a “dogmatic correction” of a rustic psalm (“Die Septuaginta-Fassung von Psalm 151:1-5,” 172).

While I agree that the Qumran psalms are related to the Vorlage of LXX Psalm 151, there are significant differences between the texts that indicate that their relationship is not so simple, and that the texts are more dissimilar than even Sanders admits.  In fact, I think – in line with the works of Haran, Smith, Segal, and most recently Debel (in part) – that it is more plausible that the Qumran psalm(s) are a later reworking of the shorter Hebrew Vorlage of LXX Psalm 151. Furthermore, in contrast to Sanders, I will argue that LXX Psalm 151 is a coherent text in and of itself, and that it doesn’t need 151A/B to make sense of it. In this regard I argue that while LXX Psalm 151 is shorter, it is in fact a well-constructed midrash on 1 Samuel 16-17.

In fact, I would argue that reading LXX Psalm 151 in the light of the Qumran psalms actually hampers our understanding of it, since the later Qumran versions take the psalm in a slightly different direction. In a recent article, Segal (“Literary Development,” Textus 21[2002], 143), has made the bold claim that

the bias towards the Hebrew version of the psalm has resulted in a skewed view of the meaning of the Greek edition, as all scholars have assumed that this shorter poem [i.e., the LXX] necessarily addresses the same topics as the longer version.

While Segal overstates the case, I concur with his evaluation. In my next post I will explore in more detail the relationship between the Greek and Hebrew versions of this psalm.


Posted in Dead Sea Scrolls, LXX Psalms, Psalm 151 in the Biblical Tradition, Psalms, Psalms Scrolls, Septuagint | 1 Comment »

Psalm 151 at Qumran

4th August 2009

As mentioned in my previour post on Septuagint Psalm 151 (first installment in my series on Psalm 151 in the Biblical Tradition), the discovery of Hebrew psalms clearly related to the Septuagint Psalm 151 created quite a stir among biblical scholars.  Prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Psalm 151 was only know to us from its Greek and Syriac versions. At the beginning of the last century Septuagint scholar Henry B. Swete noted that “there is no evidence that it [Ps 151] ever existed in Hebrew” (Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek [Hendrickson, 1989], p. 253; buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com), and in the 1930s Martin Noth “expressed doubts” about a Hebrew original to LXX Psalm 151 in his study of the five Apocryphal psalms and did not bother to provide a Hebrew retroversion of Psalm 151 in that study.

It was not until the discovery among the Dead Sea Scrolls of the so-called “Qumran Psalms Scroll” (11QPs-a or 11Q5; see my Scroll Introduction) that contained two Psalms (Ps 151A and B) that were clearly parallel with the LXX 151, that scholars universally recognized that LXX Psalm 151 had a Hebrew Vorlage (i.e., a Hebrew original), though the precise relationship between LXX Psalm 151 and 11Q5 Psalm 151 remained under debate.

Before we discuss the nature of the relationship between the Greek LXX Psalm 151 and the Hebrew 11Q5 Psalms 151A and 151B, it would do us well to carefully examine the psalms in question. I have already provided a translation of LXX Psalm 151 in my previous post; here I provide a translation of Psalm 151A and B as found in column 28 of 11Q5:

11Q5 Ps 151A-B

11Q5 Ps 151A & B
3

הללויה לדויד בן ישי

A Hallelujah of David son of Jesse.

קטן הייתי מןאחי

Smaller was I than my brothers

וצעיר מבני אבי

And the youngest of the sons of my father
4

וישימני רועה לצונו

And he made me shepherd of his flock

ומושל בגדיותיו

And ruler over his kids

ידי עשו עוגב

My hands made a (musical) instrument

ואצבעותי כנור

And my fingers a lyre
5

ואשימה ליהוה כבוד

And I rendered glory to the Lord

אמרתי אני בנפשי

I said within myself

ההרים לוא יעדו לו

The mountains do not witness to him,
6

והגבעות לוא יגידו

Nor do the hills declare;

עלו֯ העצים את דברי֯

The trees have cherished my words

והצואן את מעשי֯

And the flock my works.
7

כי מי יגדי ומי ידבר

For who can declare and who can speak,

ומי יספר את מעשי֯ אדון

And who can recount the works of the Lord?

הכול ראה אלוה

Everything has God seen,
8

הכול הוא שמע

everything has he heard,

והוא האזין

and he has heeded.

שלח נביאו למושחני

He sent his prophet to annoint me,
9

את שמואל לגדלני

Samuel, to make me great

יצאו אחי לקראתו

My brothers went out to meet him,

יפי התור ויפי המראה

Handsome of figure and handsome of appearance

הגבהים בקומתם

They were tall of stature
10

היפים בשערם

Handsome by their hair,

לוא בחר יהוה אלוהים בם

The Lord God did not choose them.

וישלח ויקחני מאחר הצואן

But he sent and took me from behind the flock
11

וימשחני בשמן הקודש

And annointed me with holy oil,

וישימני נגיד לעמו

And made me leader to his people
12

ומושל בבני בריתו

And ruler over the sons of his covenant
13

תחלת גב[ו]רה ה[דו]יד

משמשחו נביא אלוהים

At the beginning of [Dav]id’s p[ow]er after the prophet of God had annointed him

אזי רא֯[י]תי פלשתי

Then I s[a]w a Philistine
14

מחרף ממ[ערכות האיוב]

Uttering defiances from the r[anks of the enemy].

אנוכי [     ]  את

I   […]  ’t […]

I should note that while the translation is my own, the above reconstruction follows that by the scroll’s editor, James Sanders (which I do not entirely agree with, but I’ll discuss that in another post).  The line numbers in the left-hand column are not precise; they reflect the line divisions of the editor.  According to Sanders’s reconstruction, Psalm 151B begins in line 13.

In the actual scroll, the column is laid out as follows:

11Q5 Column 28

יהוה העומדים בבית יהוה בלילות שאו ידיכם קודש וברכו

1

את שמ יהוה יברככה יהוה מציו[ן] עושה שמים וארץ

2

vacat

הללויה לדויד בן ישי קטן הייתי מןאחי וצעיר מבני אבי וישימני

3

רועה לצונו ומושל בגדיותיו ידי עשו עוגב ואצבעותי כנור

4

ואשימה ליהוה כבוד אמרתי אני בנפשי ההרים לוא יעדו

5

לו והגבעות לוא יגידו עלו֯ העצים את דברי֯ והצואן את מעשי֯

6

כי מי יגדי ומי ידבר ומי יספר את מעשי֯ אדון הכול ראה אלוה

7

הכול הוא שמע והוא האזין שלח נביאו למושחני את שמואל

8

לגדלני יצאו אחי לקראתו יפי התור ויפי המראה הגבהים בקומתם

9

היפים   בשערם לוא בחר יהוה אלוהים בם וישלח ויקחני

10

מאחר הצואן וימשחני בשמן הקודש וישימני נגיד לעמו ומושל בבני

11

vacat בריתו

12

תחלת גב[ו]רה ה[דו]יד משמשחו נביא אלוהים אזי רא֯[י]תי פלשתי

13

מחרף ממ[ערכות האיוב] אנוכי [     ]  את

14

Here is an English translation:

11Q5 Ps 151A & B
1 of the Lord, who stand in the house of the Lord by night. Lift your hands in the holy place and bless
2 the name of the Lord May the Lord, maker of heaven and earth, bless you from Zion.
blank space
3 A Hallelujah of David son of Jesse. Smaller was I than my brothers And the youngest of the sons of my father
4 And he made me shepherd of his flock And ruler over his kids My hands made a (musical) instrument And my fingers a lyre
5 And I rendered glory to the Lord I said within myself The mountains do not witness
6 to him, Nor do the hills declare; The trees have cherished my words And the flock my works.
7 For who can declare and who can speak, And who can recount the works of the Lord? Everything has God seen,
8 Everything he has heard, and he has heeded. He sent his prophet to annoint me, Samuel,
9 to make me great My brothers went out to meet him, Handsome of figure and handsome of appearance They were tall of stature
10 Handsome by their hair, The Lord God did not choose them. And he sent and took me
11 from behind the flock And annointed me with holy oil, And made me leader to his people And ruler over the sons of
12 his covenant
13 At the beginning of [Dav]id’s p[ow]er after the prophet of God had annointed him Then I s[a]w a Philistine
14 Uttering defiances from the r[anks of the enemy]. I   […]  ’t […]

As you can see, the actual scroll does not divide the Hebrew psalm into poetic lines, but takes up the width of the column with as much text as possible. (By the way, the top of the column [lines 1 and 2] consists of all but the first part of Psalm 134 [LXX Ps 133]).

Comparing Sanders’s line divisions with that of the actual scroll raises an issue common with any analysis of the Dead Sea Scrolls; the issue of editorial reconstruction.  A number of aspects of Sanders’s reconstruction of Psalms 151A and B have been severely criticized by scholars — especially his reconstruction of lines 6-8. That being said, even a quick comparison of LXX Psalm 151 with this text from Qumran suggests some sort of literary relationship between the texts, though as I noted above, the precise nature of that relationship is debated.


Posted in Dead Sea Scrolls, LXX Psalms, Old Testament, Psalm 151 in the Biblical Tradition, Psalms, Psalms Scrolls, Septuagint | 1 Comment »

Septuagint Psalm 151

30th July 2009

This post is my first in a series on Psalm 151 in the Biblical Tradition.  Now,  some of my readers may be wondering what is this Psalm 151 that I am talking about? The biblical book of Psalms only contains 150 psalms! To you I reply, you are absolutely correct (but also a little incorrect!).  The book of Psalms in the Hebrew Masoretic tradition — the tradition on which Protestants and Jews base their modern English translations — contains 150 psalms (actually this isn’t quite correct; there are Masoretic manuscripts that divide the psalms differently resulting in more or less than 150 psalms. For example, there are manuscripts that divide individual psalms differently and end up with 147, 148, 149 and even 170 psalms!  Nonetheless, the Masoretic tradition is consistent in its content with modern Protestant and Jewish translations). If we turn to the  Greek Septuagint (and the Syriac) tradition, however, we find an extra psalm right after Psalm 150, which has become known as “Psalm 151.” It appears that this psalm was not held with quite the same authority as the other 150 psalms,  since an editorial note in the psalm title marks it as ἔξωθεν τοῦ ἀριθμοῦ (“outside the number”).

While this psalm was known for a long time from the Greek and Syriac traditions, the discovery of two Hebrew psalms clearly related to the Septuagint Psalm 151 among the Dead Sea Scrolls (dubbed “Psalm 151A and 151B” by the editor of  11Q5), has challenged our understanding of this psalm in a number of ways. It has raised significant questions surrounding the relationship between the Greek and Hebrew versions of this psalms, as well as the precise nature of the Hebrew original from which the Greek was translated.  In much of this debate, the interest in the Qumran psalms has overshadowed interest in the LXX version of Psalm 151. In this series of posts I will explore these questions and any implications they may have to our understanding of the development of the book of Psalms. More specifically, I want to look at the relationship between LXX Ps 151 and 11Q5 Ps 151A and 151B and then provide an analysis of  Psalm 151 as a psalm in its own right.

But first, let me provide the actual psalm itself as well as an English translation:

 

LXX Psalm 151
1a Οὗτος ὁ ψαλμὸς ἰδιόγραφος εἰς Δαυιδ καὶ ἔξωθεν τοῦ ἀριθμοῦ, ὅτε ἐμονομάχησεν τῷ Γολιαδ. This Psalm is autobiographical. Regarding David and outside the number. [When he fought Goliath in single combat.]
1b Μικρὸς ἤμην ἐν τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς μου I was small among my brothers,
1c καὶ νεώτερος ἐν τῷ οἴκῳ τοῦ πατρός μου, and the youngest in my father’s house;
1d ἐποίμαινον τὰ πρόβατα τοῦ πατρός μου. I would shepherd my father’s sheep.
2a αἱ χεῖρές μου ἐποίησαν ὄργανον, My hands made an instrument;
2b οἱ δάκτυλοί μου ἥρμοσαν ψαλτήριον. my fingers tuned a harp.
3a καὶ τίς ἀναγγελεῖ τῷ κυρίῳ μου; But who will report to my lord?
3b αὐτὸς κύριος, αὐτὸς εἰσακούει. The Lord himself, he listens.
4a αὐτὸς ἐξαπέστειλεν τὸν ἄγγελον αὐτοῦ It was he who sent his messenger
4b καὶ ἦρέν με ἐκ τῶν προβάτων τοῦ πατρός μου and took me from my father’s sheep
4c καὶ ἔχρισέν με ἐν τῷ ἐλαίῳ τῆς χρίσεως αὐτοῦ. and anointed me with his anointing oil.
5a οἱ ἀδελφοί μου καλοὶ καὶ μεγάλοι, My brothers were handsome and tall,
5b καὶ οὐκ εὐδόκησεν ἐν αὐτοῖς κύριος. but the Lord took no delight in them.
6a ἐξῆλθον εἰς συνάντησιν τῷ ἀλλοφύλῳ, I went out to meet the foreigner,
6b καὶ ἐπικατηράσατό με ἐν τοῖς εἰδώλοις αὐτοῦ, and he cursed me by his idols.
7a ἐγὼ δὲ σπασάμενος τὴν παῤ αὐτοῦ μάχαιραν But I, having drawn the sword from him,
7b ἀπεκεφάλισα αὐτὸν I beheaded him,
7c καὶ ἦρα ὄνειδος ἐξ υἱῶν Ισραηλ. and removed reproach from Israel’s sons.

 

This psalm has been aptly described as  an autobiographical midrash on the early life of David as recorded in 1 Samuel 16–17. It weaves together incidents from David’s adolescence recorded in 1 Samuel 16-17: his anointing (16:1-13), his entry into Saul’s service as a musician (16:14-23), and his victory over Goliath (chap. 17).  Significantly, these three episodes hang together uneasily in their context in Samuel, but are brought together in this poetic midrash connecting David’s anointing by Samuel with his victory over Goliath as an example of the Lord’s presence with David.

I will offer some more analysis of this psalm in a later post.


Posted in Bible, LXX Psalms, Psalm 151 in the Biblical Tradition, Psalms, Septuagint, Series | 2 Comments »

Jonah’s “Big Fish” Story 3: Jonah and the Sailors (1:1-16)

26th March 2009

[I will be republishing my series on the Hebrew text of Jonah for my current introductory Hebrew class since I had to go back and fix the Hebrew in the posts]

The first chapter of the book of Jonah begins with Jonah’s call to go to Nineveh. But instead of heading for Nineveh, he heads the opposite direction to Tarshish aboard a ship filled with pagan sailors. Jonah’s presence on the ship does not bode well for the sailors, who eventually figure out Jonah is the reason their ship is in danger. After much prayer, they toss Jonah into the sea, after which he is swallowed by a divinely appointed “big fish.” Thus begins Jonah’s “Big Fish” story.

Jonah and the Sailors (1:1-16)

Jonah1-LeningradCodex-sm.jpgHebrew Text

The Hebrew Text is taken from BHS. Click on the image to the right to view the passage in the actual Leningrad Codex (MS B19 A). To hear the chapter read in Hebrew, an MP3 file is available here.

‏וַיְהִי דְּבַר־יְהוָה אֶל־יוֹנָה בֶן־אֲמִתַּי לֵאמֹר׃ קוּם לֵךְ אֶל־נִינְוֵה הָעִיר הַגְּדוֹלָה וּקְרָא עָלֶיהָ כִּי־עָלְתָה רָעָתָם לְפָנָי׃ וַיָּקָם יוֹנָה לִבְרֹחַ תַּרְשִׁישָׁה מִלִּפְנֵי יְהוָה וַיֵּרֶד יָפוֹ וַיִּמְצָא אָנִיָּה בָּאָה תַרְשִׁישׁ וַיִּתֵּן שְׂכָרָהּ וַיֵּרֶד בָּהּ לָבוֹא עִמָּהֶם תַּרְשִׁישָׁה מִלִּפְנֵי יְהוָה׃ וַיהוָה הֵטִיל רוּחַ־גְּדוֹלָה אֶל־הַיָּם וַיְהִי סַעַר־גָּדוֹל בַּיָּם וְהָאֳנִיָּה חִשְּׁבָה לְהִשָּׁבֵר׃ וַיִּירְאוּ הַמַּלָּחִים וַיִּזְעֲקוּ אִישׁ אֶל־אֱלֹהָיו וַיָּטִלוּ אֶת־הַכֵּלִים אֲשֶׁר בָּאֳנִיָּה אֶל־הַיָּם לְהָקֵל מֵעֲלֵיהֶם וְיוֹנָה יָרַד אֶל־יַרְכְּתֵי הַסְּפִינָה וַיִּשְׁכַּב וַיֵּרָדַם׃ וַיִּקְרַב אֵלָיו רַב הַחֹבֵל וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ מַה־לְּךָ נִרְדָּם קוּם קְרָא אֶל־אֱלֹהֶיךָ אוּלַי יִתְעַשֵּׁת הָאֱלֹהִים לָנוּ וְלֹא נֹאבֵד׃ וַיֹּאמְרוּ אִישׁ אֶל־רֵעֵהוּ לְכוּ וְנַפִּילָה גוֹרָלוֹת וְנֵדְעָה בְּשֶׁלְּמִי הָרָעָה הַזֹּאת לָנוּ וַיַּפִּלוּ גּוֹרָלוֹת וַיִּפֹּל הַגּוֹרָל עַל־יוֹנָה׃ וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֵלָיו הַגִּידָה־נָּא לָנוּ בַּאֲשֶׁר לְמִי־הָרָעָה הַזֹּאת לָנוּ מַה־מְּלַאכְתְּךָ וּמֵאַיִן תָּבוֹא מָה אַרְצֶךָ וְאֵי־מִזֶּה עַם אָתָּה׃ וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵיהֶם עִבְרִי אָנֹכִי וְאֶת־יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם אֲנִי יָרֵא אֲשֶׁר־עָשָׂה אֶת־הַיָּם וְאֶת־הַיַּבָּשָׁה׃ וַיִּירְאוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים יִרְאָה גְדוֹלָה וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֵלָיו מַה־זֹּאת עָשִׂיתָ כִּי־יָדְעוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים כִּי־מִלִּפְנֵי יְהוָה הוּא בֹרֵחַ כִּי הִגִּיד לָהֶם׃ וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֵלָיו מַה־נַּעֲשֶׂה לָּךְ וְיִשְׁתֹּק הַיָּם מֵעָלֵינוּ כִּי הַיָּם הוֹלֵךְ וְסֹעֵר׃ וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵיהֶם שָׂאוּנִי וַהֲטִילֻנִי אֶל־הַיָּם וְיִשְׁתֹּק הַיָּם מֵעֲלֵיכֶם כִּי יוֹדֵעַ אָנִי כִּי בְשֶׁלִּי הַסַּעַר הַגָּדוֹל הַזֶּה עֲלֵיכֶם׃ וַיַּחְתְּרוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים לְהָשִׁיב אֶל־הַיַּבָּשָׁה וְלֹא יָכֹלוּ כִּי הַיָּם הוֹלֵךְ וְסֹעֵר עֲלֵיהֶם׃ וַיִּקְרְאוּ אֶל־יְהוָה וַיֹּאמְרוּ אָנָּה יְהוָה אַל־נָא נֹאבְדָה בְּנֶפֶשׁ הָאִישׁ הַזֶּה וְאַל־תִּתֵּן עָלֵינוּ דָּם נָקִיא כִּי־אַתָּה יְהוָה כַּאֲשֶׁר חָפַצְתָּ עָשִׂיתָ׃ וַיִּשְׂאוּ אֶת־יוֹנָה וַיְטִלֻהוּ אֶל־הַיָּם וַיַּעֲמֹד הַיָּם מִזַּעְפּוֹ׃ וַיִּירְאוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים יִרְאָה גְדוֹלָה אֶת־יְהוָה וַיִּזְבְּחוּ־זֶבַח לַיהוָה וַיִּדְּרוּ נְדָרִים׃ ‎

Translation

Please note that my translation is more formal in nature and purposefully highlights literary and poetic features of the text. The versification follows the Hebrew text.

1:1 The word of YHWH came to Jonah son of Amittai, saying: 2 Get up, go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim against it; for their wickedness has come before me. 3 Jonah, however, got up to flee to Tarshish away from the presence of YHWH. So he went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish, and he paid its hire, and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish, from the presence of YHWH. 4 But YHWH hurled a great wind to the sea, and there was a great storm upon the sea that the ship thought about breaking up!

5 And the sailors were afraid and cried out, each to his own god; and they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten [it] for them. But Jonah had gone down into the hold of the vessel and had lain down, and was in a deep sleep. 6 The captain went over to him and cried out, “Why are you sleeping so soundly? Get up, call upon your god! Perhaps the god will bear us in mind and we will not perish.” 7 The men said to one another, “Let us cast lots and find out on whose account this misfortune has come upon us.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. 8 They said to him, “Please declare to us — you who have brought this evil upon us — what is your business? Where have you come from? What is your country, and from what people are you?” 9 And he said to them, “I am a Hebrew and I fear YHWH, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” 10 The men were greatly terrified [feared a great fear], and they said to him, “How could you have done this?” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of YHWH, for so he had told them. 11 And they said to him, “What must we do to you so that the sea calms down for us?” For the sea was growing more and more stormy. 12 He answered, “Heave me overboard, and then the sea will calm down for you; for I know that this great storm came upon you on my account.” 13 Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to return to the dry land, but they could not, for the sea was growing more and more stormy against them. 14 Then they called to YHWH: “Oh, please, YHWH, do not let us perish on account of this man’s life and do not put innocent blood upon us! For You, O YHWH, have done just as you pleased.” 15 And they cast Jonah into the sea, and the sea stopped from its raging. 16 The men feared YHWH with a great fear, and they sacrificed a sacrifice to YHWH, and they vowed vows.

Translation & Text Critical Notes

For basic identification and parsing, please see the excerpts from Owens (PDF) or Beall and Banks (PDF). For bibliography noted in my post on “Resources for the Study of the Book of Jonah,” only short references will be provided here. See my “Mastering Biblical Hebrew” pages for more information on any Hebrew grammars and lexicons mentioned.

Verse 1

  • וַיְהִי- This Qal prefix vav conversive apocopated form is at home in Hebrew narrative and is the typical opening for “historical” books like Joshua, Judges, 1Samuel, and Ruth (see AC 3.5.1 c).
  • יוֹנָה בֶן־אֲמִתַּי - This “Jonah son of Amittai” is considered to be the nationalistic prophet of the same name mentioned in 2Kings 14:23-29.

Verse 2

  • קוּם לֵךְ- Of the two imperative verbs, קוּם functions as an auxiliary verb to the principal verb לֵךְ and may be translated something like “Arise, go…” or better, “Go at once…” (GKC 120g).
  • וּקְרָא עָלֶיהָ- The collocation of על with the verbקראtypically has negative connotations, hence my translation “proclaim against.” The parallel statement in Jonah 3:2 on the other hand has אל. While this change may only suggest the interchangeable nature of the prepositions (WO’C), the change to the more innocuous “proclaim to” in 3:2 may foreshadow the Ninevites’ positive response to Jonah’s message (see Ben Zvi).
  • הָעִיר הַגְּדוֹלָה- The definite articles are functioning as weak demonstratives, “that great city” (AC 2.6.6). Alternatively, both adjectives could be modifying the noun, “Nineveh the great city” (J-M 138b; 141c; BHRG 30.2.2vii).
  • כִּי־עָלְתָה רָעָתָם לְפָנָי- This phrase should be taken as causal (“because…”), providing the rationale for God sending the prophet to Nineveh (contra Sasson who understands it as asseverative). See AC 4.3.4a, i.

Verse 3

  • מִלִּפְנֵי- This compound preposition is best translated as “away from the presence of” or even just “away from” (HALOT).
  • תַרְשִׁישׁ- The identification of “Tarshish” is the subject of much spilled ink (see Sasson for a discussion). I tend to think of it as an ancient “Timbuktu.” Either way, the point is that Jonah headed in the exact opposite direction of Nineveh. Note that it occurs both with and without the directive ה in this passage
  • אָנִיָּה- The footnote in BHS (sic L, mlt MSS Edd אֳניה cf 4.5) suggests that the pointing of אָנִיָּה is incorrect; it should be אֳניהas many other Masoretic texts indicate as well as the pointing in vv. 4 and 5.
  • וַיִּתֵּן שְׂכָרָהּ- The antecedent of the 3fs possessive pronoun is clearly אָנִיָּה(“paid its [i.e., the ship's] fare”). A number of Jewish traditions (and modern authors) suggest this indicates Jonah rented the entire ship (and thus was wealthy), which again emphasizes the extent to which he was willing to avoid God’s call.
  • עִמָּהֶם- While the sailors are not mentioned until v. 5, the 3mp object suffix on עִמָּהֶם refers to the sailors included in the sense of the term אָנִיָּה (GKC 135p).

Verse 4

  • וַיהוָה- The fronted subject with the conjunction breaks the series of vav conversives and introduces a different subject and is best rendered as “but YHWH…” (AC 3.5.4; 5.1.2b.2).
  • חִשְּׁבָה לְהִשָּׁבֵר- Many translations render this combination of Piel affix 3fs and Nifal infinitive construct something like, “the ship was about to break up” (NASB) or the like. I prefer to take it as an example of personification or prosopopoeia where the ship is portrayed as thinking about breaking up. This understanding is supported by the fact thatחשׁבis always used elsewhere with an animate subject. See WO’C 23.2.1 for the sense of the Nifal here.

Verse 5

  • אִישׁ אֶל־אֱלֹהָיו- This is a distributive use ofאִישׁ, “each to his own god” (GKC 139b). It could also be translated “each to his own gods” since the sailors were evidently pagan.
  • לְהָקֵל- The Hifil infinitive construct needs an object, i.e., “to lighten [it].”
  • “But Jonah had gone down… and had lain down, and had fallen fast asleep.” The fronted subject once again interrupts the sequence of wayyiqtol verbs and marks a new subject which contrasts Jonah’s actions with those of the sailors.
  • וַיֵּרָדַם- The verbרדםmeans “deep sleep” and is from the same root as the noun used to describe Adam’s sleep when the woman was taken out of his side in Gen 2:21. The Septuagint translatesרדםwith the verb ῥέγχω “snore,” which adds some humour to the scene as Jonah’s snoring was apparently loud enough for the captain of the ship to hear him from above deck as he comes down to Jonah and asks him what is he doing snoring when a life threatening storm has been thrown to the sea by YHWH (see my post on snoring here)!

Verse 6

  • רַב הַחֹבֵל- Lit., “chief of the sailors,” i.e., captain.
  • מַה־לְּךָ נִרְדָּם- The Nifal participle may be functioning as a subordinate accusative of state, i.e., the object of the non verbal interrogative construction, lit. “what [is it] to you, sleeping?” = “why are you sleeping so soundly?” (see GKC 120b; J-M 127a, 161i). I am almost tempted to take the participle as a vocative and translate it something like, “What is the matter with you, sleepy head?!”
  • יִתְעַשֵּׁת - The Hitpael of עשׁתis a hapax that means something like “bear in mind” (HALOT).

Verse 7

  • Note the cohortative הs on וְנַפִּילָהand וְנֵדְעָה .
  • בְּשֶׁלְּמִי- The compound particle is made up of the preposition ב + relative שׁ + preposition ל + interrogative מי; together it means “on whose account” (HALOT), or “for whose cause” (GKC 150k). For the combination of the relative שׁ and preposition ל, see WO’C 19.4a n15.
  • Note the idiom of “casting lots” with the verb נפל.

Verse 8

  • There is a rather oblique text critical footnote in BHS (“nonn add Hab” = “several manuscripts have added”) marking off the phrase בַּאֲשֶׁר לְמִי־הָרָעָה הַזֹּאת לָנוּ, “on whose account has this evil come upon us” (as well as a similar phrase in v. 10; see below). The footnote suggests the editors of BHS considered this phrase to be an addition or later gloss. While they do not provide any reasons, it is likely based on two things: (1) the phrase is omitted in the LXX and a number of Masoretic manuscripts and (2) it appears to be a doublet or repetition of virtually the same phrase in v. 7. While this is certainly possible, the phrase is found in the huge majority of Masoretic texts as well as scrolls from Qumran. Furthermore, the absence of the phrase in some Hebrew and Greek manuscripts can easily be explained by homoeoteleuton (skipping over words between words with similar endings) triggered by the repetition of לָנוּ in the Hebrew or ἐν ἡμῖν in the Greek. That being said, the question of how to translate it remains. The most straightforward translation is to repeat the question, “on whose account has this evil come upon us?” even though they already know the answer and Jonah doesn’t answer it (see NASB, KJV, NIV). Another, perhaps better, option is to render it as a relative clause, “you who have brought this evil upon us” (see JPS and Sasson). This recognizes the subtle difference of the construction בַּאֲשֶׁר לְמִי־הָרָעָה הַזֹּאת לָנוּ with בְּשֶׁלְּמִי הָרָעָה הַזֹּאת לָנוּin the preceding verse.
  • The sailors pose four questions to Jonah: (1) what is your mission? (2) from where are you coming? (3) what is your (home)land? and (4) from what people are you? (the combination of the interrogative with מן does not produce any notable change in meaning; J-M 143g).

Verse 9

  • עִבְרִי אָנֹכִי- The order of predicate –> subject in the verbless clause indicates classification and refers to a general class (Hebrews) of which the subject is a member (WO’C 8.4.2). The term “Hebrew” is typically only used in the HB to imply a contrast with foreigners (GKC 2b).
  • The irony of Jonah’s confession is marvelous; while his confesses he fears “YHWH, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land,” he also appears to believe he can flee from this same YHWH by taking a sea voyage!

Verse 10

  • וַיִּירְאוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים יִרְאָה גְדוֹלָה- This construction of a verb with a direct object derived from the same root is called an “internal accusative” or “cognate accusative.” It serves to strengthen the verbal idea and may be translated “the men were greatly terrified” or the like (AC 2.3.1c; GKC 117q).
  • מַה־זֹּאת- The linking of the interrogative pronoun to the feminine demonstrative is an exclamation of shock or horror rather than a query (Sasson).
  • כִּי הִגִּיד לָהֶם- This phrase is marked off as a gloss in BHS (see discussion on v. 8 above).

Verse 11

  • מַה־נַּעֲשֶׂה לָּךְ- The prefix form in this context likely has a modal nuance, i.e., “what must we do to you…” (J-M 113m).
  • וְיִשְׁתֹּק- The prefix + vav form indicates purpose, “so that” (J-M 169i; BHRG 21.5.1.iv).
  • הוֹלֵךְ וְסֹעֵר- The participles form a hendiadys to convey repetition and increasing intensity, with הלךfulfilling an auxiliary role (GKC 113u).

Verse 12

  • וְיִשְׁתֹּק- The prefix + vav form in Jonah’s reply has a consecutive sense, “then…” (J-M 169i).

Verse 13

  • וַיַּחְתְּרוּ- The verb חתר means “to dig”; it is used here to suggest hard rowing or “digging” into the water with their oars.

Verse 14

  • The first person plural cohortatives are found here with the particle of entreaty נָא, often translated as “please” or the like (J-M 114f; GKC 105, 108c).
  • כִּי־אַתָּה יְהוָה כַּאֲשֶׁר חָפַצְתָּ עָשִׂיתָ- This clause is a bit difficult to unpack. Sasson takes it and the preceding clause as separate motivations offered by the sailors to God: “Indeed, you are YHWH; and whatever you desire, you accomplish.” While this is possible, I think Sasson is giving too much weight to the zaqef qaton on YHWH. I have translated YHWH as a vocative and the relative clause as modifying אַתָּה“you.”

Verse 15

  • מִזַּעְפּוֹ- The Qal infinitive construct with the prepositionמן (and the 3ms suffix) serves as a verbal complement to עמד, “the sea stopped from its raging.”

Verse 16

  • וַיִּירְאוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים יִרְאָה גְדוֹלָה אֶת־יְהוָה- The verb here has double accusatives: YHWH is the affected object (the object that existed apart and before the action of the verb, but is reached by the verb), while the “great fear” is the internal object (the object is an abstract noun of action typically of the same root as the verb, and thus a cognate accusative) (AC 2.3.1; J-M 125u n1).
  • Note again the irony that the pagan sailors are more devout than Jonah.

Comments

While I will leave most of the larger questions of interpretation to a later post, I do want to highlight a few things from chapter one.

First, it is difficult if not impossible to pick up on a significant key word for the book of Jonah: גָּדוֹל“great” or “big.” Everything in Jonah is “great”: Nineveh (v. 2), the wind (v. 4), the storm (v. 4, 12), the sailors’ fear (v. 10) and their repentance (v. 16). In later chapters we will encounter a “great” or “big” fish (2:1), among other things.

Second, the frequent use of גָּדוֹלas well as some of the other language in this (the ship thinking) and later chapters (the animals putting sackcloth on themselves in 3:8), “shifts the story to the fabulous” as Sasson suggests. I will come back to this observation in a later post.

Finally, when examining the characterization of Jonah, YHWH, and the pagan sailors in this chapter it is striking:

  • Jonah does exactly the opposite of what YHWH calls him to do: instead of getting up and going (קוּם לֵךְ), he got up to flee (וַיָּקָם יוֹנָה לִבְרֹחַ ), and then in contrast to getting up, he has a series of descents (ירד) in order to get away from YHWH’s call. And of course, as I already noted, the irony between Jonah’s flight and his confession is stunning.
  • The sailors come across much better than Jonah. Their actions are often parallel to those of YHWH: they, like YHWH, tell Jonah to “get up” and “call” (1:2, 6); they both “cast to the sea” (1:4, 5, 15). In addition, a contrast is set up between the sailors and Jonah: Jonah’s fear (1:9) vs. the sailors’ fear (1:10); and “perish” in the mouths of the sailors (1:7, 14) vs. from Jonah’s perspective (4:10).

Well, this post has ended up longer than I anticipated. I better end it here. We’ll pick up Jonah chapter three next.


Posted in Jonah, Jonah's "Big Fish" Story, Old Testament, Text Criticism | 2 Comments »