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SBL e-journal

Emanuel Tov

(

2023

)

.

Acclaim, O Nations – Deuteronomy 32:43

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TheTorah.com

.

https://thetorah.com/article/acclaim-o-nations-deuteronomy-32-43

APA e-journal

Emanuel Tov

,

,

,

"

Acclaim, O Nations – Deuteronomy 32:43

"

TheTorah.com

(

2023

)

.

https://thetorah.com/article/acclaim-o-nations-deuteronomy-32-43

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Textual Criticism of the Torah: Ten Short Case Studies

Acclaim, O Nations – Deuteronomy 32:43

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Acclaim, O Nations – Deuteronomy 32:43

The Song of Moses, Haʾazinu, speaks of YHWH’s relationship with the people of Israel, with a narrative arc relating YHWH’s choosing of Israel, Israel’s disloyalty, YHWH’s punishment first of Israel and then of Israel’s enemies. The festive ending of the poem (v. 43) has multiple textual variations between the text traditions, including entire phrases that appear in some texts and not others.

MT (= SP)

LXX (Heb. reconstr.)

4QDeutq

דברים לב:מג הַרְנִינוּ גוֹיִם עַמּוֹ

Deut 32:43 Acclaim,[1] O nations, His people!

Deut 32:43הרנינו שמים עִמו

Acclaim, O heaven, with Him (YHWH)[2]

דברים לב:מג הרנינו שמים עמו

Deut 32:43Acclaim, O heaven with Him (hardly: His people)[3]

והשתחוו לו כל בני אל(הים)

Bow to Him all sons of God[4]

והשתחוו לו כל אלהים

Bow to Him all you gods

הרנינו גוים עִם עַמו

Acclaim, O nations, with His people![5]

והבו עז (או: והעיזו) לו כל (בני) אל(הים)

Offer Him strength, all the angels of God.[6]

כִּי דַם עֲבָדָיו יִקּוֹם

For He’ll avenge the blood of His servants

כי דם בניו יקום

For He’ll avenge the blood of his children.[7]

כי דם בניו יקום

For He’ll avenge the blood of His children.

וְנָקָם יָשִׁיב לְצָרָיו

Wreak vengeance on His foes

ונקם ישיב לצריו

Wreak vengeance and payback on His foes[8]

ונקם ישיב לצריו

Wreak vengeance on His foes

ולמשנאיו ישלם

And He will repay those who hate [Him][9]

למשנאיו ישלם

And He will repay those who hate Him

וְכִפֶּר אַדְמָתוֹ עַמּוֹ

And He will cleanse His land, His people.[10]

ויכפר [י־הוה] אדמת עמו

And [YHWH] will cleanse His people’s land.[11]

ויכפר אדמת עמו

And He will cleanse His people’s land.

Which of these texts is the oldest or most original? Did the longer ones add phrases, as is usually the case in similar situations, or did the shorter one subtract?[12] The best way to answer this question is to focus on the problematic phrase that appears in MT and LXX but is absent in 4QDeutq, calling upon the nations to “acclaim” or “rejoice in” YHWH’s people. This is an unexpected expression since the passage is not about Israel’s success but about YHWH’s vengeance. Moreover, this vengeance is carried out against the nations, making it strange to picture them rejoicing. This statement means no less than that the nations should sing exultantly about their own destruction!

The LXX version of these stichs is also problematic since it parallels the nations with divine beings. Moreover, the LXX phrasing “acclaim with His people” is awkward and possibly gives the impression that the translator is trying to fix a problem by rewriting the phrase.

It seems, therefore, that the version in 4QDeutq, which lacks the problematic description of nations acclaiming YHWH’s vengeance against themselves, reflects an early stage of the text. The opening verse, then, invoked the heavens and the divine beings to acclaim and do obeisance to YHWH. In the wording of the Qumran scroll the text reads:

דברים לב:מג הרנינו שמים עִמו והשתחוו לו כל אלהים...
Deut 32:43 Acclaim, O heavens with Him;[13] bow to Him all you gods…

This parallels the poetry we find in the opening of the song in all the versions:

דברים לב:א הַאֲזִינוּ הַשָּׁמַיִם וַאֲדַבֵּרָה וְתִשְׁמַע הָאָרֶץ אִמְרֵי פִי.
Deut 32:1 Give ear, O heaven, let me speak; let the earth hear the words I utter!

What led to the creation of the MT and LXX versions? Certain scribes were bothered by the invocation of other gods or divine beings and adjusted the verse to be about nations.[14] In MT, the new stich replaced the opening one, while the parallel was cut, leading to the discordant presentation of nations praising YHWH for taking vengeance on them.

LXX preserves both versions.[15] It is clearly based on a Hebrew text that differs from MT and is very close to 4QDeutq, the main difference being that it offers two versions of the opening phrases:

הרנינו שמים עִמו

Acclaim, O heaven, with Him (YHWH)

הרנינו גוים עִם עַמו

Acclaim, O nations, with His people!

והשתחוו לו כל בני אל(הים)

Bow to Him all sons of God

והבו עז (או: והעיזו) לו כל (בני) אל(הים)

Offer Him strength, all the angels of God.

These two doublets indicate that at some stage textual mishaps occurred within the Greek textual tradition. However, beyond these mishaps we recognize the agreement of the LXX with the Qumran scroll 4QDeutq (the early tradition about the invocation of the “other gods” and the mentioning of the “heaven”). This early tradition was probably quietly removed as theologically unacceptable.

Published

August 24, 2023

|

Last Updated

April 11, 2024

Footnotes

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Prof. Emanuel Tov is J. L. Magnes Professor of Bible (emeritus) in the Dept. of Bible at the Hebrew University, where he received his Ph.D. in Biblical Studies. He was the editor of 33 volumes of Discoveries in the Judean Desert. Among his many publications are, Scribal Practices and Approaches Reflected in the Texts Found in the Judean Desert, Textual Criticism of the Bible: An Introduction, The Biblical Encyclopaedia Library 31 and The Text-Critical Use of the Septuagint in Biblical Research.