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SBL e-journal

Emanuel Tov

(

2023

)

.

God as a Warrior – Exodus 15:3

.

TheTorah.com

.

https://thetorah.com/article/god-as-a-warrior-exodus-15-3

APA e-journal

Emanuel Tov

,

,

,

"

God as a Warrior – Exodus 15:3

"

TheTorah.com

(

2023

)

.

https://thetorah.com/article/god-as-a-warrior-exodus-15-3

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Textual Criticism of the Torah: Ten Short Case Studies

God as a Warrior – Exodus 15:3

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God as a Warrior – Exodus 15:3

The “Song at the Sea,” contains Moses’ hymn to God, ostensibly sung just after the Egyptians are drowned. As is true of many hymns, the beginning contains multiple praises of YHWH. One such praise, reads differently in all three main extant texts types:

MT

SP

LXX

שמות טו:ג יְ־הוָה אִישׁ מִלְחָמָה יְ־הוָה שְׁמוֹ.

שמות טו:ג י־הוה גיבור במלחמה י־הוה שמו.

Exod 15:3 κύριος συντρίβων πολέμους, κύριος ὄνομα αὐτῷ.

Exod 15:3 YHWH is a man of war—YHWH is His name!

Exod 15:3 YHWH is a hero in war— YHWH is His name!

Exod 15:3 The Lord,[1] who shatters wars, the Lord is his name.

Did one or two of these descriptions develop by way of exegesis from an earlier reading or by way of textual mishap, and if so, which reading is the earliest of the three? Although not certain, the MT seems the most ancient, reflecting a time when it was still possible to depict YHWH in the highly anthropomorphic image of “a man of war.”[2] Nowhere else in Scripture is God depicted as a “man.”[3] Indeed the Mekhilta was sensitive to this problem:

מכילתא דרבי ישמעאל, שירה, פרשה ד (ע"פ מאגרים) 'ייי איש מלחמה ייי שמו' – איפשר לומר כן [...] וכן הוא אומר 'כי אל אנכי ולא איש'
Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Shirah, 4 (Maagarim) “YHWH is a man of war—YHWH is His name!” Can it really be be stated in this way?! […] For (Scripture) says the following: “For I am God, not man” (Hos 11:9).

The reading in the Samaritan Pentateuch is best explained as an attempt to soften this image with the literarily synonymous[4] but theologically more acceptable “hero” of war, which could be understood as a description of YHWH’s actions as opposed to the deity’s person.[5]

This variant is not a reflection of the views of the Samaritan community per se, and was likely part of the Pre-Samaritan layer of that text, which was created by Jews in the Second Temple period (which is why texts of this sort were found in Qumran). It is thus possible that the author of Psalm 24 was aware of the reading now included in the SP’s text, and was alluding to it in his description of YHWH:

תהלים כד:ח יְ־הוָה עִזּוּז וְגִבּוֹר יְ־הוָה גִּבּוֹר מִלְחָמָה.
Ps 24:8 YHWH, mighty and valiant, YHWH, valiant in battle.

Similarly, the Palestinian Targumim and the Peshitta of Exodus 15:3 speak about God as a “hero”(Aramaic גיברא and גנברא in Syriac).[6] Although it is possible that this reading reflects knowledge of the reading of pre-SP, the Targumim generally reflect MT.

The unusual LXX reading, “who shatters wars,” [7] does not fit a context in which YHWH is depicted in the next verses as an active warrior.[8] The appearance of this rendering makes sense when we consider the likely Hebrew reconstruction,י־הוה שׁבר מלחמה. [9] The word שבר (shober) in LXX and גבר (gibbor) in SP differ in only one letter (shin and gimel) in their base form,[10] though admittedly, the two letters are not close graphically.

In sum, it seems that we can trace the development of the text as follows: the MT’s “man of war” is the oldest text. It was modified by the pre-SP scribes for theological reasons to read “hero of war.” This text was, in turn, misread by the LXX translator or his Vorlage, who read or wrote שבר instead of גבר, yielding the present text of the LXX.

Published

August 24, 2023

|

Last Updated

April 6, 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.