Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Proverbs 20:22 revisited

I was curious about the Hebrew behind Proverbs 20:22, so I pulled my BHS off the shelf and took a look. The last phrase of the verse caught my eye:
weyo$a` lak – the vowels on the verb are schwa, holem, patach. Clearly not a vav consecutive, but a hiphil jussive form. Normal translation would be, "and let Him deliver/save/rescue you." So, the whole verse would run "Do not say, 'I will repay the evil.' Wait for the LORD and let him deliver/rescue/save you."

Hmmm. That's not how all the English translations I checked render it. Universally they render it as a future, "and He will save/rescue/deliver you." So, being the inquisitive sort, I pulled my Vulgata off the shelf and found that Jerome rendered it with a future. The Septuaginta, which has screwed up verse order here, renders it with a hINA clause. So, as usual, our translations show that they are more indebted to Jerome and the Vulgata tradition than they are to the original Hebrew and subsequent Greek.

Just an idle musing on a Wednesday morning, the day before leaving for AAR/SBL...


Ted M. Gossard said...


I do wonder some about this Septuagint (Vulgate- as you bring in) thing as well. It is interesting that scholars do believe the Septuagint sheds some light on the variant Hebrew text of 1 Samuel, and a few other places (this is going on memory, so some things could be off). I see this reflected in TNIV footnotes. That some LXX (Septuagint) renderings could reflect earlier Hebrew manuscripts now lost. I think a little of this is seen in some Dead Sea Scroll manuscripts of Hebrew.

And there are some who view the Septuagint as a superior Bible, thinking it is from earlier Hebrew manuscripts. And after all, it was the Bible of the early church, and the New Testament does quote from it. Though I do understand that the varied nature of how the Septuagint was translated (sometimes more literal, sometimes more free) seems evident.

Also, I'm thinking that Hebrew syntax, as understood now, sees possible flexibility as to what was meant in those Hebrew forms you refer to. But this could be even more "idle musing" than what you've done here.


jps said...


That is the popular theory right now. But, in this passage, the LXX is just convoluted in it's verse order.

Personally, I prefer to go with the Hebrew whenever it makes sense. My point here was simply that the Hebrew and Greek agreed, but the Vulgate didn't. All the English translations I checked (about 10 or so) went with the Vulgate.

Another text where this is evident is Genesis 2, but that is another post for another day...

Anonymous said...

Do you not agree that after an imperative, the jussive is usually subordinated in a purpose or result clause? See, e.g., JM 116d or IBHS 34.6.

Anonymous said...

What I mean is: "Wait for the Lord and so he will deliver/vindicate you" or "Wait for the Lord so that he will deliver/vindicate you" may be the more precise rendering, cf. the Old Greek, as you point out.

But in this case I do not think that the usual English renderings are all that controversial.