The Text of Job 3:3b

Well, I have finished reading the first two chapters of Job in the MT and the LXX with some spot readings from the Peshitta along the way.  I’m struck by differences between the LXX and MT, particularly the plus in LXX Job 2:9, which I will comment on later.  However, the differences do strike me as differences on the translation level not the textual level, which has already been observed by many (cf. the  NETS translation and Cox’s introduction to Job).

However, I’m more impressed with the simplicity of the Greek translation of the difficult Hebrew text. Job 3:3b offers a short example.  The Hebrew poetry commences in chapter 3 and with it comes a whole host of syntactical difficulties.  In 3:3b alone, the Hebrew text reads: והלילה אמר הרה גבר.  The text is translated as follows: and the night [which] he said a man was conceived.  There are two verbs in the stichos with no conjunctions to define their relationship to one another.  However, this is a common construction in Hebrew poetry called an asyndetic relative clause.  But how do we know to read the text in this way?

Enter LXX and Peshitta.

The LXX reads: και νυξ, εν ἥ ειπαν Ιδου αρσεν. [translated: and the night in which they said, Behold a man]

P: ܘܠܠܝܐ ܕܐܬܐܡܪ ܒܗ ܕܐܬܒܛܢ ܓܒܪܐ܂.  [translated: and the night in which it was said that a man was conceived].

These two versions agree that there should be a relative clause between the verbs.  P is more faithful to the form of the MT, even though it transforms the active verb “to speak” into an Ethpe’el or passive form “it was said.”  The LXX has a very dynamic translation of the last part: “Behold a man” for MT’s “a man was conceived.”  The Hebrew form of that word occurs no where else in the Hebrew Bible, which may have factored into the Greek translator’s strategy.

This is a short and menial example of how the Versions are so helpful when in the deep waters of Hebrew syntax.  The Versions contain a reading tradition that we would be foolish to ignore.  I have already encountered some of the hapax legomena in the Hebrew Bible, which the Versions have helped me understand.  I will comment on one of these a little later, for the Versions are extremely useful when one encounters a word only used once in the Hebrew Bible.

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