A pastor’s thoughts on using the Septuagint in sermon preparation

Job 2:9 (NASB) “Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!”

Job 2:9 (Hebrew Text) וַתֹּ֤אמֶר לֹו֙ אִשְׁתֹּ֔ו עֹדְךָ֖ מַחֲזִ֣יק בְּתֻמָּתֶ֑ךָ בָּרֵ֥ךְ אֱלֹהִ֖ים וָמֻֽת׃

Job 2:9 (Greek Septuagint) χρόνου δὲ πολλοῦ προβεβηκότος εἶπεν αὐτῷ ἡ γυνὴ αὐτοῦ μέχρι τίνος καρτερήσεις λέγων [9α] ἰδοὺ ἀναμένω χρόνον ἔτι μικρὸν προσδεχόμενος τὴν ἐλπίδα τῆς σωτηρίας μου [9b] ἰδοὺ γὰρ ἠφάνισταί σου τὸ μνημόσυνον ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς υἱοὶ καὶ θυγατέρες ἐμῆς κοιλίας ὠδῖνες καὶ πόνοι οὓς εἰς τὸ κενὸν ἐκοπίασα μετὰ μόχθων [9c] σύ τε αὐτὸς ἐν σαπρίᾳ σκωλήκων κάθησαι διανυκτερεύων αἴθριος [9d] κἀγὼ πλανῆτις καὶ λάτρις τόπον ἐκ τόπου περιερχομένη καὶ οἰκίαν ἐξ οἰκίας προσδεχομένη τὸν ἥλιον πότε δύσεται ἵνα ἀναπαύσωμαι τῶν μόχθων καὶ τῶν ὀδυνῶν αἵ με νῦν συνέχουσιν [9e] ἀλλὰ εἰπόν τι ῥῆμα εἰς κύριον καὶ τελεύτα

Introduction:

As one works with the text of scripture, it is often instructive and helpful to consult other versions, translations and if possible, original language texts.  In Job 1-2 we are introduced to Job as a believer who endures the sufferings and testings actively cause by Satan and Sovereignly willed by permission by God. Another character is introduced in these two chapters that receives but a few lines in the Hebrew text, upon which virtually all of our English translations are based – namely Job’s wife.  However there is an interesting detail about the Hebrew and Greek Septuagint texts of Job 1-2 that marks them as distinct – namely in how each text presents Job 2:9.

Quick summary on the Septuagint                                                                                  The Septuagint was the first translation ever made of the Hebrew Old Testament scriptures and represents a Hebrew text that in some instances is at least as old, if not older than the Masoretic Hebrew Text that comprises all of the Hebrew Bibles in existence today.  Begun in roughly 250 b.c with the Pentateuch or first five books of Moses, over a period of 150 years, the remainder of the Old Testament Bible books were eventually translated.  The reason for the the name “Septuagint” comes from the historic tradition that 70 Jewish scribes were utilized in the initial work of translation. The Roman numeral for 70 (LXX) is often used as short hand for referring to this ancient version of the Greek Old Testament (much like we use NASB to refer to the New American Standard Bible).  The LXX is important in Biblical studies, being that it was the version most often quoted in the New Testament and most likely might had been among the versions of the Old Testament used by Jesus and the apostles.

Even if the reader does not know Hebrew or Greek, a comparison of the length of the Greek Septuagint text of Job 2:9 above is seen to be much longer than the Hebrew. Without getting into the technical reasons as to why this might be the case, the Septuagint text gives us some extra details about Job’s wife that can aid in exposition regarding the level of despair she felt at the massive loss suffered by she and Job.

The translation of the Septuagint (LXX) text of Job 2:9

The following translation of Septuagint version of Job 2:9 is adapted from the website: http://www.ellopos.net/elpenor/greek-texts/septuagint/chapter.asp?book=25&page=2  The verse is the LXX’s embellishment of what was going on in the mind and life of Job’s wife at the time of their loss:

“And when much time had passed, his wife said to him, How long wilt thou hold out, saying, (9a) Behold, I wait yet a little while, expecting the hope of my deliverance? (9b) for, behold, thy memorial is abolished from the earth, [even thy] sons and daughters, the pangs and pains of my womb which I bore in vain with sorrows; (9c) and thou thyself sittest down to spend the nights in the open air among the corruption of worms, (9d) and I am a wanderer and a servant from place to place and house to house, waiting for the setting of the sun, that I may rest from my labours and my pangs which now beset me: (9e) but say some word against the Lord, and die.

A few observations

The reader can first of all note that the LXX version of Job 2:9 is divided up into six verse divisions, with an introductory clause, followed by four other divisions numbered 9a,b,c & d.  The reader can also note that the verse numbered (9e) corresponds with the original wording of the Hebrew text. The character of these additional verses (9a-d and the introductory phrase) provide a commentary on what the Jews understood the depth of Job’s wife’s despair to be from their reflections on the ancient Hebrew text of the time. The Hebrew text of Job 2:9 uses very forceful language issuing forth from Job’s wife that, even if we didn’t have the LXX commentary, would still convey the sense she had lost hope.

Possible usages for this insight in preaching on this text

As a pastor, I would probably not go into the textual history of this verse like we are doing here on the blogsite while preaching.  However one could say at bare minimum that among the ancient Jews there existed the opinion that Job’s wife had wrestled with all that was happening in their crisis, and ended up evidencing a total loss of faith and hope in God. Job’s wife is a stark contrast to Job, who is evidencing true, genuine faith that is enduring in the midst of extenuating circumstances. The LXX version alludes to the fact that Job’s wife resented him and thought him to be callous to her plight and to the loss of their children.  She deemed his exercise of prayer and waiting on God to be futile.  Her wandering around from house to house signals to the reader the condition of her heart as a wandering heart.  We can contrast her to Job, whose heart and faith were anchored to the Lord – even though Job himself had no forthcoming answers.

Conclusions:

The whole purpose of this post was to expose the reader a little bit to the LXX text and how it can be used in a practical way as an ancient commentary on the Hebrew text upon which our English translations are based.  I would encourage the reader to explore the website listed earlier in the translation, being that it gives a complete translation of the LXX in English. To God be the glory!

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About pastormahlon

By the grace of God I was converted to saving faith in Jesus Christ at the age of 10 and called into the Gospel ministry by age 17. Through the Lord's grace I completed a Bachelors in Bible at Lancaster Bible College in 1996 and have been married to my beautiful wife since that same year. We have been blessed with four children, ranging from 7-18 years of age. In 2002 the Lord enabled me to complete a Master of Arts in Christian Thought at Biblical Theological Seminary, Hatfield PA. For nearly 25 years I have been preaching and teaching God's Word and have been studying the original languages since 1994. In 2016 God called my family and me to move to begin a pastorate at a wonderful Southern Baptist Congregation here in Northern New York.
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