Translation of 3 Reigns 1:5-10 (1 Kgs 1:5-10 LXX)

5. And Adonias, son of Angith, exalted himself, saying, “I, I will rule as king!” And he made himself chariotry and cavalry and fifty men to run in front of him.
6. And not did prevent him his father, not ever saying, “because of what you, you did?” And also he was beautiful in the face, very (much so). And him s/he begot after Abessalom.
7. And the words of him were with Joab, the son of Saronia, and with Abiathar the priest, and they aided after Adonias.
8. And Sadok the priest and Banaias, son of Iodae, and Nathan the prophet and Semei and Rei and the mighty (ones) of David, not were they behind Adonias.
9. And Adonias sacrificed sheep and calves and lambs with a stone of Zoeleth, which was possessing (?) of the spring of Rogel. And he called all his brothers and all the chiefs of Judah, servants of the king.
10. And the Nathan the prophet and Banaia and the mighty (ones) and the Solomon, his brother, he did not call.

Commentary on the Text

(Normally, I’d have a picture or other content here, but man, there is nothing out there for this worth posting. Sorry!) This passage does not present many variants from the Hebrew text in this version beyond the orthography of the names (which don’t really merit discussion here). Yet some of them are still worth mentioning briefly. More importantly, some of the consistency between the Greek and the Hebrew, which makes for poor translation into English (which I have intentionally done here) deserves attention. Let’s begin with one ambiguity before turning to the differences.

In v. 6 in Greek, it remains unclear who begat Absalom (transliterated as Abessalom in Greek). In Hebrew, it is clear: the verb is feminine. In Greek, we don’t have that clarity. Here it could refer to either David (which makes sense based on the other data we have about Absalom and Adonijah in the Hebrew Bible) or Haggith (which does not conform to other biblical data).

I see four main differences between the Hebrew text and this Greek version:

  1. In v. 6 in Hebrew, Adoniah’s father does not “displease” him, whereas in Greek he does not “prevent” or “restrain” him.
  2. In v. 8 in Greek, Nathan et al. are not “behind” Adonias, whereas they are not “with” him in Hebrew.
  3. In v. 9, the Hebrew reads “men of Judah,” whereas the Greek reads “chiefs of Judah.” The easiest and most likely explanation this is an error in the Greek transmission of the text. At some point the Greek ανδρους morphed into αδρους, an easier enough error (losing one letter). This is more likely than a confusion within the Hebrew textual tradition.
  4. The Greek does not specify, in v. 9, that the brothers of Adonias are “the king’s sons”, as is noted in the Hebrew.

Taken together, these differences are hardly what one might call earth-shattering. Yet, they could have some impact on the history of the text. Before considering in what way generally, let’s briefly consider the striking similarities in v. 10, which I have provided in a very wooden English translation.

It is poor English to include a definite article in English before someone’s name. It has a specific, probably generally negative connotation in English. (For example, if I introduce myself to you saying, “I’m the Jonathan” at a party, you probably know a story about some Jonathan who offended your ancestors or did something terribly embarrassing.) In other languages, that doesn’t bear such am implication. (In southern dialects of German, for example, you encounter this quite often.) Greek is one such language. But in this case, something else appears to be going on.

By comparing the other appearances of personal namesin this passage, one notes that they do not regularly appear with the article here. Only in this verse. What is going on then? Here, they reflect precisely (isomorphically, even, if you want a $5-word for it) the Hebrew parent text. The definite articles here reflect the translation of an otherwise untranslatable marker of the direct object in Hebrew. They appear here in the Greek because they represent something in the Hebrew text, even though they are unnecessary in the Greek and really untranslatable from the Hebrew. That informs us about the kind of technique the translators engaged in here. Essentially, they made a translation that permits the reconstruction of the Hebrew parent text from the Greek. What does that mean for the other differences encountered in this passage?

The most important takeaway is that it seems likely that the Greek text attests a trustworthy, probably older Hebrew version than that found in the Masoretic text. This observation, or suggestion, confirms in one case something that we often presume about how texts change: the shorter reading is probably the older one (lectio brevior probabilior). That would explain why the phrase “the king’s sons” is missing in v. 9. MT probably contains a later gloss at this point, stressing that Adoniah’s brothers are in fact the sons of the king (as opposed to the sons of Adoniah’s mother).

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