2 Sam 25:1-4 (1 Kgs 1:1-4 Ant.)

Introductory Note

With this post, I am returning to the beginning of the book of Kings, albeit in a major Greek textual tradition that is probably unknown to most readers of the text: the so-called Lucianic Recension (L), which is also known as the Antiochene Text (Ant.). To my knowledge, this is the first publicly available or published English translation of this version. As with the text of Kings thus far, I will present my translation of the Greek text and then offer some comments on the distinctions of the passage, trying to keep both the so-called Septuagint text and the Hebrew text in mind. It is worth noting that the Lucianic version of Samuel and Kings does not divide the books in the same way as the Hebrew text. Rather, the first chapter and a half of 1 Kings as known in Hebrew present the last two chapters of the book of Samuel. That complicates citing the text, put hardly presents and insurmountable obstacle.

The Translation

1) And the King, David, was a very old man, advancing in days. And they clothed him with garments, and he could not be warmed.
2) And his servants said to him, “Someone should take for the lord, for the king, a virginal maiden. And she will present herself before the king and lie in his lap. And the king will be warmed.
3) And they sought a good girl in all Israel, and the found Abisak the Somanite, and they brought her to the king.
4) And the girl was good to look at, very. And she was for the king a bedfellow and she served him. And the king did not know her.

Pedro Amério. 1879. King David and Abisag. Public Domain. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Notes on the Text

The first verse in the three versions is essentially identical. In the second verse, the Lucianic text includes the indirect object “to him” in reference to the servants’ speaking. This plus matches the Hebrew text, but not the Septuagint text. Again, the Lucianic text differs from the text of the Septuagint (other than Vaticanus) in that it does not read “our lord” in verse 2. This however matches both Vaticanus and the Hebrew text, as well as the Vulgate. Finally, in verse 2, the Lucianic text better matches the Hebrew than the rest of the Greek tradition in that the girl should “lie in his lap” and not “lie with him” as in the rest of the Greek tradition. However, the Lucianic text is shorter in this verse as well, as has no translation for anything like the Hebrew phrase ותהי־לו סכנת, which also has an unusual translation in the Septuagint. Likely, this longer phrase represents a later attempt to de-sexualize David’s relationship with Abishag. See also the comments below to verse 4.

Verse three has one difference from the Septuagint and the Hebrew text. The Lucianic text refers to “all Israel” rather than the longer “in all the boundaries of Israel” as in the Hebrew text and the Septuagint.

The final difference in these verses goes back to a familiar problem: What exactly is Abishag doing to/for the king? In Hebrew she appears to be some kind of official. In the Septuagint, she is his “warmer.” In the Lucianic text, she is his “bedfellow.” It is possible that either a distinct Hebrew version or an error stands behind the distinction in the Hebrew and the Lucianic text. The Masoretic text reads סכנת here, a rare term that appears to represent some kind of officer. The Lucianic text presumes something more like a Hebrew Vorlage that read משׂכבת (cf. Mic 7:5). The similarity between the Hebrew terms is striking, and the Lucianic reading is more difficult in its context. That suggests that it might easily represent an older Hebrew version that has since been lost. Perhaps this distinction should have literary-critical implications as well, with some version of the text in which David was sexually active with Abishag which was later revised so that he wasn’t or added to some other text in which he wasn’t.

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