Jump to content

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

maklelan

Establishing the Best Reading of Deut 32:8-9

Recommended Posts

I'd like to put down my argument for reading Deut 32:8-9 as an indication that YHWH was originally conceived of as one of the ??? ?????. It seems establishing this will contribute to a number of different discussions going on right now, and in my Pundit forum thread it was rather quickly run over. I'd like to focus exclusively on this one text. I'm going to use only Deut 32:8-9 (in various attestations), and I'm going to request that respondents do the same. I'll not appeal to other texts that support my reading or to other scholarship. I want to see how this verse is best understood in and of itself. After we get that established we can worry about what the other texts say.

I'm going to start with a little textual criticism so we can the best idea of what the text originally said. Here it is as it appears in MT:

??????????? ????????? ???????? ?????????????? ??????? ?????? ??????? ????????? ???????? ??????????? ??????? ????????????

????? ?????? ???????? ??????? ???????? ?????? ??????????

When Elyon separated the nations / when he divided up the sons of man / he set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the Sons of Israel

But the portion of YHWH is his people / Jacob is the territory of his inheritance

?

Now, as is widely known, scholars have long recognized ??? ????? is most likely not original. The Septuagint has "angels of God," which is how it usually translates the phrase ??? ?????. This led many scholars to conclude ??? ????? was original, which has been confirmed by 4QDeut<j> at Qumran (originally associated with 4QDeut<q>, but recently changed). The 4QDeut reading ends right at the lamed, which means we don't have the entire word for "God," and we don't have the beginning of Deut 32:9, which we will see is critical to understanding the text. This gives us the following for v. 8a:

????? ????? ???? ??????? ??? ??? ??? ???? ???? ????? ??? ?????

When Elyon separated the nations / when he divided up the sons of man / he set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the Sons of God

Now, the ?? clause at the beginning of v. 9 is unusual. It cannot be causal. The only reading that makes any sense is an asseverative one ("Surely/Indeed/Certainly . . ."), but even that it peculiar given the clause immediately preceding it (according to the number of the sons of God). Again, the Septuagint gives us a different reading:

??? ??????? ????? ?????? ???? ????? ??????, ????????? ??????????? ????? ???????.

And his people Jacob became the Lord's portion / Israel, a measured part of his inheritance

??? ??????? comes from the Hebrew ????. This can either be "And it came to pass . . ." or it can be the main verb of the clause, which is how LXX reads it. Either way, it is subordinate to the previous clause rather than contrastive. (LXX also adds "Israel," which seems to be a harmonization with Ps 78:71.) The scribe who changed "God" to "Israel" either had a text that had already changed ???? to ?? or he did so himself. I'm inclined to think he did so himself.

Taking the evidence from the Septuagint against MT, I recommend the following reading for both verses:

????? ????? ???? ??????? ??? ??? ??? ???? ???? ????? ??? ??????

???? ??? ???? ??? ???? ??? ?????

When Elyon apportioned the nations / when he divided up the sons of man / he set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the Sons of God

And the portion of YHWH is his people / Jacob is the territory of his inheritance

Alternatively, we could render the second cola as follows:

And his people became the portion of YHWH / Jacob is the territory of his inheritance

This, however, requires playing with the word order, and would work better if the verse ended with Israel, as it does in LXX. The former reading is preferred, and the ???? phrase should be understood as a simple conjunction.

So now the text requires interpretation.

The nations are divided up according to the number of the sons of God. In this apportioning of the nations, YHWH received Israel. That YHWH's inheritance is linked to Elyon's apportioning of the nations is made clear by the lexical link at the beginning of v. 8 and the end of v. 9. The verb used to describe Elyon's apportioning is the hiphil infinitive construct of ??? (to inherit, possess), and the verb means "he caused to inherit/possess." The noun at the end of v. 9 is ????, which is simply the substantive of the same verb. It means "possession," "inheritance," or "allotment." The theme of both verses is identical. Elyon does the apportioning. YHWH receives a portion. On the surface, it seems clear that YHWH was among the Sons of God who received a division of the nations of the earth.

But if YHWH and Elyon are to be identified, then YHWH Elyon may just be saving a portion for himself. This conflicts with what the text says, however. The nations were divided up according to the number of the Sons of God, not the number of the Sons of God plus an extra. Nor does it say that somebody didn't receive a portion. Nor does it at all give the impression that YHWH is doing anything other than receiving a portion from someone else.

I contend that Deut 32:8-9 plainly distinguishes between Elyon and YHWH, and that YHWH is presented as one of the Sons of Elohim. I also contend that this understanding can only be mitigating by subjugating the interpretation of the text to the other scriptures from disparate historical and ideological layers. As I've argued elsewhere, this presupposes a univocal text and confines itself to the hermeneutic circle.

Is anyone willing to argue against the interpretation I offer above based on Deut 32:8-9 alone?

Share this post


Link to post

Is anyone willing to argue against the interpretation I offer above based on Deut 32:8-9 alone?

I'm not, but I am willing to watch with interest. foodpopcorn.gif

Share this post


Link to post

Don't you mean ??????? ??????????? is likely not original?

Share this post


Link to post

Don't you mean ??????? ??????????? is likely not original?

Oh, thanks for catching that.

Share this post


Link to post

Is anyone willing to argue against the interpretation I offer above based on Deut 32:8-9 alone?

Not on your life, but I am willing to ask a question. It seems that this passage may hearken back to the more archaic assumptions prevalent within Ugartiic literature where the distinctions made are a bit more fine. Could this be the case here? Could El Elyon be conflated with YHWH in the same way that El is seen as distinct as Ba'al?

Share this post


Link to post

How do scholars rationalize this passage with the Deuteronomist's characteristic monotheism?

Is the Semitic myth of El giving a nation to each of the sons coherent with the Deuteronomist's theology? If not, when this passage was incorporated into the text, did he/they understand the passage differently than as originally intended and as you argue here?

Share this post


Link to post

Not on your life, but I am willing to ask a question. It seems that this passage may hearken back to the more archaic assumptions prevalent within Ugartiic literature where the distinctions made are a bit more fine. Could this be the case here? Could El Elyon be conflated with YHWH in the same way that El is seen as distinct as Ba'al?

Elyon should be seen as the Israelite analogue to the Ugaritic El. Yahweh is the Israelite analogue to the Ugaritic Baal. Of course, many of the smaller details differ, but as far as procreator deity as father of storm deity goes, and other general questions of hierarchy and nature, they parallel each other.

Share this post


Link to post

How do scholars rationalize this passage with the Deuteronomist's characteristic monotheism?

Is the Semitic myth of El giving a nation to each of the sons coherent with the Deuteronomist's theology? If not, when this passage was incorporated into the text, did he/they understand the passage differently than as originally intended and as you argue here?

Bump.

Share this post


Link to post

How do scholars rationalize this passage with the Deuteronomist's characteristic monotheism?

Sorry, I didn't catch your post. I'm happy to respond to this one, but I'd like to keep the rest of the discussion focused only on Deut 32:8-9.

The Song of Moses is an archaic poem that was inserted into the structure of Deuteronomy, but is much older than it. Deut 32:8-9 represent a portion of that poem that is older than the rest of the poem, thus the v. 7 explains that it would be the elders reminding them of the facts presented in vv. 8-9. Deut 4:19 represents an interpretation of Deut 32:8-9 from a later time period. This is why the gods of the other nations are astral deities, which squares with Neo-Babylonian ideologies far more than Syro-Palestinian ones.

Is the Semitic myth of El giving a nation to each of the sons coherent with the Deuteronomist's theology? If not, when this passage was incorporated into the text, did he/they understand the passage differently than as originally intended and as you argue here?

I believe when it was originally incorporated it was understood differently (thus Deut 4:19 puts YHWH at the top). The ?? may actually date to that original incorporation as an attempt to contrast v. 9 with the end of v. 8.

Share this post


Link to post

Dan,

I have seen this thread and do plan to respond. I have something else I'm working on, and I'd like to give your argument a little more thought before responding.

Bump for Rob.

Share this post


Link to post

Dan,

I have seen this thread and do plan to respond. I have something else I'm working on, and I'd like to give your argument a little more thought before responding.

Thanks Rob.

Share this post


Link to post

Dan,

You argue that Deuteronomy 32:8-9 clearly identifies YHWH as one of the sons of Elohim. Your argument here follows the Dead Sea Scroll text (4QDeutj) that has

Share this post


Link to post
Now, your interpretation understands the apportionment in verse 9 to be the same event as verse 8, which is understood as the Most High apportioning the nations to the sons of Elohim. On this basis, you conclude that verse 9 means that YHWH

Share this post


Link to post

Yes, indeed. foodpopcorn.gif

Share this post


Link to post

Dan,

You wrote:

Rob, I

Share this post


Link to post

Dan,

You wrote:

If I thought I was "ignoring" your criteria, I would have said something about it. I cited other texts only as I thought they were directly relevant to the exegesis of Deuteronomy 32:8-9. There was nothing ad hoc about my citing other texts in Deuteronomy using the word "nations," for example. You may wish to exclude such information, but if so, I won't be able to follow your exegetical method.

This is not a very difficult text to interpret in and of itself. I made very clear I did not want any outside texts being called upon to establish some kind of contextual mater lectionis. You did exactly what I requested not be done, and without even explaining that you thought it was necessary.

You wrote:

My argument that Deuteronomy 32:8 is connected thematically to the table of nations passage in Genesis 10 grants for the sake of discussion the reading "sons of Elohim" rather than "sons of Israel."

Fair enough. Since your argument against "sons of Elohim" holds no water, how about we just jettison it altogether?

You wrote:

Actually, as best I can see, your move is not only an excuse to avoid context, but a self-defeating exclusion of the use of texts outside the two verses under consideration. The way you "showed" that Israel might be included in the terms "nations" and "peoples" is by appealing to other occurrences of those words, in other texts, that fit your interpretation. So, apparently, it's okay for you to appeal to texts outside these two verses, but not for me to do so. Your game, your rules?

But I wouldn't have to go outside the text if you hadn't done so first to assert that "nations" doesn't refer to Israel elsewhere in the Bible. If you had stayed within the boundaries I requested that never would have been a consideration.

Again, I want to establish an exclusively internal interpretation. I provided a perfectly accurate translation that contained nothing in the way of semantic or lexical manipulation or bias, and I wanted to see where that translation leads entirely in and of itself. That's not a tough thing to do.

I'll restate the matter this way: you and I both agree that in some texts "nations" and "peoples" are inclusive of Israel, and in some texts not.

I disagree. "Nations" is often used in an excluding sense, but ??? ??? and ???? are commonly used to refer to Israel as well as other nations, especially when talking about these archaic etiologies. The three terms in parallel use make your reading incredibly tendentious. It's clearly an attempt to undermine the plain reading of the text.

That being the case, my exegetical claim that these terms in verse 8 refer to nations/peoples other than Israel is linguistically, semantically defensible. I don't need to show that they must be so interpreted to show that my view is exegetically plausible. And that's all I am aiming to show.

I suppose you could call it possible, but I don't think it's plausible. It presumes far to narrow and specific a semantic range for three rather vague terms being used parallel to each other (which serves to broaden their scope, not reduce it).

You wrote:

The fact is that on any exegesis I've seen, including yours, Deuteronomy 32:8-9 is a most unusual text. So dismissing an exegetical view because it seems bizarre may not be a valid move.

No, exegesis should be the most cautious with unusual texts. The reason I call it bizarre is because the connections are too tenuous and have far too many variables to really be taken seriously. You have concept X with a broad conceptual range that overlaps with concept Y in a tiny little corner, so you link the two, and then take the opposite edge of concept Y and link it with a little corner of concept Z and use that to say concept A is intentionally pointing to the far end of concept Z. It's incredibly weak.

You wrote:

That doesn't make sense. Deuteronomy 32:8 is itself a textual witness to such a tradition!

That's not true at all. I said there is no tradition pushing the division of the nations back that far in time, meaning, there was no tradition of a division of the nations taking place millennia before Israel ever existed (specifically during the days of Peleg). There was a tradition of a division of the nations, but we don't know the details. What Deut 32:8-9 points to is simply that there was a tradition of a division into 70 nations, which was a common one in the ancient Near East.

Now, you may argue that Genesis 10 in its extant, canonical form dates from after Deuteronomy 32:8-9, but this doesn't prove that a tradition very similar to, substantially the same as, what we find in Genesis didn't exist at the time. And that's enough to support my proposed interpretation of Deuteronomy 32:8-9.

No it's not. I can just as easily say that you have no evidence such a tradition did exist at the time. You have to work with the evidence you have, not the evidence you think may exist. The evidence we have is that Deut 32:8-9 links Israel to the division of the nations and that a later tradition preserved in Genesis 10 dates the division to shortly after the tower of Babel. You're trying to triangulate back to a tradition using Deut 32:8-9 as a point of reference, but that only works if you presuppose it's pointed at the same Urtext, which is begging the question.

You wrote:

I'm sorry, I don't understand that second sentence.

The tradition in Genesis 10 conflicts in your opinion with my reading of Deuteronomy 32 because Israel did not exist at the time the nations were divided. Since Deuteronomy 32 is older than Genesis 10, and puts several countries into that division that did not exist until well after Israel existed, your conclusion is untenable. If the Medes were there during the division, why can't Israel (an older nation than the Medes) be there?

You wrote:

They are no more "chronologically disparate" in Deuteronomy 32:8-9 than they are in other texts, which you don't want me to cite. wink.gif

I asked you already to point to a scripture where such chronologically disparate events were put in parallelism with only one temporal context stated. If you can find them, be my guest.

You wrote:

My claim was the former, not the latter.

No, your claim was very clearly the latter. You said that we must interpret v. 9 as referring to a much later time period than v. 8 because that's how Genesis 10 describes it. This is an explicit appeal to the assumption that the texts must be made to agree.

You wrote:

Here is another place where your exegesis, as much as mine, depends on how you view other texts. The fact that you didn't cite them in your opening post does not mean that your view of them played no part in your argument. Your argument depends on your view of the dating of Deuteronomy 32 in comparison to the rest of Deuteronomy, for example. You cannot escape placing your exegesis in a wider interpretive net any more than I can. The difference is that I am transparent about it.

Not true. I explicitly and intentionally avoided any interpretation that relied on contextualization. If you intend to insist that my interpretation was influenced by outside texts then present a straightforward interpretation of the text, in and of itself, that makes more sense. Show me where my interpretation was influenced by other texts and how a non-contextual reading would differ.

You wrote:

My mistake; thanks for the correction.

Regarding wayehi, you wrote:

Notice again that you are implicitly appealing to other texts, without citing them, when you explain what wayehi means.

Lexical significance has to be allowed to be determined. Keep in mind there's a very big different between lexical significance and semantic significance. If not then the text cannot even be read, much less interpreted.

A lot seems to be riding on your preference for the LXX reading kai egenethe and an original wayehi. It may be the best reading, but the argument places undue weight on a reading that is at the very least debatable. As you point out, we don't have the beginning of verse 9 in 4QDeut, and this means you must depend solely on the LXX against the MT.

And it's correct against MT in the two words that immediately precede the words in question. The weight of the evidence supports my reading.

I should not have given the impression that kai egenethe (or wayehi) necessarily denotes a passage of time, but only that it allows for it. I'll give notice that I'm violating your criterion and cite some examples (Lev. 9:1;

It's "on the eighth day" that establishes a passage of time. Of course ???? allows for passages of time, but they can only be identified when they're stated. Without an explicit statement of some passage of time the word has no temporal significance. Deut 32:8-9 does not indicate any relevant passage of time (I know time passes between the giving of inheritance and the reception of inheritance, but it's an irrelevant quantity).

Share this post


Link to post

Dan,

I've read through our posts in this thread repeatedly and given the matter a lot of thought, and I really think that the exegetical parameters that you insist on using preclude a sound interpretation of the text. I simply do not agree that exegesis should be done according to rules that preclude citing texts that use the same words as the text under consideration, or texts that are demonstrably linked thematically--especially when those texts are in the same book as the text under consideration. I do not think I can discuss the text further under these arbitrary and hermeneutically dubious restrictions. By your own reasoning, we must read Deuteronomy 32:8-9 as a text without a context. That is simply unacceptable. The argument that scholars date the Song of Moses earlier than the rest of the book is irrelevant, since you also want to exclude the rest of chapter 32 from consideration in interpreting these two verses.

Furthermore, I still maintain that your exclusion is one-sided and self-serving. You excuse your citation of outside texts in response to me by saying, in effect, that I did it first. But this excuse ignores the fact that your original argument at every turn assumes that we know what various words mean. The only way to test that claim is to look at other texts where the same words appear. You make the statement that Deuteronomy 32:8-9 points to "a tradition of a division into 70 nations," when of course those two verses say nothing about the number 70. Obviously, you got that number from some other text.

I have what I think are pretty good rebuttals to several of the points you have made, but they depend on the legitimacy of the approach to exegesis and interpretation that I favor and that you, apparently for this one passage only, refuse to allow. So I must respectfully and regretfully conclude that we are at an impasse.

Share this post


Link to post

Dan,

I've read through our posts in this thread repeatedly and given the matter a lot of thought, and I really think that the exegetical parameters that you insist on using preclude a sound interpretation of the text. I simply do not agree that exegesis should be done according to rules that preclude citing texts that use the same words as the text under consideration, or texts that are demonstrably linked thematically--especially when those texts are in the same book as the text under consideration. I do not think I can discuss the text further under these arbitrary and hermeneutically dubious restrictions. By your own reasoning, we must read Deuteronomy 32:8-9 as a text without a context. That is simply unacceptable. The argument that scholars date the Song of Moses earlier than the rest of the book is irrelevant, since you also want to exclude the rest of chapter 32 from consideration in interpreting these two verses.

Furthermore, I still maintain that your exclusion is one-sided and self-serving. You excuse your citation of outside texts in response to me by saying, in effect, that I did it first. But this excuse ignores the fact that your original argument at every turn assumes that we know what various words mean. The only way to test that claim is to look at other texts where the same words appear. You make the statement that Deuteronomy 32:8-9 points to "a tradition of a division into 70 nations," when of course those two verses say nothing about the number 70. Obviously, you got that number from some other text.

I have what I think are pretty good rebuttals to several of the points you have made, but they depend on the legitimacy of the approach to exegesis and interpretation that I favor and that you, apparently for this one passage only, refuse to allow. So I must respectfully and regretfully conclude that we are at an impasse.

I wanted to do this as an exercise to establish what the text means first on its own. I was planning on then bringing in some context to support my reading. As I stated, my translation is a perfectly accurate point of departure.

Since this discussion has continued outside my criteria, however, I am willing to continue it. I've responded to your concerns, so we can continue from there if you wish.

Share this post


Link to post
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...