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Building the Internal Chronology of the Bible

Research: Translation Discussion of Genesis 15.13 in Masoretic and Septuagint Texts

Table 1. Genesis 15.13 in the Masoretic
Gen 15.13aThen He said to @Avräm, Know for certain that your seed will become a sojourner in a land not theirs
Literalthen He saidto @Avrämfor certain knowthat a sojournerwill becomeyour seedin a landnotto them
YLTand He says to Abram, `knowing – know that your seed is a sojourner in a land not theirs,
LITVAnd He said to Abram, Knowing you must know that your seed shall be an alien in a land not theirs;
GenevaThen He said to Abram, Know for a surety, that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs four hundred years,
TyndaleAnd he sayde vnto Abram: knowe this of a suertie that thi seed shalbe a straunger in a lande that perteyneth not vnto the.
NASBAnd God said to Abram, "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs
KJVAnd he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs,
Gen 15.13band they will serve them, and they will afflict them ~ 400 years. #.
Alt.and they will serve them, and [by them] they will be afflicted ~ 400 years #.
Hebrewwaøávädhûmweøinnû@öthäm ~@arbaømë@ôthshänäh #.
Literaland they will serve themand they will afflictthemfourhundredsyear
YLTand they have served them, and they have afflicted them four hundred years,
LITVand they shall serve them. And they shall afflict them four hundred years;
Genevaand shall serve them: and they entreat them evil
TyndaleAnd they shall make bondmen of them and entreate them evell iiij. hundred yeares.
NASBwhere they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years.
KJVand shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years;
Masoretic Text: The first part of the verse is a straightforward translation:

"And He said to @Avräm, "Know for certain your seed will become a sojourner in a land not theirs"

@Avräm's descendents would live in a land not belonging to them. Since @Avram was already living in a land that was not his (it's the Promised Land and not the Owned Land), this implies that @Avräm's seed might be moving to another land besides Kenaøan that was not theirs. However, @Élöhîm does not name a land. He only identifies it as 'a land not belonging to them.' The identification of the land as Mitsräyim (Egypt) comes only in hindsight. The verb 'yihyeh' is the Qal Imperfect 3mp form of 'häyäh' set in a clearly future context, which I translate as 'will become.' Qal refers to the verb stem; Qal indicates simple action. I think 'häyäh' is often mistranslated in English as the linking verb or copula 'is.' However, Hebrew doesn't normally use linking verbs, which is why 'is' is often in italics in many English translations because 'is' does not exist in the Hebrew text. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament #491 discusses Hebrew occasionally using 'häyäh' as a linking verb, but that kind of static usage seems inconsistant to me with the overall usage of 'häyäh.' My study of the verb had found that 'häyah' is a dynamic verb best translated in most instances as 'become' or 'it happened' or 'it came to pass,' which English translations frequently do. Dr. Arthur C. Custance's study of 'häyäh' in Without Form and Void confirmed my conclusion. The second part of the verse "and they shall serve them and they shall afflict them" is a bit more complicated. A literal English translation of the Hebrew is confusing because a straight translation of the pronouns makes it sound as though @Avräm's seed will both serve      and afflict those living in a foreign land. The verbs are in the Qal (simple) and the Piel (intensive); both are in the active voice. So, technically a passive voice translation is incorrect. The verbs are both Perfect 3mp set in a future context and translated as 'they will serve' and 'they will afflict.' This is an instance of the 'prophetic Perfect,'(1) in which the Perfect translates as complete action in the future because YHWH is the One decreeing the action; therefore, it will occur with certainty. The two verbs handle their direct objects (DO) differently. The first verb 'øávädhûm' (they will serve) uses a 3mpPS attached directly to the verb for its DO (them): 'they will serve them.' As the first verb following the previous sentence, the subject pronoun inherent in the verb (they) refers back to @Avräm's seed with the 3mp pronominal suffice (PS) indicating the DO of the action as something other than @Avräm's seed, (the inference being the inhabitants of the land not belonging to @Avräm's seed): @Avräm's seed will serve the inhabitants of the land. The second verb 'øinnû' (they will oppress) uses a Direct Object Marker (DOM) with a 3mp PS '@öthäm' for its direct object, 'them.' The separation of the direct object from the second verb to a stand alone form indicates (to me) a change in the pronoun references and, I believe, sets up a chiastic construction (a-b, b-a). The direct object/pronoun becomes the reference back to @Avräm's seed, and the subject pronoun of the second verb refers to the direct object of the first verb. Substituting the nouns for the pronouns makes that clearer in English:

And He said to @Avräm, Know for certain that your seed will be a sojourner in a land not theirs and @Avräm's seed will serve the inhabitants of the foreign land and the inhabitants of the foreign land will afflict @Avräm's seed ~ 400 years #

Unfortunately, keeping that chiastic construction using the pronouns in English is difficult. English pronouns simply do not work that way. I think the best thing to do is what the other translators did: translate the second verb with the passive voice. I added in 'by them' at the beginning of the second phrase as an attempt to keep the chiastic construction.

And He said to @Avräm, Know for certain that your seed will become a sojourner in a land not theirs and they will serve them, and [by them] they will be afflicted ~ 400 years #

Note that my literal translation does not use the word "enslave" to translate the Hebrew any more than Young's and Green's (LITV) literal translations do. The Geneva, ESV, and KJV don't use the word 'enslave' either but the NASB does and Tyndale uses "bondmen". However, the Hebrew word here is 'øavadh,' which primarily means 'to work or to serve.' It is the same word used in Genesis 2 to describe @Ädhäm's serving the ground. It means 'to enslave' only in the Hiphil stem; the stem used here is the Qal. The Qal stem denotes simple action, and this verb in the Qal does not connote slavery. The second word YHWH uses is 'øänäh.' This word means 'to afflict, oppress, subdue, or humble.' Now, the verb in the Hiphil stem does mean slavery, but the stem used here is the Piel. The Piel stem intensifies the meaning of "to afflict," but it does not connote slavery. Young, LITV, and ESV follow the KJV in translating it as 'afflict,' while the Geneva goes with 'entreat them evil.' TWOT #1652 discusses how God uses this affliction to humble the recipient into absolute dependence on Him. So, this verse does not refer to slavery, but rather to service and affliction, which YHWH permitted in order to humble @Avräm's seed so they would depend on Him. The idea that YHWH @Élöhîm was telling @Avräm that his seed would be enslaved is an interpretation made after the fact, years after the benê Yisrä@ël were, in fact, enslaved by the inhabitants of a land not belonging to them. What YHWH @Élöhîm says to @Avräm does not require an understanding that his seed would be enslaved. I would seriously question whether @Avräm understood YHWH to be saying so. So how does the 400 years work in this verse? The Athnak separates the 400 years from the rest of the sentence. I agree the 400 years applies to part of the verse before the Athnak. For 400 years, @Avräm's seed will be a sojourner in a land not theirs and @Avräm's seed will serve the inhabitants of the land and the inhabitants of the land will afflict @Avräm's seed. But, again, in the Masoretic, Genesis 15:13 mentions neither Mitsräyim nor slavery specifically as occurring during the 400 years. I reiterate, that interpretation comes from hindsight. @Avräm's seed did spend 400 years in a land not theirs since neither Kenaøan nor Mitsräyim belonged to @Avräm's seed while they sojourned in those lands. @Avräm's seed was afflicted by the residents of both Kenaøan and Mitsräyim. Yitschäq had to keep moving from well to well because the Pelishtîm shepherds kept quarreling with his servants and claiming his wells. It wasn't to the same degree of affliction as the future slavery in Mitsräyim would be, but it was affliction. Just as the Geneva Bible had a note for Exodus 12.16 explaining the 430 years counted from @Avräm to the Exodus, so too the Geneva Bible has a note for Genesis 15.13 explaining the 400 years counts from the birth of Yitschaq to the Exodus.

Counting from the birth of Isaac to their departure out of Egypt: Which declareth that God will suffer His to be afflicted in this world.

According to the ICB, there are 405 years between the birth of Yitschaq and the Exodus. Therefore, the 400 years is a rounding. Either way, the 20th century interpretation of the 400 years applying to the time the benê Yisrä@ël were in Mitsräyim simply does not hold up under examination of the relevant Hebrew Scriptures. Septuagint
Table 2. Genesis 15.13 in the Septuagint
Gen 15.13aand it was said to Hábram, 'You will surely know that your seed will be a sojourner in a land not his own
SeptAnd it was said to Abram, Thou shalt surely know that thy seed shall be a sojourner in a land not their own,
GreekKaìerréthapròsHábram;ginóskonynósaihotipároikonestaispérmasouen gâioukidíai
GramrCAPI3msPPNmPAPms-nFMI2psCnsn-nFMI3sDA-ansn-aPN2ps-gP fsn-dnegfsav-d
LiteralAndit was saidtoHábramknowingyou will knowthata sojournerwill bethe seedyourin a landnotone's own
Gen 15.13band they shall enslave them, and they will mistreat them, and they will humble them, 400 years.
Septand they shall enslave them, and afflict them, and humble them four hundred years.
Literalandthey will enslavethemandthey will oppressthemandthey will humblethem400years.
Grammar Analysis: The Greek words the scholars chose to translate the Hebrew are also interesting because they emphasize the forced subjugation of @Avrähäm's descendents. The translators used three verbs to translate this passage: doulósousin, kakósousin, and tapeinósousin. None of these words conveys the simple 'to serve or to work' concept of the Hebrew word 'øavadh.' They appear to focus on amplifying the Hebrew word 'øänäh' to emphasize the bad treatment the benê Yisrä@ël received at the hands of the Mitsräyim. 'doulóo' means nothing but 'to enslave' or 'to bring into bondage;' 'kakóo' means 'to harm, mistreat, oppress;' 'tapeinóo' means 'to humble, bring low.' Given that the Septuagint was a translation from the Hebrew text centuries after the Exodus, by which time their ancestors' enslavement by the Mitsräyim was a never forgotten episode in the history of the benê Yisrä@ël, this is not surprising. However, I still consider it doubtful that @Avräm understood YHWH @élöhîm to be referring to his seed being enslaved for 400 years. I concede the Septuagint translation gives the impression the enslavement lasted for 400 years, yet it is the Septuagint that preserved the text fragment indicating that the 430 years ran from @Avräm to the Exodus. So, looking at the two relevant passages in the Septuagint (Genesis 15.13 and Exodus 12.40-41) clarifies that the 400 years cannot refer solely to the time spent in Mitsräyim       nor to the period of enslavement; it must include the time spent in Kenaøan when @Avräm’s seed were semi-nomadic herdsmen. Stephanos' quote of Genesis 15.13 recorded in Acts 7.6
Table 3. Acts 7.6 in Greek
Act 7.6aBut God spoke this, that his seed would be a sojourner in a land belonging to another
LiteralspokebutthistheGodthatwould betheseedselfsojournerina landbelonging to another
YLT`And God spake thus, That his seed shall be sojourning in a strange land,
LITVAnd God spoke thus, that his seed would be an alien in another land,
GenevaBut God spake thus, that his seed should be a sojourner in a strange land:
TyndaleGod verely spake on this wyse that his seade shulde be a dweller in a straunge londe
NASBBut God spoke to this effect, that his OFFSPRING WOULD BE ALIENS IN A FOREIGN LAND,
KJVAnd God spake on this wise, That his seed should sojourn in a strange land;
Acts 7.6band they will enslave them and they will mistreat 400 years.
Mounce2779 15308992779280822915484.
Literalandthey will enslavethemandthey will mistreatyears400.
YLTand they shall cause it to serve, and shall do it evil four hundred years,.
LITVand they would enslave it and oppress it four hundred years..
Genevaand that they should keep it in bondage and entreat it evil four hundred years..
Tyndaleand that they shulde kepe them in bondage and entreate them evyll .iiii.C. yeares..
NASBand that they would be enslaved and mistreated for four hundred years..
KJVand that they should bring them into bondage, and entreat them evil four hundred years..
Next we come to Stephen's quotation of this verse in his defense before the Sanhedrin, as recorded in the New Testament. Stephen is quoting from the Septuagint, but it's a paraphrase because he leaves out the third verb, 'tapeinóo' or 'humble.' Biblical scholars have long held that when the New Testament writers quote from the Old Testament, they quote from the Septuagint, and not from the Hebrew texts.(2) ("Bible Translations-Septuagint). They also hold that many of the quotations are a paraphrased version, as opposed to a word-for-word quote, which a simple comparison with the verses as recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures will illustrate. (McLay, 2003) Apparently, that is what Stephen did during his defense. So, I don't think that this verse really adds anything to the discussion because it is a paraphrased quote of the Septuagint verse I already discussed. However, the Geneva Bible's comment on Acts 7.6 is instructive.

There are reckoned four hundred years, from the beginning of Abraham's progeny, which was at the birth of Isaac and four hundred and thirty years which are spoken of by Paul, Gal 3:17, from the time that Abraham and his father departed together out of Ur of the Chaldeans.

The 16th century English Reform scholars understood the 400 years counted from the birth of Yitschäq to the Exodus,(3) just as they understood the 430 years counted from @Avrähäm to the Exodus. According to an article by Dr. Michael S. Heiser,(4)) the Renaissance and Reformation eras saw a greatly renewed interest in the Septuagint. I think it is reasonable to surmise the Geneva Bible translators were well aware that, in Galatians 3.15, Paul was referencing Exodus 12.40-41 as found in the Septuagint, and not as found in the Masoretic text. They did not change their translation to reflect the Septuagint Greek over the Masoretic Hebrew texts, but they did note the 430 years stretched from @Avrähäm to the Exodus     and the 400 years from the birth of Yitschäq to the Exodus. Conclusion Why this information was lost over the past 450 years is a question for a separate discussion. Nevertheless, the common Christian perception that the benê-Yisrä@ál were enslaved for 400 years in Mitsräyim is incorrect. I contend the logical understanding of Genesis 15.13, especially in light of Galatians 3.15 and Exodus 12.40-41 (Septuagint), is @Avräm's seed would be strangers and afflicted in whatever land they would be residing in during the 400 years. Only in hindsight was it clear that sometime during that 400 years, the affliction would include slavery.

FOOTNOTES (1) Custance, Arthur C. Without Form and Void. 1970. Return (2) "The quotations from the Old Testament found in the New are in the main taken from the Septuagint: and even where the citation is indirect, the influence of this version is clearly seen." "Bible Translations-Septuagint." Return (3) These scholars start the 430 year count in a different year than the ICB does, but I’ll address that when I get to Terach's table. Return (4) Heiser, Michael S. "The Role of the Septuagint in the Transmission of Scriptures," (2012/02/17); retrieved in April 2014, confirmed October 2017. Return REFERENCES "Bible Translations – Septuagint" The Jewish Encyclopedia. 1906 ed. Jewish Encyclopedia. Web. 29 Mar 2014. Heiser, Michael S. "The Role of the Septuagint in the Transmission of Scriptures," (2012/02/17); retrieved in April 2014, confirmed October 2017. McLay, R. Timothy. The Use of the Septuagint in New Testament Research. Eerdman's. 2003, 222p. Original Language Texts: Aland, Kurt, The Greek New Testament. United Bible Societies. 1966, 918p. Brenton, Sir Lancelot C.L. The Septuagint with Apocrypha: Greek and English. London: Bagster & Sons. 1851 (2001, US: Hendrickson), 1138p, 248p. Elliger, K. and Rudolph, W., eds. Biblica Hebraica Stuttgartensia. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft. 1967/77, 1574p Robinson, Maurice A. and Pierpont, William G. The New Testament in the Original Greek: Byzantine Textform 2005. Southborough, MA: Hilton. 2005, 587p. Trinitarian Bible Society. The New Testament: The Greek Text Underlying the English Authorized Version of 1611. London: Tyndale House. 1976, 480p. Grammar/Translation Tools: Brown, F., Driver, S., and Briggs, C. The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson. 1906, 1185p. Davidson, Benjamin. The Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 1970, 784p. Harris, R. Laird, Archer, Jr., Gleason L., Waltke, Bruce K. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (2 vols). Chicago: Moody Bible Institute. 1980, 1124p. Mounce, William D. Basics of Biblical Greek: Grammar. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 1993, 459p. Mounce, William D. The Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 1993, 542p. Mounce, William D., Smith, D. Matthew, and Van Pelt, Miles V. Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 2006,1316p. Practico, Gary D. and Van Pelt, Miles V. Basics of Biblical Hebrew Grammar. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 2001, 476p. Vine, W.E. An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, One Volume Edition. Old Tappan: Fleming H. Revell. 1940. Wallace, Daniel B. Greek Grammar: Beyond the Basics. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 1996, 827p. Waltke, Bruce K. and O’Connor, M. An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. 1990, 765p. English Bible Translations: The Concordia Bible with Notes, KJV. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House. 1947, 1952, 1491p. 1599 Geneva Bible. White Hall, WV: Tolle Lege Press. 2006, 1366p. Green, Jay P., sr. Holy Bible: KJ3 Literal Translation. Mulberry, IN: SGP Books. 2010, 1170p.     "Scripture taken from KJ3 Literal Translation Bible, First Edition, Copyright 2006-2010, Used by permission of the copyright holder, Mary V. Green." Lockman Foundation. New American Standard Bible, Reference Edition. La Habra, CA: Foundation Press Publications.1973, 1334p. Tyndale, William. Translation of the New Testament, the Pentateuch, and Jonah. 1534-35. retrieved 10/08/2017 Young, Robert. Young’s Literal Translation of the Bible, Third edition. Lafayette, IN: Greater Truth Publishers. 2004 (1898), 718p.

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