Lectionary Year B
March 30, 2003
Numbers 21:4-9

Initial Acquaintance/Rough Translation

A. Comparing Translations

(JFC) The English Standard Version and the New Revised Standard Version differ some as these notes signify:

6 fiery serpents among the people, - ESV
poisonous serpents among the people, - NRSV, footnoting, "Or fiery; Heb seraphim

8d when he sees it, shall live." - ESV
shall look at and live." - NRSV

9b And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live. - ESV, footnoted, "Or copper"
that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live. - NRSV

B. Textural Criticism

(JFC) 5 The Septuagint, Codex Vaticanus, 4th century and of "very great authority" according to Wurthwein's The Text of the Old Testament, asks whether to read hm'lw., to hm'l', the interrogative, "what" or "why", making it read as in Numbers 20:5, "and what/why . . ." Then, for Wntuyli[/h,, a hiphil, perfect, "to bring up, to cause to ascend", the Syriac reads a singular hophal, perfect, Wnt'acewh{, of another word, "to be brought forth", which is unlikely to be original if the apparatus is right in terming it sincular. Next, the Septuagint Alexandrinus of the 5th century replaces tWml', qal, infinitive, "to die", with Wnx.n:a] ~v' tWml, as Numbers 20:4 reads, "to die there we and our cattle". The printed version is briefer and therefore more likely to be original. 6 For ~ypir'F.h;, "fiery serpent", several of the Samaritan manuscripts read ~ypWrFh, while the Septuagint has qanatou/ntaj, "to kill/put to death", and the Syriac has crudeles, the Targum Onkelos reads urentes and the Vulgate has ignites, several slight differences indicating some attempts at clarifying and/or explaining and/or illucidating such a rather minor part of the bigger part of this story, surely, and leading us to retain the text as received. 8 For @r'f', a Samaritan version reads @Wrf, a qal infinitive of the verb form of "to burn", which alteration seems out of place in this picture, so, to be rejected. And, some Septuagint, Latin and Vulgates read tv,xon. vx;n., another word meaning similarly.

C. Rough Translation

(JFC) 4 And set out from or mountain a way to the sea of Reeds/Red, to go around the land of Edom and they were impatient/vexed/grieved the souls of the people in the way. 5 And spoke the people at/toward/against Elohim and at/toward/against Moses, "What/How/Why did you bring us [hiphil, perfect] from Egypt to die in the wilderness? For/Because not (is there) food and not (is there) water and our soul is abhorring/loathing [qal, perfect] bread/food worthless/contemptible." 6 And sent Yahweh onto/to the people snakes fiery serpents and bit [piel, imperfect with a waw consecutive] the people and died the people/kinsmen of Israel. 7 And came the people to Moses and they said, "We have sinned [qal, perfect] for we spoke in/at/to Yahweh and in/at/to you. Pray [hithpael, imperative] to Yahweh and that He will remove [hiphil, imperative] from upon us and will intervene [hithpael, imperfect] Moses on behalf of the people." 8 And said Yahweh unto Moses, "Make for yourself a serpent and put it on a signal pole and it will be happening [qal, perfect] that everyone who is bitten [qal, passive, participle] will be seeing it [qal, perfect] and will be living [qal, perfect]. 9 And made Moses a serpent of copper/bronze and put it on a signal pole and it was happening that if bit the serpent a man/anyone, and he looked [hiphil, perfect] at the serpent of copper/bronze, he is living [qal, perfect].

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