Devotional Commentary on Jeremiah 27


This chapter I want to dedicate in memoriam of Kenneth D. Mulzac. His dissertation at Andrews was on Jeremiah and we were together in the Septuagint studies under Johann Erbes. My wife took his Jeremiah class.


Ken would agree with me that if we properly want to understand this particular chapter in the Septuagint it is necessary that we place the Greek Septuagint next to the Hebrew text (called Masoretic Text) and then compare what was omitted (-) and what was added (+). What Ken and I would do next is to translate carefully the Greek back into Hebrew so that one can see better the differences between the two texts. One can see the comparisons and differences better.

Jeremiah 27 verses 1 to 8 Septuagint and Hebrew compared by E Tov 1992 at 322 to 324.jpg Jeremiah 27 verses 9 to 16 Septuagint and Hebrew compared by E Tov 1992 at 322 to 324.jpg Jeremiah 27 verses 17 to 22 Septuagint and Hebrew compared by E Tov 1992 at 322 to 324.jpg

(Source: E. Tov, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible, 1992: 322-324)

Someone who did this is Emanuel Tov of the Hebrew University. He translated the Greek of this chapter back into Hebrew. Below I will give his results. Have you ever listened to a courtcase on DNA findings? The slide after slide presentation and discussion is done and half of the audience is asleep and another half left the court. This is what it will look like when I put up the paper of Emanuel Tov here. The LXX means that it is the Greek Septuagint. The MT means that it is the Hebrew text or what I call the original Jeremiah preserved by Jews in accuracy, a higher accuracy than the Septuagint was preserved by Christians. Sorry to say it but it is the truth. There is not one Greek manuscript that is the same as another. Do we have the Septuagint original? No. None of the Editors of the critical editions ever claimed that. Septuagint is a modern elusive task. Elusive means slipping away and murky waters. YELLOW will mean phrases absent in the LXX but present in the MT or Hebrew. YELLOW on a BLANK means that the LXX added something that was not in the Hebrew or MT.


With this, Ken and I can describe to you what happened here since the differences can be explained. There is one thing we need to do more: which text has priority over the other? LXX is shorter and MT is longer. Who added or who subtracted? Tov blames the MT or Hebrew of adding later and calls the LXX the original. I differ and say that the MT is the original and the LXX omitted phrases or added here and there. “Two men sat behind bars: the one saw mud, the other one stars.”


I am going to say that the Hebrew text as we have it is the original Word of God and that the Greek they have reconstructed for us is secondary or subordinate. I also say that the Septuagint is a degenerative text full of errors. The Hebrew is more precise although there are also slips in the copying process. For example the 4QDana manuscript dealing with Daniel is almost 99% the same as the oldest full Hebrew text that we have from the year 1008 called the codex Aleppo. What remarkable accuracy over such a long period. It cannot go unnoticed. It is the key for selection here.


The Greek left out the whole first verse telling about the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim in 609 BCE when Jeremiah had this vision (verse 1). In verse 2 the Greek left out the brackets here: “So said the Lord [to me]”. Think about it, if someone writes that the Lord speaks [to me] then it means he wrote it himself. Is that not so? If someone else left out the [to me] then it is no longer the original writer but someone later. The Hebrew must be older here just on sensibility. I am sure Ken would have accepted the point the same way.


Those who remembered Ken, he use to talk slowly but his brain worked three times faster than he speaks. You speak half a sentence and his brain already worked out the rest of the sentence and is ready for a counter-answer, with respect and dignity of course.


Jeremiah was to go to surrounding nations of Israel and told them that the Lord is going to put them in bondage with Neb of Babylon and the way to do it is to put bars on his neck (verse 2). A demonstration message. An artistic display saying something to the public of that country.


Verse 3 in the Greek is the same as the Hebrew except that before Jerusalem is an extra addition reading “to which is called”. The sentence reading in the Greek: “by the hand of the ambassadors who come, to which is called, Jerusalem.” Why would a Greek translator wish to explain to a Hellenistic audience that Jerusalem is called Jerusalem unless it had another name? The only time it would have another name is when he was writing in another culture who could not pronounce Jerusalem properly or had a different linguistic form for it. If the original had an abbreviation for the name of Jerusalem then he would add “to which is called” to give the full form. The Greek is later and the Hebrew is older.


In verse 4 the Greek left out [of Hosts] and just read “Lord, the God of Israel”. Were they afraid that the Greeks will be worried if their God had soldiers/angels fighting in war? Are they avoiding “militaristic terms” here to avoid conflict with their Hellenistic audience?


Then an obvious slip of the eye occurred so that haplography happened. The problem is that there are too many “earth” words in this verse 5. It appears twice at the end of a phrase, so what happened? The scribe was reading unto earth, looked away and when he looked back again he remembered that the last word he was using is earth and seeing earth down the line of verse 5 he continued with what is afterwards but in the process left out what was between earth and earth! Haplography means writing only halfway. The Greek is in trouble here. The Hebrew not. Our Bibles are secured. However, E. Tov says that the Hebrew wanted to add extras and the Greek is original. I met Tov at the Hebrew university and Paul Lippi (Adventist student of Tov) took me to him. Tov is willing to speculate about the Greek primacy for the rest of the Old Testament except the Pentateuch, so Lippi. At the Hebrew University he better not touch the Pentateuch maybe?


In verse 6 the Greek left out two words that makes the sentence very strange: “[And now, I,] I have given [all] these lands….” Only the author of the Book can say “and now” meaning the time in 609 BCE in the vision (verse 6). If the Greek leaves out these two words it means that it is no longer “and now” and the Greek translator felt that it is superfluous. To say “all” the lands were given, the Greeks may criticize the Jews that it is a bit overstated so to understate it they “edited” the text by leaving out the all. Not exactly all the lands, would be more acceptable narrative to the Greeks, they felt. Later in verse 6 the Greek also left out the phrase “I have given to him” out. Why? The phrase occurs twice in the sentence and to avoid redundancy one is deleted and thus the text in the Greek shortened, just to appeal to the Hellenistic audience. The Jews of Alexandria became very secularized as Philo told us, and they did anything not to look foolish to the Greeks.


Here is a surprise for all Septuagint lovers. Said one scholar about the papyri of Iliad of Homer at Alexandria of the period after 150 BCE that “not only lack almost all the ‘plus’ verses, but also show numerous omissions of lines generally present in earlier versions” (See M. Fraser, Ptolemaic Alexandria II, 1972: 691, note 291). If one places the scholarship at Alexandria library next to the scholarship of the contemporaneous Dead Sea Scrolls there is a remarkable correspondence: the same tension, degeneration of texts, sensorship thus hiding of texts. Jeremiah in Greek is also shorter just like the Iliad of Homer was shortened as compared to earlier versions of it.


Verse 7 would have embarrassed the Greeks that “all the nations shall serve him [king Neb] and his son [Evil-Merodach = so Rashi] and his son’s son [Belshazzar = so Rashi] until the time of his own land come [539 BCE]…” How can a prophet be so accurate in his descriptions of future events? Thus the sentence was removed and deleted. There was a time when the Romans did not tolerate prophetic like books and thus burned them. This sentence would have offended the Romans for sure. The oldest manuscripts of Greek does not date earlier than 250 CE so it is difficult to say what the state of the original Septuagint was 500 years earlier. My feeling is that it was more literal and more precise and more similar to the Hebrew text or the Word of God as our Bibles read (see online my article on “Textual Criticism under Scrutiny: Xerox Problems since Epiphanes” Korean Journal of Christian Studies Volume 75 (2011): 5-19.


For some reason the Greek translation should not mention “pestilence” in verse 8. They deleted the word in the Greek. The explanatory phrase by Jeremiah that he is talking about Neb king of Babylon was deleted as well as the beginning phrase “And it shall come to pass”. Greeks would not like that kind of talking. Delete. And that is what they did to please their Hellenistic audience. The Word of God had to suffer just so that they can save their faces. These days there are organizations that want to delete gender offensive phrases from the Word of God to accommodate LGBTQH and give it out as a Bible version to the public! The Greeks of the Septuagint were first before them.


In the sentence “who say to you saying” (verse 9) the Greek translator said that there are too many “saying” in this sentence, thus delete. Redundancy must be eliminated. Remember that Alexander Aetolia was a Greek grammarian and text-critic at Alexandria library with an “imaginative exercise in ‘improving’ his authors” (Fraser 1972: 449).


In verse 9 the diviners and soothsayers were telling the kings that they will have peace and never go to Neb. The last part of the verse “and so that I will drive you out and you will perish” was seen by the Greek translator as the same info as the phrase before it, and for redundancy reasons to please the Hellenistic Librarian styles and scholarship, was left out. What would these Greeks think of us! That was their concern. Not the Word of God.


The nation that would surrender would be saved (verse 11) and this sentence was kept for the Greek except the phase “says the Lord”. If it is already a message from the Lord, then one does not need to say again that it is the Lord speaking. That would be the Greek Librarian scholarship complaint of their prophet’s writing style. Thus, the Word of God must be shortened.


Half of verse 12 is kept in the Greek about Zedekiah in 586 BCE “into the yoke of the king of Babylon” was deleted as already understood data and “him and his people and live” was also omitted for it may have been argued by the Greek translator that the Hellenistic scholars would say it was already mentioned higher up in the chapter.


The whole of verse 13 is dropped out which is a question repeating data again. This is the way Jeremiah wrote, namely to give all the data again. Why? So that the simple-minded not can say they do not know what he is talking about. There is also another reason why it is repeated. I do it with my Korean farmers’ audience listening to my sermon: they doze off with heads dropping in a nap for a minute or two, so what do I do? I repeat all the data when the head comes up again just to “update them” in case they did not hear it the first time. That is what Jeremiah did with his repetition of data that seems redundant to the Hellenistic Greek Librarians of Alexandria. My feeling is that originally the Septuagint was translated very accurate, very literal, no omissions but after Antiochus Epiphanes the scholarship of Alexandria shorted texts and there was a degeneration of scholarship, also of copies of the Septuagint. What has survived for us today are these degenerative copies and not the original good Septuagint that compares nearly 99% with the Hebrew that we have.


All the verses are then the same as the Hebrew talking about Zedekiah warning about the false prophets in verses 14-15 but at the end of verse 15 somehow the translator in Greek thought he needed to add a phrase not in the Hebrew: “you and the prophets who are prophesying to you, [+to lie to you]”. Jeremiah did not put it in since it would be redundant for he already spent two verses 14-15 saying the same and talking about these fake prophets.


In verse 16 there is a slip of the memory, maybe the translator of Greek was very tired and so translating he swap the words and what should be the way Jeremiah wrote it: “And to the priests and to all this people I have spoken” the translator made it “and to all this people and to the priests I have spoken”. At the end of verse 16 reading that the vessels of the Lord will be returned from Babylon “now hastily” but the LXX or Greek translator deleted these two words. Why? They were prophesying, these false prophets, that the vessels that were taken in the days of Jeconiah would be brought back soon as now and in a manner that is hastily. That was for Zedekiah in 586 BCE warning him not to believe this. For rationalistic Greeks filled with Higher Criticism of their own Classics like Homer’s Iliad at Alexandria, it would be unpleasant to talk about immediacy “now” and “hastily” when nearly 900km separate the two. It takes time. Thus, the Greek translator wanted to please his Hellenistic audience.


Verse 17 is used by the Greek translator with no change and in verse 18 only the first part is kept: “But if they are prophets and if the word of the Lord is with them, let them now entreat”. Because of redundancy the Greek translator wanted to cut short the repetition of data: “the Lord of Hosts that the vessels remaining in the house of the Lord and in the house of the king of Judah and in Jerusalem not come to Babylon” was deleted. Jeremiah’s audience took their nap and he must repeat the exact data to enter their minds for a proper decision to be made.


Then the Greek translator gives a summarizing statement almost the same as a header in a paragraph at the end of verse 18: “Not have I sent them”. It is continued in verse 19 as “For so has the Lord” but they dropped out “of Hosts” and “concerning the pillars, concerning the sea, and concerning the bases” for some reason not to mentioned. “Remaining in this city” is also deleted. The fact that Jeremiah mentioned that vessels will remain in the city is very important for he witnessed it later as well. Only the author can supply such crucial detail. Someone who was not there that day or in vision cannot historically think back that maybe vessels were left.


From verses 20-22 nearly all the redundant repetitions of names of king Jehoiakim, Nebuchadnezzar, nobles, Jerusalem, Judah, Lord of Hosts, God of Israel, concerning vessels remaining in the house of the Lord and in the house of the king of Judah and Jerusalem, were deleted. The Greek translator did not want repetition. In verse 22 he only read: “They shall be brought to Babylon said the Lord.” Anything else where the Lord is said to remember and will bring it up and restore, is cut out. Why? Are these Greek translators so secular that they did not want the agnostic secular Greeks with whom they associate at the Library of Alexandria criticize their Hebrew literature?


Dear Lord

You warn us that we are not to take away from the Word of God anything. We believe in Your Word and are thankful for what it testifies to us. We are not ashamed of what You have written or how You have written. We are ashamed how we live. Help us to always change to Your Word. In  Jesus name. Amen.