Judges 6:25-26, God Speaks to Gideon
As we know, the Rahlfs edition of the LXX, published in 1935, has two recensions of the text of Judges—A and B. The purpose of this and other essays in Judges is not to discuss the textual history or possible dependence of A or B or vice-versa, though in many instances I opine a dependence of B on A, but to tell the story of these verses with close attention to the language which each recension uses to tell that story. The Greek of Recension A can easily be found online, but I didn’t find the Greek text of B. You have to use the Rahlfs edition of the Gottingen LXX from 1935 to find that text, and then the NETS LXX online translates both recensions in parallel columns.
We saw in the previous passage that the Angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon to inform him that he would deliver Israel from the Midianites. In order to determine if this was “legit,” Gideon prepared a meal, which the Angel of the Lord touched with his staff. The meal quickly incinerated and Gideon, among other things, built an altar to the Lord. That is where our passage opens. Several things are of interest.
Here is the Greek of Recension A (6:25):
καὶ ἐγενήθη τῇ νυκτὶ ἐκείνῃ καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ κύριος λαβὲ τὸν μόσχον τὸν σιτευτὸν τοῦ πατρός σου μόσχον τὸν ἑπταετῆ καὶ καθελεῗς τὸ θυσιαστήριον τοῦ Βααλ ὅ ἐστιν τοῦ πατρός σου καὶ τὸ ἄλσος τὸ ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ ἐκκόψεις
“And it happened in that night that the Lord said to him, “Take the fatted calf of your father, a calf that is seven years old, and you shall tear down/demolish the altar of Baal, which belongs to your father, and you shall cut down the nearby grove.”
Let’s begin by considering this, the text of Recension A of 6:25. It has the Lord speak to Gideon and tell him to “take the fatted calf” (σιτευτον) of his father, which was a seven year-old calf, and pull down/demolish (verb is καθαιρέω) the altar of Baal which belonged to his father. He also is to cut down/destroy (εκκόπτω) the nearby grove. Part of the tension as the narrative develops will be how Gideon is both loyal to God but is disloyal to the religious pluralism of his father. Then verse 26 has:
καὶ οἰκοδομήσεις θυσιαστήριον κυρίῳ τῷ θεῷ σου τῷ ὀφθέντι σοι ἐπὶ τῆς κορυφῆς
τοῦ ὄρους Μαωζ τούτου ἐν τῇ παρατάξει καὶ λήμψῃ τὸν μόσχον καὶ ἀνοίσεις ὁλοκαύτωμα ἐν τοῗς ξύλοις τοῦ ἄλσους οὗ ἐκκόψεις.
“And you shall build an altar to your God who appeared to you at the top of this Mount Maoz in order and you shall take the calf and you shall offer it as a whole burnt offering using the wood of the grove which you cut down.”
A number of things here don’t make perfect sense. The first is that he has just finished building an altar in verse 24. Are we to assume he builds a second one? We probably have two different sources at work, but at present it reads a little awkwardly. Then, there is confusion about God’s appearance to Gideon. Is the appearance mentioned in verse 25 pointing to the appearance under the oak in verse 11 (Recension B has a “terebinth”) or are we to assume multiple appearances? The multiple appearance theory doesn’t seem to make much sense. But the appearance mentioned in verse 26 is at a mountain that is never attested anyplace else in Scripture (Maoz). This can really be interesting for those with vivid imaginations, but it makes us have to swallow our desire for consistency if we are to enjoy the story. Third, we don’t know what “in order” means. The phrase, ἐν τῇ παρατάξει, might be rendered, “in a line/in order/in the ordering/in battle line,” but no one really seems to know what it means. The entire phrase is “atop this mountain in order.” Well, I suppose one might argue that the sacrifice needs to be done “in Ordnung,” as the Germans say, but again it looks like it is a phrase that may have “worked” in another context but not very well here.
As we turn to Recension B of verses 25-26, we see a number of interesting deviations from Recension A. First, instead of a fatted calf, we have two animals! The first is a “bull calf” (μοσχον ταυρον) and the second (B makes it very clear it is a second, going so far as to use δεύτερον) is a seven-year old μοσχον. So, we are facing the interesting question now not only of how many altars but how many bulls or calves or whether one is fatted or not. In Recension B Gideon “pulls down/demolishes” (καθαιρέω) the altar of Baal but he destroys (verb is ολεθρεύω) the grove. He is further instructed, as in A, to offer the animal (ah, but B must specify which animal…the winner is…the second calf) to the Lord. Theologically significant in both accounts is that Gideon uses the wood of the grove which was destroyed to build the fire to burn the calf. Note that the verb for the process of destroying the grove is εκκόπτω in A, but can be either ολεθρεύω (destroy, v 25) or εξολοθρεύω (obliterate/exterminate, v 26) in B.
Close comparison of Recensions has yielded significant differences even in the way this story is set up, both in language and content. Rather than taking away from the narrative, I find the variety to be enchanting.
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