The Spirit in Judges and I Samuel
One of the most interesting ways the LXX begins to speak about life in Judges and I Samuel that is different from earlier books, in general, is through reference to the Spirit of God. Granted, the Spirit had been mentioned in Gen. 1 as “laying upon/moving upon” (ἐπιφέρω) the face of the deep or in Ex. 28:3; 31:3 as “filling” (ἐμπίμπλημι) people who worked on the Tabernacle, but these are passing references to the Spirit.
It is only when we get to Judges and I Samuel that lots of appearances of the Spirit are recorded. Our authors use eight different verbs to describe the Spirit’s influence on special people, though two of them are not necessarily “full empowerment” usages. The purpose of this essay is to show how the translators of the LXX grappled with the difficult practical and theological problem of how to characterize the Spirit’s role in the lives of prominent Israelite people.
Getting Started—Give Me γίνομαι
The Book of Judges lays out a theory of history as it relates to the people of Israel. Part of that theory includes references to their becoming disobedient to God by worshipping the Baalim; they then are given into the hands of opponents. When they are in desperate straits they then call upon the Lord, who sends them a deliverer, who will be called a “judge.” What isn’t mentioned in the general historiographic theory of Judges 2 is how such a judge is empowered. In a word, however, he or she (Deborah) is empowered by the Spirit.
The first instance of that happening is in Judges 3:10. The children of Israel do what was evil in God’s sight (3:7) and God gave them up to an enemy (3:8). Right on cue, the children of Israel cry for help to the Lord (3:9) and then God sends a deliverer to them. That deliverance is described in 3:10:
καὶ ἐγένετο ἐπ᾽ αὐτὸν πνεῦμα κυρίου καὶ ἔκρινεν τὸν Ισραηλ. . .
“And the Spirit of the Lord was/came upon him and he judged Israel.”
Simple verb. Simple process. Very basic description. The Spirit of the Lord just “came/was” upon the judge. We have the same situation with the Jephthah several chapters later. He was called by fellow townspeople to deliver them from the Ammonites. The description of what happened is in 11:29:
καὶ ἐγενήθη ἐπὶ Ιεφθαε πνεῦμα κυρίου. . .
And the Spirit of the Lord was/came upon Jephthah.
This is all so easy, we think. And then the verbs change.
Two Verbs in Two Versions
In between the stories of Judges 3 and 11 is the endearing narrative of Gideon (Judges 6-8). The narrative differs from Judges 3 in that it goes into great detail in giving us a “living portrait” of Gideon’s life, his call to be a judge, his reluctance, his empowerment and finally, his victories. But crucial in enabling him to win a victory was the role of the Spirit of God. That role is presented by different verbs in Recensions A and B. In A of 6:34 we have:
καὶ πνεῦμα θεοῦ ἐνέδυσεν τὸν Γεδεων καὶ ἐσάλπισεν ἐν κερατίνῃ,
“And the Spirit of God clothed Gideon and he blew the horn. . .”
while B uses ενδυνάμοω, or “to empower/make strong.” There isn’t much difference in form between ενδύω and ενδυνάμοω, but these two verbs bring us into the world of empowerment. Not only does the Spirit just “come upon” or “be upon” someone, but now the emphasis is on “clothing” or “empowering.” The authors are struggling with words to capture this powerful reality.
Samson’s Story and Four More Verbs
Of all the stories in Judges, those recounting the adventures of Samson are perhaps the best known. His power is not simply related to the presence of the Spirit, but is also derived from his Nazarite vow and the manifestation of that vow in his long hair.
But the Spirit enters in, in four passages: Judges 13:25; 14:6, 19; and 15:14. The first yields two verbs, but in a sense they are not “full empowerment” verbs, since they just describe Samson as a boy. Directly after his birth we have the Lord blessing him and the boy growing (13:24). This is described as the Spirit of God beginning to “accompany” or “go out” (συμπορεύομαι) with him in Recension A. Recension B uses a similar verb: συνεκπορεύομαι, which is also rendered “to go out with him.”
Yet, things become more interesting for Samson, both in real life and in the verbs used to describe the role of the Spirit in his life. The remaining three passages use two different verbs, but Recension A always uses, in connection with the Spirit, the verb κατευθύνω or “make straight for” or “go down straight” whereas Recension B introduces a word from a completely different activity, jumping, in these verses: αλλομαι. We have the following thoughts: The Spirit of the Lord either “makes straight for” Samson or it “jumped upon him” when he sees the whelps of lions roaring to meet him (Jud. 14:6). Again, the Spirit of the Lord either “makes straight for him” or “jumped upon him” when he went down to Ascalon (Jud. 14:19). Finally, the Spirit either “made straight for him” or “jumped on him” when he was tied up, and this empowerment enabled him to burst his bonds. Just as the Spirit is gradually rising in empowering his life, it is gradually “rising” in the literature to take on a more prominent role.
The Spirit in I Samuel
One more verb is introduced in I Samuel to describe the Spirit’s working, but it is presented in our single source (there are not double Recensions for the LXX text of I Samuel). It is just a combination form of αλλομαι— εφαλλομαι, and it contains in it the idea of “leaping upon,” which also is communicated through the verb αλλομαι and the preposition επί. We will find both αλλομαι and εφαλλομαι to describe the Spirit’s activity in I Samuel.
The Spirit’s action appears with εφαλλομαι in 10:6, where Samuel instructs Saul what to expect as he will become empowered eventually to become king. The Spirit will “jump on” him. When the Spirit actually comes on him four verses later (10:10) the verb αλλομαι is used, which shows that the two verbs are understood synonymously. Now we see that the Spirit no longer just gently settles upon a person or comes straight at him, but we have it leaping and bounding upon special people. Note, too, that the Spirit may influence other people, but the emphasis is now on its role in the life of the earliest kings. We also have a reference to εφαλλομαι when the Spirit comes on Saul as he prepares to fight the Ammonites (11:6) and again, using εφαλλομαι, in 16:13 as the Spirit “jumps on” David. Interestingly, in order for the Spirit to “jump on” David it had to leave Saul. The sad, sad verb to describe that occurrence is ἀφίστημι, or “depart.” One of the issues relating to the mental health of Saul—an important topic—is the departure of the Spirit from him.
It might have seemed a rather straightforward topic—to consider the role of the Spirit in coming upon both the Judges and early Kings of Israel, but the subject is made more complex by the eight verbs chosen to describe the “coming upon” process and the one to describe the difficult process of departure from a person. When this is combined with the two other verbs describing the Spirit in creation and in the inspiration of the builders of the Tabernacle, we have eleven powerful verbs to describe this activity. Do they really describe the same reality? Who knows, but they help us develop a finer understanding of the ancient Greek language, and that, certainly, is a work of the Spirit.
I Samuel 8
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