Here is another installment of Septuagintal Saturdays. I’m not sure how I’m going to pick these texts, but for right now I’m going to pick some highlights through Genesis and see where that gets us. This passage is dear to me because I wrote my M.A. thesis on 1 Sam. 15, which deals with similar issues to the passage here in Genesis 6. There is also discussion as to where to place this passage. Is it the conclusion to the generation of Adam in ch. 5 or the introduction to the generation of Noah Chs. 6ff.? I think it is best understood as both. Clearly it is the climax of the generation of Adam and the evil it has come to but it is also the introduction to the flood narrative. Often in biblical literature we have these ‘seam’ texts that function as the conclusion to one section and the introduction to another. To some degree I think the book of Deuteronomy functions this way, but that is another discussion.
Gen. 6:5 ἰδὼν δὲ κύριος ὁ θεὸς ὅτι ἐπληθύνθησαν αἱ κακίαι τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς καὶ πᾶς τις διανοεῖται ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ αὐτοῦ ἐπιμελῶς ἐπὶ τὰ πονηρὰ πάσας τὰς ἡμέρας
Gen. 6:6 καὶ ἐνεθυμήθη ὁ θεὸς ὅτι ἐποίησεν τὸν ἄνθρωπον ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς καὶ διενοήθη
Gen. 6:7 καὶ εἶπεν ὁ θεός ἀπαλείψω τὸν ἄνθρωπον ὃν ἐποίησα ἀπὸ προσώπου τῆς γῆς ἀπὸ ἀνθρώπου ἕως κτήνους καὶ ἀπὸ ἑρπετῶν ἕως τῶν πετεινῶν τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ὅτι ἐθυμώθην ὅτι ἐποίησα αὐτούς
Gen. 6:8 Νωε δὲ εὗρεν χάριν ἐναντίον κυρίου τοῦ θεοῦ
5 And when the LORD God saw that the evil deeds of humankind had multiplied upon the earth and all everyone thinks in their heart [is] thoroughly upon the evil, all the days, 6 then God considered that he made man upon the earth and he planned. 7 And God said, “I will wipe off humankind, whom I made, from upon the face of the earth, from humankind to animal and from creeping things unto birds of the air because I am angry that I made them. 8 But Noah found grace before the LORD God.
The use of the Present Participle form of ὁράω (to see) should be taken in a temporal/causative way thus the NETS translation: ‘When the LORD God saw….’ (cf. Ex. 8:15)
καὶ πᾶς τις διανοεῖται ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ αὐτοῦ ἐπιμελῶς ἐπὶ τὰ πονηρὰ
I had trouble translating this phrase because of the πᾶς τις. NETS has ‘that all think attentively in their hearts…’ with a note that the Gk does not have ‘that.’ I kept all and everyone in my translation because I think that is what it is emphasizing. The truth is that all that everyone thinks is evil. Not only that, they think about evil ‘carefully , dillegently’ (BDAG).
καὶ ἐνεθυμήθη ὁ θεὸς
Because I translated ἰδὼν δὲ in a temporal/causative I translated this simple καὶ, not as a normal paratactic sentence starter (so Hebrew) but as a temporal marker that continues the thought of the participle. ‘When…then….’ Thus, ἐνεθυμήθη is the main verb that governs the whole sentence of vv. 5-6.
LXX vs. MT
ἰδὼν δὲ / וירא
As noted before the present participle form of has the sense ‘when…’ whereas the MT with a simple wayyiqtol form follows a typical Hebrew style, ‘And the LORD saw….’
ἐπληθύνθησαν αἱ κακίαι / רבה רעת
The LXX has a verbal construction so that the action of the multiplying of ‘evil’ is described whereas the MT has a noun clause describing the state: ‘great [was] the evil of humankind…’
καὶ ἐνεθυμήθη ὁ θεὸς / וינחם יהוה
Alright, the big change. The MT’s use of נחם, ‘be sorry, moved to pity, repent’ (BDB) is a difficult word often considered to be an anthropomorphism (speaking of God in human forms) and therefore only an analogy. I don’t find this a helpful category to think about this description of God. I think this is a true emotional regret that God is feeling because of the evil that humankind is doing (see my ‘Contradiction and Constancy’). The point is, however, that it is theologically uncomfortable to think of God 1) having the emotion of being sorry that he did something and 2) that he would ‘repent’ or change his mind about something he did. The LXX clearly recognized this problem and softened it by using the root ἐνθυμέομαι, ‘to think, ponder’ (LEH). Rather than regretting what he did, in the LXX God is considering what he did, and by implication the outcome. As the narrative goes it doesn’t actually remove the difficulty because God is still considering his past actions and taking the course of ‘wiping out’ humankind, but it avoids the troubling language of God’s repentance or regret.
διενοήθη / ויתעצב אל־לבו
It is often said that the LXX avoids ‘anthropomorphims.’ Whether this is true or not, I do not know, but it seems to be the case here. The MT has the very emotion heavy phrase ‘and he was grieved to his heart.’ The LXX has God merely διανοέομαι, ‘to have a mind, to intend, to purpose’ (LEH) verses the MT’s עצב, ‘hurt, pain, greive’ (BDB). The LXX has two verbs in this verse which emphasize God’s considering and thinking while the MT has two verbs that are very emotionally charged. Apparently this emotional language of God was difficult for the LXX translators and they removed any emotional reference. The LXX also removes any reference to God’s heart (לבו) as it is a clear anthropomorphic reference.
ὅτι ἐθυμώθην / כי נחמתי
In the previous verbs discussed the LXX translators removed the emotional content of the MT. Here, they do not remove the emotional language but change the emotion. The MT again uses נחם to describe God’s action/emotion. The LXX uses θυμόω, ‘to be angry’ (LEH). Apparently, the LXX translators accepted wrath as an appropriate divine emotion but not anything tied to sorrow or repentance.
The most interesting thing to me in this passage is the way that the LXX translators translate the verbs relating to God. They change נחם to ἐνθυμέομαι, עצב to διανοέομαι (v. 5), and נחם to θυμόω (v. 7). Based on this observation we cannot say that the LXX had problems with using emotional or anthropomorphic language in describing God, though there is a tendancy toward this (i.e., the removal of the reference לבו). It seems rather that their theology of God was such that wrath or anger was an appropriate emotion for God to have but sorrow was not. It is interesting that when the Joel speaks of the Lord as one who ‘relents from punishment’ (ונחם על־הרעה) the LXX has ‘repenting concerning evils’ (καὶ μετανοῶν ἐπὶ ταῖς κακίαις). So God’s repenting of evil is not a problem to the LXX translators either. I guess out of this study I conclude that it should not surprise us that Gen. 6:5-8 is a passage that we wrestle with. Clearly the LXX translators had problems with its language. I am more comfortable with wrestling with the difficult language and theological concepts than trying to smooth them out. I think we shouldn’t run from these difficulties but dwell on the fact that we have a God who is greatly sorrowed at our evil. I don’t think this makes God too human, I think it makes God loving.