Investigating the peculiarities of the Septuagintal version of Psalm 29 gives the exegete a certain feeling of unease at the various opaque solutions for which the translator opted. A particular set of problems is provided by v. 6. Whereas the Hebrew is quite uncontroversial, the Greek seems to confront us with a veritable crux interpretum. It dissolves the parallelismus membrorum found in the Hebrew, |translates' with |make thin', |crush', |pulverize', with and with Let us examine the text and its version:
was translated as
|And he will crush Libanon like a [lit. |the'] calf, but the loved one [will] be like a unicorn.'
A straightforward explanation of the use of would be to ascribe it to a misreading of for since the former is translated in just that way in several, notably post-exilic, biblical passages. Likewise, the problematic use of for can readily be explained by consulting a distinguished lexicon like LSJ that simply indicates it as meaning wild ox' (following the Hebrew original without asking further questions about the meaning of the Greek).(1) But means nothing but |unicorn', as F. W. Mozley stressed earlier this century in his work on the Greek Psalter.(2) It has been sensed for quite some time that the use of poses an interesting problem in the context of Septuagintal renderings. Most recently, the issue has been raised in the French edition of the Septuagint, La Bible d'Alexandrie.(3)
The beginning of the second hemistich of v. 6 poses a problem of its own. If we consider the whole verse it becomes obvious that its sense, compared with that of the Hebrew, has been altered totally. Where we had a we now find two hemistichs opposing each other. The first one clearly confers the negative note of its Hebrew equivalent whereas the second one, because of the rendering of for (another name for Mt. Hermon), apparently has an entirely positive notion. And since in vv. 5, 6a God's destructive powers are depicted and it is unlikely that they are supposed to extend to and affect his we detect a gap between vv. 6a and 6b. The parallelismus membrorum is replaced by an opposition of the two hemistichs, the is a adversativum,(4) and v. 6b is to be read as a half-sentence missing the copula (which is perfectly possible in Greek usage): cp. the future form
|whereas the loved one [will be] like a son of unicorns [i.e. a unicorn]'. What are we to make of this?
Now is far from being a hapax legomenon in the Septuagint. We find it in Pss. 22(21): 22; 29(28): 6; 92(91): 11; Num. 23: 22 and 24:8; Deut. 33: 17; and in Ps. 77: 69 LXX, a special case to which we shall return later.
Of all these cases there is only one indicating a negative usage of the term, i.e. a usage connecting it with, and ascribing it to, ungodly or threatening forces, and that is Ps. 21: 22 LXX, a cry for deliverance from |the mouth of the lion' and the 'horns of the unicorns':
The negative notion of the |horns of the unicorns' from which the of the afflicted individual is to be delivered is in stark contrast with the Hebrew, where we find two hemistichs opposing each other:
The second half announces the deliverance, and it is not a deliverance from the horns of the wild bulls ( is a defective spelling of ),(5) but one that comes from these horns (cf. Psalterium iuxta Hebraeos: |et de cornibus unicornium exaudi me' with Psalterium Gallicanum: |et a cornibus unicornium humilitatem meam'). The power of the wild bulls is a positive attribute of God. It is essential to keep this in mind when moving on to the exegesis of the other passages.
It is quite obvious why the Greek translation has changed the second part's meaning. The overall context of Psalm 22 posed a severe problem to the translator, who could not understand a verse at the same time crying for deliverance and actually announcing it. So was taken to mean |my poor one', i.e. |soul', |existence', a mistake repeated in modern exegesis, and a very understandable mistake at that, as (V. 21), referring to the afflicted soul, was understood as a direct parallel of the |scribal error', which therefore had to be emended(6) to
The underlying wrong assumption was to regard both v. 21 and v. 22 as synonymous parallelism and variations on a common theme. In fact v. 21 is indeed a synonymous parallelism whereas V. 22 represents an antithetic parallelism and leads over to the praise of God in the assembly (v. 23), a fact not noted by Gunkel because of his preoccupation with the tripartite structure of the psalm.(7) The English translation of the properly understood Hebrew text Of vv. 21-23 would therefore run:
Save my life from the sword, from the dog's strength my forlorn existence. Rescue me from the lion's mouth and from the wild bulls' horns you answer me! I shall announce your name to my brothers, in the midst of the congregation I shall praise you.
That there is absolutely no need for an emendation is also confirmed by the Midrash on Psalm 75 commenting on the 'ten horns' raised up for Israel by God. One of these horns is the |horn of Jerusalem':
The relation of this Midrash to the one on Psalm 78 will be subject to a more detailed scrutiny below; suffice it to say for the moment that it supports the Masoretic Text and therefore proves our point that all the passages in the Hebrew show evidence of a strictly positive connotation of |the horns of the wild bulls' as a symbol of might and power, whereas the only instance of a negative usage found in the Greek Bible originates from a misunderstanding of the Hebrew text.
Having come across the symbol of |the horns of the wild bull' in connection with God we also find an instance of it and its Greek equivalent being applied to humans, while it is nevertheless thought of as a divine gift. Ps. 92: 11a has:
The Greek translators read
|And my horn will be exalted like that of a unicorn.' One should note the change to the future tense that has taken place here.
It is of great importance to realize the similar contexts in which the symbol is used in both (the Hebrew of) Psalm 22 and (the Hebrew and Greek of) Psalm 92. In both cases it is employed to confer the notion of the righteous man in affliction who regains his confidence in God's saving power, in God's might to deliver from evil, and his will to extend mercy to all those who fear him.
Let us now discuss what are possibly the most important Septuagintal passages using the term
1. In the second Balaam oracle (Num. 23: i8-24) we find in v. 22 (with an almost exact parallel in the third oracle, Num. 24: 8): |God leads them out of Egypt, he has as it were the horns of the wild bull' (in translating we follow the suggestion of Gesenius, 17th |he is to him [Israel] like the horns of th The Septuagint here attempts a |spiritualizing' translation:
|The glory of a unicorn replaces the |horns of the wild bull', and again the sentence allows for both interpretations, i.e. that God has the glory of a unicorn or appears to Israel to be like the glory of a unicorn. However, taking into account the Hebrew of Psalm 22 we may assume that God is attributed with (the might of) |the horns of the wild bull'/|the glory of a unicorn'.
2. The second Pentateuchal passage employing the term
is Deut. 33: 17, a most prominent place in the context of the Torah. Moses' blessing over Joseph contains the following verse:
|His firstling bull has majesty, and his horns are the horns of a wild ox' Rsv. In the Septuagint we find something quite different from this:
|[Like that of] a first-born bull is his …