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In Isaiah 24:23 we have

וְחָֽפְרָה הַלְּבָנָה וּבוֹשָׁ֖ה הַֽחַמָּ֑ה
The moon shall blush and the sun ashamed

where levanah = moon and chammah = sun. But the Septuagint gives

καὶ τακήσεται ἡ πλίνθος, καὶ πεσεῖται τὸ τεῖχος
The brick shall decay and the wall fall.
(as if) וְחָֽפְרָה הַלְּבֵנָה וּבוֹשָׁ֖ה הַחֹמָה

Should lvnh have been pointed as levenah = brick and chmh as chomah = wall, as the Septuagint indicates?

  • Hi Phil, welcome! I added the text and tried to make clear what I think you're suggesting, but feel free to roll back anything you don't like. It would be helpful if you could add the translation(s) that you're using. Thanks. – Susan Feb 27 '16 at 20:31
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The Idea in Brief

The lvnh should not have been pointed as levenah = brick, and chmh not as chomah = wall, as the Septuagint indicates. The reason is that the translators of the Septuagint had no editorial clues such as vowel points in which to discriminate Hebrew words and phrases in their precise meaning; in this respect, words with homophonic-sounding parallels to other Hebrew words in this verse had caused confusion in the translation from Hebrew into Greek.

Discussion

According to Lust, et al. (2003), there are homophonic parallels for both the Hebrew nouns moon and brick, and the Hebrew verbs for decay and abashed. In other words, the homophonic confusion between these respective Hebrew words led to the current translation found in the LXX.

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While they do not address the homophonic relationship between the Hebrew noun for sunshine with the Hebrew word for wall, a cursory check of the Hebrew word for sunshine in the Hebrew lexicon is חַמָּה, which is homonymic with the Hebrew word for wall, which is חוֹמָה without vowel pointing.

As for possible homophonic confusion with the Hebrew phrase וּבֹושָׁה (and [she] was ashamed), my observation is that the phrase is homophonic/homonymic with the Hiphil perfect, third person feminine singular of יָבֵשׁ (and [she] was laid waste), which speaks to the overthrowing of cities as per the following. Please note that this citation recognizes the homophonic relationship between both verbs! (Please click on the image to view the source online.)

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The only problem with this last observation would be that the phrase would have to be “והבישה” instead of the received form, which is “ובושה.” In this regard, the LXX translators would have had to assume literary license to “stretch” one word into the other.

Finally, when viewing the Targum Jonathan to the Prophets, which appeared as early as the Second Century, the Jewish scholars understood that the words moon and sun were evident in the Hebrew when translating into Aramaic. The Targum appears below with the proposed translation.

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23 And they will be ashamed who revere the moon, and they will be bent down who venerate the sun, because the kingdom will be revealed by the Lord of “hosts” in the mountain which [is] Zion and in Jerusalem even before the elders of the people in honor.

Note the editorial emphasis on “hosts” to refer to the Lord of the moon and sun, which are the “hosts” worshipped in heaven by those who are disobedient. Rashi makes the same observation of this Targum.

Conclusion

When the LXX translators used the Hebrew texts, they had no editorial clues such as vowel pointing to discriminate words and phrases from other homophonic-sounding words and phrases. In this respect, this homophonic confusion in this verse had led the LXX translators to “hear” brick for moon; decay for abashed; wall for sun; and laid waste for ashamed.


Reference:
Lust, Johan, Eynikel, Erik, & Hauspie, Katrin (2003). A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint (Revised Edition). Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft: Stuttgart.

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I would go with the MT moon and sun, simply because of apocalyptic context of chapter 24. Immediately following the clause in question, we see God referred to as God 'of hosts' - a reference to his supremacy over the heavenly hosts. Previously, in verse 21, God will punish the hosts of heaven - the stars that were perhaps still, in the time of Isaiah, regarded as gods:

Isaiah 24:21 (NAB): On that day the LORD will punish the host of the heavens in the heavens, and the kings of the earth on the earth.

Wilson de Angelo Cunha (LXX Isaiah 24: 1-26:6 as Interpretation and Translation, pages 83-84) says that for some reason the Septuagint translator decided to read these words here as 'brick' and 'wall', although in Isa 30:26, he rendered the same words as 'moon' and 'sun'.

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Has anyone come across the verb חפר being translated as dig out which is similar to the Arabic حفر Hafar which means the same thing? Couldn't the meaning be that the moon will experience an apocalyptic even such as being split and cracked or something like that because it has been mentioned in Islamic tradition that the Prophet Mohammed split the moon and likewise it has been recorded by other cultures such as in Chinese and Indian literature. Some scientists are saying now that the moon is actually hollow which indicates some kind of digging out. It is akso a gact that at the time the Prophet Mohammed splut the moon the Muslims did shortly after conquer the Bizantine Empire and took over Jerusalem and the Levante area. Please give feedback!

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