As Steve Fassberg humorously says,
The conjunction waw means everything and nothing — it merely indicates that clauses or words are in some sort of relationship. The meaning must be derived from the context. Biblical poetry tends to lack the waw and you simply juxtapose the words or clauses.
As for disjunctive accents, it is a question of length of the clause or sentence. Yes, when it looks like the meaning ‘or’, you get a disjunctive, but you can also get a disjunctive with the meaning ‘yes’ when the clause is long enough. The accents show us, to a certain extent, the syntactical analysis of the Masoretes — but sometimes the length of the clause and verse forces them to break things up differently from the obvious meaning of the verse.
Department of Hebrew Language, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Mark Boda also mentions this versatility, though he does lean more towards “and” being most likely in 2 Chronicles 13:9.
ו is a more general term that occurs between phrases and words that range from coordination to subordination and on. It is possible that an alternative is in view here as with the use of ו in 2 Sam 2:19; Exod 21:16; 21:17; Deut 24:7; Ezek 2:5.
In light of Exod 29, where consecration to priesthood required one young bull AND two young rams, it is most likely that the ו here is “and” and in Jeroboam’s cult the requirement was raised to seven rams.
So translating the ו as or is not incorrect, as it is a possibility, but most likely it refers to “and”.
Professor of Old Testament, McMaster Divinity College
Ron Hendel also sides with “and,” and says that “or” is more of an interpretation:
“And” is correct. “Or” is an interpretation of an odd statement. It's not really incorrect, but tries to make it sound like good English.
Norma and Sam Dabby Professor of Hebrew Bible and Jewish Studies
University of California, Berkeley
Chief Editor of The Hebrew Bible: A Critical Edition
When asked to clarify his last sentence, Professor Hendel agreed that there was just enough ambiguity that a translator could get away with using “or.”
However the next two take a much stronger stance against “or”:
Translating the ו as “or” here is incorrect
you should translate --- and
a young bull and seven rams
Department of Biblical Studies, University of Haifa
Mount Carmel, Haifa
In my opinion there is no doubt that the correct translation is “and”. Translating the ו as “or” here is incorrect. The verse is based on a comparison to Ex. 29:1. You can compare to many other verses such as Num. 28:11, 19; Lev. 23:18 and more.
The Zalman Shamir Bible Department, Bar-Ilan University
Rick Hess also sides with “and,” for several reasons:
I reviewed the 46 occurrences where bqr and ‘yl occur in the same verse. In the NIV all of them are translated by “and,” and that seems to me to be the best way to translate the waw. There are two other texts with the specific bn bqr w’yl(m), as in 2 Chron 13:9. Those are Exod 29:1 and Ezek 43:25. There is no difficulty with translating these with “and,” as the NIV does.
Then I reflected on the genre of sacrificial texts and (as here) a list of sacrifices for a deity. After looking at Pardee’s Ugaritic sacrifice lists and recalling other such texts I have read, I realized that there is no example where a sacrificial list presents an option, so many of this animal or so many of that animal, as though the offerer could pick and choose. There are, of course, exceptions. In the case of poverty where someone cannot afford one type of animal and so can sacrifice a cheaper animal (not just in the Old Testament). But there the exception is clearly specified and marked as such. Otherwise, these texts never present such options, to my knowledge. It goes against the nature of the specifics of a sacrifice. The deity is assumed to know what he or she wants and the sacrificer is not at liberty to choose from a “menu.”
Therefore, I would need more proof than a disjunctive accent to translate a waw as “or” in such a context.
Unless there is a clear reason from context to translate waw as “or,” it should take a copulative sense. This is what the NIV does and I feel most comfortable with that approach. The LXX has kai, again a copulative sense. I think it more likely that the NRSV, NET, and ESV come to this conclusion from context. However, I don’t see a context that requires this. Seven rams occur in the Balaam context of Num 22-24. But there they occur with seven bulls as in 1 Chr 15:26; 2 Chr 29:21; Job 42:8; and Ezekiel 45:23. So I am not clear as to why they choose to translate the text in this manner.
Distinguished Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages, Denver Seminary
Member of the Committee on Bible Translation for the New International Version (NIV)
Rick Hess also agreed with Bruce Waltke's more grammatical assessment:
I decided to look into this to see whether the NIV or ESV--actually NRSV, which ESV follows--got 2 Chronicles 13:9 right.
To consider the use of waw in 2 Chronicles 13:9, whether it presents alternative objects of “to fill his hands with” (that is, “to consecrated himself with”). I reflected upon all the uses of ו waw that connect alternatives in BDB entry 1. d. (p. 252) and in Muraoka, P. 175. In every case this use involves conjoining simultaneously incompatible nouns or nominal constructions. The specific disjunctive pashta is irrelevant for the choice of a particular disjunctive and is based on its location in the verse (see William Edward Wickes, Two Treatises on the Accentuation of the Old Testament). In this use, mostly disjunctives are used but conjunctives also occur.
Genesis 45:6 “neither plowing nor harvesting” (Muraoka). Two incompatible predicate nominatives. Disjunctive tipha.
Exodus 20:10 “On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns.”
The subjects are incompatible at the same time. Interestingly, the Masoretes present both conjunctive and disjunctive accents.
Exodus 20:17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” The conjunction joins incompatible objects at the same time. The full thought is: “you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife; you shall not covet his male or female servant….” In fact, the verb “covet” is repeated, suggesting that “house” (household) is analyzed as wife, servants, animals and property. Here disjunctive accents are used except for pairs: “male and female servant.” “ox and donkey.”
Exodus 21:16 “Anyone who kidnaps someone is to be put to death, whether the victim has been sold or is still in the kidnapper's possession.” Here the double waw represents incompatible objects of “kidnap.” The full thought: “Anyone who steals a man and sells him and anyone who kidnaps a man and who is still in his possession will be put to death.”
Exodus 21:17 “Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.” Here again the waw is conjunctive presenting two incompatible objects of cursing. The full thought is “anyone who curses his father is to be put to death”; “anyone who curses his mother will be put to death.” Both conjunctive and disjunctive accents are used.
Lev. 21:14 “He must not marry a widow, a divorced woman, or a woman defiled by prostitution,” The waw is conjunctive conjoining incompatible objects: widow, divorced, prostitute. The full thought is: “he must not marry a widow; he must must not marry a divorced woman…”: Both conjunctive and disjunctive accents are used.
Lev. 22:23 “You may, however, present as a freewill offering an ox or a sheep that is deformed or stunted,” Here again we have the waw…waw (“both…and”) construction with incompatible objects. The full thought is: “you may present …an ox; you may present… a sheep.” A conjunctive accent is used with “ox or sheep” and with “deformed or stunted.”
Lev. 22:24 “You must not offer to the LORD an animal whose testicles are bruised, crushed, torn or cut. You must not do this in your own land,” Again, the waw…waw (“both…and”) construction with incompatible objects: bruised, crushed, etc. Conjunctive and disjunctive accents are used.
1 Kings 17:1 “neither dew nor rain.” Incompatible predicate nominatives. Conjunctive munach.
Prov. 29:9 “If a wise person goes to court with a foolish person, there is no peace whether he is angry or laughs.” (Prov. 29:9 NET). The waw is conjunctive presenting there is no peace with two types of fools: raging or laughing.
Job 31:13 “If I have denied justice to any of my servants, whether male or female,” The waw is conjunctive “and.,” presenting alternative to “deny justice.” : “If I have denied justice to my male servant, then…; and if I have denied justice to my female servant….” The same applies to the compounding of incompatible circumstantial situations in Job 31:16, 26.
2 Sam 2:19 “turning neither to the right nor to the left” Two incompatible adverbial phrases. Full thought: “he did not turn to the right and he did not turn to the left.”
With this data in hand I find that the objects, young bull and seven rams, in 2 Chronicles 13:9 are compatible and not incompatible. Had the Chronicler intended to contrast them I would have expected him to use אוֹ.
Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies, Regent College, Vancouver, British Columbia
Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Old Testament, Knox Theological Seminary, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Co-author of An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax. Eisenbrauns, 1990.
Here is Leeor Gottlieb on why translators would have chosen to use “or.”
[Speaking of the accent marks:] They are not the reason some modern translations chose ‘or’. The translations who did so made their decision based on context. What bothered the translators was that if they interpret ‘and’ the verse seems to be giving a very rigid prescription of the sacrifices of the so-called priests mentioned in the verse. They saw no justification for this, because they understood the plain sense of the verse as a description of the various acts that a priest may perform. Knowing that the Hebrew Waw may connote ‘or’ in some cases, they made the conscious decision to employ that meaning here.
The Zalman Shamir Bible Department, Bar-Ilan University
Professor Gottlieb later added that he personally does not support the choice of ‘or’ here, and that the above scenario was only his attempt to present the train of thought that the translators who did support ‘or’ might have had.
Exodus 29 and Leviticus 8 show that a bull and two rams without blemish were required for consecrating true priests. Both types were required.
Some time after Jeroboam became king, 1 Kings 12:25-33 says he started to worry about eventually losing his kingdom:
25 Then Jeroboam built Shechem in the mountains of Ephraim, and dwelt there. Also he went out from there and built Penuel. 26 And Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom may return to the house of David: 27 If these people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn back to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and go back to Rehoboam king of Judah.”
28 Therefore the king asked advice, made two calves of gold, and said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, which brought you up from the land of Egypt!” 29 And he set up one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. 30 Now this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one as far as Dan. 31 He made shrines on the high places, and made priests from every class of people, who were not of the sons of Levi.
32 Jeroboam ordained a feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, like the feast that was in Judah, and offered sacrifices on the altar. So he did at Bethel, sacrificing to the calves that he had made. And at Bethel he installed the priests of the high places which he had made. 33 So he made offerings on the altar which he had made at Bethel on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, in the month which he had devised in his own heart. And he ordained a feast for the children of Israel, and offered sacrifices on the altar and burned incense. (NKJV)
Jeroboam's counterfeit worship system was similar in many ways to the true worship system, with the required amount of rams being raised to seven for whatever reasons Jeroboam devised in his own heart (seven was considered a perfect number to many in Israel, with one example being Ruth 4:13-15, where Ruth is said to be better to Naomi than seven sons).
The phrase used in 2 Chronicles 13:9 is בפר בן־בקר ואילם שבעה
ב - with
פר - a young bull
בן - son
בקר - [of] a herd
ו - and
אילם - rams
שבעה - seven
NKJV / NASB: “with a young bull and seven rams”
RSV: “with a young bull or seven rams”
A few examples of similar phrases:
בזאת יבא אהרן אל־הקדש בפר בן־בקר לחטאת ואיל לעלה
RSVBut thus shall Aaron come into the holy place: with a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.
והקרבתם על־הלחם שבעת כבשים תמימם בני שנה ופר בן־בקר אחד ואילם שנים יהיו עלה ליהוה ומנחתם ונסכיהם אשה ריח־ניחח ליהוה
RSVAnd you shall present with the bread seven lambs a year old without blemish, and one young bull, and two rams; they shall be a burnt offering to the Lord, with their cereal offering and their drink offerings, an offering by fire, a pleasing odor to the Lord.
בכלותך מחטא תקריב פר בן־בקר תמים ואיל מן־הצאן תמים
RSVWhen you have finished cleansing it, you shall offer a bull without blemish and a ram from the flock without blemish.
שבעת ימים תעשה שעיר־חטאת ליום ופר בן־בקר ואיל מן־הצאן תמימים יעשו
RSVFor seven days you shall provide daily a goat for a sin offering; also a bull and a ram from the flock, without blemish, shall be provided.
וביום החדש פר בן־בקר תמימם וששת כבשם ואיל תמימם יהיו
RSVOn the day of the new moon he shall offer a young bull without blemish, and six lambs and a ram, which shall be without blemish;
Not exactly the same, but very similar phrase constructions that the RSV renders with “and.”
Translating 2 Chronicles 13:9 with “or” is interpretive. Unlike the following variations, which do not change the sense in any real or meaningful way
דבר אל־בני ישראל ואמרת אלהם אדם כי־יקריב מכם קרבן ליהוה מן־הבהמה מן־הבקר ומן־הצאן תקריבו את־קרבנכם
NKJVSpeak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When any one of you brings an offering to the Lord, you shall bring your offering of the livestock—of the herd and of the flock.
RSVSpeak to the people of Israel, and say to them, When any man of you brings an offering to the Lord, you shall bring your offering of cattle from the herd or from the flock.
NASBSpeak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When any man of you brings an offering to the Lord, you shall bring your offering of animals from the herd or the flock.
וכל־מעשר בקר וצאן כל אשר־יעבר תחת השבט העשירי יהיה־קדש ליהוה
NKJVAnd concerning the tithe of the herd or the flock, of whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the Lord.
RSVAnd all the tithe of herds and flocks, every tenth animal of all that pass under the herdsman’s staff, shall be holy to the Lord.
NASBFor every tenth part of herd or flock, whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the Lord.
Numbers 23:8 (note how the KJV and NKJV differ from each other, while the RSV leaves out the conjunction entirely but there is not any change of meaning)
מה אקב לא קבה אל ומה אזעם לא זעם יהוה
KJVHow shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed? or how shall I defy, whom the Lord hath not defied?
NKJVHow shall I curse whom God has not cursed? And how shall I denounce whom the Lord has not denounced?
RSVHow can I curse whom God has not cursed? How can I denounce whom the Lord has not denounced?
NASBHow shall I curse whom God has not cursed? And how can I denounce whom the Lord has not denounced?
translating 2 Chronicles 13:9 with “or” very much changes the sense. This passage is one of the few clues of how Jeroboam's counterfeit priesthood operated. For this particular phrase, only one meaning can truly be what was intended. While “or” is an interpretive choice here, it is, ultimately, incorrect.