In the paper, Did The Septuagint Translators Always Understand Their Hebrew Text? Emanuel Tov cites several factors to support the thesis expressed in the title. One is the reoccurring pattern of translating the same word such as the precious stone, שהם differently.
As I was working through Tov’s examples, I noticed the difference in the number of stones in Ezekiel (a use Tov omits) and saw purposeful changes in the Greek text of Ezekiel 28:13 because when the passages on the High Priest’s Breast Plate and the King of Tyre’s adornment are compared, it is obvious there is a much greater issue then correctly identifying a single stone:
First Breast Plate Description:
You shall set in it four rows of stones. A row of sardius, topaz, and carbuncle shall be the first row; and the second row an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond; and the third row a jacinth, an agate, and an amethyst; and the fourth row a beryl, an onyx, and a jasper. They shall be set in gold filigree. (Exodus 28:17:20 ESV)
And thou shalt interweave with it a texture of four rows of stone; there shall be a row of stones, a sardius, a topaz, and emerald, the first row. And the second row, a carbuncle, a sapphire, and a jasper. And the third row, a ligure, an agate, an amethyst: and the fourth row, a chrysolite, and a beryl, and an onyx stone, set round with gold, bound together with gold: let them be according to their row. (Exodus 28:17-20 LXX)
17καὶ καθυφανεῖς ἐν αὐτῷ ὕφασμα κατάλιθον τετράστιχον. στίχος λίθων ἔσται σάρδιον, τοπάζιον καὶ σμάραγδος, ὁ στίχος ὁ εἷς·
18καὶ ὁ στίχος ὁ δεύτερος ἄνθραξ καὶ σάπφειρος καὶ ἴασπις·
19καὶ ὁ στίχος ὁ τρίτος λιγύριον, ἀχάτης καὶ ἀμέθυστος·
20καὶ ὁ στίχος ὁ τέταρτος χρυσόλιθος καὶ βηρύλλιον καὶ ὀνύχιον· περικεκαλυμμένα χρυσίῳ, συνδεδεμένα ἐν χρυσίῳ ἔστωσαν κατὰ στίχον αὐτῶν. [Exodus 28]
Second Breast Plate Description:
And they set in it four rows of stones. A row of sardius, topaz, and carbuncle was the first row; and the second row, an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond; and the third row, a jacinth, an agate, and an amethyst; and the fourth row, a beryl, an onyx, and a jasper. They were enclosed in settings of gold filigree. (Exodus 39:10-13 ESV)
And there was interwoven with it a woven work of four rows of stones, a series of stones, the first row, a sardius and topaz and emerald; and the second row, a carbuncle and sapphire and jasper; and the third row, a ligure and agate and amethyst; and the fourth row a chrysolite and beryl and onyx set round about with gold, and fastened with gold (Exodus 36:17-20 LXX)
17καὶ συνυφάνθη ἐν αὐτῷ ὕφασμα κατάλιθον τετράστιχον· στίχος λίθων σάρδιον καὶ τοπάζιον καὶ σμάραγδος, ὁ στίχος ὁ εἷς·
18καὶ ὁ στίχος ὁ δεύτερος ἄνθραξ καὶ σάπφειρος καὶ ἴασπις·
19καὶ ὁ στίχος ὁ τρίτος λιγύριον καὶ ἀχάτης καὶ ἀμέθυστος·
20καὶ ὁ στίχος ὁ τέταρτος χρυσόλιθος καὶ βηρύλλιον καὶ ὀνύχιον· περικεκυκλωμένα χρυσίῳ καὶ συνδεδεμένα χρυσίῳ [Exodus 36]
King of Tyre's Adornment:
You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle; and crafted in gold were your settings and your engravings. On the day that you were created they were prepared. (Ezekiel 28:13 ESV)
Thou wast in the delight of the paradise of God; thou hast bound upon thee every precious stone, the sardius, and topaz, and emerald, and carbuncle, and sapphire, and jasper, and silver, and gold, and ligure, and agate, and amethyst, and chrysolite, and beryl, and onyx: and thou hast filled thy treasures and thy stores in thee with gold. (Ezekiel 28:13 LXX)
13ἐν τῇ τρυφῇ τοῦ παραδείσου τοῦ θεοῦ ἐγενήθης· πᾶν λίθον χρηστὸν ἐνδέδεσαι, σάρδιον καὶ τοπάζιον καὶ σμάραγδον καὶ ἄνθρακα καὶ σάπφειρον καὶ ἴασπιν καὶ ἀργύριον καὶ χρυσίον καὶ λιγύριον καὶ ἀχάτην καὶ ἀμέθυστον καὶ χρυσόλιθον καὶ βηρύλλιον καὶ ὀνύχιον, καὶ χρυσίου ἐνέπλησας τοὺς θησαυρούς σου καὶ τὰς ἀποθήκας σου ἐν σοὶ ἀφ᾽ ἧς ἡμέρας ἐκτίσθης σύ. [Ezekiel 28]
Here is a comparison of the stones in the Breast Plate and the adornment:
High Priest Breast Plate (both descriptions)
Row 1 sardius topaz carbuncle sardius topaz emerald
Row 2 emerald sapphire diamond carbuncle sapphire jasper
Row 3 jacinth agate amethyst ligure agate amethyst
Row 4 beryl onyx jasper chrysolite beryl onyx
King of Tyre's Adornment
Row 1 sardius topaz diamond sardius topaz emerald
Row 2 beryl onyx jasper carbuncle sapphire jasper
Row 3 sapphire emerald carbuncle ligure agate amethyst
Row 4 chrysolite beryl onyx
And how both are called in the Septuagint:
High Priest's Breast Plate King of Tyre's Adornment
Row 1 σάρδιον τοπάζιον σμάραγδος σάρδιον τοπάζιον σμάραγδον
Row 2 ἄνθραξ σάπφειρος ἴασπις ἄνθρακα σάπφειρον ἴασπιν
Row 3 λιγύριον ἀχάτης ἀμέθυστος λιγύριον ἀχάτην ἀμέθυστον
Row 4 χρυσόλιθος βηρύλλιον ὀνύχιον χρυσόλιθον βηρύλλιον ὀνύχιον
If the Masoretic text is reliable, as Tov and most scholars assume, then the LXX translator of Exodus chose to rearrange the stones, something Tov does not discuss in the paper.1 In other words, Tov’s focus is on whether the translator correctly and consistently rendered the individual stones, despite the fact the stones have been rearranged. This issue is even greater in Ezekiel where 7 of the 9 are in a different position and 3 have been added.
However, when Ezekiel is compared to Exodus, the explanation is obvious: the translator chose to adorn the King of Tyre following the LXX translation of the rearranged stones on the Breast Plate of the High Priest.
Tov recognizes intentional changes:
We submit that the translators sometimes knowingly manipulated the Hebrew consonants in order to create words which would fit the context better than the words of their Vorlage, either because the Vorlage was not understandable to them or because the translator made certain adaptations in the wake of other changes or mistranslations, Such renderings do not reflect real variants, but rather ‘pseudo-variants,’ that is, Hebrew readings which existed only in the translator’s mind and not on parchment (see TCU [The Text-Critical Use of the Septuagint in Biblical Research], 162-171).2
While it is possible the rearranged and additional stones are a result of corrupted texts, or a lack of understanding of the Hebrew text on the part of the translator, in these three instances, it is more likely the changes were intentional and we can speculate “Why does this particular reading exist in the translator’s mind?”
The sequence for both the original giving of the text and subsequent translation from Hebrew to Greek is Exodus then Ezekiel:
Original and Translation Sequence:
Hebrew: Exodus ------------> Ezekiel
Greek: Pentateuch ---------> Ezekiel
The adornment in Ezekiel begins by placing the King of Tyre in "Eden, the garden of God." This location has been "off limits" to human occupants long before there was a High Priest in Israel:
He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:24)
Therefore this particular event in Ezekiel can be placed before the High Priest:
Literal Sequence of Events:
Ezekiel 28:13 ------> Exodus 28:17-20
Adornment -------------> Breast Plate
By copying the sequence of the High Priest’s Breast Plate from Exodus and using it for the adornment of the King Tyre in Eden, the LXX translator of Ezekiel is effectively saying the High Priest’s Breast Plate was patterned after the one found in Eden. In this translator's mind, it is the High Priest who was been adorned to look like the King of Tyre.
When the Greeks ruled over the nation of Israel, the office of the High Priest became increasingly corrupt to the point of going to the highest bidder. First, Jason bribed Antiochus Epiphanes. He served until being outbid by Menelaus.
Therefore, the LXX translator has cleverly used the existing text in Exodus to create a text in Ezekiel which reflects the corruption to the office of High Priest.
1. Tov states the LXX has βηρύλλιον for שהם in Exodus 28:20. Apparently he does not recognize the altered sequence from beryl, onyx, jasper to chrysotile, beryl, onyx in the Greek (χρυσόλιθος βηρύλλιον ὀνύχιον). βηρύλλιον means beryl.
2. Emanuel Tov, Did the Septuagint Translators Understand Their Hebrew Text?, pp. 210-211