Psalm 96 (95) v. 5

(Westminister Leningrad Codex) כִּ֤י ׀ כָּל־אֱלֹהֵ֣י הָעַמִּ֣ים אֱלִילִ֑ים וַֽ֝יהוָ֗ה שָׁמַ֥יִם עָשָֽׂה׃

(LXX) ὅτι πάντες οἱ θεοὶ τῶν ἐθνῶν δαιμόνια, ὁ δὲ κύριος τοὺς οὐρανοὺς ἐποίησεν.

(Vulgate) Quoniam omnes dii gentium dæmonia ; Dominus autem cælos fecit.

(Brenton Septuagint Translation) For all the gods of the heathen are devils: but the Lord made the heavens.

(KJV) For all the gods of the nations are idols: but the LORD made the heavens.

(NET) For all the gods of the nations are worthless, but the LORD made the sky.

(JPS Tanankh 1917) For all the gods of the peoples are things of nought; But the LORD made the heavens.

Why does the LXX translate אלילים as δαιμόνια (demons) in this Psalm?

It's interesting because, in Leviticus 19:4, the LXX transltates הָ֣אֱלִילִ֔ים as εἰδώλοις (idols). Why the inconsistency?

I am aware that, in Hebrew, two different words can look identical when written without vowel points. Could that be the explanation?

Or is אליל a single word with multiple meanings, a word therefore impossible to completely describe with a single Greek (or Latin, or English word)?

Moreover, why does Jerome choose to follow the LXX (translating the word as dæmonia) when he so often discards the Greek when there is a conflict with the Hebrew? (As in his translation of Genesis 1:2.) Did Jerome believe that there was no conflict?


Thanks for the question.

Perhaps some translators associate 'alilim' with Lilith (night spirit/demon). After being unable to find such a connection to 'alilum', the following explanation came up:

Cyclopædia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature Vol. 4 - John McClintock, James Strong [Under "Idol" pp. 468-469]

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I don't know if the words are identical (I don't think so) but rather the meaning is identical. See at Corinthians:


[No], but that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not desire that you should have fellowship with demons

It seems that the Septuagint translators did a connection of that uncertain word. The connection of course is not without reason. As you see in Corinthians the subject was idols.

(maybe some people who prefer Septuagint found that this was the original meaning)

*uncertain because it means idols but also used as "worthless"

Zachariah 11:1`7:

KJV 17 Woe to the idol shepherd that leaveth the flock

NASB Woe to the worthless shepherd

:o: 17 ὦ οἱ ποιμαίνοντες τὰ μάταια "Alas for the vain shepherds" הָֽאֱלִיל֙

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First, you are right: in Hebrew two different words could look identical, if there are written without vowel points, but it's the same word as in Lev 19,4 and Ps 96,5.

The basic meaning of אליל is 'null' (אליל is singular, אלילים plural). In Ps 96,5 אלילים refers to the pagan gods, the gods of nations. This gods are 'nulls' its means they are no-god. The old testament terms the no-gods also 'deamons' oder 'idols'. Its a deprecatingly term for other God then JHWH. So Ps 96,5 is translated with the word 'deamons' and Lev 19,4 with 'idols'; in this context it's the same. They worship not JHWH, they worship nulls. This explains also the translation of Jerome.

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