Why was the Hebrew "possessed" translated into Greek as "created" in Proverbs 8:22?

Proverbs 8:22 English Standard Version “The LORD possessed me (קָ֭נָנִי) at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old.

NET Bible The LORD created me (εκτισεν) as the beginning of his works, before his deeds of long ago.

To possess and to create are two entirely different things. Why would a Greek translator understood possessing as creating? What had influenced the translator to view God's wisdom as created, instead of something God already possessed?

I am seeking an answer with a scholarly source (an ancient Jewish commentary on the verse perhaps).


The operative verb in Prov 8:22 is קָ֭נָנִי whose root is קָנָה (qanah) meaning "get" or "acquire". BDB lists several related meanings for this word (reproduced below in Appendix). The first of these is "of God creating", eg:

  • Gen 14:19, 22 - And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor/Creator of heaven and earth; ... But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have lifted my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Possessor/Creator of heaven and earth, [Here also the LXX translates this as "creator".]
  • Deut 32:6 - Do you thus repay the LORD, you foolish and senseless people? Is not he your father, who created you, who made you and established you? [Again, the LXX translates this word as "created" or "made".]
  • Ps 139:13 - For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. {Again the LXX has "created".]

This clearly the way the ancients understood this word.

Personally, I prefer in Prov 8:22 the translation "possessed"; but let us not press the very linguistically flexible Hebrew poetry too hard here. The Hebrew poets often took liberties with the language.


APPENDIX: BDB entry for קָנָה

1 get, acquire (all poetry) :

a. of God as originating, creating, קֹנֵה שָׁמַיִם וָאָרֶץ Genesis 14:19,22; Deuteronomy 32:6 (Israel), Psalm 139:13 (כִּלְֹיתָ֑י); Proverbs 8:22 ( חכמה q. v.).

b. of God as victoriously redeeming his people Exodus 15:16; Isaiah 11:11; Psalm 74:2 ("" גָּאַל) object הַרוֶֿה Psalm 78:54.

c. of Eve, acquiring קַיִן, ׳אֶתיֿ (i.e. with the help of), Genesis 4:1 (J).

d. of acquiring wisdom, knowledge (only Proverbs): Proverbs 1:5; Proverbs 4:5 (twice in verse); Proverbs 4:7 (twice in verse); Proverbs 15:32; Proverbs 16:16 (twice in verse); Proverbs 17:16; Proverbs 18:15; Proverbs 19:8; Proverbs 23:23.

2 elsewhere buy Exodus 21:2 (E), Genesis 47:22 (J), Genesis 50:13 (P), Leviticus 27:24(H), Deuteronomy 28:68; Isaiah 24:2; Jeremiah 13:1; Ezekiel 7:12; Proverbs 20:14 +; קֹנֶה owner, as purchaser Leviticus 25:30 (P) Isaiah 1:3; Zechariah 11:5 +.

Niph`al be bought: Perfect3masculine singular נִקְנָה Jeremiah 32:43; Imperfect3masculine plural יִקָּנוּ Jeremiah 32:15.

Hiph`il Perfect3masculine singular suffix אָדָם חִקְנַנִי Zechariah 13:5; AV makes denominative of מִקְנֶה cattle; Thes RV MartiKau Buhl caused (one) to purchase me, i.e. made me a bondman; < We Now GASm read אֲרָמָה קִנְיָנִי — Participle מַקְנֶה see קנא.

  • +1 for excelllent answer on the Hebrew meaning encapsulating both meanings of to create and to possess. I have no problems with the Hebrew having the meaning of "create" but in Proverbs 8:22 the context seemed to have it as "possessed" (not create) since I assume that God was eternally wise and thus, God had always wisdom, not that he created it. Perhaps, i should ask a new question as to how it is theologically accepted by the Jews at the time to have God who created his wisdom, instead of merely possessing it from eternity.
    – Radz Brown
    Dec 2 '20 at 9:10
  • @RadzMatthewC.Brown - As stated above - I would not press the poetic Hebrew too literally.
    – Dottard
    Dec 2 '20 at 9:49

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.