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A typical translation of Exodus 7:1 is along the lines of

"The LORD answered Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet." (Berean Study Bible)

Yet, a minority translate it differently, such as

"And the LORD said unto Moses, See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet." (KJV)

or

"And the Lord said to Moses: Behold I have appointed thee the God of Pharao: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet." (Douay-Rheims)

What is the rationale for translating by adding 'like' or 'as' before 'God-god' in this line - is it grammar, context, or theology?

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This matter is rather simple - grammatically, there is no justification for making the Hebrew "God" into "as/like God". Even the LXX does not do this.

However, I would assume that the various versions that do this (including the ESV!) do so out of an obvious deference to Hebrew theology of monotheism. If we translate, "I have made you God to Pharaoh", then we must explain how the LORD God creates another God.

While the literal rendering cannot mean the above, many of these versions insert an implied "like/as" which the sense of the sentence implies anyway.

Benson describes it this way:

Exodus 7:1. A god to Pharaoh — That is, my representative in this affair, as magistrates are called gods, because they are God’s vicegerents. He was authorized to speak and act in God’s name, and endued with a divine power, to do that which is above the ordinary course of nature.

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I have given thee a god to Pharaoh [Young's Literal, Exodus 7:1]

I have you made a god to Pharaoh [Green's Literal, Exodus 7:1]

Pharaoh did not appear to have any god, in the record of Exodus. He does not appeal to any god, he just has magicians who duplicate (some of) the deeds of Moses. He does not argue against the desires of the Hebrews on the basis that their deity is false or evil. He is just obstinate about losing the advantage of inexpensive migrant labour within the province.

God supplies this ignorant man with a god. With no faith, the man has no apprehension of deity. But he is supplied with a man, manifest, who speaks truth to him and explains what the Deity requires.

In Pharaoh's apprehension, this is as much as he knows of deity : Moses.

And God is the one who has supplied this apprehension to him.

The literal translations give word for word interlinear translations. They do not use 'as' or 'like'.

There is no reason to add 'like' or 'as'. It is a mis-translation. Why anyone would do that is a matter of opinion unless translators have supplied notes in the margin, or elsewhere, to explain their reasoning.

I have been unable to find any explanatory notes regarding the Berean translation.

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  • Would the reason for Pharaoh not having any god (in a polytheistic society) be that he was considered to be a god in his own person, born as son of the sun-god, Ra, and the incarnation of the falcon-headed god Horus (the successor Osiris)? Apparently some of his grandiose titles were "the mighty god", "offspring of Ra" and "the eternal". Upvoted. – Anne Apr 24 at 9:15
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    None of that detail is in the scripture so it is not a matter of exegesis. And in cultures like that, there is no guarantee that people actually believed such superstitions. Neither Greek mythology, nor Roman deities nor present day governments attitudes to Christianity can guarantee that individual rulers will actually subscribe to any ideology at all, however convenient it may be for a ruler to allow himself to be viewed as a deity. – Nigel J Apr 24 at 14:25

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