For convenience, here is the passage (KJV, LXX):
|Then I will set my face against that man, and against his family, and will cut him off, and all that go a whoring after him, to commit whoredom with Molech, from among their people.
|καὶ ἐπιστήσω τὸ πρόσωπόν μου ἐπὶ τὸν ἄνθρωπον ἐκεῖνον καὶ τὴν συγγένειαν αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀπολῶ αὐτὸν καὶ πάντας τοὺς ὁμονοοῦντας αὐτῷ ὥστε ἐκπορνεύειν αὐτὸν εἰς τοὺς ἄρχοντας ἐκ τοῦ λαοῦ αὐτῶν.
Proceeding with caution given the nuance surrounding whether Moloch was a deity or a rite, we can examine one of the most commonly cited passages for the former, specifically the term "whored after". Biblical scholars, such as Buber have pointed out that such language only occurs in the context of idols or demons (Exodus 34:15, Judges 8:27) in the Hebrew.
Yet a exegetical dilemma is exposed if we return to the Septuagint rendering, which reads closer to "chasing after foreign carnal pleasures" than "whoring after" an actual Moloch deity. I've read a bit into the work of Heath Dewrell to learn more. He summarizes the differences, and proposes that the changes may be the result of version control issues or scribal errors:
Where MT reads לזנות אחרי המלך “to whore after the Molek,” LXX has ὥστε ἐκπορνεύειν αὐτοὺς εἰς τοὺς ἄρχοντας “their whoring away into the rulers.” This is not the only discrepancy. Even more significant is LXX εἰς τοὺς ἄρχοντας, which corresponds to MT אחרי המלך . First, LXX preserves a plural form rather than a singular one as in MT, and there is no obvious reason for an LXX translator to have rendered the singular המלך with a plural form. Even more surprising, though, is the anomalous correspondence of MT אחרי to LXX εἰς.
Furthermore, in 20:5 itself, immediately prior to our phrase, the phrase הזנים אחריו “those who whore after him” occurs, referring to those who follow the example of a man who gives his seed למלך. Thus, the relatively uncommon phrase זנה + ב was sandwiched between two instances of the much more common biblical idiom זנה + אחרי ; it would thus not be surprising that a scribe miscopied the more common phrase in place of the less common one.In addition, the fact that מלך eventually came to be understood as the name of a deity, “to whore after Molek” would have made perfect sense to a later copyist, while “to whore in מלכים ” would probably have been confusing.
Dewrell's textual criticism-based hypothesis is persuasive, but I'm hesitant to treat this as an open-and-shut case: is there evidence for a more benign explanation for the deviation of the Hebrew and Septuagint readings of Leviticus 20:5?