1

This passage has been difficult for translators with nearly every version rendering it differently and making notes of uncertainty. Different attempts at rendering the Hebrew words vary broadly.

After Moses sets up the altar and calls it "YHWH is My Banner", what does the following verse actually say?

KJV

For he said, Because the LORD hath sworn that the LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.

ESV

16 saying, "A hand upon the throne of the LORD! The LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation."

CEV

Then Moses explained, "This is because I depended on the LORD. But in future generations, the LORD will fight the Amalekites again and again."

NLT

16 He said, “They have raised their fist against the LORD ’s throne, so now the LORD will be at war with Amalek generation after generation.”

MSG

16 He said, Salute God's rule! God at war with Amalek Always and forever!

CSB

16 He said, "Indeed, [my] hand is [lifted up] toward the Lord's throne. The Lord will be at war with Amalek from generation to generation."

LSB

and says, “Because a hand [is] on the throne of YAH, war [is] to YHWH with Amalek from generation [to] generation.”

NRSV

He said, “A hand upon the banner of the LORD! The LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”

LXX

For with a secret hand YHWH wages war upon Amalek from generation to generation.

4
  • The NLT version seems most logical. Commented Apr 30 at 22:58
  • @Constantthin I think the LXX version makes the most sense.
    – Joshua B
    Commented May 1 at 1:52
  • You may be right. Commented May 1 at 6:56
  • Honestly, it would be disappointing if it does not say, "with a secret hand".
    – Joshua B
    Commented May 1 at 8:34

3 Answers 3

1

The literal translation of Ex 17:16 would read like this (my translation):

And he said: Indeed a hand is on [the] throne of YHWH. war to YHWH with Amalek from generation to generation.

The English, as presented here is a little rough and so most version "smooth it out" and interpret somewhat.

Ellicott provides his translation of the verse as follows:

because (his) hand is against the throne of Jehovah, (there shall be) war to Jehovah with Amalek, from generation to generation

[Note that כִּֽי could be "indeed" as per my translation, or "because" as per Ellicott's translation.]

However, I fail to understand most of the other versions quoted by the OP.

5
  • @JoshuaB - agreed. But I am dealing with the Hebrew text.
    – Dottard
    Commented May 1 at 0:18
  • @JoshuaB why would the Greek be a better textual witness for this verse than the MT? Commented May 1 at 0:25
  • @AviAvraham - I think it is because the diaspora Jews did not want the West to know about the Hidden Hand secret from Exodus 17:16, which is used by them literally as a hand sign to represent their incorrect war against their physical "Amalek." This is the result of a false interpretation of scripture, because the secret war against Amalek is fought in the Spirit of the Church of Jesus Christ.
    – Joshua B
    Commented May 1 at 0:57
  • 1
    @Dottard Most Jewish commentators (along with KJV, NASB and others) understand the "hand" in this verse to belong to YHWH -- it is He who swears by the throne. I suppose they agree with you that the hand is "on" the throne rather than "against" it as per Ellicott. Do you find a basis for their interpretation that God is the one who swears here? Commented May 1 at 11:34
  • @DanFefferman - yes there is a range of views about whose "hand" is referenced in Ex 17:16 - is it (a) the hand of YHWH who solemnly declares, or (2) the hand of Amalek who is against the throne of God (as in Isa 14:12-15 and Eze 28:12-17), or (3) the hand of Moses as in Ex 9:22, 10:22, 17:11, 12 signifying the need for divine help. From the context, I like the third option because it best suits the context and thus the BSB gives a good translation: “Indeed,” he said, “a hand was lifted up toward the throne of the LORD. The LORD will war against Amalek from generation to generation.”
    – Dottard
    Commented May 1 at 22:15
0

Both the KJV and ESV read close to the Hebrew:

וַיֹּאמֶר כִּי־יָד עַל־כֵּס יָהּ מִלְחָמָה לַיהֹוָה בַּעֲמָלֵק מִדֹּר דֹּר׃ Exodus 17:16

The KJV translation actually reflects a sense that the Lord is swearing an oath with one hand on the throne. See Ibn Ezra:

It is as if God put His hand upon His throne. This was the taking of an oath. It is similar to 'For I lift up My hand to heaven' (Deut. 32:40).

And Rashi says much the same thing that this was an eternal oath for the Lord to wage war against Amelek:

יָדוֹ שֶׁל הַקָּבָּ"ה הוּרְמָה לִשָּׁבַע בְּכִסְאוֹ לִהְיוֹת לוֹ מִלְחָמָה וְאֵיבָה בַעֲמָלֵק עוֹלָמִית

the hand of the Holy One, blessed be He, is raised to swear by His throne that He will have war and enmity against Amalek to all eternity.

4
  • Why does your Hebrew script have כֵּס יָהּ with a space dividing the letters? All 4 letters make up one word, "kissiti" or "kasuyah", which means to hide or to cover! LXX is right.
    – Joshua B
    Commented May 1 at 1:18
  • 1. All four letters together would not in fact produce “kissiti” 2. The targum agrees with the MT: “And he said, Because the Word of the Lord hath sworn by the throne of His glory” Commented May 1 at 4:50
  • Why do you think the Septuagint writers rendered it "hidden hand"?
    – Joshua B
    Commented May 1 at 6:09
  • Are you asking why the LXX translators made a mistake? I don't know, maybe they were tired when they got to this passage Commented May 8 at 14:32
0

The Greek of Exodus 17:16 provided an opportunity for patristic theologians to develop an important aspect of their Logos’ doctrine. The Hebrew text can be translated as following:

‘And he [i.e. Moses] said: “for a hand [is] against the throne of Yah (kes yah), war for YHWH with Amalek from generation to generation”’.

The Hebrew kes is a hapax and is often said to be identical to kisse’ (throne). But this is far from certain and various emendations have been suggested. The Septuagint does not have the introductory ‘and he said’ and reads:

‘For, with a hidden (κρυφαία) hand, the Lord makes war against Amalek from generation to generation.’

Instead of kisse-yah, the LXX translators read kesuyah, from the root k-s-h, ‘to hide’. The ‘hidden hand’ is specific to the Septuagint.

Justin Martyr identified it with God’s Son (Dialogue with Trypho 19, 8). For him, the Son is hidden in the Old Testament and the theological task is one of recovery. For the Fathers, the Son received various names in the Old Testament, in particular ‘beginning (ἀρχή)’ in Genesis 1:1, ‘Logos’ in Psalms 32:6 (33:6), ‘Wisdom (σοφία)’ in Proverbs 8:22, all identical to the Logos of John’s Prologue (Origen, On the First Principles I 2, 1–3 and IV 4, 3). The son is hidden in the Old Testament, but, thanks to their hermeneutical method, patristic theologians were able to uncover the passages in which he is secretly mentioned.

In Exodus 17:16, the four Hebrew letters in question (כִסִּֽתִי) are also found in Psalm 143:9, albeit in a slightly different configuration.

There it is rendered as "shelter" or "hidden".

Rescue me from my enemies, O LORD; I run to you to hide me.

Because of this, we can suspect with more certainty that the LXX has the correct rendering.

From my observation, Exodus 17:16 should be translated this way:

for he said, ""With a hidden hand YHWH wages war against Amalek from generation to generation."

2
  • “In Exodus 17:16, the four Hebrew letters in question (כִסִּֽתִי) are also found in Psalm 143:9.” No, they’re not? The letters in Ex 17:16 are “כס יה”. Commented May 1 at 4:58
  • @Avi Avraham - the Yod and Hei are switched around.
    – Joshua B
    Commented May 1 at 6:20

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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