Monday, January 13, 2014
Israel and a Canaanite god?
This is a study of Genesis 33:17-20 and it has some very interesting transliterations in it. If you haven’t downloaded your FREE Hebrew Transliterator and completed the two short lessons on transliterating Hebrew words click here for lesson one & click here for lesson two. I capitalize Hebrew words that are transliterations (plus use bold type and underlines) so you won’t miss them in the verses below.
17 And Jacob traveled there to SUKKOT and built himself a house for his livestock he made SUKKOT (booths), for this reason he called the name of the place SUKKOT.
(To see the verse in Hebrew click here – the underlined words are Hebrew words #3, word #9 and the last Hebrew word in the verse – you will probably need to zoom in to enlarge the text.)
The word SUKKOT appears three time in this verse. In most English translations it appears twice because the second appearance is translated instead of transliterated. Its translation is “booths.” SUKKOT is also a major Jewish holiday in which Jews construct small booths to remember the time of the Exodus when their ancestors lived in “booths.” I updated the verse with translations instead of transliterations to give you a feel for what a Hebrew reader would have seen:
17 And Jacob traveled there to Booths and built himself a house for his livestock he made booths, for this reason he called the name of the place Booths.
Look at the map below and find SUKKOT, spelled “Succoth” (on the right side of the Jordan River).
18 And Jacob came in peace to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, and he came from Padan Aram, and he camped in front of the city.
Jacob traveled from Succoth to Shechem (it is on the left side of the map). Jacob made his camp right in front of the city of Shechem. We discover that he had traveled from Paddan Aram (in northern Mesopotamia, probably where Haran was located) to Succoth and then to Shechem. Paddan Aram or Padan-aram was an early Aramean kingdom in Mesopotamia. Paddan Aram in Aramaic means the field of Aram.[i]
19 And he bought that part of the field where he had pitched his tent, from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem for a hundred QeSITAH.
The meaning of the Hebrew word QeSITAH is unknown. The text says Jacob paid 100 QeSITAH, but we do not know what that was or its value. However, and more importantly, Jacob acquired his property in Canaan by buying it from the owner. This indicates that the owner freely executed the contract with him. The next verse is a “loaded” one. There is no doubt that it created a theological nightmare for many translators.
20 And he (Jacob) set up an altar and called to it:
Now it’s your time to have some fun and get a feel for what the translators experienced. Transliterate the three Hebrew words above. Keep in mind that Hebrew is read from right to left. Write down your transliterations and compare them to the translations below:
(1) King James Version: And he erected there an altar, and called it Elelohe-Israel.
(2) American Standard Version: And he erected there an altar, and called it El-elohe-israel.
(3) Bible in Basic English: And there he put up an altar, naming it El, the God of Israel.
(4) Darby's English Translation: And there he set up an altar, and called it El-Elohe-Israel.
(5) Douay Rheims Bible: And raising an altar there, he invoked upon it the most mighty God of Israel.
(6) Noah Webster Bible: And he erected there an altar, and called it El-elohe-Israel.
(7) World English Bible: He erected an altar there, and called it El-Elohe-Israel.
(8) Young's Literal Translation: and he setteth up there an altar, and proclaimeth at it God -- the God of Israel.
My transliterations of the above words are: #1 EL; #2 ELOHEY; #3 YISeRAEL. Compare my transliterations to your work. How did you do? Now, let’s take another look at how the above translators dealt with Hebrew words #1 and #2:
● Elelohe – capitalized the “E” and combined the two words into one.
● El-elohe – capitalized the first “E,” added hyphen, did not capitalize “e” in second word.
● El-Elohe - capitalized the first “E,” added hyphen, capitalized “E” in second word.
● El, the God of – transliterated word #1 & capitalized “E;” translated word #2 “the God of” with capital “G.”
● the most mighty God of – translates word #1 “the most mighty” with no capital letters and translates word #2 “God of” with a capital “G” but leaves out “the.”
● God - the God of – translates word #1 “God” with a capital “G” and translates word# 2 “the God of” with a capital “G.”
Below is my translation of the verse:
And he set up an altar and called to it: “El, god of Israel.”
Pay close attention to exactly what Jacob did – he called TO it: “El, god of Israel.” Why would this cause theological problems? Look at th image below and you will understand. It is a statue of the chief Canaanite god – El.
Did Jacob build an altar and call out to a Canaanite god? If you have purchased the Hebrew lexicon we recommend – A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (click here for link for more info about lexicon) – turn to page 15. In column b you will find five entries for the word EL. #V is the one for this form of the word:
(1a) the high god El
The entries after the two above are heavily influenced by theologies, as will be seen in books that were written later. If you haven’t ordered the lexicon, I would recommend that you do because I will be referring to it many times in my articles and blogs – and the Hebrew Transliterator is keyed to it.
Now for the big surprise! Are you sitting down? I bet you did not even think about the meaning of Hebrew word #3, which every version above transliterated as “Israel.” Everybody know that Israel is the name of the Jewish people and nation! Wrong! This is only the third appearance of this word in the Hebrew Bible. Below is the first appearance (Genesis 32:28a):
“Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel. . .”
“Israel” was Jacob’s name, not the name of the nation, yet. So let’s take one more look at the verse we are working on, with this last bit of information added:
And Jacob set up an altar and called to it: “El, god of Jacob.”
But, what about monotheism? That will not come until later in Jewish history – but I will have to wait and address it in future blogs. Isn’t it amazing how much was packed into just three short verses and how thing we may have not even questioned can turn out to be very different from what we though? I hoped you enjoyed this study.
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SHALOM & Be Empowered!