Num 14:18 and Exo 34:6-7
peter_kirk at sil.org
Wed Mar 15 21:07:37 EST 2000
Numbers 14:18 is clearly a shorter variant of Exodus 34:6-7, as the
following comparison shows, and the context suggests an abbreviated
quotation. Now I don't know what the source critics do with these two
verses, but unless anyone can come up with a good argument I would
prefer to give priority to the longer version in Exodus. It is also
the verse I have studied in more detail.
Exo 34:6-7: Num 14:18:
YHWH YHWH 'El raxUwm w:xannUwn YHWH
'erek 'aPPayim w:rab-xesed we':emet 'erek 'aPPayim w:rab-xesed
 nOcEr xesed lA':alApIym
nO&E' `AwOn wApe&a` w:xa++A'Ah nO&E' `AwOn wApA$a`
w:naqqEh lO' y:naqqeh w:naqqEh lO' y:naqqeh
POqEd `:awOn 'AbOwt POqEd `:awOn 'AbOwt
`al-BAnIym w:`al-B:nEy bAnIym `al-BAnIym
`al-$illE$Iym w:`al-riBBE`Iym `al-$illE$Iym w:`al-riBBE`Iym
Now I had quite a problem when working on translation of the Exodus
verse with the apparent contradiction between nO&E' `AwOn... and POqEd
`:awOn... I began to wonder if these two phrases are actually as
contradictory is they appear. After all, n&' does not mean "forgive"
and pqd does not mean "punish". Of course the context, especially 'El
raxUwm w:xannUwn in Exodus, implies some kind of forgiveness, whereas
w:naqqEh lO' y:naqqeh must imply a negative meaning for POqEd. But I
think there may be some very difficult issues here.
Liz's suggestion reminds me of the concept in English law of a
"suspended sentence". Someone can be sentenced to a year in jail,
suspended for three years, which means that they don't go to jail at
all if they keep out of trouble for three years, but if they commit
another offence they may have to serve their original year plus any
further punishment. Now I don't think YHWH works quite like that, but
maybe there is something in the idea: the sin is not so much forgiven
as borne with, temporarily overlooked. After all, as the writer of the
letter to the Hebrews (9:22) summed up the Torah, "without the
shedding of blood there is no forgiveness"; if the sinner does not
die, maybe the children or grandchildren, or someone else, has to die.
No, I don't think the punishment is diluted for further generations,
someone has to pay the penalty. So perhaps we should translate nO&E'
in this verse not as "forgives" but as "bears with".
______________________________ Reply Separator
Subject: Re: Num 14:18
Author: <wross at farmerstel.com> at Internet
Date: 15/03/2000 11:53
My doctor-father, Baruch A. Levine, translates it in the Anchor Bible
"YHWH is long-tempered, and shows great kindness. He forgives iniquity and
disloyalty, but will not grant full exoneration. Rather, he reserves the
punishment due the fathers for their children; for the third and for the
I wonder if the deferral of punishment to subsequent generations implies the
dilution of the punishment among all the off-spring. The more children you
have, the less each has to bear!
I thank you for your post and feel somewhat affirmed in my understanding of
The only comments I would make on your father's reading (which really
captures the main element I was seeing) are:
* "full exhoneration" seems to imply lingering guilt, while I believe the
words are "clear of punishment" which is focused more on the consequences
than the guilt (which is described in glowing terms of full forgiveness)
* "reserves punishment" seems to imply that there will be no consequences to
the perp while that is not necessarily implied in the words "but visits"
* the words "punishment due" seem to imply a "full meting out" of an
incurred penalty, thus negating the sense of the words "not cleanly leaving
unpunished" which implies just a smidgen of what was deserved!
Thanks again for the post...
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