[b-hebrew] 1 Samuel 20:12 - And Jonathan said unto David, O LORD God of Israel

Harold Holmyard hholmyard at ont.com
Sat Jun 24 20:17:43 EDT 2006

Dear Steven,

>1 Samuel 20:12 (KJB)
>And Jonathan said unto David, O LORD God of Israel,
>when I have sounded my father about to morrow any time,
>or the third day, and, behold, if there be good toward David, 
>and I then send not unto thee, and shew it thee; 
>"O LORD God of Israel" - the Hebrew is simply 'LORD God of Israel' (YHVH Eloh Yisrael)
>Many translations here follow the Peshitta, which add the word for witness - "as a witness".
>I would prefer this discussion stick with the Hebrew Masoretic text.
>Some folks object to the vocative, that Jonathan would not be speaking to God 
>while also speaking to David (or strangely thinking the reader would be confused) ... 
>So far I do not see any difficulty with the vocative, and it would seem any such 
>objection would have to offer the alternative Hebrew rendering, to specify the vocative
>to God, as opposed to what is here.  In other  words, the Hebrew construction appears
>proper for showing what can be called the double-vocative.
>One way of indicating the view that this is less than a direct address to God 
>is in translations that go ...     (by) the LORD God of Israel.
>Rashi and Kimchi indicate this idea, perhaps as an idiom of sorts.  
>However, I do not know if there are other examples.
>Generally the form of the Tetragrammaton for such address includes the bet prefix,
>as in all these verses.
>1Kings 1:30 - 
>Even as I sware unto thee by the LORD God of Israel, saying, 
>Assuredly Solomon thy son shall reign after me, 
>and he shall sit upon my throne in my stead; 
>even so will I certainly do this day 
>1 Kings 2:23
>Then king Solomon sware by the LORD, saying, 
>God do so to me, and more also, 
>if Adonijah have not spoken this word against his own life. 
>1 Kings 1:17
>And she said unto him, 
>My lord, thou swarest by the LORD thy God unto thine handmaid, saying,
>Assuredly Solomon thy son shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne. 
>Joshua 9:19
>But all the princes said unto all the congregation, 
>We have sworn unto them by the LORD God of Israel:
>now therefore we may not touch them.

HH: All the examples are different because they have the verb "swear." 
The text says that Jonathan is speaking to David, so he does not seem to 
be speaking to the Lord. Two Hebrew manuscripts have, "As the Lord God 
of Israel lives, . . . ." The NET Bible thinks the Hebrew might have 
lost the word "witness" that is in the Syriac text due to homoioteuleton 
("same ending"). They say homoioarcton ("same beginning"), but I think 
they mean the other. The last letter on "witness" would have been the 
same as the first or last letter in the name "David," the next word. So 
the theory is that the scribe's eye might have jumped over the word 
"witness" to "David." But this is speculative. The LXX has the word 
"knows" after the divine name, and the verb in Hebrew would precede the 
name. "Knows" would reflect Hebrew letters similar to those in the 
Hebrew word "witness." Josephus at this point (Antiquities 6.230) has a 
long paraphrase that seems to reflect both the words, "know" and "witness."

>So my sense is that the omission of the bet in 1 Samuel 20:12 supports the 
>double-vocative translation.

HH: Delitsch thought that the initial words "Yahweh, God of Israel" were 
an invocation. Another possibility, though perhaps unlikely, is 
anacoluthon. Perhaps Jonathan changed his thought midstream and sort of 
went back to it at verse 13. He might have started by intending to say, 
"The Lord God of Israel, may he do thus to Jonathan and  may he add if . 
. . . " But Jonathan may have decided that he needed to explain first 
what he intended to do before making the self-curse. So he could have 
stopped after the divine name, switched to describe what he intended to 
do, and then have mentally returned to the Lord at the beginning of 
verse 13, repeating the subject because there had been so much space in 
between. Hebrew will sometimes repeat a subject if there is a lot of 
intervening material before the verb appears.

Your thoughts.

HH: It's definitely a challenging text.

Harold Holmyard

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list