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Posted September 7th, 2009 | Permalink

World English Bible | King James Version | New International Version

Another pearl of wisdom from the mouth of Moses in the book of Deuteronomy. One especially interesting passage in Deuteronomy is chapter 32, which it says is a song sung by Moses to the assembled Israelites, and may be one of the oldest parts of the Bible. If you compare the available manuscripts, the influence of monotheism on the text over time can be seen. For example look at verse 43, where Moses is predicting that Yahweh, the god of Israel, will take revenge on Israel's enemies:

"Rejoice, O heavens, together with him; and bow down to him all you gods, for he will avenge the blood of his sons, and will render vengeance to his enemies, and will recompense those who hate him, and will atone for the land of his people."

-Dead Sea Scrolls, date: between 100 BC and 100 AD, translation by Martin Abegg Jr., et al.

"Be delighted, Skies, with him, and may all sons of a god bow to him. Be delighted, nations, with his people, and may all angels of a god strengthen him, that the blood of his sons will be avenged, and he will avenge and pay back the enemies, and to the haters he will pay back, and Lord will clean out the land of his people."

-The Septuagint, 4th century AD (Codex Vaticanus), translated by me

"Rejoice, you nations, [with] his people, for he will avenge the blood of his servants. He will render vengeance to his adversaries, And will make expiation for his land, for his people.

-Masoretic Text (Leningrad Codex), 1008 AD, translation from the World English Bible

This is an example of the polytheistic beliefs of the early Israelites being later edited out by the time of the writing of the Masoretic Texts, which have been used for most modern translations of the Old Testament. Another example occurs earlier in the same chapter— verses 8 and 9 say that the highest god divided the nations up according to the number of "sons of god", and that the nation of Israel got assigned to Yahweh (see scroll 4QDeutj of the Dead Sea Scrolls). The Masoretic Texts change "sons of god" to "sons of Israel", which doesn't make sense in the context.

To see other references to the sons of god in the Bible, see Genesis 6, where the sons of god mated with human women, who then gave birth to giants ("Nephilim" means "giants"— see Numbers 13:32-33). Also see the book of Job, where the sons of god are Yahweh's heavenly counsel (Job 1:6, and 2:1). See also the Baal Cycle, written between 1300 and 1200 BC, found in Ugarit, Syria. In it, El is the highest god, and all the other gods are referred to as "sons of the holy one". Yahweh appears to be one of these sons — see KTU 1.1 IV verses 12 through 14. Ugaritic was written with only consonants, like Hebrew, so the god's name is spelled "yw", similar to "yhwh" in Hebrew. In the Baal Cycle, El renames this god as "Yam", and Yam is later defeated in battle by Baal.

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