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Is baal a careless master or a faithful husband?

April 5, 2014

Kurk has pointed out a fundamental problem with the translation of baal as husband in my last post. 

I will just work with Jeremiah and only two verses, but lots of contrasts.

אֲשֶׁר-הֵמָּה הֵפֵרוּ אֶת-בְּרִיתִי
וְאָנֹכִי בָּעַלְתִּי בָם–נְאֻם-יְהוָה

which my covenant they brake,
although I was an husband (baalti) unto them, saith the Lord: KJV

or they violated that covenant,
even though I was like a faithful husband to them,” says the Lord. NETS

the covenant which they made void,
and I had dominion over them, saith the Lord. Douay Rheims 1899

forasmuch as they broke My covenant,
although I was a lord over them, saith the LORD. JPS 1917

οτι αυτοι ουκ ενεμειναν εν τη διαθηκη μου
και εγω ημελησα αυτων φησιν κυριος LXX

because they did not abide in my covenant,
and I was unconcerned for them, quoth the Lord, NETS

Now let’s look at the only other use of this word in Jeremiah – 3:14,

שׁוּבוּ בָנִים שׁוֹבָבִים נְאֻם-יְהוָה,
כִּי אָנֹכִי בָּעַלְתִּי בָכֶם

Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord;
for I am married unto you KJV

“Come back to me, my wayward sons,” says theLord,
“for I am your true master. NET Bible

Return, O ye revolting children, saith the Lord:
for I am your husband: D-R 1899

Return, O backsliding children, saith the LORD;
for I am a lord unto you, JPS 1917

επιστραφητε υιοι αφεστηκοτες λεγει κυριος
διοτι εγω κατακυριευσω υμων LXX

Return, O apostate sons, says the Lord,
for I will be your lord, NETS

But let’s be honest here. We all know that katakurieuvw is a synonym of kurieuvw. And what does that make it? This is the word used for the wrong way that Adam will treat Eve, the wrong way that rulers treat their people, the wrong way that pastors treat their flock and the wrong way that women treat men. It is all wrong. At least, one gets that impression. And maybe that is why God says that he will no longer be a baali, but an ishi, a partner and not a boss.

This is the model in the trinity, not eternal hierarchy and subordination. We have to understand that these are projections, models for how we, as humans, interpret God. What God is, that we don’t know. But we can understand God as the source of authority and submission, or we can understand God as the source of compassion, partnership and mutuality. God asks to be ishi and not baali.

Gen. 3:16

και αυτος σου κυριευσει

and he will rule you

Matt. 20:25-26

25 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς προσκαλεσάμενος αὐτοὺς εἶπεν·
Οἴδατε ὅτι οἱ ἄρχοντες τῶν ἐθνῶν κατακυριεύουσιν αὐτῶν
καὶ οἱ μεγάλοι κατεξουσιάζουσιν αὐτῶν.
26 οὐχ οὕτως[a]ἔσται ἐν ὑμῖν·
ἀλλ’ ὃς [b]ἂν θέλῃ ἐν ὑμῖν μέγας γενέσθαι ἔσται ὑμῶν διάκονος,

25 But Jesus called them and said,
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them,
and those in high positions use their authority over them.
26 It must not be this way among you!
Instead whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant,

1 Peter 5:3

μηδ’ ὡς κατακυριεύοντες τῶν κλήρων
ἀλλὰ τύποι γινόμενοι τοῦ ποιμνίου·

And do not lord it over those entrusted to you,
but be examples to the flock.NET Bible

1 Tim. 2:12

12 [a]διδάσκειν δὲ γυναικὶ οὐκ ἐπιτρέπω,

οὐδὲ αὐθεντεῖν ἀνδρός,
ἀλλ’ εἶναι ἐν ἡσυχίᾳ.

12 But I do not allow a woman to teach
or exercise authority over a man.
She must remain quiet.

And what is the connection between katakurieuw, to rule, or to lord it over someone, and authentew in 1 Tim. 2:12. Jerome, in translating the Vulgate, translated all these words with the Latin verb dominari. The first person of this verb is dominor, if you want to look it up. It does not mean “to exercise authority” or “to be a leader in church” but the exact opposite. But we have seen that baal is a domineering master, or a faithful husband, depending on how you want to translate.
Here are the verbs in the Vulgate, just to document it.
Gen. 3:16 dominabitur tui
Jeremiah 3:14 quia ego vir vester “I am your man.”??
Jer. 31:32 ego dominatus sum “I am your lord.”
Matt. 20:25 dominantur eorum
1 Tim. 2:12 dominari in virum
1 Peter 5:3 dominantes in cleris
Notice how easy it is for a word that seems to mean “be a ruler of” or “lord it over someone” morphs into “true master” “faithful husband” and “exercise authority” as in “be a church leader.” There is a certain sense in which every verse in the Bible cn be made to mean something and mean the opposite of that something, at the same time.
Update: I have not in any way responded to why the Septuagint has “I was unconcerned for them.” Sometimes, you just do a pile of research and it doesn’t give an answer, but poses more questions.
3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 5, 2014 5:36 pm

    Return, you children, for I am your husband is pretty creepy.

    The LXX “I was unconcerned for them” sounds like the description of a bad lord/master, who couldn’t care less for the well-being of his workers/servants/slaves. It sounds like a claim that both the LORD and the people had broken the previous covenant, or maybe that the previous covenantal relationship was a bad one. If it was really in the source Hebrew text, it sounds like the LORD’s self-reproach; if it wasn’t, it sounds like the translators’ reproach to the LORD.

    Jer 31:28-30 can be seen as consistent with the LORD’s self-reproach.

  2. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    April 5, 2014 7:16 pm

    ” if it wasn’t, it sounds like the translators’ reproach to the LORD.”

    I love that idea. The people feel that God has neglected them. That makes sense.


  1. Septuagint Studies Soirée #9 and #10: Buy One, Get One Free Edition | Words on the Word

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