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Conceptions of Davidic Hope in the Greek Psalter and Apocrypha

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This is now the seventh paper in this series regarding Davidic hope in the Old Testament and intertestamental literature. It is concerned with the Greek translation of Pss 2, 45, 72, 131, and Amos 9:11-12. We will also examine a few key texts from the Apocrypha. The point of this series is to set the background for a study of Davidic promise and its application in the New Testament. The other studies in the series can be found on this website and are entitled: (1) An Early Text for Later Messianic Conceptions: A Look at Genesis 49:8-12/Sept. 10, 1998; (2) “A Star Will Come Out of Jacob”: Early Regal Images in Numbers 24:15-19/Sept. 28, 1998; (3) Regal/Messianic Hope in Deuteronomy, 1, 2 Samuel and 1, 2 Kings/Oct. 5, 1998; (4) Conceptions of Davidic Hope in Psalm 2, 45, and 72/Oct. 19, 1998; (5) Conceptions of Davidic Hope in Psalms 89, 110, and 132/Oct. 27/98 (6) Conceptions of Davidic Hope in Ezekiel, Zechariah, Haggai, and Chronicles Nov. 2, 1998.


Ps 2

The LXX (Greek) translation of the Hebrew of Ps 2 is for the most part fairly close to the Hebrew. But there is one change that may be significant. It appears in v. 12. The Greek text reads dravxasqe paideiva" for the Hebrew rb^-WqV=n~ and oJdou< dikaiva" for Er#d#. The term paideiva" can indicate “instruction” and “learning” rather than “punishment” or “chastisement.” In this context, the use of suvnete and paideuvqhte pavnte" oiJ krivnonte" thVn gh<n (v.10) seems to suggest that “instruction” is the correct translation of the term though it in no apparent way accounts for rb^-WqV=n.1 Further the change to oJdou< dikaiva" highlights the focus on wisdom that leads to a righteous lifestyle (cf. Ps 1:6: o{ti ginwvskei kuvrio" oJdoVn dikaivwn, kaiV oJdoV" ajsebw<n ajpolei<tai). Thus it appears that the translators of this psalm, in and around the Maccabean period, regarded Messiah’s teaching of “wisdom and learning” as integral to the age of his reign.2

Ps 44 (45 MT)

The striking feature about this psalm, in v. 7 is the reference to the king as “God.” The text reads: oJ qrovno" sou oJ qeov" eij" toVn aijw<na tou< aijw<no" rJavbdo" eujquvthto" hJ rJavbdo" th<" basileiva" sou where oJ qeov" is clearly a vocative of direct address referring back to the king. The reference to the king as God, while only hyperbolic at best in the MT, seems to be made somewhat more explicitly here. This may be possible due to the Hellenistic provenance for the LXX Ps 45 and the Greek approach to kingship.3

Ps 72

The universalism is maintained (v. 11; pavnta taV e[qnh douleuvsousin aujtw</) and indeed heightened through an explicit connection to the universalistic aspect of the Abrahamic promise of blessing. Ps 72:17 LXX reads kaiV eujloghqhvsontai ejn aujtw</ pa<sai aiJ fulaiV th<" gh<", pavnta taV e[qnh makariou<sin aujtovn. Gen 12:3 reads kaiV ejneuloghqhvsontai ejn soiV pa<sai aiJ fulaiV th<" gh<". Thus there is an explicit connection in this psalm in the LXX between the Davidic promises and the Abrahamic, and thus the application promised to the nations in the Abrahamic promise is mediated by the Davidic king and his rule.4

Ps 131 (132 MT)

Psalm 131 LXX also undergirds the concept of holiness as integral to the Davidic king and his rule. Verse 18 in the MT reads: wr)z+n] Jyx!y` wyl*u*w+ tv#B) vyB!l=a^ wyb*y+wa) (“I will clothe his enemies with shame, but upon him my holiness will flourish”). The LXX changes wr)z+n] Jyx!y` wyl*u*w+ to ejpiV deV aujtoVn ejxanqhvsei toV aJgivasmav mou thus making an explicit reference to YHWH’s holiness as expressed through the rule of the king. The people are regarded as oiJ o{sioi in connection with the Davidic rulers coming (v. 16).

Amos 9:11-15

The MT, as we discussed in the section under Amos 9:11-15 above, presents the nations as a covenant people with YHWH and participants in the Davidic covenant. The LXX text of Amos 9:11-15 makes it abundantly clear that the house of David will be restored for the benefit of Gentile nations so that they may come and seek YHWH.5 The text reads: o{pw" ejkzhthvswsin oiJ katavloipoi tw<n ajnqrwvpwn kaiV pavnta taV e[qnh, ejf ou}" ejpikevklhtai toV o[nomav mou ejp aujtouv", levgei kuvrio" oJ qeoV" oJ poiw<n tau<ta. Thus the passage has a particular universalistic flavor to it wherein Israel is not seen to possess the nations, but the nations come to seek YHWH.6 They are still referred to as YHWH's covenant people as in the MT, but Israel is moved to the background and there is a hint here of Gentile access to God, not apart from Israel, but without the hegemony of Israel. This passage, with its positive approach to the nations and their free access to YHWH, is in this regard, similar to Isaiah 2:1-4 and Micah 4:1-4.

The Old Testament Apocrypha

Sirach 45:25; 47:1-22

The book of Sirach, written by the grandson of Ben Sirach was originally written in Hebrew, but is preserved for us primarily in a couple of Greek forms, as well as Old Latin, and Syriac.7 It was written around 180 BCE 8 and the GKI Greek translation was done sometime between 132 and 116 BCE.9 The two passages that will receive our attention are 45:25 and 47:1-11, 22.

The first passage to look at is Sirach 45:25. The text is preserved in Hebrew, Greek and Syriac, the original Hebrew text being developed from these:

dwd <u wtyb <gw

hdwhy hfml yvy /b

wdwbk ynpl va tljn

wurz lkl /rha tljn


And also his covenant with David
son of Jesse, of the tribe of Judah
an inheritance of a fire-offering before his glory
an inheritance of Aaron to all his seed


kaiV diaqhvkhn tw/` Dauid
uiJw/~ Iessai ejk fulh`" Iouda
klhronomiva basilevw" uiJou~ ejx uiJou~ movnou
klhronomiva Aarwn kaiV tw~/ spevmati aujtou~


and a covenant with David
Son of Jesse of the tribe of Judah
an inheritance of a king is a son from a son only
an inheritance of Aaron is also to his seed


w’p dwyd
br ’yvy
yhrtn’ dmlk’ bljwdwhy yrt
wywrtn’ d’hrwn lh wlzr‘h


And also David
son of Jesse
an inheritance of kings alone he inherited
but an inheritance of Aaron is to him and his seed.

This text presents difficult text-critical issues, but at the same time offers no real images regarding the nature of the Davidic king or his reign, no matter how these issues are resolved. The passage seems to be functioning not so much to legitimate the Davidic promise or even suggest that Ben Sira believed that the promises were still operative and thus a ground for a future messianic hope. The point of the quotation, as Pomykala points out, is to demonstrate that the method of succession for the high priesthood is the same as that of kingship.10

But Ben Sira may be saying more than that the Davidic covenant is the proper model for priestly succession. Burton Mack has argued, on the basis of the overall literary structure and movement of Sira 44-50, according to promise-fulfillment, that Sira wanted to show that positive covenants in Israel's history have found their fulfillment in the post-exilic Judean monarchy and Simon’s leadership. He argues that Ben Sira had a strong sense of historical fulfillment in Simon. Pomykala summarizes Mack well:

In this regard, B. L. Mack has shown how the Hymn in Praise of the Fathers is a reading of the Hebrew scriptures that understood the high priesthood of Ben Sira’s own time as the climax and fulfillment of all the offices and covenants of Israel’s history. Specifically, the structure of the hymn indicates that all the offices in Israel were established by covenants with founding figures in Israel’s early history (44:17-45:26). These offices and the functions associated with them were to be the means by which God fulfilled his promise of blessings for Israel. The periods of the conquest, monarchy, and restoration represent a failed struggle to actualize in history this divine blessing (46:1-49:13). It is only in the final scene of the hymn, depicting Simon the high priest, whose roles encompass all of the offices of Israel that Ben Sira saw the promises of blessing and well-being come to fruition (50:1-24).11

That Mack is correct and Simon was viewed as fulfilling the functions of the Davidic king is evident also in 50:1-4 where Simon performs the functions of a king, including temple building and fortification (50:2), securing the city in case of siege (50:3), and saving his people from ruin (50:4). He is also said to wear a golden crown (zp trfu) on his turban, a symbol of regal, not priestly authority (45:12; cf. Ps 21:3). This effectively means that Ben Sira viewed the Davidic promises as fulfilled in the priestly office and Simon. The only point we wish to make from this argument is that there may be, implicit in this understanding, a transfer of the Davidic promises to those outside the original intent of the promise. The rationale behind this appears to be the need to actualize scripture in new settings and give legitimacy to certain historical realities. Olyan, arguing against Stadelman, rejects such a conclusion, but he fails to relate the statements about David to the historical context and Simon’s rule, as well as the literary development of the Hymn as a whole, as Mack has demonstrated.12

The other passage for our consideration is 47:1-22 which contains Ben Sira’s praise of David and his son Solomon. The particular debate as to whether this passage, especially verses 11 and 22, is evidence that Ben Sira maintained a Davidic messianism or not, is not pertinent to the thesis being advanced here.13 What we are interested in, is the conceptions he associated with David and his rule, which later writers may have drawn upon.

David is considered in this “hymn of praise” to be the choicest of the inward parts of the sacrificial animal which the Israelites were forbidden to eat 47:2; cf. Exod 29:13, 22; Lev 3:3-5, 9-11, 14-16) because it was supposed to have been burned on the altar. His greatness as a warrior is developed in the comment about him defeating the giant Goliath (47:4; 1 Sam 17:32-51). Further, he is seen to have had a special relationship with YHWH upon whom he was able to draw strength to consistently succeed in battle (47:4-7). The people benefited from his victories in that he took away their shame and disgrace (47:4) and exalted the power (i.e., “horn”) of Israel (47:5d). He was glorified and praised by his people for his incredible conquests and the blessings bestowed by the Lord (47:6). Personally, David was a man who loved God with all his heart (recalling Deut 6:5) and gave beauty to Israel’s festivals by arranging their times each year (cf. 1 Chron 23:31-32) and instituting and developing music and the worship of YHWH. As a result of his reign God’s holy name was praised and the sanctuary resounded each day with praise and music from the early morning (47:8-10).14 God had taken away his sins and given him a covenant of kingship and a glorious throne in Israel (47:11). Even Solomon after him lived in security and peace, and was able to build the temple of YHWH because of the piety of his father David (47:12-13). Other kings after David were measured against him (48:22). The covenant with David regarding dynastic succession is to be certain because of the mercy of YHWH (47:22). This last point may indicate Ben Sira’s hope in a future Davidic messiah or it may simply mean that God has fulfilled his promises in Simon.15 Again, for our purposes, the idea of transfer and the imagery associated with David are more important. This will become clear when we examine the use of Davidic traditions in the New Testament.

1 Maccabees 2:57

The book known as 1 Maccabees was originally written in Hebrew as early as the last third of the second century B.C.E., but definitely no later than 63 B.C.E. and Pompey’s conquest of Jerusalem.16 It survives in Greek texts only. Though it appears largely as an historical record, it has nonetheless been interpreted by scholars as propaganda for the Maccabean, or Hasmonean, house.17

There is not much in 1 Maccabees by way of messianic thought, as Klausner points out.18 But he does argue that the reference in 2:57 is support for the “eternal” nature of the promises to David, but this is not at all certain.19 The important point for our study is the idea that it was because of David’s mercy (ejn tw</ ejlevei aujtou<) that he inherited (ejklhronovmhsen) the throne of the kingdom (qrovnon basileiva" forever (eij" aijw<na"). With reference to David's mercy, the author may have in mind his sparing Saul's life on numerous occasions (e.g., 1 Sam 24;1-7; 26:1-25). In any case, mercy characterized David and was the reason he was allowed accession to the throne. Further, since e[leo" is generally used to translate dsj, the Hebrew Vorlage of 1 Maccabees was probably dsj. Thus in 2:57 the author of 1 Maccabees may be alluding to Isaiah 55:3, etc. where the prophet refers to the Davidic promises as dw]d* yd@s=j^. In this case he understood the genitive as subjective and related to David’s merciful acts toward others. Whatever the case may be, mercy is intimately connected with conceptions of Davidic rule.

1 See Anderson, Psalms 1-72, 69-70.

2 The Wisdom of Solomon 6:11 reads: ejpiqumhvsate ou tw<n lovgwn mou, poqhvsate kaiV paideuqhvsesqe. It too, though it may not be regarded as messianic, pictures one of the functions of the king as teaching wisdom to the other kings of the earth that they might reign wisely (cf. v. 1-2: jAkouvsate ou , basilei<", kaiV suvnete, mavqete, dikastaiV peravtwn gh<", 2 ejnwtivsasqe, oiJ kratou<nte" plhvqou" kaiV gegaurwmevnoi ejpiV o[cloi" ejqnw<n). The Psalms of Solomon 17-18, which appear to borrow from Ps 2 also focus on this aspect of Messiah’s wise instruction during the messianic age (cf. 17:42; 18:7). On the translation of 17:42 see Jacob Klausner, The Messianic Idea in Israel: From Its Beginning to the Completion of the Mishnah, trans. W. F. Stinespring (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1955), 322. Also in 1 Enoch 51:3, a messianic passage, the “Elect One” will teach the “secrets of wisdom” from the conscience of his mouth. Thus there appears to be a messianic tradition—connected to the Davidic messiah through Ps 2 and the Psalms of Solomon 17-18—concerned with advocating Messiah’s teaching and instructing role. He will teach the “secrets of wisdom. See Joachim Schaper, Eschatology in the Greek Psalter, WUNT 76, ed. Martin Hengel and Otfried Hofius (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1995), 72-76.

3 Schaper, Eschatology, 81-82.

4 Schaper, Eschatology, 93-96 suggests also the possibility in Ps 72:17 that the messiah’s name, and thus his person, is pre-existent. He argues based on parallels with the Targum on Ps 72:17 and 1 Enoch 48:23. Due to the lack of evidence this must remain only a possibility.

5 Codex A inserts toVn kurivon after ejkzhthvswsin, but the sense of the passage is clear enough without the addition.

6 It seems probable that the LXX translators took ejkzhthvswsin for Wvr=yy] (thinking Wvr+d+y]) and tw`n ajnqrwvpwn for <wd)a$ (thinking of <d*a*). See Niehaus, The Minor Prophets: Hosea, Joel, and Amos, 491.

7 For a discussion of the complicated issues involved in the text criticism for the book, see Patrick W. Skehan and Alexander A. Di Lella, The Wisdom of Ben Sira, The Anchor Bible, ed. William Foxwell Albright and David Noel Freedman, vol. 39 (New York: Doubleday, 1987), 51-62. For the Hebrew text, see Israel Lvi, The Hebrew Text of the Book of Ecclesiasticus, SSS 3, ed. R. J. H. Gottheil and M. Jastrow, Jr. (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1904; reprint, 1951), and Milward D. Nelson, The Syriac Version of the Wisdom of Ben Sira Compared to the Greek and Hebrew Materials, SBLDS 107 (Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1988). For the Greek text see J. Ziegler, ed. Sapientia Iesu Filii Sirach, Septuaginta 12. 2 (Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1965).

8 Skehan and Di Lella, Sira, 10.

9 The are two Greek translations of Sirach. One is referred to as GKI and the other GKII. GKI is represented in four major uncial manuscripts, namely, A, B, C, and S (and certain minuscules) and is that of Ben Sira’s grandson. GKII is not contained in any single Greek manuscript, but can be reconstructed from Joseph Ziegler’s Origenic and Lucianic recensions, and represents a later expanded Hebrew recension. The Latin text was translated from GKII sometime in the second century CE. The Syriac translation appears to have been done by some Ebionite Christians sometime by the early fourth century CE. See the recent monograph by Benjamin G. Wright, LXX: No Small Difference: Sirach’s Relationship to its Hebrew Parent Text, Society of Biblical Literature Septuagint and Cognate Studies Series 26, ed. Claude E. Cox (Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1989), 4-6.

10 Pomykala, Davidic Dynasty, 132-140. But see Skehan and Di Lella, Wisdom of Ben Sira, 514, who apparently regard the lk as authentic and thus see the two covenants between David and Aaron as contrasted rather than compared. Cf. also Andre Caquot, “Ben Sira et le messianisme,” Semitica 16 (1966): 60-61, who regards the two covenants as being compared by the writer.

11 Pomykala, Davidic Dynasty, 142.

12 Olyan, “Ben Sira’s Relationship to the Priesthood,” 284-85.

13 Pomykala, Davidic Dynasty, 145-48 argues along with Caquot, “Ben Sira et le messianisme,” 55-56, that Ben Sira does not maintain a Davidic messianisme. On the other hand, several scholars reject this conclusion in favor of that fact that he did; see Rudolph Smend, Die Weisheit des Jesus Sirach (Berlin: G. Reimer, 1906), 452; Skehan and Di Lella, Wisdom of Ben Sira, 526, who say, “The Davidic royal house and throne are to last forever—the expression of Messianic hope”; Olyan, “Ben Sira’s Relationship to the Priesthood,” 281, who argues that the reference to the /rq of 51:12h is messianic, but that there is no evidence of a priestly messiah; Herbert W. Bateman IV, “Two-First Century Messianic Uses of the Old Testament: Heb 1:5-13 and 4QFlor 1.1-19,” JETS 38 (1995): 21; Robert T. Siebeneck, “May Their Bones Return to Life: Sirach’s Praise of the Fathers,” CBQ 21 (1959): 428, says, “The use of the prophetic traditions relating to the messianic age, the practice of contemporary apocryphal literature granting to individuals an eschatological bearing, the thought pattern of the Jewish world of the second century pertaining to the messianic future, the specific references to the perpetuity of the Davidic dynasty and to Elias’ eschatological function, the pleas that the divine government continue and complete the divine design for the chosen people—all combine to insinuate that Sirach played no small role in the prolongation and the formulation of the messianic hope for the centuries immediately preceding its fulfillment.” See also Sigmund Mowinckel, He That Cometh, trans. G. W. Anderson (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1956), 298-302, argues that the future age is described in terms of the past, and ancient heroes such as Enoch and Moses, are used implicitly in this way.

14 See Skehan and Di Lella, Wisdom of Ben Sira, 526, who states: “According to 1 Chron 15:16; 16:4-6; and 23:5, David was responsible for giving music an important function in the cult. By so doing, ‘he added beauty to the feasts,’ something that was needed, for as Smend suggests, the Zadokites of David’s time had become lax in their duties, with the result that public worship was flat and colorless.”

15 Caquot, “Ben Sira et le messianisme,” 56, notes that /tyw indicates a past, not a future tense, and thus all 47:22 is saying, as the Greek has translated it (i.e., with e[dwken), is that God had raised up a horn for David. But cf. Klausner, The Messianic Idea in Israel, 257, who regards the passage as purporting a Davidic messianism.

16 If one regards the reference to John in 16:23-24 as presupposing his death, this would enter as evidence for a date perhaps sometime in the reign of Alexander Jannaeus (103-76 B.C.E.). See Jonathan A. Goldstein, 1 Maccabees, The Anchor Bible, ed. William Foxwell Albright and David Noel Freedman, vol. 41 (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1976), 62-63, who cites the death of John as one piece of evidence for a later date. ON the other hand, John J. Collins, Daniel, First Maccabees, Second Maccabees with an Excursus on Apocalyptic Genre, Old Testament Message, ed. Carroll Stuhlmueller and Martin McNamara, vol. 16 (Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier, 1981), 149-50, who argues that the reference to John may not indicate that he had already died.

17 See Collins, First Maccabees, 149; Goldstein, 1 Maccabees, 64ff; and George W. E. Nickelsburg, Jr. “1 and 2 Maccabees—Same Story, Different Meaning,” CTM 42 (1971): 517.

18 Klausner, The Messianic Idea in Israel, 259-61.

19 See Goldstein, 1 Maccabees, 240-41.

Related Topics: Christology, History, Prophecy/Revelation