That I not be full and deny You and say, “Who is YHWH?” or that I not be in want and steal, and profane the name of my God. Proverbs 30:9
Who Is YHWH? – The LXX (Septuagint) is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. Finished some 200 years before the birth of Yeshua, it was the standard Bible of many synagogues outside Israel. Pagans who spoke Greek and wished to become a part of the Jewish community and the Jewish faith found this document invaluable. So do we since it often gives us a look at how rabbis from 200 BC translated certain Hebrew words into Greek. This is especially important for the New Testament text because New Testament Greek is not based in classical Greek thought (like Plato and Aristotle) but rather in Greek thinking that is derived from Hebrew thought forms, just like the Greek in the LXX. But sometimes the LXX modifies the Hebrew text for its own purposes. When this happens, we learn a lot about the culture of 200 BC, the thought of the rabbis and the shades of meaning in the Hebrew Scriptures. Proverbs 30:9 is one of these cases.
The MT (Masoretic text) is the standard text of the Hebrew Tanakh. There are other variants, but the MT is the usually accepted text. In the Hebrew MT, this question reads, “Who is YHWH?” But in the LXX, the question is altered to “Who sees me?” Why did the rabbis make this rather dramatic change?
This passage is about wealth and greed. The proverb tells us that a righteous man doesn’t desire too much for then he may fall prey to self-sufficiency and arrogance and deny God’s sovereignty. On the other hand, the righteous man prays not to have too little so that he will not be tempted to steal and thereby profane God’s name (we will look at this thought later). Notice that this question repeats a question uttered by Pharaoh centuries before. It is a question about sovereignty. Pharaoh thinks he is a god. So he asks, “Who is YHWH that I should obey Him?” To question God’s sovereignty is to demonstrate a lack of trust in God. To rely on our own wealth is to commit the grave sin of not trusting in the Lord.
But notice what happens when the question becomes “Who sees me?” Now the assumption is about accountability, not trust. Now the question suggests that the sin involved is denying responsibility toward God. This question suggests another connection, to Genesis 22:14 and YHWH-Yireh, the God who “sees.” Of course, this name of God is directly connected to God’s provision. Changing the question causes the reader to think of a different event and consequently, a different moral instruction. The rabbis weren’t wrong about accountability, but their alteration of the text shows that they were influenced by their piety and moral distinctions, rather than by the deeper question of sovereignty and authority. This shift is common in the LXX. It tells us that the culture Yeshua entered had an intense moral consciousness, something worth considering when we read the New Testament.
What about us? Both questions are important. God does “see” our use of the tools of finance and possession. We do have moral responsibility and accountability. But that question rests on another question: Who is God? If He is truly sovereign, then use of what He provides for any reasons other than those that glorify Him questions His authority over life. The rich man and the poor man must both answer this question. Whom do I serve?
Topical Index: wealth, sovereignty, accountability, Proverbs 30:9, Genesis 22:14, Exodus 5:2
TRAVEL NEWS: Rosanne and I will soon be leaving for Australia. BUT TODAY’S WORD will not stop even thought I will be out of touch for awhile. I have not left you orphans. :) TW will continue every day (baring any disasters). So, enjoy, blog, read, think. I’ll catch up with the comments in mid-October.