Last Lord’s Day morning we shifted from our Romans sermon series back to 1 Samuel. In reading through 1 Samuel 16, I came across textual/translation issues with v. 7, which is the doctrinal heart of this passage.
Comparison of translations:
KJV 1 Samuel 16:7 But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.
NIV 1 Samuel 16:7 But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."
NASB 1 Samuel 16:7 But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."
At first glance, the difference in these renderings may not be readily apparent. They seem to follow the same text. This is one of those places where the AV’s use of italic, however, is significant. The phrase in question is: “for the LORD seeth not as man seeth.” The AV italicizes words that are added to the text, since the Hebrew literally reads, “for not as man seeth [ki lo asher yireh ha-adam].” We do notice a difference in the NASB which reads, “for God sees not as man sees,” using “God” rather than “LORD” and placing the supplied verb “sees” in italic.
The textual notes of the NKJV give light as to the textual issue here. It reads: “LXX For God does not see as man sees; Tg. It is not by the appearance of a man; Vg. Nor do I judge according to the looks of a man”. Now it become more evident that the NASB perhaps favors the LXX and that the other modern translation may or may not also be influenced by the LXX, but, without the use of italic, it is harder to judge this.
In his commentary on this verse, Dale Ralph Davis adds this note: “I have translated verse 7 following the Hebrew text as we have it. I know the arguments but am not yet convinced that the text needs correcting on the basis of LXX which includes “as God sees.” However, most English versions follow LXX here….” (1 Samuel: Looking on the Heart [Christian Focus, 1996: pp. 169-170]). He adds here that a Dead Sea Scroll fragment (4 QSamb) supports the LXX reading.
As with some other passages we have previously noted (cf. e. g., 1 Samuel 13:1; Psalm 145:13, etc.), there is a distinct tendency in contemporary translations to reconstruct the OT text, by abandoning the traditional Hebrew text and embracing a reconstruction based on the LXX. I think 1 Samuel 16:7 will likely be a useful verse to check in forthcoming translations to see how it is rendered/handled.
Reading some of the older men reminds us that the preference for the LXX is nothing new. John Owen in “The Divine Original of Scripture” (Collected Works, Vol. 16; p. 301) offers a critique of one of his contemporaries (Capellus) who, Owen says, made “an unhappy attempt” to depart from the traditional Hebrew text, by relying “upon uncertain conjectures and the credit of corrupt translations.” He adds, “The translation especially insisted on by him is that of the LXX.” Owen laments: “Strange that so corrupt a stream should be judged a fit means to cleanse the fountain.” It is unlikely that Owen would have budged from this assessment, even in light of the Dead Sea discoveries.
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