Textual Issue (sample)

Prov 3:10, 'with plenty' v. 'with grain'

The preferred reading שָׂבָע 'plenty, satiety, abundance' is supported by MT, a Targum, the Vulgate and Peshitta. The Septuagint seems to differ, having πλησμονῆς σίτου 'with an abundance of grain.' The word σίτου 'grain' can be explained as a scribal gloss or a translational addition, while πλησμονῆς 'abundance' is a common rendering of שָׂבָע. Some commentators (particularly Dahood) take שָׂבָע itself to mean 'grain' because it is poetically paired with תִירוֹשׁ 'wine.' However, it is better to recognize that שָׂבָע does not include the explicit meaning 'grain' and to follow instead a significant number of modern translations in rendering MT שָׂבָע according to its demonstrable, core meaning (in this context, 'plenty' or 'abundance').


MT שָׂבָ֑ע is translated 'plenty, satiety, abundance' in the lexicons; NIDOTTE adds 'produce / grain(?)' with the question mark. The MT reading שָׂבָע is supported by evidence from TargProv, Vulg, and Syr. The LXX, however, has πλησμονῆς σίτου 'abundance of grain,' which differs from MT by the apparent addition of the word σίτου 'grain.' The LXX rendering might reflect an earlier conflation of שבר and שבע, and some scholars estimate that שבר ('grain') would have been the Vorlage of an original LXX (Old Greek) σίτῳ 'grain.' Others regard LXX σίτου as a gloss within the Greek transmission or as a translational addition intended to make explicit the implied meaning of שבע.

Favoring the Old Greek reconstruction, BHS commends שֶׁבֶר even as Toy had preferred 'corn' (in the sense of 'grain') on the basis of the Greek and on contextual grounds, thinking specifically of the parallel to 'must' (i.e. 'wine'). More recently BHQ again expressed the view that σίτῳ is the original, Old Greek rendering and πλησμονῆς is a secondary modernization. Against the proposed reconstruction, Fox thinks that σίτου (in LXX πλησμονῆς σίτου) is a scribal gloss because a note in the Syro-Hexapla indicates that σίτου was not present in either the LXX or the Hebrew. Taking a slightly different approach, Fritsch regards LXX πλησμονῆς σίτου as a double translation, a "doublet."

Although BHQ considers σίτῳ as the original LXX rendering (based on שׁבר), the editor did not express a preference for that reading, and some commentators, e.g. Murphy, Delitzsch, McKane, and Meinhold ('Sättigung'), clearly opt for שׂבע in the sense of 'plenty' or 'satiety.' Waltke too prefers 'plenty,' but he does not rule out the sense of 'grain,' and the same holds for Fox, who translates 'abundance.' The sense 'grain' for שׂבע was first suggested by Dahood (1963). The evidence goes back to the Phoenician Karatepe inscription from the 8th cent. B.C.E. in which the phrase śbʿ wtrš occurs in the sentence, 'May this city be the possessor of plenty [implying 'plenty of grain'] and wine.' So śbʿ 'plenty' in connection with trš 'wine' has been taken to mean 'grain.' But THAT provides evidence that, even in combination with trš, śbʿ is used in its core sense 'plenty, satiety' in inscriptions, including the Karatepe inscription. Still, Clifford follows Dahood's lexical argument and translates 'filled with grain,' as does Whybray. HPR leaves open the possibility of translating שָׂבָע as 'fullness' or as 'corn.'

English translations may be divided into three groups: (1) those that are based on MT שָׂבָע 'plenty, abundance, satiety' etc., e.g. KJV, RV, ASV, JPS, RSV, NASB, NRSV, NKJV, ESV, ISV, NIV, NET, TNIV, (2) those that explicitly rely on a presumed LXX Vorlage שׁבר, e.g. AT, NAB, NJB, and (3) those that interpret שָׂבָע as 'grain' or else they too rely on LXX as in the second group, e.g. JM, JB, TEV, NJPS, NLT, CEV, NEB, REB. In the absence of explicit textual notes, it is difficult to know for sure which textual base these translations reflect.


To review the external evidence, MT שָׂבָע is supported by TargProv, Vulg, and Syr. The LXX rendering πλησμονῆς σίτου may rest on a conflation, שבע שבר, in which case σίτῳ, with שבר as Vorlage, is assumed to be the original, Old Greek. Otherwise, σίτου may be a gloss within the Greek transmission or simply a translational addition. We take the latter view, since the translator of LXX Proverbs commonly adapted parallel lines to make them correspond more closely (cf. Tauberschmidt 2004). Also, there are five occurrences of σίτος 'grain' in LXX Prov, of which only one (Prov 11:26) is a literal rendering of the Hebrew. In Prov 4:17 and 31:27 σίτα 'grains' is used for לחם 'bread' and in 20:4 σίτος has no equivalent in MT. Thus we cannot be certain that the LXX rendering in 3:10 precisely reflects its Hebrew Vorlage.

Αlso pertinent to the present discussion is the question of whether the usual meaning for שָׂבָע 'plenty, satiety, abundance' shifts to 'produce, grain' under certain contextual pressures (cf. NIDOTTE). If so, Prov. 3:10 is a unique case in the OT, for שָׂבָע occurs elsewhere seven times in the sense of 'satiety, plenty,' but never (not even in connection with 'wine') in the sense of 'grain.' Similarly, the argument for שָׂבָע 'grain'* that relies on the Karatepe inscription seems rather uncertain, because in that context, as in other inscriptions where it is paired with trš, śbʿ can be interpreted as 'satiety' (THAT). Thus there is no clear evidence that the lexeme שבע refers directly to 'grain' even in combination with 'wine.' This is so, even if 'abundance of grain' may have been implied for the early recipients because grain was what an abundantly full barn was understood to contain.

Among the 24 English translations that have been evaluated, there are 13 that support שָׂבָע in the sense of 'plenty, abundance, satiety' and 11 that favor 'grain, corn,' three of which definitely reflect an LXX base (and maybe others too), but apparently some have interpreted שָׂבָע in the sense of 'grain, corn' in line with Dahood's lexical argument. According to our findings, however, it is preferable to follow the example of modern translations that follow MT and seek to express the core lexical meaning of שָׂבָע.

Common Text
שָׂבָע (ncmsa) 'plenty, abundance, satiety'