290 BC to 270 BC, Psalm 33: The Septuagint.

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Codex_Marchalianus_(Ezk_1,28-2,6)This generation is that of the years between 290 BC and 270 BC.

This generation sees Ptolemy II Philadelphus become king of Egypt. Jerusalem which is part of the empire of the Lagides will be in the dependence of this king for two generations, indeed Ptolemy II Philadelphus reigns from 282 BC to 246 BC.
During his reign, the Jews will live one of the quietest periods in their history. The Lagids bring to the world an unprecedented cultural openness that opens the way for modern civilizations.
Next to the Museum, had already been created under Ptolemy I Soter, the library of Alexandria. The Ptolemies were eager to fill this library with all possible books, from all cultures.

Ptoleme2_Vincenzo_Camuccini_1813It is in this logic of universalism that, naturally, the Lagide power seeks to enrich the library of books of the Jewish people. As he enriched it with the books of all peoples involved in the world opened by Alexander as the Egyptian people or the Indian people. However, only the Greek language can be used, as the only practiced by the masters of the Lagide Empire.

The Greek translation of the Jewish Bible is announced in « The Letter of Aristeas » as follows:
  • King [1] Ptolemy (II Philadelphe) to High Priest Eleazar, health and safety. Given that a considerable number of Jews live on our territory, expelled from Jerusalem by the Persians at the time of their domination. That he then arrived in Egypt again with my father, as prisoners of war, he places many in the army with high pay. Similarly, as he knew the fidelity of those who were already in the country, he established garrisons and entrusted them with them, to keep the Egyptian people in their care. As for us who succeed him, we make the most friendly advances to all, but especially to your compatriots. We have surrendered to liberty more than a hundred thousand, who were prisoners of war, by paying to their master a just indemnity (this episode is detailed upstream in the letter) pecuniary, applying ourselves to repair all the damages which could have been come from the popular passions, conscious of doing this holy work, with consecration of an offering to the very great God, who has preserved our kingdom in peace with the greatest glory in the whole world. Thus we have placed in the ranks of the army those who are in the prime of life, when to those who had aptitudes even for our personal service and deserved to be entrusted to the Court we put them at the head of some services. Eager to please them, and to all the Jews of the earth and their descendants, we have decided to have your law translated from what you call the Hebrew text into the Greek language, to have these books also in our library, with the other books of the King. Under these conditions, you would do well and you would respond to our concern, by choosing men of exemplary life, Elders versed in the knowledge of their Law, able to make a translation, six from each tribe, to find a text that represents the agreement of the majority, given the importance of research. As well, we believe that once accomplished, this work will do us great honor.
Thus was born the Greek translation of the Jewish Bible or at least at first the first books of the Pentateuch. Due to the number of translators, 70, this version will be called the Septuagint.
The Septuagint will be of prime importance for the study of the sacred texts with the Jewish populations in Diaspora who speak only in Greek and who therefore could not study the sacred texts in the original Hebrew version. It will obviously also be an important vector of Monotheism among non-Jewish populations. These two types of population can only be grateful to the efforts of Ptolemy II to obtain this Greek version of the Bible, as expressed by Philo of Alexandria.
This contribution to humanity represented by the translation and dissemination of the Bible in Greek is what the beginning of the Psalm expresses:

(extract of the psalm 33 associated to this generation, verses 1  to 5 )

  • Sing praises to the Lord, O you righteous; for the upright, praise is fitting.
  • Give thanks to the Lord with a harp; with a lyre of ten melodies make music to Him.
  • Sing to Him a new song; play well with joyful shouting.
  • For the word of the Lord is upright, and all his deeds are with faith.
  • He loves charity and justice; the earth is full of the Lord’s kindness.
Indeed, this translation would allow the world, Jew and non-Jew, to become acquainted with the history of the creation of the world and thus to apprehend the unicity of the creator of this world, thus opening the door to the universal diffusion of the world. monotheism.
It is this reaffirmation of the story of creation that is repeated in the following psalm:

(extract of the psalm 33 associated to this generation, verses 6  to 9 )

  • By the word of the Lord, the heavens were made, and with the breath of His mouth, all their host.
  • He gathers in the water of the sea as a mound; He puts the deeps into treasuries.
  • Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.
  • For He said and it came about; He commanded and it endured.
The Jewish people subjected to the empire of Lagids, subject to the Greek world, devoid of military power, by the diffusion of the divine word, imposes on the world the values related to Jewish Monotheism throughout the Greek empire.
This new victory over David’s ideas on Goliath (from the small to the large to the military power level) is expressed in the end of the psalm:

(extract of the psalm 33 associated to this generation, verses 10  to 17 )

  • The Lord frustrated the counsel of nations; He put the plans of peoples to nought.
  • The counsel of the Lord shall endure forever; the plans of His heart to all generations.
  • Praiseworthy is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people that He chose as His inheritance.
  • The Lord looked from heaven; He saw all the sons of men.
  • From His dwelling place He oversees all the inhabitants of the earth.
  • He Who forms their hearts together, Who understands all their deeds
  • The king is not saved with a vast army; a mighty man will not be rescued with great strength.
  • A horse is a false hope for victory, and with his power, he will not escape.

 

 

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[1]  « The letter from Aristée to Philocrate » following the French translation by André Pelletier (Éditions du Cerf). (French: « La lettre d’Aristée à Philocrate » suivant la traduction d’André Pelletier (Éditions du Cerf). Versets 35 à 39 ).