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Ezra 1:9-11

Context

1:9 The inventory 1  of these items was as follows:

30 gold basins, 2 

1,000 silver basins,

29 silver utensils, 3 

1:10 30 gold bowls,

410 other 4  silver bowls,

and 1,000 other vessels.

1:11 All these gold and silver vessels totaled 5,400. 5  Sheshbazzar brought them all along when the captives were brought up from Babylon to Jerusalem.

1 tn Heb “these are their number.”

2 tn The exact meaning of the Hebrew noun אֲגַרְטָל (’agartal, which occurs twice in this verse) is somewhat uncertain. The lexicons suggest that it is related to a common Semitic root (the Hebrew derivative has a prosthetic prefixed א [aleph] and interchange between ג [gimel] and ק [kof]): Judean Aramaic and Syriac qartalla, Arabic qirtallat, Ethiopic qartalo, all meaning “basket” (BDB 173-74 s.v.; HALOT 11 s.v.). There is debate whether this is a loanword from Greek κάρταλλος (kartallo", “basket”), Persian hirtal (“leather bag”) or Hittite kurtal (“container”). The term is traditionally understood as a kind of vessel, such as “basket, basin” (BDB 173-74 s.v.; HALOT 11 s.v.); but some suggest “leather bag” or a basket-shaped container of some sort (P. Humbert, “En marge du dictionnaire hébraïque,” ZAW 62 [1950]: 199-207; DCH 1:118 s.v.). The LXX translated it as ψυκτήρ (yukthr, “metal bowl”). The precise meaning depends on whether the nouns כֶּסֶף (kesef, “silver”) and זָהָב (zahav, “gold”), which follow each use of this plural construct noun, are genitives of content (“containers full of silver” and “containers full of gold”) or genitives of material (“silver containers” and “gold containers” = containers made from silver and gold). If they are genitives of content, the term probably means “baskets” or “leather bags” (filled with silver and gold); however, if they are genitives of material, the term would mean “basins” (made of silver and gold). Elsewhere in Ezra 1, the nouns כֶּסֶף (“silver”) and זָהָב (“gold”) are used as genitives or material, not genitives of contents; therefore, the translation “gold basins” and “silver basins” is preferred.

3 tn Heb “knives.” The Hebrew noun מַחֲלָפִים (makhalafim, “knives”) is found only here in the OT. While the basic meaning of the term is fairly clear, what it refers to here is unclear. The verb II חָלַף (khalaf) means “to pass through” (BDB 322 s.v. חָלַף) or “to cut through” (HALOT 321 s.v. II חלף; see also Judg 5:26; Job 20:24); thus, the lexicons suggest מַחֲלָפִים means “knives” (BDB 322 s.v. מַחֲלָף; HALOT 569 s.v. *מַחֲלָף). The related noun חֲלָפוֹת (khalafot, “knife”) is used in Mishnaic Hebrew (HALOT 321 s.v. II חלף), and חֲלִיפוֹת (khalifot, “knives”) appears in the Talmud. The noun appears in the cognate languages: Ugaritic khlpnm (“knives”; UT 19) and Syriac khalofta (“shearing knife”; HALOT 321 s.v. II חלף). The Vulgate translated it as “knives,” while the LXX understood it as referring to replacement pieces for the offering basins. The English translations render it variously; some following the Vulgate and others adopting the approach of the LXX: “knives” (KJV, NKJV, NRSV), “censers” (RSV), “duplicates” (NASV), “silver pans” (NIV), “bowls” (TEV), “other dishes” (CEV). Verse 11 lists these twenty-nine objects among the “gold and silver vessels” brought back to Jerusalem for temple worship. The translation above offers the intentionally ambiguous “silver utensils” (the term מַחֲלָפִים [“knives”] would hardly refer to “gold” items, but could refer to “silver items”).

4 tn The meaning of the Hebrew term מִשְׁנִים (mishnim) is uncertain. The noun מִשְׁנֶה (mishneh) means “double, second” (BDB 1041 s.v.), “what is doubled, two-fold” (HALOT 650 s.v. מִשְׁנֶה 3). The translations reflect a diversity of approaches: “410 silver bowls of a second kind” (KJV, NASV, RSV margin), “410 other silver bowls” (NRSV) and “410 matching silver bowls” (NIV). BDB 1041 s.v. משׁנה 3.a suggests it was originally a numeral that was garbled in the transmission process, as reflected in the LXX: “two thousand” (so RSV: “two thousand four hundred and ten bowls of silver”). The BHS editor suggests revocalizing the term to מְשֻׁנִים (mÿshunim, “changed”).

5 sn The total number as given in the MT does not match the numbers given for the various items in v. 9. It is not clear whether the difference is due to error in textual transmission or whether the constituent items mentioned are only a selection from a longer list, in which case the total from that longer list may have been retained. The numbers provided in 1 Esdras come much closer to agreeing with the number in Ezra 1:9-11, but this does not necessarily mean that 1 Esdras has been better preserved here than Ezra. 1 Esdras 2:13-15 (RSV) says, “The number of these was: a thousand gold cups, a thousand silver cups, twenty-nine silver censures, thirty gold bowls, two thousand four hundred and ten silver bowls, and a thousand other vessels. All the vessels were handed over, gold and silver, five thousand four hundred and sixty-nine, and they were carried back by Shesbazzar with the returning exiles from Babylon to Jerusalem.”



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