Sunday morning we were reading Zephaniah 3:17, “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. (ESV)”. The text of Zeph. 3:14-20 (especially in Hebrew) is the language of a loud and jubilant celebration. In this context, the phrase “he will quiet [you] by his love” in the middle of 3:17 seems startlingly out of place. When I looked at the Greek text to see if there might be any insights about why read as it did, I found that it read very differently i.e. it reads “He will renew you in his love[i].” In Hebrew the difference between these variants is a only single letter, and the two different letters that account for these variant readings are so similar that they are frequently misread. Adding more weight to the possibility that the Hebrew text may have long ago been mis-transcribed, the Syriac text also follows the Greek text[ii], providing a second ancient witness for this variant reading i.e. “He will renew you in his love[ii].”
While most English translations follow the Hebrew text, several have felt that this variant is significant enough to mention in the foot notes, and the NET has opted to follow the Greek/Syriac texts, noting that “the MT (Hebrew text) reads, ‘he is silent in his love,’ but this makes no sense in light of the immediately preceding and following lines[iii].” The NET footnote mirrors my on thoughts as I read this passage i.e. “this makes no sense!” Given the textual evidence, and the context of this passage, I think it is very likely that the Greek text (a text used by the Apostles) has captured an original text that has since been lost in Hebrew.
God is celebrating because his people have been renewed in his love!
What an awe inspiring thought!
[i] LXX “καὶ καινιεῖ σε ἐν τῇ ἀγαπήσει αὐτου”
[ii] Syriac “ונחדתכי בחובה”
[iii] The MT reads, “he is silent in his love,” but this makes no sense in light of the immediately preceding and following lines. Some take the Hiphil verb form as causative (see Job 11:3) rather than intransitive and translate, “he causes [you] to be silent by his love,” that is, “he soothes [you] by his love.” The present translation follows the LXX and assumes an original reading ) יְחַדֵּשׁ y‘khaddesh, “he renews”) with ellipsis of the object (“you”). (NET NOTES on Zeph. 3:17)