Of Gods and Kings: The Case for Reading “Milcom” in Zephaniah 1:5bβ

In: Vetus Testamentum
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  • 1 Department of ReligionBaylor University
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Manuscript evidence disagrees between reading the final word in Zeph 1:5 as meaning “their king,” “Molech,” or “Milcom.” The affinity of these three readings with the MT consonantal text, combined with the lack of agreement among the manuscript evidence, allows for plausible arguments supporting each of these readings. A majority of commentators conclude that this entity must refer to a deity, but disagree on which manuscript tradition to follow. The present essay surveys each of these readings, arguing that “Milcom” best fits the literary context and syntax patterns in Zeph 1:5bβ. This essay examines comparable text-critical difficulties in 2 Sam 12:30; 1 Chr 20:2; 1 Kgs 11:7; Jer 49:1, 3; and Amos 5:26, concluding that similar examples of the MT reinterpreting the name “Milcom” as “their king” occur in Jer 49:1, 3.

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