Septuagint 250 BC: Goshen of Arabia

  1. The Septuagint LXX, translates Gen 45:10; 46:34 as, "Goshen of Arabia". This is used as proof that in 250 BC, well before Paul's time of writing Gal 4:25, that everything east of the Nile, including the wilderness of Egypt (Sinai Peninsula) was considered Arabia. It is suggested that the Septuagint merely reflected the geographical understanding of the time.
  2. Considering they had no concept of the Sinai Peninsula or the Gulf of Aqaba, the translators copied this error from their contemporary geographers. The Holy Spirit did not make this mistake, and the works, "of Arabia" are not in the original Hebrew text.
  3. The geographical errors of Herodotus, Hecataeus, Hesiod and Hecataeus may have in fact contributed to the same error that crept into the Septuagint. This means that the Septuagint does not reflect the actual geographic reality of 250 BC, but the incorrectly perceived geographic reality. If all the maps of the day basically ignored the modern Sinai peninsula, as we see was the case, then human error is the problem.
  4. No one actually believes that the Holy Spirit had the phrase "Goshen of Arabia" in the original. We all understand it was a textual gloss of the worse kind: Adding to the word of God something that is factually untrue. The Septuagint translators added the words, "of Arabia" because the maps of Herodotus, Hecataeus, Hesiod and Hecataeus that they had before them were wrong.
  5. We couldn't find an English Bible that adds the words, "of Arabia".
  6. The Massoretic Hebrew text of the Old Testament (1000 AD) does not add the words "of Arabia".
  7. The Romans renamed the Sinai Peninsula "Arabia" only after 106 AD.
  8. "The degree of correspondence between the Septuagint and the Hebrew Masoretic text varies greatly. In Genesis, the correspondence is usually very close. In Job, not so close. There are many places where the Septuagint departs from the Hebrew far more dramatically than in Gen. 45:10 & 46:34. And in fact, some scholars argue that in some instances where the Masoretic text and the Septuagint differ, the Septuagint rather than the Masoretic text preserves the original meaning. Seemingly not put off by the discrepancies in meaning between the Hebrew text and the Septuagint, the New Testament writers quoted from the Septuagint freely." (Jeff Smelser,
  9. "Region of Egypt which the Israelites inhabited during their sojourn in that country. It is described as situated on the eastern frontier of Lower Egypt (Gen. xlvi. 28, 29; Ex. xiii. 17; I Chron. vii. 21), forming an outpost of it (Gen. xlvi. 34); apparently not at all (or scantily) inhabited by Egyptians (ib.), but, in the estimation of shepherds, evidently "the best of the land" (ib. xlvii. 6,11), since Pharaoh's cattle grazed there (6). According to verse 11 "the land of Rameses" is synonymous with "the land of Goshen." "Goshen" alone (without the addition "land of") is used only in xlvi. 28, 29. In these two verses it may designate a city, as the LXX. understands it, which here renders "Goshen" by "Heroonpolis," adding in verse 28 to "unto Goshen" the words "into the land of Ramesses"; in xlv. 10 the LXX. transliterates "Gesem of Arabia." This name "Arabia" means, in Egyptian usage, either, generally, all land east of the Nile or, as a special district, the "nome Arabia," the 20th of Lower Egypt. Heroonpolis or Heropolis (according to the excavations of Naville, modern Tell al-Mas-Khua) was, however, the capital of the 8th or Heroopolitan nome, east of the Arabian. Nevertheless, the name "Arabia" seems to be used by the LXX. in the special sense, for in the reign of Ptolemy II. the Greek administration seems to have treated the neighboring 8th and 20th nomes as one district (comp. the "Revenue Laws of Ptolemy Philadelphus," ed. Grenfell, 1896, p. l.). Later, the two districts seem to have been separated again (comp., e.g., Ptolemy, "Geographia," iv. 5, 53)." (Jewish Encyclopedia, Goshen)


  1. It is clear that the Septuagint translators were wrong when they called the Wilderness of Egypt (Sinai Peninsula) Arabia.
  2. We do not question that they viewed the land east of Goshen as being Arabia. However if you asked the Egyptians they would call it Egypt, not Arabia. It was not until 106 AD that the Romans renamed the Wilderness of Egypt "Arabia". This was 50 years after Paul wrote Gal 4:25.
  3. This error was due to the fact that ancient geographers of the time did not even understand the Gulf of Aqaba existed.
  4. Had they knew their geography better, they never would have called this section of land Arabia. The locals living their knew is was not Arabia.
  5. The Holy Spirit did not allow Paul to make the same mistakes as the some of the Geographers of his day.
  6. The Bible contains scientific data that is correct, even when man did not understand it himself.




By Steve Rudd: Contact the author for comments, input or corrections.


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