An Interesting Question from 1 Sam 14:18

I had a very interesting question this past week from a recent reading from 1 Samuel 14:18.

The question arose from someone noticing that this verse reads completely different depending upon the translation that one used (compare major English translations here). For instance, compare the New Living Translation with the English Standard Version:

The NLT reads:

Then Saul shouted to Ahijah, “Bring the ephod here!” For at that time Ahijah was wearing the ephod in front of the Israelites.

Whereas the ESV reads:

So Saul said to Ahijah, “Bring the ark of God here.” For the ark of God went at that time with the people of Israel.

Why does one mentioned the Ephod and the other the Ark?

The reason appears to be a textual variant in the original manuscripts between the Masoretic Text on the one hand and the Septuagint on the other. The translations that follow the MT use “Ark,” whereas those that follow the SEPT use “Ephod.”   It is also evident that the majority of leading versions of older and current translations follow the MT of “bring the ark.” What is going on here?   If you examine Ex 25:22 and Num 7:89 along with Jud 20:27 you will find a similar occurrence where the LORD is enquired of before the Ark. And yet the Urim and Thummim (cf. Ex 28:30 for one instance) were also regularly used to inquire of the LORD. No one knows exactly how these worked but they were associated with the elaborate garment worn by the High Priest known as the Ephod.

I would suggest that as they wore the Ephod when inquiring before the Lord, and this was often done before the Ark, the two became synonymous in meaning. When the MT and SEPT appear to disagree really it is simply like two different accident reports of the same accident, both correct but each stressing one aspect.   As such the Contemporary English Version (a current thought for thought translation) captures the essence of what the verse is trying to say:   At that time, Ahijah was serving as priest for the army of Israel, and Saul told him, “Come over here! Let’s ask God what we should do.”

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

See also if you are interested in comparing various English translations.