OK, I'll concede that my "The Son of God" recension theory may not apply here, as the MT does contain references to "The Sons of God."
That leaves us with parablepsis shortening ISRA'EL to 'EL to result in a corrupted LXX reading. The Samaritan supports this line of reasoning.
But I'd like to look a bit closer at the Targums.
Jerusalem Targum from the Chaldee
When the Most High divided the nations by lot, and distinguished the
languages of the children of men, He appointed the bounds of the peoples
according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Israel.
This reading yields a rather specific number of twelve tribes, but without allocating them to twelve nations. It's still approximately as vague as the MT reading.
When the Most High made allotment of the world unto the nations which
proceeded from the sons of Noach, in the separation of the writings and
languages of the children of men at the time of the division, He cast the
lot among the seventy angels, the princes of the nations with whom is the
revelation to oversee the city, even at that time He established the
limits of the nations according to the sum of the number of the seventy
souls of Israel who went down into Mizraim.
Now we are back to the seventy-nations=seventy sons of Israel equation, a logical interpretation of the MT reading. But note, the sons of God are also featured. So again, if we begin with a "sons of Israel" reading, interpret that as numerically equating the principalities of the 70 nations, then it becomes very easy to read ISRA'EL as 'EL.
Now, looking at the internal evidence, the NET has gained absolutely nothing in comprehensibility. It appears to indicate that the limit on human population is related to the number of angels, but the word "boundaries" doesn't fit the context. On the other had, from Jacob's perspective (knowing only of the seventy nations listed in Genesis 10-11), "Jonathan" makes perfect sense. There are seventy nations; I have seventy male descendants; therefore, there is a one-to-one
Now, there is one more possibility reflected in "Jonathan." Those who see "late recension" in every potential conflation will miss it, but it's possible that both readings were in the original text: the MT preserved one, the LXX the other.
When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance,
when he separated the sons of Adam,
he set the bounds of the people
according to the number of the sons of God,
according to the number of the children of
And now either alternate reading becomes a simple case of parablepsis.
When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance,
when he divided up humankind,
he set the boundaries of the people
according to the number of the heavenly assembly.
3 tc Heb “the sons of Israel.” The
idea, perhaps, is that Israel was central to Yahweh’s purposes and all
other nations were arranged and distributed according to how they related
to Israel. See S. R. Driver, Deuteronomy (ICC), 355-56. For the MT
(bÿney yisra’el, “sons of Israel”) a Qumran fragment has “sons
of God,” while the LXX reads (angelwn qeou, “angels of God”),
presupposing (bÿney ’el) or (beney ’elim). “Sons of God” is
undoubtedly the original reading; the MT and LXX have each interpreted it
differently. MT assumes that the expression “sons of God” refers to
Israel (cf. Hos. 1:10), while LXX has assumed that the phrase refers to
the angelic heavenly assembly (Pss 29:1; 89:6; cf. as well Ps 82). The
phrase is also attested in Ugaritic, where it refers to the high god
El’s divine assembly. According to the latter view, which is reflected
in the translation, the Lord delegated jurisdiction over the nations to
his angelic host (cf. Dan. 10:13-21), while reserving for himself Israel,
over whom he rules directly. For a defense of the view taken here, see M.
S. Heiser, “Deuteronomy 32:8 and the Sons of God,” BSac 158 (2001):
And this new text is followed by some of the
other modern versions.
NRSV - according to the number of the gods;
NLT - according to the number of angelic beings.
MSG - within boundaries under the care of divine guardians.
ESV - according to the number of the sons of God.
So, per NETBible, the hundreds of Masoretic
Text manuscripts are "undoubtedly" wrong :).
And the one DSS fragment is "undoubtedly" right.
Daniel O. McClellan (graduate student in Biblical Studies) explained
the current thinking this way on an internet forum:
.... your Bible has numerous spurious texts and
interpolations. Your Bible's version of Deut 32:8, for instance, has a
tertiary alteration that was effected in the Common Era. The verse
originally ended "according to the number of the sons of God"
(cf. 4QDeut-j). Some Septuagint manuscripts changed it in the late
Greco-Roman period to "angels of God," and the Masoretic texts
centuries later finally removed the reference to divine beings by
changing it to "sons of Israel." .
And the paper referenced above in the NETBible
by Michael Heiser is available online:
Deuteronomy 32:8 and the Sons of God (2001)
And apparently all this represents something
like the "state of the art" of Tanach (Old Testament) Textual
Criticism, with everybody who is anybody agreeing on the originality of
the DSS fragment and the inauthenticity of the hundreds of Masoretic Text
Another state of the art paper is :
A Note on the Text of Deuteronomy xxxii 8