Translation commentary on 2 Kings 4:8

One day: The Hebrew text begins with the verbal transition marker “And it happened one day,” showing that a new story is about to be told. But this marker is represented in most modern versions by the beginning of a new paragraph or a new section. The same may be done in most other languages.

Elisha went on to Shunem: Moffatt has “Elisha went over to Shunem.” The Hebrew verb used here is a very common one having the root meaning “to cross over.” But it is used with a wide variety of meanings in transition situations. Some models from modern versions are “traveled” (Hobbs), “visited” (New Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh), and “was passing” (New Revised Standard Version, Anchor Bible). For the whole clause both New Revised Standard Version and Anchor Bible have “Elisha was passing through Shunem.” This is a good model since verse 9 seems to suggest that Elisha often passed through Shunem. Their rendering is based on reading ʿal (“through”) instead of ʾel (to) of the Masoretic Text.

Shunem was a small town located about 40 kilometers (25 miles) to the north of Israel’s capital, Samaria, and about that same distance to the southeast of Mount Carmel (see the comments on 1 Kgs 1.3).

A wealthy woman is literally “a great woman” (King James Version), but the expression is not related to physical size; rather, it is used to describe people who have attained a certain status in their society. While such status is often associated with wealth, this is not always the case. But most versions show clearly that the woman’s greatness had to do with either wealth or influence: “a woman of influence” (New American Bible), “a woman of rank” (New Jerusalem Bible), “an important woman” (New Century Version), “a well-to-do woman” (\jmp New International Version (2011 Revision), \jmp Revised English Bible), and “a rich lady” (Moffatt).

Who urged him to eat some food is literally “and she constrained him to eat bread.” But the Hebrew word for “bread” often refers to food in general in the biblical texts. The meaning is somewhat distorted in Revised Standard Version, which almost makes it sound as if Elisha was ill and had no appetite. However, the real meaning is that the woman insisted that he take a meal with her and her family. Some helpful renderings are “who … pressed him to stay and eat there” (New Jerusalem Bible) and “who pressed him to accept hospitality” (\jmp Revised English Bible). The relative clause in Revised Standard Version also complicates the structure of this verse and can easily be made into a separate sentence as Good News Translation has done.

So whenever he passed that way; that is, each time Elisha visited the town of Shunem, he was invited to eat with this family. In the Hebrew text the verbal transition “And it happened” occurs at the beginning of this clause. Both Revised Standard Version and New International Version (2011 Revision) render it with the logical connector So, which fits this context well.

He would turn in there to eat food; that is, he would take a meal with the woman and her husband. New Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh translates “he would stop there for a meal,” showing clearly that this became a habit.

Quoted with permission from Omanson, Roger L. and Ellington, John E. A Handbook on 1-2 Kings, Volume 2. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2008. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Leviticus 16:29

A statute to you for ever: this indicates that the set of rules given are to be considered permanent. See 3.17, where the same words are translated “a perpetual statute” in Revised Standard Version. Compare also 10.9.

The seventh month, on the tenth day: translators should consider whether it is more natural in their own language to follow the Revised Standard Version order (month, day) or the Good News Translation order (day, month). In those languages where the seventh month will be understood as meaning July, something must be done to help the reader understand that the Jewish system was quite different from that of the receptor language. Probably the best way to do this is to prepare a table showing the different calendar systems used in the Old Testament, compared with the system or systems known to the reader. This should be included at the beginning or end of the translation and not as a footnote to the text here. Both Jerusalem Bible (page 477) and New Jerusalem Bible (page 2076) have such a table in their “Supplements” at the end of the book.

Afflict yourselves: literally “afflict your souls.” This is often taken to mean “fasting,” as in Good News Translation, New Jerusalem Bible, and Traduction œcuménique de la Bible, but it may have been a more general self-denial that included abstaining from all food, drink, sex, wearing sandals, and even bathing. This interpretation is implied in the translations “deny yourselves” (New International Version) and “practice self-denial” (New Jerusalem Bible). Many languages, however, do not allow such a general statement without saying precisely what the person is to deny himself. It is probably better to translate “fast” or “eat nothing,” and if necessary a note may be added to explain that the word may have a broader meaning. In those parts of the world where Muslim influence is strong, translators must take special care to avoid the giving the impression that “fasting” means only to abstain from food and drink during daylight hours. Biblical fasting does not correspond to this Muslim concept. In some cases it will be necessary to clarify this in a footnote or a glossary explanation, since there may be only one word available in the language, but one that will almost certainly convey the wrong idea.

Do no work: this requirement is generally associated with the Sabbath (see 23.3 and Exo 20.8-10) or with different feast days (Lev 23.7, 21, 25, 28, 35-36). As several of these passages indicate, abstaining from work has a double goal: it allows for physical rest, and it makes people available for serving God. The translator should be careful to avoid an expression that will place the emphasis only on physical rest.

The native: this is a collective singular, but all the Israelites are obviously intended. In some languages the word for native may be understood as a member of one particular language group. This may be avoided by saying explicitly “you Israelites” or something similar.

The stranger who sojourns among you: this is another collective singular referring to any and all foreigners who happened to be among the people of Israel. As in the case of native above, the word stranger may be understood as any person who is not a member of the receptor-language group. If this is the case, it may be necessary to say “any non-Israelites living among you” or “any other people (or, tribes) living among you.”

Quoted with permission from Péter-Contesse, René and Ellington, John. A Handbook on Leviticus. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 1990. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Deuteronomy 28:36

With the beginning of a new section, Moses should be reintroduced as the speaker.

The LORD will bring … to a nation: in some languages this will be expressed as “will take.” The verb “bring” or “take” should not suggest that Yahweh will transport them by supernatural means; the idea is that he will bring a foreign king and his army to fight against the Israelites, who will take them into exile as prisoners of war.

You, and your king: that is, the whole nation of Israel. This foresees a time when the Israelites will have kings as their rulers. For king see the comment at 1.5.

Your king whom you set over you: the point of reference here is their future defeat and exile, after they have become a nation and have chosen a king to rule over them. The Septuagint has “your rulers, whoever you appoint over you.” Unlike Good News Translation and Contemporary English Version, translators are encouraged to include this clause. Other ways to express it are “the king you choose” or “the man whom you choose to be your king.” This clause reflects an anti-monarchy bias—the selection of a king was your doing, not Yahweh’s.

A nation that neither you nor your fathers have known: see verse 33; as usual, fathers means ancestors.

You shall serve other gods, of wood and stone: see 4.28.

Quoted with permission from Bratcher, Robert G. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on Deuteronomy. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2000. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Deuteronomy 28:38

Carry much seed into the field: that is, sow much seed in their fields.

Shall gather little in: meaning that they will “reap only a small harvest” (Good News Translation; similarly Contemporary English Version), or “they will reap very little grain.”

The locust: that is, “locusts”; see Exo 10.1-20 for the plague of locusts in Egypt. The locust here was the desert type of winged hopping insect that swarmed in the air. Locusts destroy all plant life when they move in large swarms. It may be helpful for translators to include a picture of this insect.

Quoted with permission from Bratcher, Robert G. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on Deuteronomy. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2000. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Deuteronomy 28:43-44

Natural conditions will be reversed: the resident aliens (see 1.16) will become more prosperous and powerful than the Israelites.

Shall mount above you higher and higher: they will become ever richer and more powerful. We may also express this as “foreigners who live in your land will become richer and more powerful.”

You shall come down lower and lower: this verse presents a picture that is the opposite of verses 12b-13; the Israelites will decline in power and wealth. Contemporary English Version has “while you become poor and powerless.”

Quoted with permission from Bratcher, Robert G. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on Deuteronomy. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2000. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Deuteronomy 28:58

With the beginning of a new section, Moses should be reintroduced as the speaker.

If you are not careful to do all the words of this law which are written in this book: here the writer abandons the point of view that all these words were spoken by Moses in Moab; Moses could hardly refer to this book, that is, the book we call Deuteronomy, as though it were already in existence. For this law see also 1.5.

That you may fear this glorious and awful name: New Revised Standard Version is better English, “fearing this glorious and awesome name.” Good News Translation expresses the verse more clearly: “If you do not obey … and if you do not honor….” To fear here means to “respect,” “honor,” “revere” (see 4.10).

Glorious and awful: or “majestic and awesome.” In some languages we may say something like “the great name that inspires [or, causes] fear.”

The LORD your God: this is the very name they must honor and respect.

Quoted with permission from Bratcher, Robert G. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on Deuteronomy. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2000. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Deuteronomy 30:11

This commandment which I command you this day: Moses is speaking, and with the beginning of a new section, he should be reintroduced as the speaker. This commandment means all the laws and teachings that he has given that day (see verse 16, below; see also “all the commandment” in Moses’ second speech, at 5.31). So translators may express this as “These commandments” rather than “This commandment.”

Not too hard for you: not difficult to obey.

Neither is it far off: not hard to understand, since it is right there with them, and not in some distant land. That is what Good News Translation “is not … beyond your reach” intends to say. See Psa 139.6 for a similar use of the idiom.

An alternative translation model for this verse is:

• Moses said to the people of Israel: “These commandments that I am giving you today are not too difficult to understand or obey.

Quoted with permission from Bratcher, Robert G. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on Deuteronomy. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2000. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Deuteronomy 3:19

Moses wrote this law: see 1.5. This means the book of Deuteronomy; thus Contemporary English Version translates “Moses wrote down all of these laws and teachings,” or we may say “Moses wrote down all these laws and teachings in The Book of God’s Law and gave it to the….”

Gave it: he gave the written record, that is, the book in which he had written the Law.

The priests the sons of Levi: see 18.1.

Who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD: see 10.8.

Elders: see 5.23.

Quoted with permission from Bratcher, Robert G. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on Deuteronomy. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2000. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .