Translation commentary on Genesis 18:7

And Abraham ran to the herd: And is a transition to the next event and is better expressed in English as “Then.” Ran, the same verb as in verse 2, pictures Abraham hurrying to get meat for his guests’ meal. Herd, a collective singular noun in Hebrew, refers to a collection of cattle—bulls, cows, and calves. See 13.5.

Took a calf: that is, chose, selected, picked out what Hebrew calls “a son of cattle.” This expression refers to the young of its species and not necessarily to a young bull.

Tender and good: tender refers here to meat that is easily chewed, not tough. It may not be natural to speak of the live animal as being tender. In that case we may say, for example, “took a calf whose meat would be tender.” Good probably refers to the taste of the meat, and so “whose meat would be good and be tender to eat.” In one language tender and good is expressed as “fat and of good meat.” Some translations handle tender and good in the same way as “fine” meal in verse 6 by saying “Abraham took the best of the calves….”

And gave it to the servant: note that Good News Translation has “a servant,” since this is new information. In some languages it will be necessary to introduce the servant at the opening of the verse, so that Abraham and his servant go together to the herd. We may also say “and gave it to one of his servants.”

Who hastened to prepare it: the quick pace of preparing the meal for the guests continues with the servant’s work. Prepare has the sense of “get it ready” (Good News Translation). This involved the actions of killing, skinning, and butchering the calf before cooking the meat. A literal rendering of prepare may suggest to readers that the animal was cooked without being killed and cut up. In such cases it may be necessary to say, for example, “to get it ready for the guests to eat,” since this included preparing the animal as well as cooking it; or we may say “The servant got the calf ready and cooked it.” In some cases it may be better to name the separate actions: kill the calf, butcher it, cook it, …. Examples of this from different translations are “gave it to his servant to kill it and cook it,” “told a servant to hurry up and kill it, and make some of its meat ready for the three to eat,” “the servant hurried to get it ready and cook it.”

Quoted with permission from Reyburn, William D. and Fry, Euan McG. A Handbook on Genesis. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 1997. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

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