ships of Tarshish

The Hebrew that is translated in English as “as when an east wind shatters the ships of Tarshish” (New Revised Standard Version) or “like ships tossing in a furious storm” (Good News Translation) is translated in Afar as Alak gilite illih innah, gilitak wadir yuduuren.: “As sheep scatter back and forth from a wild animal.” (No ships in this part of the Afar desert.)

See also ship.

heifer, stallion

In Afar “you frisk about like a heifer on the grass, and neigh like stallions” is translated as Qaysok cayya iyyeh xobbaaqa gaalih innah xobbaqten. Canak cayye mooyuh innah kaqitten.: “You frisk like camels satisfied with grass, and jump like goat kids satisfied with milk.” (Horses don’t survive in the Afar desert, but camels thrive.)

bird hatching eggs that it did not lay

The Hebrew simile of (what is translated in English as) “a bird hatching eggs that it didn’t lay” is not clear in Afar so it was changed to “like a man who wants to inherit property which his parents didn’t leave to him.”

stiff-necked, uncircumcised in heart and ears

The phrase that is translated into English as “you stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears” is translated into Afar as “You dry stones that nothing enters, and people who have hearts that refuse God, and ears closed saying we didn’t hear God’s message.” (stiff-necked > dry stones, uncircumcised in heart > hearts that refuse God, uncircumcised ears > ears closed to hearing God’s message) (Source: Loren Bliese)

Other translations for “uncircumcised in heart and ears” include:

  • Rincón Zapotec: “it doesn’t enter your hearts or your ears. You are like those who don’t even believe”
  • Eastern Highland Otomi: “hard are your hearts and not a little bit open are your ears”
  • Morelos Nahuatl: “you have your heart as unbelievers, you do not want to hear God’s word”
  • Highland Popoluca: “you never wanted to do God’s will, never truly believed”
  • Teutila Cuicatec: “you are just the same as those who do not believe God’s word because you do not obey”
  • Huichol: “you have not been marked with God’s sign in your hearts or in your ears (you are unruly and unsubmissive like an untamed, unbranded bronco)”
  • Ojitlán Chinantec: “you do not have the word-sign in your hearts. Your ears are clogged”
  • Copainalá Zoque: “you just don’t understand”
  • Isthmus Mixe: “your hearts and minds are not open” (source for this and above: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.)
  • Kaqchikel: “with your hearts unprepared” (Source: Nida 1964, p. 220)

In Chichewa (interconfessional translation) “stiff-necked” is translated as “hard-headed.” (Source: Wendland 1987, p. 130)


The Hebrew that is rendered in English versions as “live the few days of their vain life, which they pass like a shadow?” is translated into Afar as Sahdayti subci suga iraaway ayro tawqe waqdi gexah bis le.: “People are like a shadow present in the early morning that goes away when the sun rises.” (Clarifying the role of the sun in the changing shadow.)

See also shadow vs. spirit.

city has been struck

The phrase that in English versions is rendered as “Jerusalem has been struck” is translated into Afar as “Yarusalaam makko tekkeh.”: “The will of God has happened (on) Jerusalem.”

let them be overthrown before you

The Hebrew that is rendered in English as “let them be overthrown before you” is translated into Afar as “make them as a tree eaten by termites. When you are angry don’t be merciful.”

speaking out boldly

The phrase that is translated into English as “spoke out boldly” is translated into Afar as “intî qasuk ken lih yabteeh”: “spoke with them having red eyes.”

raisin cake

The phrase that is rendered in English versions as “(sustain me with) raisin cake” is translated into Afar as malawwacak bicsen gaqambo: “bread prepared from honey” (raisins are not known, but honey is.)

Ephraim is a trained heifer that loves to thresh

The phrase that is translated in English translations as “a trained heifer that loved to thresh” is translated into Afar as “Santiitat gexa rakub num elle kataya’nnal”: “As a camel that goes by its nose follows a person” (No threshing in Afar, but a camel with a rope around its mouth obediently follows the person leading it.)

clothe yourselves with Christ

What is translated into English as “clothed yourselves with Christ” is translated into Afar as “Masiic caalat le mara tekken”: “you became people who have the character of the Messiah” (dropped the metaphor of clothing).