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).

mount up with wings like eagles

The phrase that is translated in English versions as “mount up with wings like eagles” is translated into Afar as gabilleema’nnal haadelon. Qaafiyatah danan yakken: “they will fly like eagles; as for health they will become donkeys.” (Added donkey as a known metaphor of strength since eagles are not known for strength.)


The phrase that is rendered in English translations as “as a cart presses down when it is full of sheaves” is translated into Afar as “qari elle qilsa faras-gaari innah”: “as heavy as a horse cart with a house on it.” (Pastoral economy has no sheaves, houses are normally torn down and loaded on camels for migration.)


The Hebrew and the Greek that is usually directly translated as “kiss” in English is translated more indirectly in other languages because kissing is deemed as inappropriate, is not a custom at all, or is not customary in the particular context (see the English translation of J.B. Phillips [publ. 1960] in Rom. 16:16: “Give each other a hearty handshake”). Here are some examples:

  • Pökoot: “greet warmly” (“kissing in public, certainly between men, is absolutely unacceptable in Pökoot.”) (Source: Gerrit van Steenbergen)
  • Chamula Tzotzil, Ixcatlán Mazatec, Tojolabal: “greet each other warmly” or “hug with feeling” (source: Robert Bascom)
  • Afar: gaba tittal ucuya — “give hands to each other” (Afar kiss each other’s hands in greeting) (source: Loren Bliese)
  • Roviana: “welcome one another joyfully”
  • Cheke Holo: “Love each other in the way-joined-together that is holy” (esp. in Rom. 16:16) or “greet with love” (esp. 1Thess. 5:26 and 1Pet. 5.14)
  • Pitjantjatjara: “And when you meet/join up with others of Jesus’ relatives hug and kiss them [footnote], for you are each a relative of the other through Jesus.” Footnote: “This was their custom in that place to hug and kiss one another in happiness. Maybe when we see another relative of Jesus we shake hands and rejoice.” (esp. Rom. 16:16) (source for this and two above: Carl Gross)
  • Balanta-Kentohe and Mandinka: “touch cheek” or “cheek-touching” (“sumbu” in Malinka)
  • Mende: “embrace” (“greet one another with the kiss of love”: “greet one another and embrace one another to show that you love one another”) (source for this and two above: Rob Koops)
  • Gen: “embrace affectionately” (source: John Ellington)
  • Kachin: “holy and pure customary greetings” (source: Gam Seng Shae)
  • Kahua: “smell” (source: David Clark) (also in Ekari and Kekchí, source: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
  • San Blas Kuna: “smell the face” (source: Claudio and Marvel Iglesias in The Bible Translator 1951, p. 85ff.)
  • Nyanja: “to suck” (“habit and term a novelty amongst the young and more or less westernized people, the traditional term for greeting a friend after a long absence being, ‘to clap in the hands and laugh happily'”)
  • Medumba: “suck the cheek” (“a novelty, the traditional term being ‘to embrace.'”)
  • Shona (version of 1966): “to hug”
  • Balinese: “to caress” (source for this and three above: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
  • Colorado: earlier version: “greet in a friendly way,” later revision: “kiss on the face” (Bruce Moore [in: Notes on Translation 1/1992), p. 1ff.] explains: “Formerly, kissing had presented a problem. Because of the Colorados’ limited exposure to Hispanic culture they understood the kiss only in the eros context. Accordingly, the original translation had rendered ‘kiss’ in a greeting sense as ‘greet in a friendly way’. The actual word ‘kiss’ was not used. Today ‘kiss’ is still an awkward term, but the team’s judgment was that it could be used as long as long as it was qualified. So ‘kiss’ (in greeting) is now ‘kiss on the face’ (that is, not on the lips).)

See also kissed (his feet).

lusty stallions

The phrase that is rendered into English translations as “they were well-fed lusty stallions” is translated into Afar as Yessemeeqe rakuubuy alal radam faxaah muxahiyya yekken.: “they became well-fed male camels making rumbling sounds (in their throats) in their desire to mount a female camel.” (On “stallion,” see also the story here.)

servant honors master

In Afar the phrase that is rendered in English translations as “a servant honours his master” is translated as saq-duwayti akah taamita num yassakaxxeh.: “the one who herds animals honors the man he works for.” (The closest thing to a servant is someone contracted to herd animals.)

pledge loyalty

The Hebrew that is translated in English versions as “pledged their loyalty to Absalom,” or “the hearts have gone after Absalom” was translated into Afar as ‘Ku kabut gacennooh ko’lih rabenno’ ‘yaanam axcuk yenen.: “They were saying, ‘We will go with you and we will die with you.’ (Direct speech is used instead of general descriptions of speech acts. The pledge to even die with one’s leader in battle is a typical expression of loyalty.)

hearts burning

The Greek that is often translated as “Were not our hearts burning within us?” is translated as “a boiling comes to our hearts inside” in Marathi (an idiom for joy and enthusiasm), “drawn, as it were, our mind” in Balinese, “hurt (i.e. longing) our hearts” in Ekari, or “something was-consuming in our-heart” in Tae’ (an idiom for “we were profoundly moved”). (Source: Reiling / Swellengrebel)

In an early version of the Bible in Sranan Tongo, the translation was Ke, hoe switi kouroe wi hatti be fili: “O, how sweet coolness did our hearts feel.” The translator “did this to avoid misunderstanding. In Sranan Tongo, when one says ‘my heart is burning’ he means ‘I am angry.'” (Source: Janini 2015, p. 33)

In Afar the phrase is translated as robti leeh innah nel oobak sugtem hinnaa?: “Wasn’t it as rain coming down on us?” (heat is bad, rain is good in the desert). (Source: Loren Bliese)