Joab the son of Zeruiah

The Hebrew that is translated as “Joab (also: Abishai) the son of Zeruiah” in English presented a problem in Mano (Mann). “In a patriarchal society like Mano, Zeruiah is assumed to be the father of Joab. Since we know that she was his mother (see 2Sam 17:25), we expressed this phrase as ‘Joab whose mother was Zeruiah.'”

In Batak Karo Zeruiah has to be identified as a woman. M.K. Sembiring (in The Bible Translator 1991, p. 217ff.) explains: “Unlike the Hebrew language, nouns in Batak Karo have no gender. The literal translation of the biblical names therefore does not indicate whether they are female or male names. Names are generally understood as male names when they occur in expressions like ‘the son of…’ or ‘the daughter of…,’ because in the Karo culture, if ever the names of the parents are mentioned, it is usually the name of the father that is used in identifying the children. For example, 1 Sam 26:6 says, ‘Then David said to Ahimelech the Hittite, and to Joab’s brother Abishai the son of Zeruiah,’Who will go down with me into the camp to Saul?” In Hebrew, Zeruiah will be recognized as a female name because of its ending, but in Karo the name will be considered as a male name for the reason given above. It is necessary then to identify Zeruiah as a female name by saying that Zeruiah was the mother of Joab and Abishai. The translation of the first part of that verse into Batak Karo is as follows,’Then David said to Ahimelech the Hittite, and to Joab’s brother Abishai (the mother of these two is Zeruiah)…'”

blue as the sky

In English translations it says that “God stood on a platform of sapphire as blue as the sky.” The translator transliterated sapphire, and said the platform was as black as the sky since the Mano (Mann) word for blue includes the color black also. We decided to say that the platform was the color of the sky, without specifying the color. That way a light blue color will be in view.

glory has departed from Israel

The Hebrew phrase that is translated in English as “the glory has departed from Israel” refers to the capture of the ark of the covenant by the Philistines and therefore the glory of God leaving Israel. A first draft into Mano (Mann) said “The light has left Israel.” Since no Mano word for ‘glory” that matches the concept in the Hebrew text well could be found, it was translated as “The glorious presence of God has left Israel.”

birds of the air, fish of the sea

One translation problem involved the Hebrew expressions that are translated into English as “birds of the air” and “fish of the sea.” The Mano (Mann) translators decided to say simply “birds” and “fish” to include all these animals, not just the birds that fly and the fish in the ocean. So now ostriches and fresh water fish are included.

clean animals, unclean animals

The phrases that are translated as “clean animals” and “unclean animals” in English: The first draft into Mano (Mann) had “animals not cursed” and “cursed animals,” which did not express correctly the idea of ritually pure and impure animals. So it was changed to “animals accepted by God for sacrifices” and “animals not accepted by God for sacrifices.”

cardinal directions

The cardinal directions “east” and “west” are easy to translate into Mano (Mann) here since the language uses “where the sun comes up” and “where the sun goes down.” For “north” the translator had “facing toward the sun rising to the left,” and for “south” she had “facing toward the sun rising to the right.” So the listener had to think hard before knowing what direction was in view when translating “to the north and south, to the east and west.” So the verse was very long. It was shortened by saying simply “all directions.” Likewise, Yakan has “from the four corners of the earth” or Western Bukidnon Manobo “from the four directions here on the earth.”

Kankanaey is “from the coming-out and the going-away of the sun and the north and the south,” Northern Emberá “from where the sun comes up, from where it falls, from the looking [left] hand, from the real [right] hand” (source: Charles Mortensen), Amele “from the direction of the sun going up, from the direction of the sun going down, from the north and from the south” (source: John Roberts), Ejamat “look up to see the side where the sun comes from, and the side where it sets, and look on your right side, and on your left” (source: David Frank in this blog post).

In Lamba, only umutulesuŵa, “where the sun rises” and imbonsi, “where the sun sets” were available as cardinal directions that were not tied to the local area of language speakers (“north” is kumausi — “to the Aushi country” — and “south” kumalenje — “to the Lenje country”). So “north” and “south” were introduced as loanwords, nofu and saufu respectively. The whole phrase is “kunofu nakusaufu nakumutulesuŵa nakumbonsi.” (Source C. M. Doke in The Bible Translator 1958, p. 57ff.)

See also cardinal directions / left and right.


One translation challenge into Mano (Mann) concerned how to express the idea that Sarah no longer had monthly periods. The draft prepared by a female translator used a euphemism that was very vague. As a result, the other translators did not know what was in view. After a long discussion it was decided to say that Sarah was beyond the age of childbearing.