I the LORD your God am a jealous God

The Hebrew that is translated in English as “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God” or similar is translated in Toraja-Sa’dan with an established figure of speech: “I am the Lord your God who will not that His face is drawn as water is drawn” (i.e “who will not that a person treats Him without respect, or refuses to figure with Him, or dishonors Him, or in passing Him by honors others above him.”) (Source: H. van der Veen in The Bible Translator 1950, p. 21 ff. ).

In Orma, the phrase is translated as “I, the Lord your God, will not tolerate if you bow down and worship them.” George Payton explains: “When we translated Exodus in Orma, we had difficulty translating ‘jealous’ in the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20. The first commandments in vv.3-5 read, ‘You shall have no other gods before me. 4 ‘You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents…’

“Verse 5 says ‘I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God’ The word jealous/jealousy in Orma is hinaafa. This word brings two negative connotations. One is feeling envious of someone else’s property, or of the prosperity of their livestock or the produce of their farms. In other words, envy or coveting what someone else has but you do not. The word hinaafa can also refer to a jealous husband in a bad way. When a husband is always suspicious of his wife being unfaithful, he easily flies into a rage when she does something that triggers his suspicions, even if she is innocent. Sometimes the husband attacks her or someone else and harms them because of his jealousy. Hinaafa communicates that idea of blind rage, often unreasonable or irrational. We had to choose a different way to communicate God’s attitude. God promised to punish them if they worship any gods because He will not put up with them if they do. We ended up translating vv3-5: ‘Apart from me, you shall not worship any other gods. You shall not make a statue of anything in heaven or anything on earth or anything in the waters. I, the LORD your God, will not tolerate if you bow down and worship them. If you do, I will punish even the children for the sin of their parents…'”

In Chichewa “‘jealousy’ very commonly includes a prominent sexual component” so the solution there was to translated “(a God) who does not allow competition with me” (source: Wendland 1987, p. 127) and in Chamula Tzotzil it is not appropriate to use the usual word for jealousy of humans in relation to God when translating the Hebrew term that is translated as “jealous” in English versions. Here “I get angry with those who go with others” is used (source: Robert Bascom).

rest (after creation)

The Hebrew term that is typically translated as “rest” in English is translated in Bari as “stand.” P. Guillebaud (in The Bible Translator 1965, p. 189ff. ) explains: “The normal word for ‘rest,’ yukan, which had been used originally had to be rejected, because, as [the language assistant] Daniele pointed out, it also means taking a rest or ‘breather,’ and so implies the resumption of work after a pause. As the point here is the cessation of work, we had to use a different term altogether, literally ‘God stood from work.’ (In Exod. 31:17 God is said to have ‘rested’ and to have ‘refreshed himself’ after the labours of creation.)”

In Orma it is translated as “God removed his hand.” George Payton explains: “We were translating Genesis, and we came to the verse in 2:2 where God ‘rested’ from the work of creating. Of course we did not want to communicate that God was tired from that work, as the English suggests. So I asked my translator, ‘When you finish working in your field preparing it before the rainy season and you have done all you can, there is nothing more you can do until it rains. What would you say that you have done in relation to the work? Finished? Stopped? Or something else?’ He said, ‘I would say that I removed my hand from that work, meaning it was finished and I am done with it.’ In 2:2 we used what he said and rendered the verse ‘On the 7th day God removed his hand from all the work that he had done.'”

striped / speckled / spotted

The Hebrew that is translated as “striped, speckled, and spotted” in English did not have an immediately accessible translation in Orma.

George Payton tells about how the translation team went about finding the right terms: “In Gen. 30 Jacob is living with uncle Laban taking care of Laban’s livestock. Then when Jacob complained about what his payment should be, Laban said that Jacob could keep all the livestock that were spotted, speckled or striped, but the solid colors white and black belonged to Laban. The trouble was how to translate ‘speckled, spotted, striped.’ The people we were translating for were herdsmen; they kept goats, sheep and cattle. They told me that they have one set of words for colors and patterns for describing the cattle, and a different set of vocabulary when talking about goats and sheep. I thought maybe we could tap into their rich ‘goat’ vocabulary and use some of their words in Genesis. So we went to a friend’s livestock to see the animals. I saw a pattern that was ‘strip-ish’ and asked what they called that pattern. Then I did the same for ‘spot-ish’ and ‘speckle-ish.’ Our goal was not to get an exact representation of the patterns mentioned in the Bible, but to give a general picture of some common patterns that people would know. So we used those terms in the translation and it read very well. When we tested it, no one asked what those words meant because everyone knew them.”

In Low German the different colors are swartbunt / “black pied” or swartbrun / “black-brown,” the traditional colorings of cattle in Northern Germany, where Low German is spoken (translation by Johannes Jessen, publ. 1937, republ. 2006).