Translation commentary on 1 Esdras 1:27

I was not sent against you by the Lord God may be rendered “The Lord God [or, the Chief who is God] did not send me to fight you” (similarly Good News Bible, Contemporary English Version).

For my war is at the Euphrates may be expressed as “I am going to the Euphrates River for a battle [or, to fight the Babylonians]” or “My enemies are at the Euphrates River” (Contemporary English Version). Good News Bible says “my battle is on the Euphrates River,” which sounds strange. The battle took place on one side of the river, not on the river.

And now the Lord is with me! The Lord is with me, urging me on!: The repetition of the Lord is with me, meaning “the Lord will help me,” is emphatic so translators should keep it if possible (see the model below). Good News Bible‘s translation is weakened by not doing so.

Stand aside, and do not oppose the Lord: Contemporary English Version says “so get out of my way! Don’t try to stop the Lord!”

An alternative model for this verse is:

• The Lord God has not sent me to fight you. I am going to the Euphrates River for a battle [or, to fight the Babylonians]. And the Lord is with me [or, helping me] now, urging me on. I want to emphasize that the Lord is with me. So get out of the way. Don’t oppose the Lord!”

Quoted with permission from Bullard, Roger A. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on 1-2 Esdras. (UBS Helps for Translators). Miami: UBS, 2019. For this and other handbooks for translators see here.

Translation commentary on 1 Esdras 2:6 - 2:7

And let each man, wherever he may live, be helped by the men of his place …: Each man refers to each Jew, whether male or female. The men of his place refers to the people of the neighborhood in which any Jew is living. It is not perfectly clear, here or in the source text of Ezra 1.3, whether the men of his place are Gentiles or simply fellow Jews who decide not to make the journey. However, this phrase probably refers to Gentiles, since the passage seems intended as an echo of Exo 12.35-36, where the Egyptians gave rich gifts to the departing Israelites. At any rate, an expression such as “their neighbors” (Good News Bible) is better than “Everyone else” (Contemporary English Version), and leaves the matter open, and most readers would probably not raise the question.

With gold and silver, with gifts, and with horses and cattle, besides the other things added as votive offerings for the temple of the Lord which is in Jerusalem: The Persian king commands the neighbors of the Jews to give material assistance to the Jews who are about to make a long journey to Judah. They are to give money, livestock, and other gifts. Silver and gold were valuable metals that were used as money and for making jewelry and other precious objects. The Greek noun translated cattle is rendered “pack-animals” by Good News Bible, following New English Bible. This noun includes virtually any kind of domesticated grazing animals. Pack-animals, yes, but also sheep, goats, and cattle. A general word for domestic animals should be used if one is available (for example, “livestock” in English). Otherwise a word for cattle or sheep or pack-animals will work. Votive offerings were animals that were offered to fulfil vows made to God (see, for example, Lev 7.16-17; 22.21). Good News Bible renders besides the other things added as votive offerings for the temple of the Lord as “as well as anything else offered for the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem in fulfillment of a vow.” However, it should be clear that these votive offerings are animals sacrificed to pay vows. Contemporary English Version says these offerings are “gifts for building the Lord’s temple,” which is incorrect. They are sacrifices made at the Lord’s Temple.

Here is an alternative model for verses 6-7:

• 6 Wherever the Jews live, their neighbors must help them by giving them money [or, gold and silver], 7 horses and other livestock [or, horses and cattle], and other animals they might need at the Jerusalem Temple to make offerings to fulfil vows they have made to the Lord.”

Quoted with permission from Bullard, Roger A. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on 1-2 Esdras. (UBS Helps for Translators). Miami: UBS, 2019. For this and other handbooks for translators see here.

Translation commentary on 1 Esdras 3:13

When the king awoke, they took the writing and gave it to him, and he read it: As discussed in 1 Esdras 3.8 (see the comments there), the pronoun they refers to the servants of the king who took care of making the bed when the king got up in the morning. The text omits the logical steps of the king getting out of bed after waking, and of the servants finding the writing. Readers may be helped if translators add these ideas as in our following model of this verse:

• When the king got up [or, arose from sleep] the next morning, his servants found the letters [or, writing], and took them to the king, who read them.

Quoted with permission from Bullard, Roger A. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on 1-2 Esdras. (UBS Helps for Translators). Miami: UBS, 2019. For this and other handbooks for translators see here.

Translation commentary on 1 Esdras 4:26

Many men have lost their minds because of women: Just as wine deprives people of good sense (1 Esd 3.20-23), a man can be so infatuated with a woman that he loses his good sense. The Greek expression for lost their minds refers to madness. Good News Bible says “are driven out of their minds” (similarly New English Bible), and Contemporary English Version has “have gone crazy.” Most languages will have an idiomatic expression for this idea.

And have become slaves because of them: It is not clear whether the speaker means become slaves in a literal or a metaphorical sense, but Good News Bible is surely wrong by translating this clause as “and others become slaves for the sake of a woman,” as if the man thinks, “I will become a slave for her sake.” Rather, the man becomes so poor from giving things to a woman that he is forced into slavery, or becomes a slave because of criminal activity (see verse 27) that he engages in to please her.

An alternative model for this verse is:

• Women have caused many men to lose their minds or become slaves.

Quoted with permission from Bullard, Roger A. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on 1-2 Esdras. (UBS Helps for Translators). Miami: UBS, 2019. For this and other handbooks for translators see here.

Translation commentary on 1 Esdras 4:61

So he took the letters, and went to Babylon and told this to all his brethren: The conjunction So is better rendered “Then” (Myers) or omitted (so Good News Bible). The pronouns he and his refer to Zerubbabel, which Good News Bible makes clear. He did not necessarily deliver the letters to everyone addressed, but probably took copies of the letters to the Jewish community in Babylon. His brethren refers to his fellow Jews. An alternative model for this verse is:

• Then Zerubbabel took copies of the king’s letters, and went to Babylon, where he told all his fellow Jews what had happened.

Quoted with permission from Bullard, Roger A. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on 1-2 Esdras. (UBS Helps for Translators). Miami: UBS, 2019. For this and other handbooks for translators see here.

Translation commentary on 1 Esdras 5:59

And the priests stood arrayed in their garments, with musical instruments and trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals: For the priests arrayed in their garments, see the comments on 1 Esd 1.2. The trumpets were short, straight musical instruments made of silver with a high, bright tone and a range of 4 or 5 notes (see Num 10.1-10). They were played exclusively by priests (2 Chr 29.26). Musical instruments may be rendered “other musical instruments” (Good News Bible). The Levites, the sons of Asaph refers to the Levite clan of Asaph. Asaph was a contemporary of David who is credited with a number of psalms. Cymbals were pairs of metal disks held in the hands and played by clanging them together.

Here is an alternative model for verses 58b-59:

• While the workers were rebuilding the Lord’s Temple, 59 the priests stood nearby. They were dressed in their official [or, priestly] robes, and were making music with trumpets and other instruments. The Levites from the clan of Asaph were also there, playing the cymbals.

Quoted with permission from Bullard, Roger A. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on 1-2 Esdras. (UBS Helps for Translators). Miami: UBS, 2019. For this and other handbooks for translators see here.

Translation commentary on 1 Esdras 6:21

In verses 21-22 the Persian officials finish their report with a request to look for the decree authorizing the rebuilding of the Temple and confirming the claims of the Jewish leaders. The transition from the statement by the Jewish leaders to the conclusion of the report by the Persian officials is indicated by the phrase Now therefore. An equivalent discourse marker should be used to introduce the officials’ concluding recommendation, such as “Now” (Good News Bible) or “So.”

If it seems wise, O king is a polite way of asking the king to search the records. Good News Bible says “if it please Your Majesty.”

Let search be made in the royal archives of our lord the king that are in Babylon: Let search be made may be translated “may we suggest that you have a search made.” The royal archives are the official government documents (the official records). We must assume there was a place in the city of Babylon where government records relating to that area were kept (see verse 23). This whole clause may be rendered “may we suggest that you have your people search the official records that you keep [or, Your Majesty keeps] in Babylon.” The Revised Standard Version footnote here may be ignored.

Quoted with permission from Bullard, Roger A. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on 1-2 Esdras. (UBS Helps for Translators). Miami: UBS, 2019. For this and other handbooks for translators see here.

Translation commentary on 1 Esdras 8:8

This verse introduces verses 9-24, which are the body of an official document from King Artaxerxes. This document gave Ezra certain authority over the Jewish community in Judah and Jerusalem. Translators who have indented such previous material will certainly wish to do the same here (see 1 Esd 2.3-7, 17-24, 26-29; 4.48b-57; 6.8-22, 24-26, 28-34). This document would have been given to Ezra before the events of verses 1-7, and it would be helpful to make this clear (see the models below).

The following is a copy of the written commission from Artaxerxes the king …: The written commission (“the decree” in Good News Bible) was a letter in which Artaxerxes gave Ezra authority to do certain things. This verse begins a new section, so some translators may need to say “Artaxerxes had a letter written, and gave Ezra a copy. This letter gave him authority….”

Which was delivered to Ezra the priest and reader of the law of the Lord: At the end of the book of 1 Esdras (9.45-48), Ezra reads from the Torah publicly. The Greek word translated reader comes from a verb that indeed means “read,” but also can mean “know [thoroughly].” The author may intend a double meaning here, but in view of the parallel passage of Ezra 7.11, we must assume that he intended to bring across the meaning there in Hebrew, which describes Ezra as a scholar.

Here are alternative models for this verse:

• Ezra took with him a document [or, letter] that King Artaxerxes had given him, as a priest and scholar of the Law of the Lord. Here is a copy of that document:….

• King Artaxerxes had a letter written [or, had them write a letter], and gave Ezra a copy. This letter gave him authority as a priest and scholar of the Law of the Lord. Here is what the letter said:….

Quoted with permission from Bullard, Roger A. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on 1-2 Esdras. (UBS Helps for Translators). Miami: UBS, 2019. For this and other handbooks for translators see here.