inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Mal. 1:4)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). (Click or tap here to see more details)

The inclusive “we” specifically includes the addressee (“you and I and possibly others”), while the exclusive “we” specifically excludes the addressee (“he/she/they and I, but not you”). This grammatical distinction is called “clusivity.” While Semitic languages such as Hebrew or most Indo-European languages such as Greek or English do not make that distinction, translators of languages with that distinction have to make a choice every time they encounter “we” or a form thereof (in English: “we,” “our,” or “us”).

For this verse, the Jarai translation and the Adamawa Fulfulde translation use the exclusive form (excluding the Lord).

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Mal. 1:9)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). (Click or tap here to see more details)

The inclusive “we” specifically includes the addressee (“you and I and possibly others”), while the exclusive “we” specifically excludes the addressee (“he/she/they and I, but not you”). This grammatical distinction is called “clusivity.” While Semitic languages such as Hebrew or most Indo-European languages such as Greek or English do not make that distinction, translators of languages with that distinction have to make a choice every time they encounter “we” or a form thereof (in English: “we,” “our,” or “us”).

For this verse, the Jarai translation and the Adamawa Fulfulde translation use the inclusive form (including the priests and Israel).

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Mal. 2:10)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). (Click or tap here to see more details)

The inclusive “we” specifically includes the addressee (“you and I and possibly others”), while the exclusive “we” specifically excludes the addressee (“he/she/they and I, but not you”). This grammatical distinction is called “clusivity.” While Semitic languages such as Hebrew or most Indo-European languages such as Greek or English do not make that distinction, translators of languages with that distinction have to make a choice every time they encounter “we” or a form thereof (in English: “we,” “our,” or “us”).

For this verse, the Jarai translation and the Adamawa Fulfulde translation use the inclusive form (“The prophet links himself with his people, and reminds them that as a nation they all owe their status to the activity of God, that is to say in choosing them”).

Translation commentary on Haggai 2:13

Then said Haggai: Next Haggai asks the opposite question, whether defilement can be transmitted indirectly. We are to assume that this question also was asked at the command of the LORD (compare verse 11), though the text does not say so. In this case, there is probably no need to fill in the ellipsis, and Good News Translation does not do so.

Unclean means ritually impure and temporarily unable to take part in the worship of God. Other ways to translate this term are “religiously impure or bad,” referring to ritual defilement, and even “forbidden for use in the worship God.” Some languages express this as something like “having bad taboo.” Translators may also wish to compare the translation used in such places as Mark 7.2-5, 14-23; Acts 10.14-15.

For uncleanness caused by contact with a dead body, see Num 19.13. In this case, the priests ruled that the uncleanness could be passed on. Their answer agrees with Num 19.22, and establishes the principle that defilement is transmitted more easily than holiness. This principle is the foundation for Haggai’s comments in verse 14. A dead body here refers to the corpse of a human being as noted in Num 19.13, although the prohibition could just as well apply to the carcasses of dead animals. If in certain languages there are different words for the corpse of a human and the corpse of an animal, the expression for the human corpse should be chosen.

Touches any of these: Of these refers to the foodstuffs mentioned in verse 12.

Does it become unclean? may be rendered “would they [the foods] become unclean?” (Contemporary English Version) or .”.. have bad taboo?”

The priests answered, “It does become unclean”: The reply of the priests is given in Hebrew with a full verb form (It does become unclean). Natural English requires a shorter form here, and modern versions offer several possibilities: “Yes” (Good News Translation, New Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh, New Living Translation), “Yes, it does” (Jerusalem Bible), “It will” (New English Bible/Revised English Bible), “Of course they would” (Contemporary English Version). In some languages a short form of the answer will be appropriate, but in others the full verbal form will be necessary. Some modern English versions have an even fuller answer than the Hebrew; for example, “Yes, it becomes unclean” (New Revised Standard Version). This may be a suitable translation model for some languages.

Quoted with permission from Clark, David J. & Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on Haggai. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2002. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Zechariah 2:4

And said to him: In the Hebrew it is not clear which angel addressed the other. Revised Standard Version takes the second angel to be the speaker, as do Moffatt, New American Bible, Revised English Bible, New International Version, New Revised Standard Version, Contemporary English Version, and Biblen: Det Gamle og Det Nye Testamente. Good News Translation takes the first one to be the speaker, as do New Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh, New Jerusalem Bible, Bible en français courant, and Die Bibel im heutigen Deutsch. A majority of commentators (Driver, Mitchell, Cashdan, Delcor, Thomas, Amsler, Meyers & Meyers) take the latter view and translators are recommended to follow it. As Driver observes, the interpreting angel is not likely to have been sent away to deliver a message. However, if he had been sent away, the verb translated “came again” in 4.1 would have more significance. See the comments on 4.1. One way to say this is “The first angel said to the second.”

Run, say to that young man: A different Hebrew word is used here from the one translated man in verse 1. See the comments on verse 1. Good News Translation makes it clear that this is the same person by repeating some information from verse 1, and saying, “tell that young man with the measuring line.” Another way to express this is “tell that young man who is holding the measuring line in his hand.” Some scholars such as Merrill take that young man to refer to Zechariah himself, but this view is not convincing, and cannot be recommended.

Jerusalem shall be inhabited as villages without walls, because of the multitude of men and cattle in it: These words begin a quotation within a quotation in Revised Standard Version. Good News Translation and Contemporary English Version avoid this by putting the second half of the verse into indirect speech. In many languages translators will find this a helpful example to follow. The relationship between the two halves of this sentence is not altogether clear in a literal translation like Revised Standard Version. Good News Translation restructures to make it clearer, and says, “there are going to be so many people and so much livestock [or more neatly “so many people and cattle” in the earlier British editions] in Jerusalem that it will be too big to have walls.” This will be a satisfactory translation model in many languages, but some translators may need to simplify and say, “there will be so many people and cattle in Jerusalem that….” Cattle, as in Hag 1.11, refers to domesticated animals of all kinds, so translators may say “so many people and animals.” The words villages without walls translate a single Hebrew word. This word does not actually mention walls. However, the same Hebrew word is used in Ezek 38.11 in a context where the absence of walls is in focus, so it is reasonable to assume that their absence is implied here. The words without walls suggest a condition of peace and security such that no walls were needed for protection. This could be brought out clearly by saying, “Jerusalem will need no wall to protect it because of the large number of men and cattle in it.” This is further explained in the next verse. In certain languages villages without walls can be expressed as “small groups of houses without fences around them.” In such cases it will be better to delete the reference to villages, as Good News Translation and Contemporary English Version have done. Good News Translation has “that it will be too big to have walls.” Contemporary English Version has “Jerusalem won’t have any boundaries. It will be too full of people and animals even to have a wall.” In some languages walls will need to be singular because the plural would refer to walls around gardens or houses rather than around a city. A possible translation model is:

• The first angel said to the second one, “Run [or, Hurry] and tell that young man to stop. Jerusalem will grow and have very many people and cattle, and will not need any wall to protect it.”

Quoted with permission from Clark, David J. & Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on Zechariah. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2002. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Zechariah 5:2

And he said to me, “What do you see?”: See the comments on the same words in 4.2. He refers to the same angel as in the previous vision. Good News Translation and Contemporary English Version make that clear in English by saying “The angel,” and many translators will need to do the same.

The words I answered translate the same Hebrew expression as that translated “I said” in 4.2. In reporting a conversation, the word answered is more natural in English, and translators should be aware of stylistic points of this kind.

I see a flying scroll; its length is twenty cubits, and its breadth ten cubits: This reply makes it clear that the scroll was not rolled up, but completely unrolled; otherwise, the prophet would not have known its size. The size given, twenty cubits by ten cubits, is much larger than any normal scroll would be. These measurements are in fact the same as those of the entrance hall of Solomon’s Temple (1 Kgs 6.3), though it does not seem possible to draw any conclusion from the similarity. Good News Translation translates the measurements into modern units. The cubit was about seventeen and a half inches, so in the American editions of Good News Translation, the size is given as “thirty feet long and fifteen feet wide” (compare Moffatt, New International Version, New Living Translation, Contemporary English Version). In the British and Australian editions, which use metric measurements, the size is given as “nine metres long and four and a half metres wide.” Since the size in cubits is in round figures, some think this is calculated too precisely. Translators who use metric measurements may also consider following the example of Bible en français courant, Die Bibel im heutigen Deutsch and Parola Del Signore: La Bibbia in Lingua Corrente and give the size in round figures as ten meters long and five meters wide.

Quoted with permission from Clark, David J. & Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on Zechariah. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2002. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Zechariah 7:9

The second introductory formula Thus says the LORD of hosts often follows the previous formula at the beginning of longer paragraphs (compare Hag 1.2; Hag 2.11; Zech 8.2, 19) and may be seen as a marker of subdivisions within the paragraph (see the comments on 8.1-17). For LORD of hosts, see the comments on Hag 1.2.

The words that follow are in fact a repetition of the ethical teaching typical of the eighth century prophets. Good News Translation makes it clear that these are not original ideas of Zechariah by translating Thus says the LORD of hosts as “Long ago I gave these commands to my people.” Contemporary English Version has “So once again, I, the LORD All-Powerful, tell you.” (The change to first person “I/my” is part of the stylistic restructuring that Good News Translation and Contemporary English Version carry through the whole paragraph. See the introductory comments on this section.)

Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy each to his brother: These are general statements of the principles underlying sound social and personal relationships. Good News Translation expresses the first in modern language as “You must see that justice is done.” Translators could also say, “Apply the law fairly” (Jerusalem Bible/New Jerusalem Bible). The context here is a legal one. For this command compare Isa 1.17; Jer 21.12; Jer 22.3; Amos 5.14-15, 24.

For an emphasis on the quality of kindness, compare Hos 4.1 and Micah 6.8. The Hebrew word chesed here translated kindness was particularly associated with loyalty to the obligations accepted when a person entered into a covenant relationship. It was thus expected that the Jews, as a people having a covenant relationship with God, would show this quality in their attitudes both to God and to one another. Mercy is translated “compassion” in Moffatt, New American Bible, Jerusalem Bible/New Jerusalem Bible, New English Bible/ Revised English Bible, and New International Version. Each to his brother is the Hebrew way of saying “to one another” (Good News Translation, Contemporary English Version). Brother does not mean only close relatives, or only male relatives, and this should be made clear.

Quoted with permission from Clark, David J. & Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on Zechariah. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2002. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Zechariah 9:5

In verses 5-8 the focus shifts from nations to the north to a nation to the west, namely the Philistines. Four of their five main centers are mentioned; the fifth, Gath, had been destroyed by the Assyrians in 711 B.C. These cities are pictured as being thrown into panic by observing the fate of Tyre, apparently their ally. In terms of structure, it is noteworthy that the first three cities are mentioned in a chiastic order Ashkelon-Gaza-Ekron-Gaza-Ashkelon. This pattern puts a focus on Ekron, the one at the turning point, so it is no surprise that Ekron is the one mentioned again in verse 7, where it seems to stand for the Philistines as a whole. The same four cities are mentioned in Amos 1.6-8 and Zeph 2.4, but in a different order.

Ashkelon shall see it, and be afraid: By a figure of speech called metonymy, Ashkelon (and indeed the other city names) stands for the inhabitants of the city. In certain languages it will be necessary to do away with this figure of speech and say, for example, “The people of Ashkelon will see it and be afraid.” There is another example of alliteration between the Hebrew words for see (tereʾ) and be afraid (tiraʾ). The Hebrew contains no equivalent to it (“this” in Good News Translation), which is included in English to make the flow of thought clearer. It refers of course to the fall of Tyre in the previous verse.

Gaza too, and shall writhe in anguish: The verb translated writhe in anguish refers to the pains of childbirth. Good News Translation “suffer great pain,” and modern versions generally, lose this figure. However, in many cultures it may be possible to keep it, perhaps by turning the metaphor into a simile: “The people of Gaza will also see it, and suffer agony like a woman in labor.”

Ekron also, because its hopes are confounded: The word also seems to refer back to shall writhe in anguish in the description of Gaza rather than to shall see it in the description of Ashkelon. Thus the next clause because its hopes are confounded explains why Ekron will also writhe in anguish. What is not stated here, but must be understood, is that the Philistine cities were allied with Tyre, and relied on its strong fortifications to delay any invader coming from the north. If Tyre was captured, then the Philistine cities were also bound to fall, and their hope of escape was gone. The Hebrew word translated its hopes is found in the same sense of political and military reliance in Isa 20.5-6, where it refers to the reliance of Judah on Ethiopia and Egypt. Other ways to express this sentence are “The people of Ekron will also be in agony because they have lost hope” and “Ekron also will suffer greatly and despair because it no longer has the support of Tyre.”

The king shall perish from Gaza: Gaza was the largest of the Philistine cities. Losing its king meant losing its independence, and being swallowed up by some other stronger nation. Shall perish means “will be killed.” For king see Hag 1.1.

Ashkelon shall be uninhabited: The people will be killed, captured, or driven away, and the city of “Ashkelon will be left deserted” (Good News Translation), or “There will be no people left in Ashkelon,” or “Ashkelon [will be] emptied of its people” (Contemporary English Version). Compare Zeph 2.4.

Quoted with permission from Clark, David J. & Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on Zechariah. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2002. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .