Shittim

The Hebrew in Hosea 5:2 that is translated in various ways in English translations (see here ), including “sin,” “slaughter,” “deceitfulness,” “rebel,” and “Shittim” as a place name (see Numbers 25:1, 33:49, Joshua 2:21, 3:21, Joel 3:18, and Micah 6:5 for other references to the place name), is translated by the Good News Translation and the New Living Translation as “Acacia City (or: Valley).” “Shittim” is a word for the Acacia tree and the translators chose “Acacia” since “Shittim,” especially as part of “pit dug deep in Shittim” or similar resembles a rude expression in English, especially when read aloud. (Source: de Blois / Dorn / van Steenbergen / Thompson, 2020)

Translation commentary on Hosea 1:8

When or “After” (Good News Translation) renders well the Hebrew waw conjunction (literally “And”) in this context. Here it introduces the next event.

She had weaned Not pitied: It was customary for Israelite mothers to nurse babies for two or three years before weaning them, and there may have been a family celebration at that time (see, for example, Gen 21.8). As indicated in this verse, a mother usually became pregnant again only after she stopped nursing the baby. It may be necessary to translate the pronoun she as “Gomer” (Good News Translation) for clarity. For the name Not pitied, see 1.6. Not pitied is referred to as “her daughter” in Good News Translation. The way to handle this name in translation depends on the receptor language. Which solution is clearer or more natural? It also depends on the type of translation. Die Bibel im heutigen Deutsch has “her daughter ‘No mercy.’ ” We do not recommend this double reference.

She conceived and bore a son: Compare 1.3 and 1.6 for the style of narrating these births. As in 1.6, the pronoun “him” (referring to Hosea) is not present in the text.

Quoted with permission from Dorn, Louis & van Steenbergen, Gerrit. A Handbook on Hosea. (UBS Helps for Translators). Miami: UBS, 2020. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Hosea 4:3

The conjunction Therefore introduces what may be considered the result of the crimes, or else the judgment that prescribes the punishment. The three main verbs that follow refer to an incomplete event, usually translated with present or future tense. Most English versions use the present tense, except Good News Translation and NET Bible, which use the future tense. These verbs show how things gradually become worse and finally end in death: mourns, languish, and are taken away.

The land mourns is a poetic picture of the land as if it were mourning the death of a loved one. If this image is not understood, it may be better translated “the land will wither” or “the land will dry up” (Good News Translation). The Hebrew verb for mourns can also mean “wither,” which fits well in this context of a drought. The land is not yet dead but is drying up. Moreover, the verb “wither” provides a beautiful contrast with the crimes that “flourish” in the previous verse.

And all who dwell in it languish: All who dwell in it may refer to “the inhabitants of the land” (4.1), but the Hebrew text here also seems to include all other living creatures, as is confirmed in the following lines of this verse. The Hebrew verb for languish means “grow weak,” and it implies that death is near. Good News Translation says “will die,” but it may be better to retain the three climactic stages referred to in the three main Hebrew verbs of this verse by rendering them “wither,” “weaken,” and “die.” Die Bibel im heutigen Deutsch relates the weakening to the drought, saying “thirst away,” which means to die of thirst.

And also the beasts of the field, and the birds of the air; and even the fish of the sea are taken away: Beasts of the field is a Hebrew expression meaning “animals” (Good News Translation), but more specifically “wild animals” (New Living Translation, NET Bible). Birds of the air can be rendered simply “birds” (Good News Translation). For both these expressions, see 2.18. The Hebrew expression for fish of the sea does not refer only to fish living in large bodies of salt water, but to any “fish” (Good News Translation). It therefore includes those fish that will die when the lakes and streams dry up from the drought. Are taken away resembles the Hebrew euphemism for dying, “to be gathered to one’s people” (as in Gen 35.29), so it may be rendered “die” (Good News Translation). For these three lines Die Bibel im heutigen Deutsch (1982) has “people as well as animals, even the fish come to an end.”

A translation model for this verse is:

• Therefore the land withers,
and all that lives in it wastes away.
The wild animals, the birds,
and even the fish are dying.

Quoted with permission from Dorn, Louis & van Steenbergen, Gerrit. A Handbook on Hosea. (UBS Helps for Translators). Miami: UBS, 2020. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Hosea 6:1

In the Hebrew text 6.1-3 forms a distinct unit. However, Revised Standard Version shows the relation to the previous section by adding the word saying at the end of 5.15. This word makes it appear that God is quoting the people, which is not the case. If it is necessary to indicate who is speaking, Good News Translation provides a good model by beginning this verse with “The people say.” This quote frame introduces their response to the fact that Yahweh has withdrawn himself from them. Alternatively, this section can be viewed as the people talking to one another, as in “The Israelites said to one another” (Bijbel in Gewone Taal).

Come renders an imperative Hebrew verb that is plural, as if a leader is speaking to the Israelites. In this context it can be interpreted as a way to draw attention at the beginning of a speech, as in NET Bible‘s “Come on!”

Let us return to the LORD is an admonition to repent, and it implies turning away from false gods and sinful actions and seeking the LORD (see 5.15b).

The next two lines in Hebrew use consonant and vowel sounds that make for a beautiful poetic expression. It is not required that translations reflect the play on sounds here, but in some languages it may be possible.

For renders the Hebrew word ki, which sometimes is a logical connector. In this context it is more likely an emphatic particle. The fact that the LORD has hurt the Israelites can hardly be viewed as a logical reason for returning to him. According to the lexicon by Koehler and Baumgartner, ki can also be used in a concessive sense, which is possible here, so Andersen and Freedman render it “Although.”

He has torn …: The Hebrew verbs for torn (taraf) and heal (rafaʾ) resemble each other, emphasizing the connection between harming and healing. Torn renders the same verb translated “rend” in 5.14, which uses the image of a lion tearing its prey into pieces. New International Version and Jerusalem Bible say “He has torn us to pieces.”

That he may heal us: The connector that suggests a wrong relationship. This clause should be one of contrast, not of purpose. It is better to follow Good News Translation with the conjunction “but” to contrast the actions torn and heal. The same contrast can be expressed by beginning the previous clause with “Although” (see the model below). The verb heal refers to actions such as those of a physician, who causes wounds to heal.

He has stricken, and he will bind us up: This line is parallel to the previous one. Stricken translates a Hebrew verb for an enemy striking a blow, as with a sword or spear, to harm someone. The conjunction and is better rendered “but” (Good News Translation) to express the contrast here. He will bind us up describes the action of bandaging wounds, thus bringing comfort. The vowels of this verb in Hebrew (yachbeshenu) follow the pattern of vowels in the verb for he may heal us (yirpaʾenu), and this adds to the feeling of poetry in this verse.

Good News Translation retains the parallel form of the last two lines of this verse, but adds explicit markers to reflect the attitude of the Israelites: “… he will be sure…” and “… won’t he?”

A translation model for this verse is:

• The people said to each other,
“Come on, let us go back to the LORD!
Although he has torn us apart,
he will heal us.
Although he has struck us,
he will bandage our wounds.

Quoted with permission from Dorn, Louis & van Steenbergen, Gerrit. A Handbook on Hosea. (UBS Helps for Translators). Miami: UBS, 2020. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Hosea 8:6

… in Israel?: Revised Standard Version follows Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia and the Septuagint by including these words on the same poetic line as the last one of verse 5. Instead of in Israel, the Hebrew reads “For [or, Surely] from Israel and he/it.” The Hebrew word ki begins this verse. It can be a causal conjunction (“For”) or an emphatic particle (“Surely”). We prefer the latter sense here.

King James Version begins this verse with “For from Israel was it also,” which means the calf-idol originated in Israel, that is, the Israelites were responsible for it. The Hebrew preposition meaning “from” used in connection with “Israel” supports this translation. A similar idea is expressed by the adjective “Israelite” in Good News Translation. New English Bible follows an emended text, saying “For what sort of a god is this bull?” but there is no textual support for this reading. Hebrew Old Testament Text Project favors linking this phrase with what follows in this verse: “for from Israel he also” (a {B} decision). This decision also helps to see a balance in the mention of Israel at the beginning of the verse, and Samaria at the end. Wolff suggests linking the phrase “For [or, Surely] from Israel” with verse 5, but as an exclamation: “But they are from Israel!” (similarly New International Version). In other words, it expresses a feeling typical of Hosea’s book, in which Yahweh moves between condemning his people and hoping for their change of heart. Translators may decide to follow either the interpretation of King James Version or that of Wolff since both reflect the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project decision.

A workman made it; it is not God is literally “a craftsman made it, and it is not a god.” The first pronoun it is used with emphasis, as if in derision, contrasting the idol with Yahweh. It is assumed that anything requiring human assistance before coming into being is certainly not a god. The idol lacks life and divine power.

The calf of Samaria shall be broken to pieces: In Hebrew this clause begins with the word ki, which may be an emphatic marker or a logical connector here. New Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh and De Nieuwe Bijbelvertaling render it as an emphatic marker by beginning this clause with “No, the calf of Samaria….” New Living Translation uses the logical connector “Therefore” to express it, and Contemporary English Version is similar with “And so.” In many versions it is left untranslated (so Revised Standard Version/New Revised Standard Version, Good News Translation, New International Version, New Jerusalem Bible). All these possibilities are acceptable in this context, but we express a slight preference for the emphatic function of ki here, especially in view of the unusual word order of this clause, which is literally “ki splinters it will become the calf of Samaria.” Here the default word order in Hebrew would have been to put the subject at the beginning of the sentence.

Again, Samaria probably refers to the country of Samaria, in which Bethel was a city, where the calf-idol was located (see 8.5). Shall be broken to pieces is literally “will become splinters.” As mentioned earlier, the image was made of wood. The Hebrew word for pieces occurs only here in the Hebrew Bible, and it seems to be a word used in the dialect of northern Israel, where it can mean either “splinters” or “sparks.” It is possible that the prophet thought of the craftsman cutting off chips of wood to form the image, only to have his work continue in an ironic fashion by having the entire image reduced to such splinters. The Revised Standard Version footnote indicates that “shall go up in flames” (Jerusalem Bible, Bible de Jérusalem) is also a possible translation of the Hebrew. New American Bible says “Destined for the flames.” However, most translations seem to favor the idea of “splinters.” Revised English Bible has “will be reduced to splinters” (similarly New Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh, Die Bibel im heutigen Deutsch), and New Jerusalem Bible says “will be broken to pieces” (similarly New International Version, Traduction œcuménique de la Bible).

A translation model for this verse is:

• Surely, this calf-idol is from Israel!
It is made by a craftsman, it is no god.
Yes, it will be chopped to pieces,
this calf-idol of Samaria.

Quoted with permission from Dorn, Louis & van Steenbergen, Gerrit. A Handbook on Hosea. (UBS Helps for Translators). Miami: UBS, 2020. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Hosea 10:8

In this verse the disasters that will hit Israel come to a climax when its cultic places will be destroyed and its people wish to be buried rather than undergoing divine judgment.

The high places of Aven, the sin of Israel, shall be destroyed: The high places (Good News Translation “The hilltop shrines”) refers to the pagan shrines where the Israelites worshiped and sacrificed after entering Canaan. These places were taken over from the Canaanites. Many of them were not on hills, so it may be better to say “shrines” (Revised English Bible, New Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh), “pagan shrines” (New Living Translation), or “pagan worship sites” (similarly God’s Word).

Revised Standard Version and Good News Translation interpret Aven as a proper noun. There is no known city in Israel of that day with this name. In 10.5 we have Beth-aven (another name for Bethel), meaning “house of evil.” Here we have simply Aven, meaning “evil.” Both names are used by the prophet as a way of condemning Bethel, meaning “house of God,” the site of the chief sanctuary of Israel. There is a Hebrew manuscript that reads “Beth-aven” here instead of Aven. Some translations and commentators interpret Aven as a common noun meaning “evil”; for example, Moffatt renders The high places of Aven as “The idolatrous heights.” It may be argued that the plural high places favors this interpretation, but a religious center such as Bethel could have had several shrines, so the plural high places can still fit the interpretation of Aven as a place, referring to Bethel. In any case, a footnote explaining the background of this place and referring to 10.5 may be appropriate (so Good News Translation).

The sin of Israel means “the place where Israel sins.” Good News Translation makes this sin clear by saying “where the people of Israel worship idols.” In Hebrew the phrase the sin of Israel stands in parallel with The high places of Aven.

Thorn and thistle shall grow up on their altars: The Hebrew words for Thorn and thistle are a combination that occurs twice in the Old Testament (also in Gen 3.18). The first one is a generic term for thorns. The second one refers to a more specific type of thistle, but the exact type is uncertain. The combination of these two words stresses the complete destruction of Israel’s pagan shrines. Bijbel in Gewone Taal combines the two terms with “thorn bushes.” In 9.6 two different kinds of thorny weeds are mentioned, but with the same purpose of overgrowing destroyed sites. The pronoun their refers to the Israelites. For altars see 8.11.

And they shall say to the mountains, Cover us, and to the hills, Fall upon us: The coming Assyrian invasion and destruction will be so terrible that the Israelites will ask the mountains and hills to cover them; that is, they will ask for death. New Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh makes this explicit by rendering Cover us as “Bury us!” These two lines are parallel, with to the mountains matching to the hills, and Cover us corresponding to Fall upon us. They shall say is implied in the last line. Revised Standard Version is accurate in expressing the meaning of the Hebrew by using the commands addressed to the mountains and hills. Contemporary English Version renders these two lines as “Then everyone will beg the mountains and hills to cover and protect them.” However, the people are not asking for protection, but death. They would rather die than fall in the hands of their enemies.

A translation model for this verse is:

• Enemies will destroy the shrines of wicked Bethel,
the sin of the Israelites.
Thorns and thistles will overgrow their altars.
Then they will say to the mountains, “Bury us!”
And to the hills, “Fall on us!”

Quoted with permission from Dorn, Louis & van Steenbergen, Gerrit. A Handbook on Hosea. (UBS Helps for Translators). Miami: UBS, 2020. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Hosea 12:13

This verse begins with the Hebrew waw conjunction (literally “And” [King James Version]), which Revised Standard Version, Good News Translation, and most other versions omit. New Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh uses the connector “But” to render it since it may introduce a contrast with the previous verse. However, since there is simply a shift in focus here, it is better left untranslated.

By a prophet the LORD brought Israel up from Egypt, and by a prophet he was preserved: This verse returns to the subject of a prophet (see verse 10). This prophet was Moses. The repetition of the phrase by a prophet emphasizes his task. The phrase is matched by the double occurrence of “for a wife” in verse 12. By and “for” render the same Hebrew preposition, which clearly reinforces the poetic rhythm. This may be difficult to maintain in translation.

In poetic fashion Hosea continues to speak of Israel as a single person, which is clear from the use of the pronoun he. As the original readers understood it, by saving all the descendants of Jacob (Israel), Jacob himself was preserved. The Hebrew verb rendered was preserved is the same one translated “herded sheep” in the previous verse. The way Jacob took care of the sheep is matched by the way the prophet Moses took care of the people when they left Egypt.

These similarities and shifts show the beauty of Hebrew poetry as it carries these words and images forward while describing the history of Jacob and his descendants. Many languages cannot maintain these images of Israel as a single man representing a group of people, so they may have to follow something similar to that done by Good News Translation. Other meaning-based translations are more explicit; for example, Contemporary English Version says “I sent the prophet Moses to lead Israel from Egypt and to keep them safe,” and Bijbel in Gewone Taal has “But the Lord was faithful to the Israelites. He sent the prophet Moses. He led the Israelites out of Egypt and protected them.” These translations maintain very little, if any, of the original poetic flavor of the text.

Brought Israel up from Egypt is literally “caused Israel to go up from Egypt.” Good News Translation uses the expression “rescue the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt,” which shows the fuller meaning and significance of this event. Up from Egypt is a common expression in the Old Testament, since Egypt was next to the Nile River and close to sea level, while Canaan was mountainous, with many people living at higher altitudes. In the opposite way, people would speak of going “down” to Egypt.

An emphasis in this section is on how God used “prophets” in the history of the people of Israel. A normal translation will also show that emphasis without the need for making it even more emphatic. But translators should also be careful not to lose that emphasis in any way.

A translation model for this verse is:

• The LORD led Israel out of Egypt through a prophet,
and through a prophet he also cared for his people.

Quoted with permission from Dorn, Louis & van Steenbergen, Gerrit. A Handbook on Hosea. (UBS Helps for Translators). Miami: UBS, 2020. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Joel 1:6

For a nation has come up against my land, powerful and without number: The connector For introduces why there is nothing to eat or drink. The Hebrew word for nation is used in a figurative sense to refer to the locusts because of their great number. However, in English the word “nation” implies people; it is not a suitable English metaphor for insects. Good News Translation has substituted another figure, saying “army of locusts.” New English Bible uses “horde.” In some languages it may be better to refer nonfiguratively to the “swarm” of locusts. A natural figurative expression for a large number of locusts will probably have more impact; for example, “cloud of locusts.”

Has come up against is a literal rendering of the Hebrew here. Armies in those days would often have to attack a city built on higher ground, and that is undoubtedly the reason for this common expression in Hebrew. There is no upward movement in this context (as in Jdg 6.3; 15.10), so a better rendering for the verb here is “has attacked” (Good News Translation) or “has invaded” (New Revised Standard Version). If the metaphor of an “army” will not work in the receptor language, the verb may have to be rendered in a more neutral way; for example, “has appeared” or “has entered.”

It is clear that my land refers to Yahweh’s land, since the prophet is speaking on behalf of Yahweh. See also “my vines” and “my fig trees” in verse 7. However, in verse 19 the prophet is clearly speaking on behalf of the people, in his role as mediator between God and the people. Because the prophet often identifies himself with his people, Good News Translation uses “our land,” which is also possible, but Revised Standard Version has the preferred meaning. The translator should be consistent in verses 6 and 7, using either “my” or “our.”

The Hebrew word for powerful also implies a great number, so it refers to the kind of strength an army or a nation has because of overwhelming numbers. Because they are so many, they have the power to defeat other armies or nations.

Without number (Good News Translation “too many to count”) is literally true of locust swarms, which may number millions and even billions.

Its teeth are lions’ teeth, and it has the fangs of a lioness: These two lines do not express two ideas but one idea repeated in poetic parallel form, first as a metaphor using the male lion, then using the female. The metaphor of lions’ teeth or fangs, applied to small insects, is one of exaggeration, a hyperbole implying that the many tiny mouths of the locusts do at least as much destruction as would lions’ mouths. Good News Translation combines the two lines into a single simile, saying “their teeth are as sharp as those of a lion,” which focuses on the sharpness of their teeth rather than their size. However, the effect is almost unchanged, since the focus is on the destructiveness of the locusts. Many translators will want to follow Good News Translation here by combining the two parallel lines and changing the metaphor into a simile. The pronouns its and it refer to the locusts collectively as a group, a nation. For naturalness in English, New English Bible uses the plural pronouns “their” and “they,” referring to the locusts as many individuals (similarly Good News Translation).

Quoted with permission from de Blois, Kees & Dorn, Louis. A Handbook on Joel. (UBS Helps for Translators). Miami: UBS, 2020. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .