almond tree - watching

The word play in the Hebrew original between “shaqed” (translated in most English versions as “almond tree”) of Jer 1:11 and “shoqed” (translated in most English versions as “watching”) in Jer 1:12 is reproduced in the German Good News translation (Die Bibel im heutigen Deutsch) of 1982 with Wacholderzweig (“juniper branch”) and wache (“watch”). Accompanying the translation is a note, indicating that the literal translation would be Mandelbaum (“almond tree”), which they point out is the first to bloom in the spring, giving the appearance not to have slept. Then they explain that just as Hebrew has a play on words between “shaqed” and “shoqed,” so also they have made a play on words between Wacholder and wachen in their translation.

Translation: German

Das Wortspiel im hebräischen Oiginal zwischen "shaqed" (zu deutsch "Mandelbaum") in Jer. 1.11 und "shoqed" (zu deutsch "sehen", "schauen") in Jer 1.12 wird von der Die Bibel im heutigen Deutsch von 1982 mit "Wacholderzweig" and "wache" nachgebildet. Die Übersetzung wird von folgender Fußnote begleitet: "Der Mandelbaum blüht im Frühjahr als erster und scheint im Winter sozusagen gar nicht 'geschlafen' zu haben." Dann wird erklärt, dass das hebräische Wortspiel dem deutschen Wortspiel zwischen "Wacholder" und "wachen" Vorbild war.

Translator: Jost Zetzsche

breaking fallow ground

The Hebrew that is translated as “break up your fallow ground” in some English versions is translated as “prepare your hard hearts like a person prepares a garden spot” in Bassa.


The Hebrew that is translated as “scarecrow” in English is translated in Bassa in Liberia as “a stick that a person decorates with clothes and sets in a farm.”

feeble, limp

The Hebrew that is translated as “limp” or “feeble” in English is translated as “their hearts beat within them” in Bassa.

Translation commentary on Jeremiah 2:4

Hear the word of the LORD is an introductory formula (parallel to “Thus says the LORD” of 2.2); its function is to direct attention to the message of the LORD which follows. Good News Translation translates “Listen to the LORD’s message.”

House of Jacob is a typical Jewish way of referring to the “descendants of Jacob” (Good News Translation, Die Bibel im heutigen Deutsch). Revised English Bible has “people of Jacob” and Traduction œcuménique de la Bible has “community of Jacob.” Luther 1984 retains “house” but in a more contemporary construction: “You of the house of Jacob.” But if translators use one of these last three models, they should be sure that readers will not mistakenly believe that Jacob was still alive at that time.

All the families of the house of Israel is parallel in meaning to house of Jacob. The major translations apparently prefer to retain both expressions, though for some languages it may be appropriate to use only one of them. Jacob and Israel are, of course, one and the same individual, the son of Isaac and Rebecca. For the account of how Jacob’s name was changed to Israel, see Gen 32.22-32. Note also Gen 49.2, where the names Jacob and Israel are used interchangeably in the giving of the patriarchal blessing.

Quoted with permission from Newman, Barclay M. and Stine, Philip C. A Handbook on Jeremiah. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2003. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Jeremiah 2:36

The circumstances described in verses 36-37 are best interpreted in light of verse 18. Rather than depending upon the LORD for its safety, Israel now attempts a political alliance with Egypt, as it once did with Assyria. But the new alliance will be no more productive than the earlier one; when the nation turns from the LORD, the end result is always shame.

Gad about (“move restlessly or aimlessly from place to place”) is accompanied by an adverb that means “very close” or “as much as possible.” But there is a question regarding the origin of the verb, whether it derives from a stem that means “go away” or “be worthless.” Hebrew Old Testament Text Project indicates that either of these alternatives may be followed. But it is not always easy to determine which solution is followed by a given translation, since several of the translations attempt to render the meaning rather than the literal form. Moreover, the problem of analyzing the various translations is further complicated by the phrase changing your way, which may be understood either of changing gods or political alliances. A sampling of translations will immediately reveal the wide range of restructurings that are possible: “You have cheapened yourself by turning to the gods of other nations” (Good News Translation); “Why do you cheapen yourself by shifting your course?” (Moffatt); “Why do you so lightly change your course?” (Revised English Bible); “How frivolously you undertake a change of course!” (New Jerusalem Bible); “Why do you so swiftly change alliance partners?” (Die Bibel im heutigen Deutsch); “Why do you so thoughtlessly run about, sometimes here sometimes there?” (Luther 1984). Translators may follow any of these interpretations.

Notice that the expression beginning How lightly is a way of emphasizing that Israel is changing (gods or alliances) quickly and too easily. Some of the models above use rhetorical questions, others statements. Translators should use whatever will most easily convey that sense in their language.

Be put to shame: See the comments at verse 26. To be put to shame by Egypt would suggest disappointment in the lack of help that Egypt would supply. New Jerusalem Bible translates “But you will be disappointed by Egypt just as you were by Assyria,” and Die Bibel im heutigen Deutsch has “Egypt can give you no more help than Assyria!”

Probably most readers will recognize that Egypt and Assyria refer to those countries or to the people there. But for some translators “Egyptians” and “Assyrians” or “land of Egypt” and “land of Assyria” will be helpful.

Quoted with permission from Newman, Barclay M. and Stine, Philip C. A Handbook on Jeremiah. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2003. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on Jeremiah 4:6

A standard can be interpreted either as a signal pole (with rags tied on it), pointing the way toward a fortified city, or else as the banner of the attacking army. As with the trumpet in verse 5, the context suggests that it has to do with pointing the way towards safety for the people who are under attack. The trumpet was a signal the people heard; the standard was one they could see. Die Bibel im heutigen Deutsch has “Put up a signpost: ‘To Zion!’ ” and Good News Translation translates “Point the way to Zion.” Revised English Bible is also good: “Raise the signal—to Zion!” Another rendering is “Raise a signal pole to point the way to Zion.”

Zion: See 3.14. Here the reference is to the city of Jerusalem.

Flee for safety, stay not: Stay not is more literally “Don’t stand.” The meaning is “Don’t delay!” (Good News Translation). Many translations follow the text and Good News Translation and have two short commands, but it is also possible to express the idea as “Run for safety without delay.”

I (emphatic in the Hebrew text) refers to the LORD, and is so identified by Good News Translation and Die Bibel im heutigen Deutsch.

Evil is first used in 1.14; although the noun may refer to any sort of wickedness or misfortune, it here describes that which is effected by an attacking army, as does the phrase great destruction. Good News Translation translates the entire construction as “disaster and great destruction.” The last two lines are rendered as follows by Die Bibel im heutigen Deutsch: “Enemies from the north! The Lord is bringing them here. Terrible destruction is on its way!”

From the north: For most languages it will be more natural to do what Good News Translation has and put this phrase at the end of the verse, after both evil and great destruction, rather than at the end of the third line.

Quoted with permission from Newman, Barclay M. and Stine, Philip C. A Handbook on Jeremiah. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2003. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .