inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (1Sam. 6:9)

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, both the Jarai translation and the Adamawa Fulfulde translation use the inclusive pronoun (including the priests, diviners and Philistines).

Translation commentary on 1 Samuel 1:12

She continued praying: the word translated continued is a causative verb that means “to make many,” in the sense of doing something continually. Klein’s translation (“she multiplied her prayers”) is not good English, but it does capture the Hebrew idiom. Both Good News Translation and Bible en français courant add the words “for a long time.” Similarly Revised English Bible says “For a long time she went on praying,” and New American Bible states “she remained long at prayer.” Perhaps the context implies “for a long time,” but one may also translate the Hebrew accurately by stating simply that “she kept on praying” (New Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh, New International Version) without stating explicitly for how long. In languages that have a verb form indicating continued action, it is quite appropriate to use it here.

Before the LORD is a literal translation of the Hebrew. Hannah was of course praying to God, and many translations say “to the LORD” (Good News Translation, Contemporary English Version, New International Version, New Jerusalem Bible [“to Yahweh”]). But the Hebrew expression often means “in the sanctuary,” “at the sanctuary,” or even “before the covenant box.” Here the focus seems to be on where Hannah was praying, in the sanctuary at Shiloh where God was present, rather than on whom she was praying to.

Her mouth: Revised Standard Version translates literally. A different Hebrew word, which means “lips,” occurs in the next verse. In contemporary English, however, one would more naturally say here “watched her lips,” as in Good News Translation. In some languages it may be more natural to say simply “observed her” (Bible en français courant), without focusing on the specific part of the body involved.

Quoted with permission from Omanson, Roger L. and Ellington, John E. A Handbook on the First and Second Books of Samuel, Volume 1. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2001. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on 1 Samuel 2:19

A robe was a long outer garment.

Each year: literally “from days to day” (see the comment on this same expression in 1.3). In many languages it will be wise to shift this expression to the beginning of the sentence so that it clearly qualifies both Hannah’s making of the robe and her taking it to her son in Shiloh. Habitual verb forms should be used in languages that have them, since this activity was repeated year after year.

On the verb went up see the comments at 1.3.

The yearly sacrifice: the Hebrew does not state in this verse where Hannah and Elkanah went each year to offer the sacrifice, but this information may be made explicit, since it is given in 1.3. Compare Parola Del Signore: La Bibbia in Lingua Corrente: “when she went to Shiloh with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice.”

Quoted with permission from Omanson, Roger L. and Ellington, John E. A Handbook on the First and Second Books of Samuel, Volume 1. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2001. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on 1 Samuel 3:18

So: Samuel’s response comes as a direct result of Eli’s threat of serious punishment from God. While some versions take the Hebrew conjunction as a temporal transition, translating “Then” (Revised English Bible, New Jerusalem Bible, La Bible du Semeur), the majority understand it as a logical transition. This seems to be the correct understanding of the common Hebrew conjunction.

The expressions told him everything and hid nothing from him do not refer to two completely different things. Rather they are two ways of talking about the same event. Therefore in many languages it will be important to avoid using the conjunction and to join the two. The second element picks up the verb used by Eli in the previous verse and serves to emphasize the fact that Samuel did not conceal anything at all of God’s revelation to him.

And he said, that is, “Eli said.” The Septuagint correctly identifies the pronoun “he” as Eli to avoid possible ambiguity. For the same reason many common language translations also say “Eli said” (Good News Translation, Bible en français courant, Biblia Dios Habla Hoy).

It is the LORD: this may mean either “It is the LORD who spoke to you” or “He is the LORD” (New American Bible, New International Version). The distinction in meaning is slight but subtly different. The second interpretation is more likely.

Let him do: the form of the Hebrew verb may be understood as expressing a wish (Revised Standard Version, New Revised Standard Version) or as a statement expressing a future event (Good News Translation, New American Bible, New Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh). Either choice makes sense in the context. In any case it is certainly not a plea on the part of Eli for Samuel to allow Yahweh to act. Any translation that gives this kind of impression should definitely be avoided.

Quoted with permission from Omanson, Roger L. and Ellington, John E. A Handbook on the First and Second Books of Samuel, Volume 1. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2001. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on 1 Samuel 5:10

They sent, that is, the people of the city of Gath sent the ark.

Ekron, located about sixteen kilometers (ten miles) north of Gath, was another Philistine city, as Good News Translation makes explicit. See also the comments on Gath in verse 8.

The second sentence of this verse begins just as does the initial sentence in verse 9, with “and it happened….” However, the contrasting conjunction But may be adequate in most languages to make the transition to Ekron.

To us … to slay us and our people: literally “to me the ark of the God of Israel to kill me and my people” (so La Bible Pléiade, Osty-Trinquet). These words, spoken in the first person singular, are a direct quotation of the people of Ekron. Probably the words are intended to represent the words of each individual, as also in Josh 9.7 and 17.14, where the first person singular is usually translated with the first person plural in English. In many languages it will be more natural to use the first person plural (so Good News Translation and most translations).

Quoted with permission from Omanson, Roger L. and Ellington, John E. A Handbook on the First and Second Books of Samuel, Volume 1. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2001. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on 1 Samuel 7:11

The men of Israel in this context probably refers to the Israelite soldiers. Bible en français courant has “the army of Israel.” But some versions say simply “the Israelites” (New American Bible).

The archaic verb smote is rendered literally in modern English as “struck … down” (New Revised Standard Version), but the meaning is “killed.”

Beth-car: this is the only mention in the Old Testament of this village in the territory of Benjamin. Its exact location is unknown, but it seems to have been located somewhere between Mizpah and the territory ruled by the Philistines. This village was therefore probably located at a lower altitude than Mizpah. That the Israelite army pursued the Philistines as far as below Beth-car will therefore mean that they went as far as Beth-car and then continued downward some distance past the village. New American Bible says “down beyond Beth-car.” The difficulty is that we do not know where this city is located. If it was located at a higher altitude than Mizpah, then the Hebrew means “almost as far as Bethcar” (so Good News Translation and New Century Version). New Revised Standard Version probably presents the correct understanding: “and struck them down as far as beyond Beth-car,” implying that they reached Beth-car and continued on farther. Knox provides what may be a helpful model for some languages, “all the way to the slopes of Beth-car.” But others may say simply “until they arrived at a place near Beth-car.” Nueva Biblia Española translates the name “Casalcordero,” that is, “Lamb’s-House.”

Quoted with permission from Omanson, Roger L. and Ellington, John E. A Handbook on the First and Second Books of Samuel, Volume 1. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2001. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on 1 Samuel 9:4

Though the text does not say from where Saul and his servant set out, they probably left from Gibeah (see 11.4; 15.34).

In Revised Standard Version in this verse the first five verbs referring to Saul and the servant are plural. Good News Translation makes all six verbs plural. The Hebrew, however, is literally “he passed through … he passed through … they did not find … they passed through … he passed through … they did not find.” Receptor language considerations may determine how this problem is handled, but in many cases it will be most natural to use the plural form throughout.

The hill country of Ephraim was located in central Palestine (see 1.1). The precise locations of Shalishah, Shaalim, and Jamite (see below) are not known. Probably the reader is to understand that Saul traveled in a northwestern direction.

The land of Shalishah: probably a region in the northern part of Ephraim. It is likely that the place called “Baal-Shalishah,” mentioned in 2 Kgs 4.42, was situated in this region.

The land of Shaalim is not mentioned elsewhere in the Old Testament. It appears to be a region within the territory of Ephraim.

The land of Benjamin: literally “the land of Jamite” (or, Yamite; see verse 1). Many versions render the Hebrew place name as Benjamin, but such a translation makes little sense. If Saul started his trip in Gibeah in the territory of Benjamin and was moving northward in the hill country of Ephraim, why would he have returned south to the land of Benjamin, only to turn back north toward the land of Zuph (verse 5)? Various conjectures have been made, including “the land of Jabin” (Anchor Bible) and “the district of Jemini” (Die Bibel im heutigen Deutsch). If the name Benjamin is retained in translation, it will be more logical to say “went back through the territory of Benjamin.” It is conceivable that in looking for lost animals the search party may have followed a circular route.

Quoted with permission from Omanson, Roger L. and Ellington, John E. A Handbook on the First and Second Books of Samuel, Volume 1. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2001. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on 1 Samuel 10:13

Since the pronoun he might be interpreted as referring to the “man of the place” (verse 12), it may be wise to supply the name of Saul as the subject of the initial verb in this verse.

On the meaning and translation of prophesying in this context, see the comments on verse 5.

He came to the high place: since the next verse says that Saul’s uncle spoke to him, some interpreters think that Saul must have returned home, and that the Hebrew here must have said either that Saul “came to Gibeah” (New Jerusalem Bible and Stuttgarter Erklärungsbibel) or “came to the house [or, home]” (so New Revised Standard Version, Revised English Bible, New American Bible, and Osty-Trinquet). See the comments on verse 10 above.

Hebrew Old Testament Text Project, however, gives a {B} rating to the Masoretic Text and suggests that Saul’s uncle may have been at the high place, since people met and ate there (see 9.19). On high place see verse 5.

Quoted with permission from Omanson, Roger L. and Ellington, John E. A Handbook on the First and Second Books of Samuel, Volume 1. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2001. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .