locust (different kinds in Joel 1:4 and 2:25)

“In each of these verses there are no less than four different words for locust: gazam, ‘arbeh, yeleq, and chasil. Most commentators accept that this refers to locusts in four different stages of development. These would presumably be the swarming adult locust, the resident adult locust, the wingless hopper, and the crawling nymph.

“The Good News Bible rendering ‘Swarm after swarm of locusts settled on the crops; what one swarm left, the next swarm devoured’ conveys the general idea, but is technically inaccurate in that not all the Hebrew words necessarily refer to swarming locusts. A more precise translation would be:

What the swarming locusts left, the resident locusts ate;
What the resident locusts left, the young crawling locusts ate;
And what the young hopping locusts left, the young crawling locusts ate.
” (Source: Hope 2003, p. 207)

Earlier English translations have tried to translate this verse by using different species:

  • That which the palmerworm hath left, the locust hath eaten: and that which the locust hath left, the bruchus hath eaten: and that which the bruchus hath left, the mildew hath destroyed. (Douay-Rheims)
  • That which the palmerworm hath left hath the locust eaten; and that which the locust hath left hath the cankerworm eaten; and that which the cankerworm hath left hath the caterpiller eaten. (King James Version)

As Rachel Konyoro (in The Bible Translator 1985, p. 221ff. ) points out:

“It is interesting to note that most of the [East African] translations examined give specific local names for the types of stages of locusts referred to in 1:4. (…) The East African region has for many years experienced the scourge of locust devastation of crops and vegetation. The locust is therefore well known in this region and local languages obviously reflect the people’s knowledge. (…) Because locusts are so well known, verse 1:4 is indeed more dynamic in these languages than in English, and probably reflects the poetic nature of the original which English may not.”

Lingala for instance uses the different species hamhinzo, makonko, makololo, makelele for the different locusts. (Source: Maleme Taam-Ambey in The Bible Translator 1985, p. 216)

See also locust.


The Hebrew or Greek which are translated into English as “sackcloth” are rendered into Chamula Tzotzil as “sad-heart clothes.” (Source: Robert Bascom)

Pohnpeian and Chuukese translate it as “clothing-of sadness,” Eastern Highland Otomi uses “clothing that hurts,” Central Mazahua “that which is scratchy,” Tae’ and Zarma “rags” (Source: Reiling / Swellengrebel), and Tangale as “torn clothes that show contrition on the body” (source: Andy Warren-Rothlin).

“In Turkana, a woman removes her normal everyday skin clothes and ornaments and wears rather poor skins during the time of mourning. The whole custom is known as ngiboro. It is very difficult to translate putting on sackcloth because even material like sacking is unfamiliar. The Haya, on the other hand, have a mourning cloth made out of the bark of a tree; and the use of this cloth is similar to the Jewish use of sackcloth. It was found that in both the Turkana and Ruhaya common language translations, their traditional mourning ceremonies were used.” (Source: Rachel Konyoro in The Bible Translator 1985, p. 221ff. )

Click or tap here to see a short video clip showing what a sackcloth looked like in biblical times (source: Bible Lands 2012)

See also mourning clothes and you have loosed my sackcloth.


The Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek that are translated as “wine” in English is translated into Pass Valley Yali as “grape juice pressed long ago (= fermented)” or “strong water” (source: Daud Soesilo). In Guhu-Samane it is also translated as “strong water” (source: Ernest L. Richert in The Bible Translator 1965, p. 198ff. ), in Noongar as “liquor” (verbatim: “strong water”) (source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang), in Hausa as ruwan inabi or “water of grapes” (with no indication whether it’s alcoholic or not — source: Mark A. Gaddis), in sar as kasə nduú or “grape drink” (source: Andy Warren-Rothlin), or in Papantla Totonac and Coyutla Totonac as “a drink like Pulque” (for “Pulque,” see here ) (source: Jacob Loewen in The Bible Translator 1971, p. 169ff. ).

In Swahili, Bible translations try to avoid local words for alcoholic drinks, because “drinking of any alcohol at all was one of the sins most denounced by early missionaries. Hence translators are uncomfortable by the occurrences of wine in the Bible. Some of the established churches which use wine prefer to see church wine as holy, and would not refer to it by the local names used for alcoholic drinks. Instead church wine is often referred to by terms borrowed from other languages, divai (from German, der Wein) or vini/mvinyo (from ltalian/Latin vino/vinum). Several translations done by Protestants have adapted the Swahili divai for ‘wine,’ while those done by Catholics use vini or mvinyo.” (Source: Rachel Konyoro in The Bible Translator 1985, p. 221ff. )

The Swahili divai was in turn borrowed by Sabaot and was turned into tifaayiik and is used as such in the Bible. Kupsabiny, on the other hand, borrowed mvinyo from Swahili and turned it into Finyonik. (Source: Iver Larsen)

In Nyamwezi, two terms are used. Malwa ga muzabibu is a kind of alcohol that people specifically use to get drunk (such as in Genesis 9:21) and ki’neneko is used for a wine made from grapes (source: Pioneer Bible Translators, project-specific translation notes in Paratext).

In some Hindi translations (such as the Common Language version, publ. 2015 ), one term (dākharasa दाखरस — grape juice) is used when that particular drink is in the focus (such as in John 2) and another term (madirā मदिरा — “alcohol” or “liquor”) when drunkenness is in the focus (such as in Eph. 5:18).

In Mandarin Chinese, the generic term jiǔ (酒) or “alcohol(ic drink)” is typically used. Exceptions are Leviticus 10:9, Numbers 6:3, Deuteronomy 29:6, Judges 13:4 et al., 1 Samuel 1:15, and Luke 1:15 where a differentiation between weak and strong alcohol is needed. The Mandarin Chinese Union Version (2010) translates that as qīngjiǔ lièjiǔ (清酒烈酒) and dànjiǔ lièjiǔ (淡酒烈酒), both in the form of a Chinese proverb and meaning “light alcohol and strong drink.” (Source: Zetzsche)

Click or tap here to see a short video clip about wine in biblical times (source: Bible Lands 2012)

See also proceeds from the vine / anything that comes from the grapevine, wine (Japanese honorifics), and wine (Gen 27:28).