The name that is transliterated as “Jerusalem” in English is signed in French Sign Language with a sign that depicts worshiping at the Western Wall in Jerusalem:

“Jerusalem” in French Sign Language (source: La Bible en langue des signes française )

While a similar sign is also used in British Sign Language, another, more neutral sign that combines the sign “J” and the signs for “place” is used as well. (Source: Anna Smith)

“Jerusalem” in British Sign Language (source: Christian BSL, used with permission)

Learn more on Bible Odyssey: Jerusalem .


Some languages do not have a concept of kingship and therefore no immediate equivalent for the Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Latin that is translated as “king” in English. Here are some (back-) translations:

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  • Piro: “a great one”
  • Highland Totonac: “the big boss”
  • Huichol: “the one who commanded” (source for this and above: Bratcher / Nida)
  • Ekari: “the one who holds the country” (source: Reiling / Swellengrebel)
  • Una: weik sienyi: “big headman” (source: Kroneman 2004, p. 407)
  • Pass Valley Yali: “Big Man” (source: Daud Soesilo)
  • Ninia Yali: “big brother with the uplifted name” (source: Daud Soesilio in Noss 2007, p. 175)
  • Nyamwezi: mutemi: generic word for ruler, by specifying the city or nation it becomes clear what kind of ruler (source: Pioneer Bible Translators, project-specific translation notes in Paratext)
  • Ghomála’: Fo (“The word Fo refers to the paramount ruler in the kingdoms of West Cameroon. He holds administrative, political, and religious power over his own people, who are divided into two categories: princes (descendants of royalty) and servants (everyone else).” (Source: Michel Kenmogne in Theologizing in Context: An Example from the Study of a Ghomala’ Christian Hymn))

Faye Edgerton retells how the term in Navajo was determined:

“[This term was] easily expressed in the language of Biblical culture, which had kings and noblemen with their brilliant trappings and their position of honor and praise. But leadership among the Navajos is not accompanied by any such titles or distinctions of dress. Those most respected, especially in earlier days, were their headmen, who were the leaders in raids, and the shaman, who was able to serve the people by appealing for them to the gods, or by exorcising evil spirits. Neither of these made any outward show. Neither held his position by political intrigue or heredity. If the headman failed consistently in raids, he was superceded by a better warrior. If the shaman failed many times in his healing ceremonies, it was considered that he was making mistakes in the chants, or had lost favor with the gods, and another was sought. The term Navajos use for headman is derived from a verb meaning ‘to move the head from side to side as in making an oration.’ The headman must be a good orator, able to move the people to go to war, or to follow him in any important decision. This word is naat’áanii which now means ‘one who rules or bosses.’ It is employed now for a foreman or boss of any kind of labor, as well as for the chairman of the tribal council. So in order to show that the king is not just a common boss but the highest ruler, the word ‘aláahgo, which expresses the superlative degree, was put before naat’áanii, and so ‘aláahgo naat’áanii ‘anyone-more-than-being around-he-moves-his-head-the-one-who’ means ‘the highest ruler.’ Naat’áanii was used for governor as the context usually shows that the person was a ruler of a country or associated with kings.”

(Source: Faye Edgerton in The Bible Translator 1962, p. 25ff. )

See also king (Japanese honorifics).

Honorary are / rare constructs denoting God (“is/be present”)

Like a number of other East Asian languages, Japanese uses a complex system of honorifics, i.e. a system where a number of different levels of politeness are expressed in language via words, word forms or grammatical constructs. These can range from addressing someone or referring to someone with contempt (very informal) to expressing the highest level of reference (as used in addressing or referring to God) or any number of levels in-between.

One way Japanese show different degree of politeness is through the usage of an honorific construction where the morphemes rare (られ) or are (され) are affixed on the verb as shown here in the widely-used Japanese Shinkaiyaku (新改訳) Bible of 2017. This is particularly done with verbs that have God as the agent to show a deep sense of reverence. Here, o-rare-ru (おられる) or “is/be present” is used.

(Source: S. E. Doi, see also S. E. Doi in Journal of Translation, 18/2022, p. 37ff. )

Translation commentary on 1 Kings 12:28

The form of the Hebrew verb rendered took counsel sometimes means “to take counsel together [with someone else]” as, for example, in verse 6. Assuming that the verb has the same meaning here, International Children’s Bible says “asked his men for advice.” New Living Translation has “on the advice of his counselors,” and Contemporary English Version says “asked for advice.” In this occurrence, however, it could well mean “to take counsel with oneself.” This is the basis for the Good News Translation translation “thinking it over.”

The calves of gold are elsewhere called “molten images” (1 Kgs 14.9; 2 Kgs 17.16), which suggests that they were made by pouring liquid metal into molds. Some scholars, however, think that they were most likely wooden statues covered with gold leaf. The function of these calves is also debated. Some scholars think that the statues were originally considered to be pedestals on which God stood invisibly, similar to the way that the storm god Hadad is shown as standing on the back of a bull in several ancient Near Eastern images. Other scholars think that the calves themselves were understood to be gods or symbols of gods that were to be worshiped. Whatever Jeroboam’s intention may have been, the writer of 1–2 Kings certainly considered these calves to be divine images (1 Kgs 14.9; 2 Kgs 17.16). Since the Hebrew word for calves is masculine, Good News Translation translates “bull-calves.” In languages that have different terms for the two sexes of young cattle, the masculine form should be used here.

He said to the people is literally “he said to them,” which means of course that the king spoke to the people and not to the golden calves. The Septuagint and the Vulgate read “to the people,” which correctly expresses the meaning. Good News Translation again makes clear that the reference is to the people of the northern kingdom by saying “said to his people.”

You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough: The people had been going to Jerusalem to the Temple there to offer sacrifices. The reason for going to Jerusalem may be made explicit. Compare “You no longer need to go to the Temple in Jerusalem” (Die Bibel im heutigen Deutsch), “You have been going long enough to Jerusalem to worship” (Good News Translation), and “Enough of these pilgrimages to Jerusalem!” (La Bible du Semeur).

Behold your gods: This is very similar to the words of Aaron in Exo 32.4. Here the Hebrew word rendered Behold is the same focusing particle thus translated in other contexts. In this context, however, it is better translated “Look at,” “See” or “Here are…” (New Revised Standard Version and many others), since Jeroboam is presenting the newly made gods to the people. The translation gods (in plural form) is not universally accepted since the same word is elsewhere translated as a singular. Here New American Bible and New Jerusalem Bible translate using the singular as follows: “Here is your God.” Bible en français courant is similar and New Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh uses the word “god” in singular form but without a capital letter. But since the following Hebrew verb rendered brought … up is plural, the plural gods is probably the intended meaning here.

O Israel: The interjection O is an addition of Revised Standard Version. It is used in archaic English to capture the attention of a person or persons being addressed directly. In many languages different devices are used to perform the same function. Some will say “you Israelites” and others simply “people of Israel.” This element may also take a different position in the sentence in some languages—often at the very beginning.

Who brought you up out of the land of Egypt: While Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the tablets with the commandments, Aaron made a gold bull-calf, which the people worshiped, calling it the god who had led them out of Egypt (Exo 32.4). In this common Old Testament expression, brought you up out has the same meaning as “brought you out” (Deut 8.14). Here the reference to upward movement probably suggests going from the lowlands of Egypt to the highlands of Israel.

Quoted with permission from Omanson, Roger L. and Ellington, John E. A Handbook on 1-2 Kings, Volume 1. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2008. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .