Joab the son of Zeruiah

The Hebrew that is translated as “Joab (also: Abishai) the son of Zeruiah” in English presented a problem in Mano (Mann). “In a patriarchal society like Mano, Zeruiah is assumed to be the father of Joab. Since we know that she was his mother (see 2Sam 17:25), we expressed this phrase as ‘Joab whose mother was Zeruiah.'”

In Batak Karo Zeruiah has to be identified as a woman. M.K. Sembiring (in The Bible Translator 1991, p. 217ff.) explains: “Unlike the Hebrew language, nouns in Batak Karo have no gender. The literal translation of the biblical names therefore does not indicate whether they are female or male names. Names are generally understood as male names when they occur in expressions like ‘the son of…’ or ‘the daughter of…,’ because in the Karo culture, if ever the names of the parents are mentioned, it is usually the name of the father that is used in identifying the children. For example, 1 Sam 26:6 says, ‘Then David said to Ahimelech the Hittite, and to Joab’s brother Abishai the son of Zeruiah,’Who will go down with me into the camp to Saul?” In Hebrew, Zeruiah will be recognized as a female name because of its ending, but in Karo the name will be considered as a male name for the reason given above. It is necessary then to identify Zeruiah as a female name by saying that Zeruiah was the mother of Joab and Abishai. The translation of the first part of that verse into Batak Karo is as follows,’Then David said to Ahimelech the Hittite, and to Joab’s brother Abishai (the mother of these two is Zeruiah)…'”


The Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek that are typically translated as “priest” in English (itself deriving from Latin “presbyter” — “elder”) is often translated with a consideration of existing religious traditions. (Click or tap for details)

Bratcher / Nida (1961) say this:

“However, rather than borrow local names for priests, some of which have unwanted connotations, a number of translations have employed descriptive phrases based on certain functions: (1) those describing a ceremonial activity: Pamona uses tadu, the priestess who recites the litanies in which she describes her journey to the upper or under-world to fetch life-spirit for sick people, animals or plants; Batak Toba uses the Arabic malim, ‘Muslim religious teacher;’ ‘one who presents man’s sacrifice to God’ (Bambara, Eastern Maninkakan), ‘one who presents sacrifices’ (Baoulé, Navajo), ‘one who takes the name of the sacrifice’ (Kpelle), and ‘to make a sacrifice go out’ (Hausa); (2) those describing an intermediary function: ‘one who speaks to God’ (Shipibo-Conibo) and ‘spokesman of the people before God’ (Tabasco Chontal).”

In Obolo it is translated as ogwu ngwugwa or “the one who offers sacrifice” (source: Enene Enene), in Mairasi as agam aevar nevwerai: “religious leader” (source: Enggavoter 2004), in Ignaciano as “blesser, one who does ritual as a practice” (using a generic term rather than the otherwise common Spanish loan word sacerdote) (source: Willis Ott in Notes on Translation 88/1982, p. 18ff.), and in Nyongar as yakin-kooranyi or “holy worker” (source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang).

For Guhu-Samane, Ernest Richert (in The Bible Translator, 1965, p. 81ff.) reports this:

“The [local] cult of Poro used to be an all-encompassing religious system that essentially governed all areas of life. (…) For ‘priest’ the term ‘poro father’ would at first seem to be a natural choice. However, several priests of the old cult are still living. Although they no longer function primarily as priests of the old system they still have a substantial influence on the community, and there would be more than a chance that the unqualified term would (in some contexts particularly) be equated with the priest of the poro cult. We learned, then, that the poro fathers would sometimes be called ‘knife men’ in relation to their sacrificial work. The panel was pleased to apply this term to the Jewish priest, and the Christian community has adopted it fully. [Mark 1:44, for instance, now] reads: ‘You must definitely not tell any man of this. But you go show your body to the knife man and do what Moses said about a sacrifice concerning your being healed, and the cause (base of this) will be apparent.'”

For a revision of the 1968 version of the Bible in Khmer Joseph Hong (in: The Bible Translator 1996, 233ff.) talks about a change in wording for this term:

​​Bau cha r (បូជា‌ចារ្យ) — The use of this new construction meaning “priest” is maintained to translate the Greek word hiereus. The term “mean sang (មាន សង្ឃ)” used in the old version actually means a “Buddhist monk,” and is felt to be theologically misleading. The Khmer considers the Buddhist monk as a “paddy field of merits,” a reserve of merits to be shared with other people. So a Khmer reader would find unthinkable that the mean sang in the Bible killed animals, the gravest sin for a Buddhist; and what a scandal it would be to say that a mean sang was married, had children, and drank wine.