The Hebrew, Latin and Greek that is translated into English as “chariot” is translated into Anuak as “canoe pulled by horse.” “Canoe” is the general term for “vehicle” (source: Loren Bliese). In Eastern Highland Otomi it’s translated as “cart pulled by horses” (source: Larson 1998, p. 98)
In Chichicapan Zapotec it is translated as “ox cart” (in Acts 8). Ox carts are common vehicles for travel. (Source: Loren Bliese)
In Chichimeca-Jonaz, it is translated as “little house with two feet pulled by two horses” (source: Viola Waterhouse in Notes on Translation August 1966, p. 86ff.) and in the HausaCommon Language Ajami Bible as keken-doki or “cart of donkey” (source: Andy Warren-Rothlin)
It is illustrated for use in Bible translations in East Africa by Pioneer Bible Translators like this:
Image owned by PBT and Jonathan McDaniel and licensed with the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
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:
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 If the headman failed consistently in raids, he was superceded by a better warrior.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.”
Many languages use a “body part tally system” where body parts function as numerals (see body part tally systems with a description). One such language is Angguruk Yali which uses a system that ends at the number 27. To circumvent this limitation, the Angguruk Yali translators adopted a strategy where a large number is first indicated with an approximation via the traditional system, followed by the exact number according to Arabic numerals. For example, where in 2 Samuel 6:1 it says “thirty thousand” in the English translation, the Angguruk Yali says teng-teng angge 30.000 or “so many rounds [following the body part tally system] 30,000,” likewise, in Acts 27:37 where the number “two hundred seventy-six” is used, the Angguruk Yali translation says teng-teng angge 276 or “so many rounds 276,” or in John 6:10 teng-teng angge 5.000 for “five thousand.”
This strategy is used in all the verses referenced here.
The transition word For at the beginning of this verse reflects the Hebrew word that usually introduces causal clauses. It has been translated “In fact” by New Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh and “So” in New Revised Standard Version, but several English versions leave it untranslated (Good News Translation, Revised English Bible, New American Bible, New Jerusalem Bible). Here this Hebrew word is best understood as emphatic, as in New Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh. The same word is repeated later in the verse to introduce the reason for the diminished army of Israel. It was because of the action of the king of Syria that their numbers had been reduced. As noted above, verse 7 takes up the story from verse 5.
There was not left to Jehoahaz an army of more than …: This rather awkward construction should probably not be imitated in many other languages since they may have very different ways of expressing this idea. An alternative structure for the verse as a whole is given below. In some languages it may be necessary to make explicit the fact that the LORD was behind the destruction of the forces of Israel. There was not left is literally “he did not leave,” and Revised English Bible takes this to mean “Hazael had left Jehoahaz no armed force except….” But continuing from verse 3, the sense is more likely that “God did not leave Jehoahaz an army of more than….” New Jerusalem Bible, for example, says “Of Jehoahaz’s army Yahweh left only….” Osty-Trinquet places “Yahweh” in parentheses as the subject (similarly Nouvelle version Segond révisée).
As frequently in 1-2 Samuel and 1–2 Kings, the Hebrew word translated army is literally “people.” The context, however, requires the more specific meaning here.
The significance of only ten chariots becomes clear when the reader understands that earlier in the ninth century B.C., Israel’s army had contained many more chariots. In 853 B.C. when Ahab was king of Israel, the Assyrian king, Shalmaneser III, attacked Syria (an event not mentioned in the Old Testament but known from Assyrian records). Other smaller states, including Israel, joined together with Syria to fight against the Assyrian army. Israel alone contributed 2,000 war chariots in the battle fought at the city of Qarqar.
Made them like the dust at threshing: The king of Syria caused the army of Israel to be like dust or chaff which workers trample under foot when grain is being threshed. In many languages it will be wise to state clearly in what way the Israelites were like dust: their enemies walked over them.
A possible restructuring of this verse as a whole might look something like the following:
• Yahweh allowed Jehoahaz to keep only fifty horsemen, ten chariots, and ten thousand foot soldiers. That is all he had left of his great army because the king of Syria had destroyed all the rest; he walked on them like people walk on dirt.
Quoted with permission from Omanson, Roger L. and Ellington, John E. A Handbook on 1-2 Kings, Volume 2. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2008. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .