inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (2Kings 18:26)

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, the Jarai and the Adamawa Fulfulde translation both use the exclusive pronoun, excluding the Rabshakeh. The Adamawa Fulfulde translation also uses the inclusive pronoun, including everyone.

Judah, Judea

The name that is transliterated as “Judah” or “Judea” in English (referring to the son of Jacob, the tribe, and the territory) is translated in Spanish Sign Language as “lion” (referring to Genesis 49:9 and Revelation 5:5). This sign for lion is reserved for regions and kingdoms. (Source: John Elwode in The Bible Translator 2008, p. 78ff. and Steve Parkhurst)


“Judah” and “Judea” in Spanish Sign Language, source: Sociedad Bíblica de España

See also Judah.

formal 2nd person pronoun (Spanish)

Like many languages (but unlike Greek or Hebrew or English), Spanish uses a formal vs. informal second-person pronoun (a familiar vs. a respectful “you”). Spanish Bibles all use only the informal second-person pronoun (), with the exception of Dios Habla Hoy (third edition: 1996) which also uses the formal pronoun (usted). In the referenced verses, the formal form is used.

Sources and for more information: P. Ellingworth in The Bible Translator 2002, p. 143ff. and R. Ross in The Bible Translator 1993, p. 217ff.

See also the use of the formal vs. the informal pronoun in the Gospels in Tuvan.

Translation commentary on 2 Kings 18:26

New Jerusalem Bible omits the words the son of Hilkiah for textual reasons, considering them to be a scribal addition since the parallel text in Isa 36.11 does not have them. But Good News Translation omits them for reasons of style since this information has already been given in verse 18.

The Rabshakeh: See the comments at verse 17.

Pray renders the Hebrew particle of entreaty, which occurs also in verses 19 and 23. This particle shows politeness and may be rendered by the equivalent of “please” (Contemporary English Version) in certain languages.

Speak to your servants: The three officials of Hezekiah show their submission to the Assyrian official by referring to themselves in the third person. But since this is unnatural in many languages, their submission may be shown in other ways. The use of a word like “sir” (Good News Translation, Contemporary English Version) may be a good way to do this, beginning the quotation as follows: “Sir, please speak to us….”

The comment of the three men focuses on the difference between Aramaic, a West Semitic dialect related to Hebrew and which was the language of diplomacy at that time, and the language of Judah, which was Hebrew. However, the expression the language of Judah may suggest a Judean dialect of Hebrew since Hebrew is elsewhere referred to as “the language of Canaan” (Isa 19.18). In this passage a number of modern versions have translated “Hebrew” (Good News Translation, New International Version, New Century Version, Revised English Bible, Bible en français courant, La Bible du Semeur, Contemporary English Version) instead of the language of Judah. The three men ask that the communication take place in Aramaic in order to prevent Judean observers from understanding the meaning of what was being said.

Within the hearing of the people who are on the wall is literally “in the ears of….” Others translate “in the presence of…” (Nouvelle Bible Segond) or “because all the people on the city walls can hear us” (Parole de Vie).

The people who are on the wall would have been bystanders standing or sitting on the wall around the city of Jerusalem (see the comments on 1 Kgs 3.1). In some languages the idea of people up on a wall might be so distracting to the main point of the story that it would be better to translate simply “observers,” “onlookers” or “spectators,” rather than focusing undue attention on the fact that they happened to be on the city wall.

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 .

imperatives (kudasai / Japanese honorifics)

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 choice of an imperative construction as shown here in the widely-used Japanese Shinkaiyaku (新改訳) Bible of 2017.

In these verses, the honorific form kudasai (ください) reflects that the action is called for as a favor for the sake of the beneficiary. This polite kudasai imperative form is often translated as “please” in English. While English employs pure imperatives in most imperative constructions (“Do this!”), Japanese chooses the polite kudasai (“Do this, please.”).

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