The name that is transliterated as “David” in English is translated in Spanish Sign Language with the sign signifying a sling and king (referring to 1 Samuel 17:49 and 2 Samuel 5:4). (Source: John Elwode in The Bible Translator 2008, p. 78ff.)

“David” in Spanish Sign Language (source )

In German Sign Language it is only the sling. (See here ).

“David” in German Sign Language (source )

The (Protestant) Chinese transliteration of “David” is 大卫 (衛) / Dàwèi which carries an additional meaning of “Great Protector.”

Click or tap here to see a short video clip about David (source: Bible Lands 2012)


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. )

large numbers in Angguruk Yali

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.

Source: Lourens de Vries in The Bible Translator 1998, p. 409ff.

See also numbers in Ngalum and numbers in Kombai.

Translation commentary on 2 Samuel 10:6

Four Syrian cities located to the north and east of Palestine are mentioned in this verse. Beth-rehob was located north of Mount Hermon, and Zobah (see 8.3) was north of Bethrehob. Tob was located about 20 kilometers (12 miles) east of Ramoth-gilead in the region of Gilead. Maacah was a small Syrian kingdom east of the Jordan River and south of Mount Hermon. The translations in both Revised Standard Version and Good News Translation may incorrectly suggest that only the soldiers from Bethrehob and Zobah were Syrians. Some translators may wish to indicate in a footnote or possibly in translation that all four of the geographical names (Maacah and Tob as well as the first two) refer to places in Syria.

Saw: this is not to be taken literally as referring to physical seeing, but rather that they became aware of something. A number of English versions in addition to Good News Translation use the verb “realized” (New Jerusalem Bible, New Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh, New International Version). New American Bible says “in view of the offense they had given to David….”

Become odious: the root of the word translated odious has to do with emitting an unpleasant aroma or smelling bad. New International Version reflects this by translating “had become a stench in David’s nostrils.” But here the expression is used figuratively for being offensive. As in 1 Sam 13.4, New Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh translates “incurred the wrath of.”

The structure of this verse has been slightly modified by Good News Translation to make it flow more naturally in English. Also, while the noun the Ammonites is found twice in the base text, the second occurrence will be better translated by the third person plural pronoun in many languages. The double occurrence of Syrians may also be reduced in the receptor language for the sake of naturalness.

Sent and hired: New Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh supplies what seems to be missing in this expression, “sent agents and hired….” Something similar to this will have to be done in many other languages.

Syrians: reference is made to the Syrians thirteen times in this chapter. Many English versions prefer the transliterated name “Aramean” (New Revised Standard Version, New International Version, New American Bible, New Century Version). See the comments at 8.5 and 6.

With a thousand men: this is omitted by Anderson, but this omission is not justified on the grounds of the textual evidence, according to most textual experts.

Men of Tob: literally “a man of Tob.” In the Dead Sea Scrolls and the ancient Greek translation, the words translated men of Tob are taken as a name “Ishtob” or “Istob” (Knox). But most modern versions adopt the same idea as found in Revised Standard Version and Good News Translation, understanding this to refer to the place mentioned in Judges 11.3-5.

In some translations it may be helpful to use a special format for this verse in order to make the meaning clear. The following is suggested:

• The Ammonites came to know that they had made David very angry, so they prepared for war by hiring the following groups of soldiers.

Quoted with permission from Omanson, Roger L. and Ellington, John E. A Handbook on the First and Second Books of Samuel, Volume 2. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2001. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .