land flowing with milk and honey

The phrase that is rendered in English versions as “land flowing with milk and honey” is translated into Afar as niqmatak tan baaxoy buqre kee lacah meqehiyya: “a blessed land good for fields and cattle.” (Source: Loren Bliese)

In the interconfessional Chichewa translation (publ. 1999) it is translated with the existing proverb dziko lamwanaalirenji or “a land of what (type of food) can the child cry for?” (i.e. there is more than enough to eat). (Source: Ernst Wendland in The Bible Translator 1981, p. 107)

In Kwere it is “good/fertile land.” (Pioneer Bible Translators, project-specific translation notes in Paratext)

desert, wilderness

The Greek that is translated as “desert” or “wilderness” in English is translated in a number of ways:

Note that in Luke 15:4, usually a term is used that denotes pastoral land, such as “eating/grazing-place” in Tagbanwa (source: Tagbanwa Back Translation).

See also wilderness and desolate wilderness.


The Hebrew and Greek that is translated in English as “hungry” is translated in Nyongar as koborl-wirt or “without stomach.” (Source: Warda-Kwabba Luke-Ang)


“Sheep are known throughout most of the world, even though, as in Central Africa, they are a far cry from the fleecy wool-producing animals of colder climates. Where such animals are known, even by seemingly strange names, e.g. ‘cotton deer’ (Yucateco) or ‘woolly goat’ (Inupiaq), such names should be used. In some instances, one may wish to borrow a name and use a classifier, e.g. ‘an animal called sheep’. In still other instances translators have used ‘animal which produces wool’, for though people are not acquainted with the animals they are familiar with wool.” (Source: Bratcher / Nida)

In Dëne Súline, it is usually translated as “an evil little caribou.” To avoid the negative connotation, a loan word from the neighboring South Slavey was used. (Source: NCAM, p. 70)

Note that the often-alleged Inuktitut translation of “sheep” with “seal” is an urban myth (source Nida 1947, p. 136).

See also lamb.


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) Mandarin 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)

Translation commentary on 2 Samuel 17:28 - 17:29

The subject of the sentence is still the three men mentioned in the previous verse. It may be wise to say “These men” in some languages. The list of provisions brought to David and his army includes bedding, household utensils, and numerous different food items.

Beds: this represents a singular collective noun in the Hebrew text; other textual evidence has “mattresses and coverings…,” which is apparently what Revised English Bible follows: “mattresses and blankets.” In many languages this will be best translated by using “sleeping mats” and “blankets” (Contemporary English Version). However, Critique Textuelle de l’Ancien Testament gives a {B} rating to the Masoretic Text and argues that the longer reading found in the Septuagint is a later addition to the text.

Basins: these were wide-mouthed containers probably made of wood or metal.

Earthen vessels: these were containers made of clay. The expression may be translated “earthenware” (New American Bible), “crockery” (New Jerusalem Bible), “clay pots” (Good News Translation), “pottery jars” (Contemporary English Version), or “articles of pottery” (New International Version).

Wheat: see 4.6 as well as 1 Sam 6.13; 12.17; and Ruth 2.23.

Barley: see 14.30 as well as Ruth 2.23.

Meal: as in 1 Sam 1.24 and 28.24, this refers to “flour” made by grinding wheat.

The Hebrew term for parched grain occurs twice in the Hebrew text—in the position in which it occurs in Revised Standard Version and again after lentils. This duplication is reflected in King James Version, New American Standard Bible, New Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh, and Traduction œcuménique de la Bible. But the second occurrence is omitted by the ancient Greek and Syriac versions. And it is likewise dropped from many modern translations, including Good News Translation, New Revised Standard Version, New International Version, Revised English Bible, New Jerusalem Bible, and New American Bible. Translators are advised to translate the meaning parched grain or “roasted grain” only once in this list. For the translation of this same term elsewhere in the Old Testament, compare Ruth 2.14; 1 Sam 17.17; 25.18.

Lentils: in addition to this reference, lentils are mentioned in 23.11, Gen 25.34, and Ezek 4.9. These are flat, edible seeds of a plant that is widely cultivated in the Near East. In some languages they will be considered a kind of bean. So the two items, beans and lentils, may have to be translated as “beans of different sorts.”

Curds: when milk is churned or “pressed,” it eventually separates into two parts. The more watery part is called “whey,” and the thicker, congealed lumps are called curds. Pro 30.33 indicates that “pressing milk produces curds.” This is still a part of the regular diet of people living in the Near East. The King James Version rendering “butter” is generally acknowledged to be inaccurate, as indicated by the fact that the New King James Version has “curds.” Translators may have to resort to a rather lengthy descriptive expression to translate the meaning here. Or it may be necessary to translate curds and cheese together as “different kinds of foods made from milk” or something similar. While the terms curds and cheese are separated by the word sheep in the Hebrew list, the two food items made from milk go together logically in the minds of many people. For this reason it may be better to put them together in translation even where separate terms are found. New Jerusalem Bible has “cow’s cheese and sheep cheese.” On the assumption that the Hebrew words have been copied in the wrong order, Osty-Trinquet corrects this verse to read “honey, curds, and cheese of sheep and of cattle.” It is, of course, possible that these men brought David and his men cheese made from both cow’s milk and from sheep’s milk. But there is no good reason to abandon the Masoretic Text, so translators should say “sheep” rather than “cheese from sheep.”

Cheese from the herd: the word for cheese here is not the same as in 1 Sam 17.18, but in most languages it will be impossible to distinguish the two terms. They both refer to a solid food product made by straining out the watery part and adding salt to the remaining curds. The resulting mass was then shaped into balls or disks and dried in the sun. As indicated above, curds and cheese may have to be translated together as “different foods made from milk.”

For they said …: this provides an explanation as to why the three men brought these items to David and his army. Although it is given in the form of a direct quotation, many translators may prefer to make it an indirect statement, as Good News Translation and New Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh have done. And in some cases it may be more natural to shift this explanation to the beginning of verse 28 before listing the items they brought.

The word translated people refers to David’s army. New Jerusalem Bible translates “the army,” while New Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh has “the troops.”

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 .