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:

(Click or tap here to see details)

  • 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. )

Translation commentary on 2 Samuel 5:6

Many versions begin a new section here, dividing verses 1-16 into two separate sections at this point (New International Version, New Jerusalem Bible, New American Bible, Traduction œcuménique de la Bible, Bible en français courant, Die Bibel im heutigen Deutsch, and Biblia Dios Habla Hoy). If translators decide to add a section heading here, it should probably say something like “David captures Jerusalem.”

The king: it may be important to repeat the name here in order to make it clear which king is being talked about. There are, in fact, some manuscripts which have the name “David” here. But in some languages this may be quite clear without repeating the name, which is unquestionably mentioned in verse 3.

Went to Jerusalem: while the verb used here is the general term for “go,” the context makes it clear that this was not a neighborly visit. It was rather a military attack. The verb used in translation should probably make this clear. Revised English Bible has “went to Jerusalem to attack….”

The Jebusites were among the descendants of Canaan (Gen 10.16) who were not expelled during the Israelite conquest of the land of Canaan. They are particularly associated with the city of Jerusalem (Josh 15.63). Jerusalem is, in fact, identified with “Jebus” in three different passages (Josh 15.8; 18.28; and Judges 19.10). The Hebrew noun translated land sometimes refers to the whole of the earth and sometimes to a specific territory or region (compare 1 Sam 27.8). Here the reference is clearly to the region around Jerusalem. Bible en français courant and Parola Del Signore: La Bibbia in Lingua Corrente say “The Jebusites, who lived in this region” (New American Bible and New Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh are similar). New International Version “who lived there” is less exact.

Said: in view of the circumstances it may more natural in some languages to use a verb like “yelled” or “shouted.”

The blind and the lame will ward you off: this statement serves to reinforce the stated belief that it would be impossible for David’s army to capture the city. The verb tense, will, in Revised Standard Version should probably be understood in the sense of “could,” rather than an indication that only these handicapped people would actually be defending Jerusalem. A slightly different interpretation is that the inhabitants of Jerusalem could fight off David and his men even if the inhabitants were blind and lame. Contemporary English Version, for example, says “We could run you off, even if we couldn’t see or walk.” Some interpreters, however, take these words as a declaration by the Jebusites of their intention to fight to the last man. Anchor Bible, on the other hand, translates parenthetically “For the blind and the lame had incited them, saying, ‘David shall not come in here’ ” (so also Fox). This translation takes into account new information provided by the Dead Sea Scrolls, in which the verb “incited” (hesit) is read instead of “removed” or “ward off” (hesir).

Thinking: the thoughts of the Jebusites, on which their actual words to David and his men are based, are presented after the statement itself. But in many cases it will be considered more natural to introduce this before the quotation You will not come in here.

The structure of this verse in Hebrew, as reflected in Revised Standard Version, is complex and is composed of a single sentence made up of three main elements: (1) a statement about what David and his army did, (2) a statement about what the Jebusites said, and (3) a statement about what the Jebusites thought. It may be better to make three separate sentences in the receptor language. And in many cases the third element will be more naturally placed before the second, as in Good News Translation.

A possible model for the whole verse is the following:

• One day King David and his army went to attack the city of Jerusalem. The Jebusites, who lived there, thought that David and his men could not defeat them. So they shouted to David, “You will never be able to get in our city. Even the blind and crippled people could keep you from coming in.”

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 .