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)

Translation commentary on 2 Samuel 5:8

The note in Good News Translation states that the Hebrew of this verse in unclear. The exact meanings of the verb and noun translated let … get up and the water shaft in Revised Standard Version are uncertain. Also there is a textual problem as to whether David is the subject or the object of the word hated. Each of these difficulties will be discussed below. The other major difficulty is that something seems to be missing from the verse. A rather literal translation of the Hebrew reads “Whoever would smite the Jebusites, let him go up the water shaft the lame and the blind….” Revised Standard Version supplies the verb “to attack.” New Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh supplies a verb within brackets: “Those who attack the Jebusites shall reach the water channel and [strike down] the lame and the blind….” Other translations place three dots in the text to indicate that the text is missing something (so New Jerusalem Bible, Nueva Biblia Española, Osty-Trinquet, and Anderson).

It would be misleading to translate the conjunction and at the beginning of this verse, since David’s statement is not in addition to what was said in the previous verse. Note that New Revised Standard Version and most other modern versions omit it.

David said: in many languages it will be necessary to indicate to whom the following quotation was addressed. The translation may be “said to his soldiers” or “instructed his army.”

On that day: New Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh has “on that occasion,” and Anchor Bible says “at that time.” It is not essential that the word day be translated literally.

Whoever: this should not be taken in the most general sense of anyone at all, but rather of anyone among David’s soldiers. It has been rendered “Those who…” by New Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh and “All who…” by New American Bible.

Get up the water shaft: this Revised Standard Version rendering represents the traditional understanding of a difficult Hebrew term found only here and in Psa 42.7, where it is translated “cataracts” (Revised Standard Version/New Revised Standard Version) or “waterfalls” (New International Version). The verb rendered get up means “to touch” or “to reach,” and its translation depends on how the following noun is translated. The Hebrew noun has been understood in four different ways: (1) some kind of water-passage such as a water shaft or water canal; (2) weapons of attack, such as scaling hooks or grappling irons; (3) some part of the city defense system such as a fortress; and (4) some part of the body such as the throat or the male sex organ.

Anchor Bible, for example, maintains that the original meaning of the word was “throat,” “gullet,” or “windpipe.” So the whole phrase is translated “whoever smites a Jebusite, let him strike at the windpipe” (so also Fox). And New English Bible speaks of attacking “with the grappling iron.” It is noteworthy, however, that Revised English Bible comes back to the idea of the “water-shaft.” Recent geological and philological evidence supports the meaning “water-shaft,” and since the majority of modern versions accept this meaning, it is probably better to adopt the same in the receptor language.

This could not have referred to the narrow tunnel cut through nearly solid rock during the reign of Hezekiah in the seventh century B.C. (see 2 Kgs 20.20; 2 Chr 32.30), since this did not exist at the time of David’s capture of Jerusalem. Recent geological studies have shown, however, that Hezekiah’s tunnel did follow a natural crack, or opening, that existed in the underground rocks long before the time of Hezekiah.

Many scholars have identified the water shaft in question as the one discovered by Sir Charles Warren in 1867. There is some question as to whether the Warren’s Shaft system was used as a water supply system at the time of David, but recent studies suggest that the system existed then and that it was probably wide enough for someone to pass through. (Gill, page 24, provides an illustration.) Probably Joab entered through Gihon Spring and worked his way up through Warren’s Shaft into the city (Kleven describes how this may have been accomplished).

To attack the lame and the blind: New International Version puts the words “lame and blind” in single quotes, perhaps indicating that they were not really handicapped. And New Century Version does likewise. It is interesting to note that the Chronicler does not mention the lame and blind people in the parallel account.

Hated by David’s soul: this brief expression contains a number of translation problems. Since it is a part of a direct quotation from the mouth of David, the third person reference will have to be changed to a first person pronoun in most languages. Also the word soul often stands for the personal pronoun in Hebrew. In this case it seems to make the pronoun more emphatic. Finally the passive formulation will have to be made active in many languages, so that the whole expression may read something like “whom I detest” or “because I despise them.”

In addition to the translation problems, if one follows the text found in Revised Standard Version, there is a textual problem. The margin of the Masoretic Text has a passive form of the participle hated, which requires David’s soul as the subject and the lame and the blind as the object. That is, the lame and the blind are hated by David. Similarly a manuscript from Qumran has “the soul [of David]” as the subject of the verb “hate.” But the Masoretic Text reads “those hating David’s soul,” with the lame and the blind as the subject. Critique Textuelle de l’Ancien Testament gives a {B} rating to the Masoretic Text and suggests that pious scribes changed the text so that it would not be said that someone hated King David.

Translators are urged to follow the recommendation of Critique Textuelle de l’Ancien Testament, even though most translations follow the marginal reading of the Masoretic Text. The following translation expresses the sense: “… let him get up the water shaft to attack the lame and the blind, those who hate David” (so La Bible Pléiade). New American Bible speaks of “… the personal enemies of David.” And New Revised Standard Version follows this reading in a footnote that states “Another reading is those who hate David.

It is said: this passive expression will have to be reworded actively in many languages. Translators may prefer to say “there is a saying” or, as in New Century Version, “people say….” This saying is probably an allusion to Lev 21.17-23.

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 .