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)


The now commonly-used English idiom “stiff-necked” (meaning haughtily or arrogantly obstinate) was first coined in 1526 in the English New Testament translation of William Tyndale (in the spelling stife necked). (Source: Crystal 2010, p. 284)

For other idioms in English that were coined by Bible translation, see here.

See also stiff-necked / uncircumcised.

Translation commentary on Exod 33:3

Go up to a land, literally “unto a land,” has no verb; the force of the verb in verse 1 carries over into this verse. New Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh, in fact, uses dashes to set off verse 2 as a parenthetical expression. Good News Translation simply has “You are going to a … land,” which is clearly implied from the context. Flowing with milk and honey is the same expression used in 3.8. (See the comment there.)

But I will not go up among you is literally “for I will not ascend in your midst.” This simply means “I will not go with you myself” (Good News Translation), or “I shall not journey in your company” (Revised English Bible). The singular form of you is used because of the following reference to people, which is singular in form.

Lest I consume you in the way is literally “otherwise I will finish you off in the way.” Consume means “exterminate” (New Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh), or “annihilate” (New Jerusalem Bible). So Good News Translation has “I might destroy you on the way.” (See the comment at 32.10.) For in the way Contemporary English Version has “before they get there,” and this will be a possible rendering in some languages. For you are a stiff-necked people is the same expression used in 32.9. (See the comment there.) The you is singular in both cases.

Quoted with permission from Osborn, Noel D. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on Exodus. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 1999. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .