The name that is transliterated as “Aaron” in English is translated in Catalan Sign Language and Spanish Sign Language as “stones on chest plate” (according to Exodus 28:15-30) (Source: John Elwode in The Bible Translator 2008, p. 78ff.)
“Aaron” in Spanish Sign Language (source )
“Aaron” in ASL (source )
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 If the headman failed consistently in raids, he was superceded by a better warrior.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. )
The name that is transliterated as “Moses” in English is signed in Spanish Sign Language and Polish Sign Language in accordance with the depiction of Moses in the famous statue by Michelangelo (see here ). (Source: John Elwode in The Bible Translator 2008, p. 78ff.)
“Moses” in Spanish Sign Language (source )
In French Sign Language, a similar sign is used, but it is interpreted as “radiance” (see below) and it culminates in a sign for “10,” signifying the 10 commandments:
“Moses” in French Sign Language (source )
The horns that are visible in Michelangelo’s statue are based on a passage in the Latin Vulgate translation (and many Catholic Bible translations that were translated through the 1950ies with that version as the source text). Jerome, the translator, had worked from a Hebrew text without the niqquds, the diacritical marks that signify the vowels in Hebrew and had interpreted the term קרו (k-r-n) in Exodus 34:29 as קֶ֫רֶן — keren “horned,” rather than קָרַו — karan “radiance” (describing the radiance of Moses’ head as he descends from Mount Sinai).
Even at the time of his translation, Jerome likely was not the only one making that decision as this recent article alludes to.
The king of Egypt, of course, is the Pharaoh of verse 1. Said to them clearly refers to the two men, Moses and Aaron. The Hebrew word order indicates that the king addressed them by name, and most translations include the names within the direct speech. But this is surprising and will seem unnatural in some cultures. Possibly the king was singling them out from a group of elders (3.18). Or perhaps he recognized Moses as a former Egyptian prince, and Aaron as his brother. In order to be more natural, Good News Translation has replaced to them with “to Moses and Aaron,” and Die Bibel im heutigen Deutsch removes their names entirely. Good News Translation‘s model will be the more helpful one for many translators. Where the cultural pattern is not violated, however, it is still better to include Moses and Aaron within the quotation marks and allow for various interpretations.
Why do you take the people away from their work? is probably rhetorical, for they had already explained their mission. The why may be rendered, as Good News Translation expresses it, “What do you mean by…,” or even changed to an exclamation, “How dare you…!” (Translator’s Old Testament). The people could refer to a delegation of elders accompanying the two men (3.18), but it probably means all the Israelites in general. Take the people away means “making the people neglect,” or “distracting the people” (New English Bible and others). From their work is literally “from the things they are doing.” So this sentence may be expressed as “How dare you cause the people to stop working.”
Get to your burdens is a command probably addressed to Moses and Aaron and all the Israelites (your is plural). The word for your burdens refers specifically to forced labor, in contrast with their work. Good News Translation‘s “Get those slaves back to work!” suggests that the king did not consider Moses and Aaron to be slaves (unless he was addressing the Egyptian taskmasters instead). It may be interpreted as a simple order to “Get back to work!” or “All of you, get back to work!”
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 .