The Hebrew and Greek that is translated as “concubine” in English is translated in Kutu as “slave made to be his woman” or “female slave he married.”
Similarly, in Kwere it is translated as “slaves who were like wives.” The translation team explained: “We discussed how concubines are different from prostitutes (there is a word for that) in that they have a similar status to wives (they live with the man often and are provided for physically) and so we decided not to use the word for prostitute which is a loose woman or someone engaging in sexual immorality. But since concubines were an accepted part of the society and culture, this would give wrong meaning.” (Source: Pioneer Bible Translators, project-specific translation notes in Paratext)
The Hebrew that is transliterated as “Reuben” in English is translated in Spanish Sign Language with the sign for “head” or “leader” referring to the position he had among his brothers as the firstborn. (Source: Steve Parkhurst)
The Hebrew, Latin, and Greek that is transliterated as “Jacob” in English is translated in Spanish Sign Language with a sign that signifies “lentil,” referring to the soup he gave his brother in exchange for his birthright (see Genesis 25:34). Note that another Spanish Sign Language sign for Jacob also users the sign for Jewish. (Source: Steve Parkhurst)
Following are a number of back-translations as well as a sample translation for translators of Genesis 35:22:
Newari: “While Jacob was living there Reuben slept with Bilhah, his father’s concubine [lit.: his illegitimate wife]. Jacob learned about this.” (Source: Newari Back Translation)
Hiligaynon: “While Jacob was- still -staying there, Reuben had-sex-together/committed-fornication-together with Bilha [linker] one of the wives of his father. When Jacob found- that -out he (was) very angry. Jacob had twelve sons.” (Source: Hiligaynon Back Translation)
English: “While they were living in that area, Jacob’s son Reuben had sex with Bilhah, one of his father’s concubines/female slaves whom he had taken as a secondary wife. Someone told Jacob about it, and it made him very angry. I will now give you/Here is a list of Jacob’s twelve sons.” (Source: Translation for Translators)
While Israel dwelt in that land: Israel is again used for Jacob. From chapter 37 onward Jacob will always be called Israel. Since Migdal-eder is not known, it is not possible to say what that land means. We must be satisfied to speak generally of “that region, area, place.”
Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine: Reuben is Jacob’s firstborn son. Lay with means he had sexual relations with her. The verb is the same as that used in 19.33. See also 34.2 for Shechem’s lying with Dinah. There is no suggestion, however, that Reuben forced Bilhah. For concubine see 22.24.
And Israel heard of it: heard of it means he found out about it. Note that Revised Standard Version and Good News Translation differ here. Good News Translation‘s footnote explains that “one ancient translation has ‘and was furious.’ ” The reference here is to the Septuagint. Some modern versions prefer the addition of the Septuagint, and others keep the Hebrew text, as in Revised Standard Version. This is, however, one of the few places in Genesis that Hebrew Old Testament Text Project departs from the Hebrew text and suggests as a translation “And Israel heard of it, and it was offensive to him.”
Although nothing more is said here about Reuben’s sexual misconduct, we will discover in 49.3-4 that Reuben loses his rights as the firstborn son because of it.
Verse 22b introduces Jacob’s twelve sons. All except Benjamin were listed in their order of birth in chapters 29 and 30.
Now the sons of Jacob were twelve: this introductory statement may be placed in a new paragraph, as in both Revised Standard Version and Good News Translation. This is the first time in Genesis that Jacob’s sons are said to be twelve. The list is probably given at this point in the text because the birth of the twelfth son, Benjamin, has been recorded in verse 18. Dinah is not included in the list.
Quoted with permission from Reyburn, William D. and Fry, Euan McG. A Handbook on Genesis. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 1997. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .