large numbers in Angguruk Yali

Many languages use a “body part tally system” where body parts function as numerals (see body part tally systems with a description). One such language is Angguruk Yali which uses a system that ends at the number 27. To circumvent this limitation, the Angguruk Yali translators adopted a strategy where a large number is first indicated with an approximation via the traditional system, followed by the exact number according to Arabic numerals. For example, where in 2 Samuel 6:1 it says “thirty thousand” in the English translation, the Angguruk Yali says teng-teng angge 30.000 or “so many rounds [following the body part tally system] 30,000,” likewise, in Acts 27:37 where the number “two hundred seventy-six” is used, the Angguruk Yali translation says teng-teng angge 276 or “so many rounds 276,” or in John 6:10 teng-teng angge 5.000 for “five thousand.”

This strategy is used in all the verses referenced here.

Source: Lourens de Vries in The Bible Translator 1998, p. 409ff.

See also numbers in Ngalum and numbers in Kombai.

Translation commentary on Judges 20:15

And the Benjaminites mustered out of their cities on that day twenty-six thousand men that drew the sword: The Hebrew waw conjunction rendered And introduces more information about the gathering of Benjaminite troops. Words used to describe the Benjaminites’ efforts to fight the Israelites are used later to describe the Israelites’ preparations, including mustered and men that drew the sword (see verse 20.17). The Hebrew verb rendered mustered describes the gathering and mustering of soldiers for battle. The verb form here and in verse 20.17 and verse 21.9 is an unusual reflexive form. It may be rendered “called up,” “mobilized” (New International Version), or “called out” (Good News Translation).

On that day renders a Hebrew phrase that may refer to a general time, rather than a single day, so it may be translated “at that time.” Some languages may prefer to put this phrase at the beginning of the verse (so New Jerusalem Bible).

The number twenty-six thousand poses several problems for translators. First, some ancient texts have different numbers. But Hebrew Old Testament Text Project and the vast majority of versions favor the number 26,000. Second, the numbers twenty-six thousand and seven hundred do not tally with those in verse 20.44-47. 26,700 is 1,100 more than what is mentioned there. Finally, the Hebrew word for thousand may refer to a military group rather than 1,000 soldiers (see verse 1.4). Most of these problems are not ones translators can solve, so it is better to render the text as it stands.

For men that drew the sword, see verse 20.2, where it also refers to “soldiers” (Good News Translation, Contemporary English Version).

Besides the inhabitants of Gibe-ah indicates that these 26,000 fighting men were added onto the soldiers from the town of Gibeah. For the Hebrew phrase rendered besides (literally “not including”), see verse 8.26. Here it may be translated “along with.” The word inhabitants seems to refer to everyone who lived in the town, but the following clause shows that these were the fighting men who lived in Gibeah.

Who mustered seven hundred picked men: This clause describes those the town of Gibeah mobilized for the war effort. Though New Revised Standard Version omits this clause, Hebrew Old Testament Text Project recommends keeping it with an {A} rating. The same information is repeated for emphasis in the following verse. For mustered see the comments above. The soldiers from Gibeah constitute seven hundred picked men, with 700 expressing completeness. Picked men (literally “man chosen”) is an expression that occurs only three times in this book, all in this section (verse 20.15-16, 34), referring here to the Benjaminites and in the final battle in verse 20.34 to the other Israelites. However, the Hebrew verb rendered picked (bachur) occurs twice before in reference to the Israelites choosing to worship foreign gods (verse 5.8; verse 10.14). Again there is much irony here as the community made up of men who gang-raped the Levite’s concubine suddenly produce 700 disciplined and skillful soldiers.

Translation models for this verse are:

• At that time the Benjaminites put together an army of 26,000 warriors from their various towns together with 700 special troops from Gibeah.

• At that point the Benjaminites gathered 26 units of soldiers from their towns, along with 700 specially chosen warriors from Gibeah.

Quoted with permission from Zogbo, Lynell and Ogden, Graham S. A Handbook on Judges. (UBS Helps for Translators). Miami: UBS, 2019. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .