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 20:44

In verse 20.25 the Benjaminites kill 18,000 of their brothers from the other tribes. Here, revenge is carried out as the Israelites kill 18,000 Benjaminites.

Eighteen thousand men of Benjamin fell is literally “And they fell from Benjamin 18,000 man.” While Revised Standard Version and most other versions omit the Hebrew waw conjunction at the beginning of this verse, some languages will have a transition word to introduce this kind of summary statement. For eighteen thousand, see verse 20.25. Fell renders an important Hebrew verb (nafal) used throughout this book to describe the defeat and death of the enemies of Israel (see comments on verse 5.27). But this time, it is not the enemies who are described as “fallen,” but rather soldiers of the “children of Israel.” This is the height of drama and irony. If at all possible, this figurative language should be kept, to preserve the important link back to the judges’ accounts. We might say “So [that day] 18,000 soldiers of Benjamin fell in battle.” If using the verb fell is not possible, it would be good to use strong language—not a general verb such as “died,” but a stronger expression such as “lost their lives,” “were slaughtered,” or “were massacred.”

All of them men of valor is literally “all these [were] men of might.” This description adds to the sadness. All of them refers to the Benjaminite men who died. In verse 3.29 the Hebrew phrase for men of valor is rendered “able-bodied men,” but here the emphasis is on their bravery or courage. The tribe of Benjamin had decided to fight for its honor, even if the reasons were not justified. They showed great courage and military skill, and the loss of these men constitutes, despite the circumstances, a loss for all of Israel. We might say “all or them valiant fighters” (New International Version) or “all of them brave men” (New Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh). Some languages may prefer to render this phrase as an independent sentence by saying “And all of these were courageous men.”

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 .