turn aside / come in + afraid (Japanese honorifics)

Like a number of other East Asian languages, Japanese uses a complex system of honorifics, i.e. a system where a number of different levels of politeness are expressed in language via words, word forms or grammatical constructs. These can range from addressing someone or referring to someone with contempt (very informal) to expressing the highest level of reference (as used in addressing or referring to God) or any number of levels in-between.

One way to do this is through the usage (or a lack) of an honorific prefix as shown here in the widely-used Japanese Shinkaiyaku (新改訳) Bible of 2017.

The Greek that is translated as “turn aside” or “come in” in English is translated in the Shinkaiyaku Bible as o-tachi-yori (お立ち寄り), combining “stop by” (tachi-yori) with the respectful prefix o-. “Afraid” is translated as go-shinpai (ご心配), combining “worry” (shinpai) with the prefix go- (御 or ご), which can be used when the referent is God or a person or persons that is to be honored.

(Source: S. E. Doi, see also S. E. Doi in Journal of Translation, 18/2022, p. 37ff. )

formal 2nd person pronoun (Spanish)

Like many languages (but unlike Greek or Hebrew or English), Spanish uses a formal vs. informal second-person pronoun (a familiar vs. a respectful “you”). Spanish Bibles all use only the informal second-person pronoun (), with the exception of Dios Habla Hoy (third edition: 1996) which also uses the formal pronoun (usted). In the referenced verses, the formal form is used.

Sources and for more information: P. Ellingworth in The Bible Translator 2002, p. 143ff. and R. Ross in The Bible Translator 1993, p. 217ff.

See also the use of the formal vs. the informal pronoun in the Gospels in Tuvan.

master (Japanese honorifics)

Like a number of other East Asian languages, Japanese uses a complex system of honorifics, i.e. a system where a number of different levels of politeness are expressed in language via words, word forms or grammatical constructs. These can range from addressing someone or referring to someone with contempt (very informal) to expressing the highest level of reference (as used in addressing or referring to God) or any number of levels in-between.

One way to do this is through the usage of appropriate suffix title referred to as keishō (敬称) as shown here in the widely-used Japanese Shinkaiyaku (新改訳) Bible of 2017 by either using -san or –sama with the latter being the more formal title.

These titles are distinct from nominal titles such as “master.” This is evident from the forms such as go-shujin-sama (ご主人様) “master” or “lord” which is the combination of the nominal title shujin “master,” the honorific prefix go- and the suffix title –sama.

In some cases, it can also be used as go-shujin (ご主人), i.e. with the honorific prefix go- but without the suffix title –sama. You can find that in Genesis 23:6, 23:11, 23:15, 24:51, 32:18, 39:8, 39:9, 44:8, 44:9; 1 Samuel 25:17; and 2 Kings 2:16 and 4:26.

(Source: S. E. Doi, see also S. E. Doi in Journal of Translation, 18/2022, p. 37ff. )

See also lords (Japanese honorifics).

Translation commentary on Judges 4:18

This verse raises some interesting questions. It would appear that Jael knows Sisera, since she addresses him as my lord. Her warm welcome is explained by the fact that there are friendly relations between her husband Heber’s family and the king of the region (verse 4.17). This family probably asked permission before settling in the land. Some commentators wonder about the openness of this man-woman encounter, especially when it is clear that Jael is a married woman. There may be a parallel to Rahab, a prostitute who opened her home to the Israelite spies and saved their lives (verse 2.1-21), in which case some irony or satire may be intended.

And Jael came out to meet Sisera: And renders the Hebrew waw conjunction, which many versions leave untranslated. The Hebrew verb rendered came out (yatsaʾ) expresses here the idea of going out to welcome a person to one’s home. However, besides this common meaning, this verb is also used in several other contexts. It can have a military meaning, as in verse 4.14, when Deborah says, “Does not the LORD go out before you?” But it is also often associated with sad events, as when Jephthah makes his vow, saying, “whoever comes forth from the doors of my house to meet me…” (verse 11.31). Later in the book the verb plays an important role when the evil men of Gibeah try to get the Levite to come out, so that they can have sex with him (verse 19.22). Despite these links and possible connotations, translators can only render the text as it stands, for example, “Jael went out to welcome Sisera” or “Jael came out to greet Sisera” (New Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh).

And said to him: Here Jael addresses Sisera. Jael seems to have already conceived her plan.

Turn aside, my lord, turn aside to me: This repetition stresses the warmth of Jael’s welcome. There is another remarkable play on words here, since the Hebrew root for Turn aside (sur) sounds like the name Sisera. Some even suggest that the name Sisera means “the one who turns aside.” This root is repeated three times in a very short space: “she says to s-r, s-r, my lord, s-r to me.” The s sound is also often associated with mockery in the Old Testament (see Eccl 7.6), so this series of s here probably does play that role. Furthermore, the Hebrew verb for Turn aside is often used in this book in connection with intrigue and impending danger, as when Samson turns aside to see the lion carcass (verse 14.8), leading him to break his Nazirite vow. Later in the final chapters, the Levite and his concubine decide not to turn aside to go into the city of Jebusites (verse 19.12), but meet a terrible fate in another city. However, Turn aside is not very natural English, so most versions say “Come in.”

Jael is using a common title of respect when she addresses Sisera as my lord. It may mean she knows him and she may even know what rank he holds as the head of Jabin’s army. Both Good News Translation and Contemporary English Version say “sir.” Some languages may say “chief” or “boss,” while others may actually use a term similar to my lord. The Hebrew word for lord (ʾadon) links back to two other episodes, where lords or men of high status are defeated. Early on in the book, Adoni-Bezek (“lord of Bezek”) is captured and disfigured (verse 1.6), while the Moabite king’s servants discover “their lord dead on the floor” (verse 3.25). Some languages may prefer to put this vocative first in the clause by saying “My lord, please come in….”

The Hebrew expression rendered to me can also mean “with me.” Once again, the woman’s acts and language seem somewhat ambiguous. Some even see the repetitive “Come in, my lord, come in to me” as some kind of sexual enticement. However, most versions describe this scene as a woman politely receiving a guest. We could say “Sir, come into my tent [or, home]. Please come in.”

Have no fear (literally “do not fear”) is a standard address form used by God when speaking to the patriarchs (Gen 15.1; verse 26.24; verse 46.3). It is also found in the deuteronomic material (for example, Deut 1.21; verse 3.2; verse 8.1; verse 10.8) and in Isaiah (for example, verse 41.10, 13; verse 43.1, 5) in contexts in which people are assured of God’s help. It seems quite surprising for a woman to tell an army general to not be afraid! Certainly this clause is meant to make the audience laugh at the ironic situation. Translators can use a natural equivalent in their language, such as “Don’t be afraid.”

So he turned aside to her into the tent: Here the narrative “mirrors” the dialogue as Sisera turned aside. This verb is repeated here for the third time, emphasizing the fact that Sisera is indeed falling into Jael’s trap. The expression to her is also a repetition. If possible, the same wording should be used here as above, since this will show Sisera is doing exactly as Jael says. If this is not possible, we can simply say “So he went into the tent with her.”

And she covered him with a rug: Jael seems to immediately understand that Sisera is on the run and needs a place to hide. The storyteller seems to leave out a number of steps in this description, since Sisera would need to find a place to hide and lie down before she could cover him. The Hebrew word rendered rug is also difficult, since this is the only time the word occurs in the Old Testament. There were carpets or rugs on the floor of most tents, so it is probable that this is the correct rendering. However, Contemporary English Version and New Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh think she covered him with a “blanket.” Good News Translation‘s “she hid him behind a curtain” cannot be correct, and should not be followed. Certainly Sisera is lying down; otherwise, she would be unable to kill him in the way described here. The Hebrew verb rendered covered, which appears again in the next verse, is the same one used when Tamar enticed her father-in-law, Judah (Gen 38.15). But what seems in focus here is actually hiding Sisera, as Rahab hid the Israelite spies (verse 2.4). So we might say “she hid him under a cover.”

Translation examples for this verse are:

• Jael welcomed Sisera, and said to him, “Come in, sir; come into my tent. Don’t be afraid.” So he went in, laid down, and she covered him under a rug.

• Jael went out to greet Sisera. She said, “My lord, please come in, please come in! Don’t be afraid.” So Sisera went in and laid down, and she hid him with a cover.

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 .

imperatives (kudasai / Japanese honorifics)

Like a number of other East Asian languages, Japanese uses a complex system of honorifics, i.e. a system where a number of different levels of politeness are expressed in language via words, word forms or grammatical constructs. These can range from addressing someone or referring to someone with contempt (very informal) to expressing the highest level of reference (as used in addressing or referring to God) or any number of levels in-between.

One way Japanese show different degree of politeness is through the choice of an imperative construction as shown here in the widely-used Japanese Shinkaiyaku (新改訳) Bible of 2017.

In these verses, the honorific form kudasai (ください) reflects that the action is called for as a favor for the sake of the beneficiary. This polite kudasai imperative form is often translated as “please” in English. While English employs pure imperatives in most imperative constructions (“Do this!”), Japanese chooses the polite kudasai (“Do this, please.”).

(Source: S. E. Doi, see also S. E. Doi in Journal of Translation, 18/2022, p. 37ff. )