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 9:49

The long noun phrases every one of the people and all the people of the Tower of Shechem mark the end of this short episode.

So every one of the people cut down his bundle: So is a good rendering of the Hebrew waw conjunction here, since it introduces the consequence of Abimelech’s order. This clause reads literally “And they cut off also all of the people [each] man a branch.” Revised Standard Version and most other versions omit the word “also,” but it should be kept if possible, since “also all” forms an inclusio around this verse. For example, New Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh says “So each of the troops also lopped off a bough.” Every one of the people again ironically refers to the troops or men who were with Abimelech. There is emphasis here in Hebrew on the fact that everyone did as he was told, so we might say “each one of his men” or simply “each one.” For cut down his bundle, see verse 9.48.

And following Abimelech is literally “and they went after Abimelech,” meaning either Abimelech’s men followed him down the mountain, or they did as he did in the text that follows. Good News Translation, Contemporary English Version, and New Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh think his men marched down the mountain behind him, while Revised Standard Version, New Revised Standard Version, and Revised English Bible think they followed his example by propping the branches against the temple stronghold in Shechem. Translators will have to decide which interpretation to follow here. However, we note there is a considerable gap in the event line, so having the men come down the mountain behind Abimelech seems more natural here.

Put it against the stronghold is literally “and they put against the stronghold.” The pronoun “they” refers to Abimelech’s men. But it is clear they are watching him and doing what he does. So it may be a better to say “Then Abimelech and his men put….” Once again the Hebrew word for put is a prominent feature of the Abimelech story (see verse 9.48, where it is rendered “laid”). Here it may be rendered “piled” (Good News Translation, Contemporary English Version), “propped,” or “leaned.” The pronoun it is not in the Hebrew text, but Revised Standard Version supplies it for naturalness. A better pronoun here is “them” (New International Version), since multiple branches are in view. Contemporary English Version says “the branches.” For the stronghold, see verse 9.46. The text does not say what the stronghold itself was made of. If it was built out of rock or stone, it would be hard to burn, so it is possible that it was made out of wood and brick. If it was a stone structure, then the branches would have probably been set at the door (compare verse 9.52).

And they set the stronghold on fire over them: The pronoun they refers to Abimelech and his men. Set … on fire is an expression that should be easy to translate. However, it is difficult to understand exactly what happened here. If the stronghold was made out of wood, then the men would have set fire to the branches leaning against it, and the building itself would have eventually caught fire and burned. However, the Hebrew preposition rendered over causes a problem here. This preposition can also mean “against,” as in against the stronghold. If the leaders of the tower were hiding in a tunnel or crypt below the temple, then the fire could have been set over them. Then presumably they would have died from the heat and smoke, or they could have actually burned to death as that bottom structure caught fire and burned. New International Version takes this approach by saying “and set it [the stronghold] on fire over the people inside.” Good News Translation takes a more general approach with “They set it [the stronghold] on fire, with the people inside.”

So that all the people of the Tower of Shechem also died, about a thousand men and women: This verse ends on a sad and solemn note in Hebrew, which is literally “and they too died, all the men of the Tower of Shechem, around 1,000, man and woman.” If possible, translators should try to imitate this tone. So that renders the Hebrew waw conjunction. It is probably better to find a connector in the target language which is used to signal the end of an episode, such as “Thus” (New Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh) or “And so.” The Hebrew word rendered people is not the word used throughout this passage, which normally refers to the people of Israel. Here the term is ʾish, the generic word for “man,” which forms an inclusio around this verse. The final phrase of this verse makes it clear that these people were both male and female. For the Tower of Shechem, see verse 9.46. All the people of the Tower of Shechem may be translated “all the people who had gathered in the Tower of Shechem,” “all the people who were in the fort at Shechem,” or “all the people who lived in Migdal-Shechem.” Also died means that the people in the Tower of Shechem also died like the rest of the people of Shechem.

About a thousand men and women died in the fire. In the book of Judges round and sometimes symbolic numbers are often cited, especially the numbers one, seventy, and ten thousand. Most languages will have an expression for a thousand.

A translation model for this verse is:

• So each man also cut off a branch and followed Abimelech down the mountain. Each one laid his branch against the temple stronghold. Then they set fire to it with the people inside. So everyone inside the fort of Shechem also died. Around a thousand people died that day, both men and women.

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 .