inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Lam. 3:40)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). (Click or tap here to see more details)

The inclusive “we” specifically includes the addressee (“you and I and possibly others”), while the exclusive “we” specifically excludes the addressee (“he/she/they and I, but not you”). This grammatical distinction is called “clusivity.” While Semitic languages such as Hebrew or most Indo-European languages such as Greek or English do not make that distinction, translators of languages with that distinction have to make a choice every time they encounter “we” or a form thereof (in English: “we,” “our,” or “us”).

For this verse, the Jarai and the Adamawa Fulfulde translation both use the inclusive pronoun, including everyone.

acrostic in Lamentations 3

The Hebrew text of Lamentations 1-4 uses acrostics, a literary form in which each verse is started with one of the successive 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. According to Brenda Boerger (in Open Theology 2016, p. 179ff. ) there are three different reasons for acrostics in the Hebrew text: “for ease of memorization,” the representation “of the full breadth and depth of a topic, all the way from aleph to taw (tav),” and the perception of “the acrostic form as aesthetically attractive.” (p. 191)

While most translations mention the existence of an acrostic in a note or a comment, few implement it in their translation. One such exception is the Danish Bibelen på Hverdagsdansk (publ. 1985, rev. 2015 et al.).

Click or tap here for Lamentations 3 in Danish

1 Afstraffelsen var hård, hans vrede imod mig stor.
2 „Af sted med dig!” sagde han, og førte mig ind i det dybeste mørke.
3 Angrebene haglede ned over mig, jeg oplevede hans straf dagen lang.
4 Bedøvet ligger jeg med knuste knogler, min hud er flået i laser.
5 Bitterhed og smerte er blevet min lod, han omringede mig og angreb fra alle sider.
6 Bunden er nået, dødens mørke omslutter mig, som om jeg allerede lå i graven.
7 Det føles, som om jeg er låst inde og lagt i lænker, jeg er ude af stand til at slippe fri.
8 Desperat råber jeg om hjælp, men han har besluttet ikke at høre mine bønner.
9 Der er ingen vej ud af mit fængsel, for enhver flugtvej er spærret af forhindringer.
10 En løve lå på lur efter mig, en vild bjørn overfaldt mig.
11 Enden var nær, for han trak af med mig og begyndte at flå mig i småstykker.
12 Eller han var som en bueskytte, der brugte mig som skydeskive.
13 Forfærdet så jeg hans pile komme flyvende og bore sig ind i mit hjerte.
14 Folk lo blot ad mig, de sang spotteviser dagen lang.
15 Frygteligt var det at drikke et bæger så fuldt af sorg og smerte.
16 Gruset fyldte min mund, da han trykkede mig ned i jorden.
17 Glemt er den glæde, jeg havde engang, og fred hører fortiden til.
18 Grænsen for min udholdenhed er nået, jeg har mistet håbet om, at Herren vil redde mig.
19 Hjemløs og ulykkelig ligger jeg her, jeg kan ikke holde ud at tænke på min smerte.
20 Hver gang jeg tænker over det, bliver jeg dybt deprimeret.
21 Håbet er dog ikke helt udslukt, for én ting holder jeg fast ved:
22 Herrens trofasthed er stor, hans barmhjertighed er ikke brugt op.
23 Hans trofasthed er stor, hans nåde er ny hver morgen.
24 „Herren er min Gud,” siger jeg, „derfor vil jeg sætte min lid til ham.”
25 Ingen, der søger Herren, bliver skuffet, han hjælper dem, der håber på hans svar.
26 Imødese hans svar med tålmodighed, for før eller siden vil han gribe ind.
27 I ungdommen må man lære at bære sit åg.
28 Ja, når Herren lægger sit åg på mig, må jeg acceptere det i stilhed.
29 Jeg vil bøje mig for ham i ydmyghed, for der er stadig håb om redning.
30 Jeg vil vende den anden kind til og tage imod alle fjendens fornærmelser.
31 Lidelsen varer ikke ved, for Herren forkaster os ikke for evigt.
32 Leder han os ind i sorg og smerte, viser han os bagefter nåde og barmhjertighed.
33 Lad ingen tro, at han glæder sig over at straffe vores ulydighed.
34 Mon Herren ikke ser, når et land mishandler sine fanger?
35 Mon Herren ikke ser, når nogen dømmes uretfærdigt?
36 Mon Herren ikke ser, når et menneske fratages sine rettigheder?
37 Nogle tror, at de handler i egen kraft, men Herren står bag det.
38 Når vi oplever velsignelse eller bliver straffet, kommer begge dele fra Herren.
39 Nu kan vi lige så godt se i øjnene, at vi straffes for vore egne synder.
40 Oprigtig selverkendelse er nødvendig, lad os erkende vores synd og bede om nåde.
41 Og lad os så løfte vore hjerter og hænder og råbe til Gud i Himlen.
42 Oprørskhed førte os ud i store synder, som Herren var nødt til at straffe.
43 På grund af vore synder blev du vred på os, du ramte os hårdt uden skånsel.
44 Påkaldte vi dig i vore bønner, var det, som om du gemte dig bag en sky.
45 Provokationen fra folkeslagene var ikke til at bære, de så på os som det værste skidt.
46 Ringeagt og trusler var alt, hvad vi mødte fra alle vore fjender omkring os.
47 Rædsel og angst fyldte vore hjerter, for hele vores verden blev lagt i ruiner.
48 Reaktionen på mit folks ødelæggelse kunne ikke blive andet end en strøm af tårer.
49 Strømmen af tårer, der flyder fra mine øjne, er ikke til at standse.
50 Se i nåde til os, Herre, for kun du kan redde os.
51 Synet af Jerusalems befolkning er en stadig smerte i min sjæl.
52 Tænk på, hvordan fjenderne overfaldt mig, selv om jeg ikke havde gjort dem noget.
53 Triumferende smed de mig i et dybt hul og overdængede mig med sten.
54 Til sidst troede jeg, at alt var forbi, og jeg sagde: „Det er ude med mig!”
55 Uden noget af mit eget tilbage råbte jeg til dig, Herre.
56 Udmattet og ussel skreg jeg om hjælp, og du hørte mine tryglende bønner.
57 Uden at tøve kom du mig til hjælp og trøstede mig med et: „Vær ikke bange!”
58 Ved at høre min bøn, Herre, har du reddet mit liv.
59 Vær min dommer, Herre, og døm mine fjender for deres ondskab imod mig.
60 Vend dig mod mine fjender, alle dem, der vendte sig mod mig.
61 Øgenavne brugte de imod mig, Herre, du kender deres ondskabsfulde tanker.
62 De håner mig dagen lang og lægger hele tiden nye planer imod mig.
63 Hør, hvor de håner mig. Fra morgen til aften er jeg skydeskive for deres spot.
64 Åh, Herre, de fortjener, at du straffer dem for alt det onde, de har gjort.
65 Gør dem ude af sig selv af rædsel, udøs din forbandelse over dem.
66 Forfølg dem i din vrede og udslet dem. Udryd dem fra jordens overflade.

Copyright © 1985, 1992, 2005, 2013, 2015 by Biblica, Inc.®

The English Bible translation by Ronald Knox (publ. 1950) maintains most Hebrew acrostics (even though Knox’s translation itself is based on the Latin text of the Vulgate rather than the Hebrew):

1 Ah, what straits have I not known, under the avenging rod!
2 Asked I for light, into deeper shadow the Lord’s guidance led me;
3 Always upon me, none other, falls endlessly the blow.
4 Broken this frame, under the wrinkled skin, the sunk flesh.
5 Bitterness of despair fills my prospect, walled in on every side;
6 Buried in darkness, and, like the dead, interminably.
7 Closely he fences me in, beyond hope of rescue; loads me with fetters.
8 Cry out for mercy as I will, prayer of mine wins no audience;
9 Climb these smooth walls I may not; every way of escape he has undone.
10 Deep ambushed he lies, as lurking bear or lion from the covert;
11 Drawn aside from my path, I fall a lonely prey to his ravening.
12 Dread archer, of me he makes a target for all his arrows;
13 Each shaft of his quiver at my vitals taught to strike home!
14 Evermore for me the taunts of my neighbours, their songs of derision.
15 Entertainment of bitter herbs he gives me, and of wormwood my fill,
16 Files all my teeth with hard gravel-stones, bids me feed on ashes.
17 Far away is my old contentment, happier days forgotten;
18 Farewell, my hopes of long continuance, my patient trust in the Lord!
19 Guilt and suffering, gall and wormwood, keep all this well in memory.
20 God knows it shall be remembered, and with sinking of the heart;
21 Gage there can be none other of remaining confidence.
22 His be the thanks if we are not extinguished; his mercies never weary;
23 Hope comes with each dawn; art thou not faithful, Lord, to thy promise?
24 Heart whispers, The Lord is my portion; I will trust him yet.
25 In him be thy trust, for him thy heart’s longing, gracious thou shalt find him;
26 If deliverance thou wouldst have from the Lord, in silence await it.
27 It is well thou shouldst learn to bear the yoke, now in thy youth,
28 Just burden, in solitude and silence justly borne.
29 Joy may yet be thine, for mouth that kisses the dust,
30 Jeering of the multitude, and cheek buffeted in scorn, bravely endured.
31 Know for certain, the Lord has not finally abandoned thee;
32 Kind welcome the outcast shall have, from one so rich in kindness.
33 Kin of Adam he will not crush or cast away wantonly;
34 Let there be oppression of the poor under duress,
35 Law’s right denied, such as the most High grants to all men,
36 Lying perversion of justice, then he cannot overlook it.
37 Man may foretell; only the Lord brings his word to pass;
38 Mingled good and evil proceed both from the will of the most High;
39 Mortal is none may repine; let each his own sins remember.
40 Narrowly our path scan we, and to the Lord return;
41 Never hand or heart but must point heavenward this day!
42 Nothing but defiant transgression on our part; and shouldst thou relent?
43 Over our heads thy angry vengeance lowered; smiting, thou wouldst not spare.
44 Oh, barrier of cloud, our prayers had no strength to pierce!
45 Offscouring and refuse of mankind thou hast made us,
46 Put to shame by the mocking grimaces of our enemies.
47 Prophets we had, but their word was peril and pitfall, and ruin at the last.
48 Poor Sion, for thy calamity these cheeks are furrowed with tears;
49 Quell if thou wouldst the restless fever of my weeping,
50 Quickly, Lord, look down from heaven and pay heed to us,
51 Quite forspent, eye and soul, with grief Jerusalem’s daughters bear.
52 Relentless as hawk in air they pursued me, enemies unprovoked,
53 Reft me of life itself, sealed with a stone my prison door.
54 Round my head the waters closed, and I had given myself up for lost,
55 Save for one hope; to thee, Lord, I cried from the pit’s depth,
56 Sure of thy audience; wouldst thou turn a deaf ear to sighs of complaint?
57 Summoned, thou didst come to my side, whispering, Do not be afraid.
58 Thine, Lord, to take my part; thine to rescue me from death;
59 The malice of my enemies to discover, my wrongs to redress.
60 Thrust away from thy sight, the grudge they bear me, the ill they purpose,
61 Unheard by thee their taunts, their whispered plottings?
62 Uttered aloud or in secret, their malice assails me from morn till night;
63 Up in arms, or met in secret conclave, ever against me they raise the battle-song.
64 Visit them with the punishment their ill deeds have earned;
65 Veiled be those blind hearts with fresh blindness of thy own making;
66 Vanish from the earth their whole brood, ere thy vengeance leaves off pursuing them! (Source )

Spanish has a different tradition of acrostics. It uses non-alphabetic acrostics where the first letters of each line (or verse) together form a word or phrase. In the Traducción en lenguaje actual (publ. 2002, 2004), the translators used the first letters of this chapter of Lamentation to spell out “YO SOY EL SIERVO SUFRIENTE” (“I am the Suffering Servant”) as a reference to the “Suffering Servant” passage in Isaiah 53 (for more on the translation process of this, see Alfredo Tepox in The Bible Translator 2004, p. 233ff.).

Click or tap here for Lamentations 3 in the Traducción en lenguaje actual

1 Yo soy el que ha sufrido
el duro castigo de Dios.
2 Él me forzó a caminar
por los caminos más oscuros;
3 no hay un solo momento
en que no me castigue.

4-6 Oscura tumba es mi vida;
¡es como si ya estuviera muerto!
Dios me rodeó por completo
de la miseria más terrible.
Me dejó sin fuerzas;
¡no tengo un solo hueso sano!

7-9 Se niega Dios a escucharme,
aunque siempre le pido ayuda.
A cada paso me pone tropiezos
y me hace perder el camino.
Me tiene preso y encadenado.
¡No puedo escaparme de él!

10-12 Objeto soy de sus ataques;
¡soy el blanco de sus flechas!
Como animal feroz me vigila,
esperando el momento de atacarme.
¡Me obliga a apartarme del camino
para que no pueda defenderme!

13-15 Ya me partió el corazón
con sus terribles flechas.
Dios ha llenado mi vida
de tristeza y amargura.
Todo el día y a todas horas,
la gente se burla de mí.

16 Estoy completamente derrotado,
porque Dios me hizo caer.
17 Ya no tengo tranquilidad;
la felicidad es solo un recuerdo.
18 Me parece que de Dios
ya no puedo esperar nada.

19 Los más tristes recuerdos
me llenan de amargura.
20 Siempre los tengo presentes,
y eso me quita el ánimo.
21 Pero también me acuerdo
de algo que me da esperanza:

22 Sé que no hemos sido destruidos
porque Dios nos tiene compasión.
23 Sé que cada mañana se renuevan
su gran amor y su fidelidad.
24 Por eso digo que en él confío;
¡Dios es todo para mí!

25 Invito a todos a confiar en Dios
porque él es bondadoso.
26 Es bueno esperar con paciencia
que Dios venga a salvarnos,
27 y aprender desde nuestra juventud
que debemos soportar el sufrimiento.

28 Es conveniente callar
cuando Dios así lo ordena.
29-30 Y olvidar la venganza
cuando alguien nos golpea.
Debemos esperar con paciencia
que Dios venga a ayudarnos.

31 Realmente Dios nos ha rechazado,
pero no lo hará para siempre.
32-33 Nos hace sufrir y nos aflige,
pero no porque le guste hacerlo.
Nos hiere, pero nos tiene compasión,
porque su amor es muy grande.

34-36 Violar los derechos humanos
es algo que Dios no soporta.
Maltratar a los prisioneros
o no darles un juicio justo,
es algo que Dios no aprueba.

37 ¡Oye bien esto: Nada puedes hacer
sin que Dios te lo ordene!
38 ¡Todo lo bueno y lo malo
pasa porque él así lo ordena!
39 ¡No tenemos razón para quejarnos
si nos castiga por nuestros pecados!

40-42 Si pecamos contra Dios,
y él no quiere perdonarnos,
pensemos en qué lo hemos ofendido.
Dirijamos al Dios del cielo
nuestras oraciones más sinceras,
y corrijamos nuestra conducta.

43-44 Una nube envuelve a Dios;
no le deja escuchar nuestra oración.
Lleno de enojo, Dios nos persigue;
nos destruye sin ninguna compasión.
45 Nos ha expuesto ante las naciones
como si fuéramos lo peor.

46 Fuimos la burla del enemigo.
47 Sufrimos en carne propia
los horrores de la destrucción.
48 Cuando vi destruida mi ciudad
no pude contener las lágrimas.

49-51 Realmente me duele ver sufrir
a las mujeres de Jerusalén.
Se me llenan de lágrimas los ojos,
pero no hay quien me consuele.
¡Espero que desde el cielo
Dios nos mire y nos tenga compasión!

52-53 ¡Intentaron matarme,
y no sé por qué razón!
Mis enemigos me atraparon,
me encerraron en un pozo.
54 Estuve a punto de ahogarme;
¡creí que había llegado mi fin!

55 En la profundidad de ese pozo
te pedí ayuda, Dios mío,
56 y tú atendiste mis ruegos;
¡escuchaste mi oración!
57 Te llamé, y viniste a mí;
me dijiste que no tuviera miedo.

58 No me negaste tu ayuda,
sino que me salvaste la vida.
59 Dios mío, ¡ayúdame!
Mira el mal que me causaron,
60 mira el mal que piensan hacerme,
¡quieren vengarse de mí!

61 Tú sabes cómo me ofenden;
tú sabes que me hacen daño.
62 Tú bien sabes que mis enemigos
siempre hacen planes contra mí.
63 ¡Míralos! No importa lo que hagan,
siempre están burlándose de mí.

64-66 ¡Espero que los castigues
con toda tu furia!
¡Bórralos de este mundo!
Mi Dios, ¡dales su merecido
por todo lo que han hecho!
¡Maldícelos y hazlos sufrir!

Traducción en lenguaje actual ® © Sociedades Bíblicas Unidas, 2002, 2004.

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Lam. 3:40)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). (Click or tap here to see more details)

The inclusive “we” specifically includes the addressee (“you and I and possibly others”), while the exclusive “we” specifically excludes the addressee (“he/she/they and I, but not you”). This grammatical distinction is called “clusivity.” While Semitic languages such as Hebrew or most Indo-European languages such as Greek or English do not make that distinction, translators of languages with that distinction have to make a choice every time they encounter “we” or a form thereof (in English: “we,” “our,” or “us”).

For this verse, the Jarai translation and the Adamawa Fulfulde translation use the inclusive form, “meaning that they refer to the speaker and those around him, that is, the people of Jerusalem.”

tetragrammaton, YHWH

The translation of the tetragrammaton (YHWH or יהוה‎) is easily the most often discussed issue in Bible translation. This is exemplified by the fact that there is virtually no translation of the Bible — regardless of language — where the position of the respective translator or translation team on how to translate the name of God into the respective language is not clearly stated in the preface or introduction.

Click or tap here to read about the different ways the tetragrammaton is and has been translated

The literature on this topic is overwhelming, both as far as the meaning of YHWH and the translation of it by itself and in combination with other terms (including Elohim and Adonai). There is no reason or room to rehash those discussions. Aside from various insightful translations of YHWH into various languages (see below), what’s of interest in the context of this tool are official and semi-official statements regarding the translation by Bible translation agencies and churches. These include the 1992 statement by United Bible Societies’ “Names of God” Study Group (see The Bible Translator 1992, p. 403-407 ) or the “Letter to the Bishops’ Conference on ‘The Name of God'” by the Congregatio de Cultu Divino et Discriplina Sacramentorum of 2008 (see here et al.).

In summary, the UBS study group gives six different options on how to translate YHWH: 1) transliterate (some form of “Yahweh” or “Jehovah” if this is an already established term); 2) translate (along the lines of kurios — κύριος in the Septuagint); 3) translate the meaning of YHWH; 4) use a culture-specific name; 5) translate Elohim and YHWH in the same way; or 6) use a combination of any of these options.

The official Catholic directive states that for liturgical purposes YHWH is to be translated as an equivalent of Kurios (“Lord”) unless when appearing in combination with Elohim (“God”) or Adonai (“lord”), in which case it’s to be translated with “God.”

In the following collection of examples, any of the above-mentioned strategies are used.

Use of Typographical Means to Offset the Name of God

A large number of Bible translations in many Western European languages have used a similar strategy to translate YHWH as an equivalent of Kurios or Adonai (“lord” in Greek in Hebrew) but have used either small caps or all caps to denote these occurrences as an equivalent to a proper name. Here are some examples:

  • English: Lord
  • Danish: Herren (In recent editions: Herren and Gud (“God”))
  • Swedish: Herren (traditionally: YHWH Herren and Elohim Herren)
  • French: SEIGNEUR (in the Traduction œcuménique de la Bible)
  • German: Herr or Herr (see also the translation by Buber/Rosenzweig below)
  • Dutch: HERE
  • Portuguese: Senhor
  • Welsh: ARGLWYDD
  • Spanish: Señor

None of the European languages have found a “cultural-linguistic equivalent” with the possible exception of Eternal or l’Éternel (see below).

The rendering of the translation of YHWH in bold (and uppercase) characters is for instance used in Guhu-Samane: QOBEROBA (a term of address for a respected person and also connotes “forever”) (for “forever”, see below under Translations of the Name of God) and the upper-casing in Bible translations in several other languages in Papua New Guinea:

  • Bola: BAKOVI DAGI (“BIG MAN”)
  • Sinaugoro: VEREGAUKA (“BIG ONE”)
  • Kamano: RA ANUMAZA (“BIG STRONG”)
  • Dedua: KEBU (“LORD”)
  • Nukna: TÁWI (“BIG ONE”)
  • Gizrra: LOD (“LORD”)
  • Ubir: BADA (“BIG MAN/CHIEF”)
  • Mailu: GUBINA (“MASTER”) (Source: Phil King in The Bible Translator 2014, p. 194ff.)

In Cebuano (Ang Pulong sa Dios edition, 2010) and Hiligaynon (all versions), Ginoo, a typographical variant of Ginoo (“Lord”) is used. Bible translation consultant Kermit Titrud (SIL): “‘Yahweh’ is too close to Yahwa, their word for ‘Satan.’ We were afraid that in the pulpits readers might misread ‘Yahweh’ and say ‘Yahwa.’ So we went with the tradition found in most English translations. Ginoo for ‘Yahweh’ and Ginoo for ‘adonai.'”

In languages where capitalization is not a typographical option, other options are available and used, such as in Japanese, where the generic term shu for “Lord” is bolded in some translations to offset its meaning (Source: Omanson, p. 17).

A graphical way of representation beyond typography was used by André Chouraqui in his French La Bible hebraique et le Nouveau Testament (publ. 1974-1977) for which he superimposed adonai and Elohim over (the French rendition) of the tetragrammaton:

(Source: Andy Warren-Rothlin in Noss / Houser, p. 618ff.; see also tempt God / put God to the test)

Translations of the Name of God

A translation of YHWH with a rendering of the meaning of “Eternal” was done in English by James Moffatt (between 1926 and 1935) with Eternal, The Voice translation with Eternal One (2012), in French versions as L’ÉTERNEL by J. F. Ostervald in 1904 or l’Éternel by L. Segond (1910-1938, not in more recent revisions) and Zadoc Kahn (1964) (for the French translation, see also LORD of hosts), or in Obolo as Okumugwem: “The Ever-Living” (source: Enene Enene). In francophone Africa, translations of l’Éternel are widely used, due to the wide use of Segond’s early editions (see above). Examples include Nancere (Nandjéré) with Kumuekerteri, Ngambay (Ngambaï) with Njesigənea̰, Sar with Kɔ́ɔ̄ɓē, Mbay (Mbaï) with Bïraþe, Kim with Bage ɗiŋnedin, or Lélé uses Gojɛnɛkirɛkindiy (verbatim: “who remains for his eyes”). (Source: Andy Warren-Rothlin)

Similarly and at the same time expanding its meaning, the Nzima translation of 1998 translated YHWH as Ɛdεnkεma, the “Eternal All-Powerful Creator and Sustainer” (Source: David Ekem, The Bible Translator 2005, p. 72).

“Creator” is also used in Kazakh (Zharatkhan [Жаратқан]), Karakalpak (Zharatkhan [Жаратқан], sometimes in combination with Iyeg [Ийег] — “Master”), and Kirghiz (Zharatkhan [Жаратқан], likewise in combination with “Master” or Ege [Эге]). (Source: David Gray).

Nepali, Bengali, and Hindi are all derived from Sanskrit and have (eventually) all found similar translations of YHWH. In Bengali “God” is translated as Ishwar (ঈশ্বর) (widely used in Hindu scriptures, where it’s used as a title, usually associated with “Siva”) and YHWH as Shodaphrobhu (সদাপ্রভু) — “Eternal Lord”; in Nepali YHWH is translated as Paramaprabhu (परमप्रभु)– “Supreme Lord”; and Hindi translates YHWH as Phrabu (प्रभु) — “Lord.” In earlier translations all three languages used transliterations of Jehovah or Yahweh. (Source: B. Rai in The Bible Translator 1992, p. 443ff. and Barrick, p. 124).

  • The influential German Jewish translation of Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig (between 1925 and 1961) translates YHWH in Exodus 3:15 with “Ich bin da” (“I exist” or “I am”) and in all other instances with pronouns in small caps (Er, Ihm, Ihn, Ich — “he,” “him,” “his,” “I”).
  • The Jewish orthodox English ArtScroll Tanakh translation (publ. 2011) uses Hashem or “The Name”
  • In the Bavarian translation by Sturmibund (publ. 1998), it is translated as Trechtein or “Sovereign, Lord.” “Trechtein” is related to the obsolete English “drighten.” (Source: Zetzsche)
  • In Ge’ez, Tigrinya, and Amharic it is translated with Igziabeher (እግዚአብሔር) or “Ruler/Lord of the Nations/Peoples.” In Ge’ez Igziabeher is used for “God” as well, whereas in Tigrinya and Amharic it is often, but not always used for “God.” In a recent revision by Biblica (see here ), an attempt was made to use Igziabeher exclusively for occurrences of the tetragrammaton in the Hebrew Bible, but after strong responses by the Christian community, a compromise was found by using Igziabeher in the first chapter of Genesis and changing it according to the Hebrew text elsewhere. (Source: Zetseat Fekadu)
  • Akan uses “Forever-Owner” (Source: Jacob Loewen, The Bible Translator 1985, p. 401ff. ).
  • Warlpiri uses Kaatu Jukurrarnu (Kaatu is a transcription of “God” and Jukurrarnu means “timelessness” and shares a root with jukurrpa — dreamings) (Source: Stephen Swartz, The Bible Translator 1985, p. 415ff. ).
  • The translation of YHWH into Weri with Aniak Tupup or “man of the holy house” intends “to maintain the Jewish practice of not uttering God’s name [with] the use of another vernacular phrase that signals that a ‘taboo’ name is being referred [which] could give a cue that would be recognizable in written or oral communication” (Source: P. King, The Bible Translator 2014, p. 195ff.).
  • Aruamu translates it as Ikiavɨra Itir God or “Ever Present God” (source: Pioneer Bible Translators, project-specific translation notes in Paratext)
  • Ruund uses Chinawej, a term that is otherwise used as a response of approval. Anna Lerbak (in The Bible Translator 1954, p. 84ff. ) tells the genesis of this term (click or tap to see an explanation):

    “The name ‘Jehovah’ had been used in some contexts, but I had the feeling that it did not mean much to the people, and when I asked the pastors they all said it didn’t, and worse, it very often confused people, especially in the villages. During the conversation it was suggested that the name Chinawej be used in the place of ‘Jehovah’, and this met with immediate approval. A few days later I was working on a Psalm in which ‘Jehovah’ was used frequently, so I wrote Chinawej in its place and then read the Psalm to them. The response was about like this: “That is it, now people will understand, that is how Chinawej is. The Jews call God ‘Jehovah’, we call Him Chinawej, it is the same God. but we know Him as Chinawej as the Jews know Him as ‘Jehovah’ “. They often call God Chinawej in prayer, it seems to indicate warmth and intimacy.

    The same word is used in two other ways. It is the name of a snake which never attacks human beings. And it is used as a response of approval. When told of something they are pleased to hear, something they find good, just, helpful, generous, they often respond by saying, Chinawej. When they call God Chinawej, it indicates that they think of Him as One Who is good and just and generous towards them. When it was suggested at the committee that we use Chinawej in place of ‘Jehovah’ it was accepted immediately and unanimously.

  • Ebira has Eneyimavara. Eneyimavara was created by merging a praise phrase that was only used for the traditional deity Ohomorihi (see here), that had become the word for the Christian God: ene e yi ma vara or “the one that never changes.” “The translators came to the agreement that this praise name that describes the unchangeableness of God is very close in meaning to the probable meaning of YHWH.” (Source: David O Moomo in Scriptura 88 (2005), p. 151ff. )
  • The Uzbek Bible uses the term Ega (Эга) — “master, owner” in various forms (including Egam / Эгам for “my Owner” or Egamiz / Эгамиз for “our Owner.” (Click or tap to see an explanation):

    Jim Zvara (2019, p. 6) explains: “The Uzbek term ega means owner or master (‘master,’ in the historical context of an owner-slave relationship). By extension, it is natural for an Uzbek to speak to or refer to God as Egam (‘my owner’/’master’). In the Uzbek context to be God’s slave is a positive way of understanding one’s relation to him. It suggests that one is in a dependent and obedient relationship to God. The team felt that this relational connection and what it implies fits well with the concept of YHWH as the God who is in a covenant relationship with his people. In the Uzbek context, the choice of Ega was deemed to be the best balance of natural language with meaningful translation.”

  • The Seediq Bible translation team chose Utux Tmninun (“the weaving god”) for their translation of YHWH. (Click or tap to see a retelling of the process of how that decision was reached):

    “(…) The Seediq team requested that we spend time with them on key terms. They had compiled a list of key terms that they wanted input on, and we went through the list item by item. The most important item was how to deal with the divine name. They had tentatively translated it as Yehoba, transliterated from Jehovah, but they were also aware that this transliteration may not be accurate, and they were keen to explore other options.

    “We explored various alternatives. Were they interested in following the ancient Jewish practice of substituting ‘Lord’ for the divine name? Would capitalising the letters help? Would they be bold enough to use ‘Yahweh,’ following the opinion of most Old Testament scholars who regard this as the correct pronunciation? Was it feasible to adopt a mixed approach in dealing with the divine name (…)? Each option had its advantages as well as disadvantages.

    “In the midst of the discussion, a participant said, ‘Our ancestors, as well as we today, always call God by the term Utux Tmninun. I suggest we use this term.’ The term Utux Tmninun in the Seediq culture means ‘the weaving God.’ In their culture, God is the weaver, the one who weaves life together. All the participants were excited about this proposal. They tried this term with all the composite terms that involve the divine name, and it seemed to work well, so they decided tentatively to adopt this term. After the workshop, the participants went back to their villages and sought feedback from the wider community, and eventually they confirmed the use of the term Utux Tmninun as the rendering of the divine name.

    Translating the divine name as Utux Tmninun, the weaving God, is a creative solution. This term is viewed very positively in the Seediq community. It also correlates well with the concept of God as the creator (Gen. 1-2) and as the weaver who formed our inward parts and knit us together in our mothers’ wombs (Ps. 139:13). It also has the advantage of portraying God beyond the traditional masculine form.

    “Some may argue that since names are usually transliterated, we should do the same with YHWH, most likely pronounced ‘Yahweh.’ Unfortunately, due to the influence of Chinese Union Version for almost one hundred years now, Chinese Christians only know God as Yehehua. Attempts to change the term Yehehua to Yahweh have not been successful. This is a reality that the Seediq Christians have to live with.

    “Others may argue on theological grounds that YHWH is not only the creator, but also the God of the covenant, hence any attempt to substitute another term for YHWH will not do justice to the Hebrew text. In the case of the Seediq translation, there are significant similarities between Utux Tmninun and YHWH, though the terms are not identical. This is a reality translators often have to struggle with. Exact correspondence is hard to come by. Often it is a matter of approximation, give and take. Besides theological considerations, one has to deal with the constraints of past traditions (‘Jehovah,’ in this instance), the biblical cultures and one’s own culture, and audience acceptance. Hopefully, by using Utux Tmninun for YHWH, the Seediq term will be transformed and take on the aspect of the covenant God as well.” (Source: Yu Suee Yan, The Bible Translator 2015, p. 316ff.)

  • In Tok Pisin it is translated as Bikpela: “the Big One” or “the Great One.” (See: Norm Mundhenk in The Bible Translator 1985, p. 442ff. See also under LORD God / Lord God)
  • For a major new translation into Chichewa, we have a detailed retelling of why the term Chauta (“Great-One-of-the-Bow”) was chosen for YHWH (Click or tap to see the detailed story):

    “The name Chauta, literally ‘Great-One-of-the-Bow’, i.e. [is] either the rainbow (descriptively termed uta-wa-Leza ‘the-bow-of-God’) or, less likely, the hunter’s bow. And yet Chauta was also distinct from Mulungu [“God”] in that it has reference to the specific tribal deity of the Chewa people — the God who ‘owns’ yet also ‘belongs to’ them — and hence it carries additional positive emotive overtones. Although research indicated that in an ancient traditional setting, Chauta too was probably associated with the indigenous ancestral rain cult, in the Christian era it has been progressively generalized to encompass virtually all religious contexts in which God may be either appealed to, proclaimed, or praised. After prolonged deliberation, therefore, the translation committee determined Chauta to be the closest functional equivalent to YHWH of the Hebrew Scriptures. The choice of this name is not without its difficulties, however, and these were carefully considered by the Chewa committee. For example, the use of a more specific local term, as opposed to the generic Mulungu, carries a greater likelihood of bringing along with it certain senses, connotations, and situations that were (and no doubt still are) associated with the indigenous, pre-Christian system of worship. If these happened to remain strong in any contemporary sacred setting, then of course the dangers connected with conceptual syncretism might well arise. In the case of Chauta, however, it appeared that the process of positive Christian contextualization had already reached an advanced stage, that is, judging from the widespread use of this name in all aspects of religious life and practice. A more scholarly argument against Chauta takes the position that there is too great a female component associated with this term because it was traditionally applied (by figurative metonymy) to refer also to the ritual ‘wife of God’, i.e. the chief officiant at a traditional rain shrine and worship sanctuary. However, this usage seems to be quite remote, and most people questioned do not even recognize the connection anymore. Besides, in a matrilineal society such as the Chewa, it does not seem inappropriate to have this aspect of meaning lying in the background, particularly since it is not completely foreign to the notion of God in the Bible (cf. Ps. 36:7; 73:15; Isa. 49:14-15; Mt. 23:37). In terms of ‘connotative fit’ or emotive identification and appeal, there can be little doubt that the name Chauta is by far the closest natural equivalent to YHWH in the contemporary Chewa cultural and religious environment. This aspect of meaning was probably also utmost from the ancient Jewish perspective as well; in other words, “for them the associated meaning of this special name [YHWH], in terms of their history and culture, far outweighed any meaning it may have suggested because of its form or derivation”. To be sure, this ‘new’ divine name — that is, new as far as the Scriptures are concerned — may take some getting used to, especially in the formal setting of public worship. But this is not a foreign god whom we are talking about; rather, he is certainly by now regarded as the national deity of the Chewa nation. Chauta is the great God who for one reason or another ‘did not make himself known to them by his holy name, the LORD’ (Exod. 6:3), that is, in the prior translations of his Word into Chewa. He is, however, and always has been “a God who saves … the LORD (Chauta), our Lord, who rescues us from death” (Ps. 68:20, Good News Bible)!” (Source: Wendland 1998, 120f.; see also The Bible Translator 1992, 430ff. )

Transliteration of YHWH

A 12th century reading of the Masoretic vowel points around יהוה‎ (יְהֹוָה) was interpreted to be pronounced as Yehowah from which Iehouah and Jehovah were derived. This was reflected in the English versions of Tyndale (publ. 1530) and the Geneva Bible (significantly based on Tyndale and publ. in 1560) and again the King James Version (Authorized Version) (publ. 1611) which all used Iehouah or Jehovah in 7 different verses in the Old Testament. The translators and editors of the American Standard Version (publ. 1901), a review of the King James Version used Jehovah for all appearances of the tetragrammaton something that the Spanish Reina-Valera (publ. 1602) had already done as well.

In English versions, Yahweh as a transliteration of the tetragrammaton is used by the Catholic Jerusalem Bible (publ. 1966), the Protestant Holman Christian Standard Bible (publ. 2004) and the Legacy Standard Bible (publ. 2021). The Catholic translation by Knox (publ. 1949) occasionally uses Javé, “to make it a Latin name, to match all the other names in the Old Testament.” (Source Knox 1949, p. 80)

Mandinka for instance uses Yawe for YHWH. “The use of Yawe for YHWH is good and may be a trendsetter in this part of Africa.” (Source: Rob Koops)

In a group of related languages in another part of Africa an interesting development from a transliteration to a indigenous translation can be shown: In the Nandi Bible (1938) Jehovah was used as a translation for YHWH. Kamuktaindet (“The Powerful One”) was used as a translation for Elohim (“God”). This was taken over by a translation into the macrolanguage Kalenjin (1969) (intended to include the closely related Keiyo, Kipsigis, Markweeta, Nandi, Okiek, Sabaot, Terik, and Tugen). Sabaot, Markweeta, Tugen and Okiek later wanted there own translations. Both Sabaot and Markweeta use the indigenous word for “Creator” (Yēyiin in Sabaot and Iriin in Markweeta) to translate Elohim and YHWH of the Old Testament and Theos of the New Testament. The Kalenjin Bible has recently been revised to cater to Keiyo, Kipsigis, Nandi and Terik, and this revision has completely dropped Jehovah in favour of Kamuktaindet. (Source: Iver Larsen)

Early translations into Gilbertese faced a problem when transliterating “Jehovah” (a form of “Jehovah” was first used in Spanish Bible translations in 1569 and 1602): “There are only thirteen letters in the Kiribati alphabet: A, E, I, O, U, M, N, NG, B, K, R, T (pronounced [s] when followed by ‘i’), W For instance, ‘Jehovah’ is rendered Iehova, but Kiribati speakers can only pronounce it as ‘Iowa,’ since the phonemes [h] and [v] do not exist in Kiribati.” (source: Joseph Hong, The Bible Translator 1994, p. 329ff. .)

Other transliterations include Yoba (Kovai), Iaue (Mussau-Emira), Jawe (Waskia), Iave (Maiadomu), Iawe (Waboda) (source: P. King, The Bible Translator 2014, p. 194ff.), Yawi (Western Tawbuid, Eastern Tawbuid), or Yihowah (Kapingamarangi).

In a recent edition of a Thai translation (Thai Standard Version, publ. 2011) a combination of translation and transliteration is used: phra’ ya(h)we (h) (พระยาห์เวห์) (“Divine Yawe”). (Source: Stephen Pattemore)

In Nyarafolo Senoufo the transliteration is Yewe which also means “the being one” or “he that is.” David DeGraaf (in: Notes on Translation 3/1999, p. 34ff.) explains: “Since it is widely recognized that the vowels of the name are uncertain, another possible transliteration is Yewe. This proposal is in accord with the Nyarafolo rules of vowel harmony and is thus open to being understood as a normal nominalization in the language. Second, Yewe is exactly the word that would be formed by nominalizing the verb ‘to be’ in the class that includes sentient beings. Thus, Yewe can be understood as ‘the being one’ or ‘he that is’. This solution accords well with YHWH’s self-revelation to Moses in Exodus 3:14, ‘I am who I am.'”

In the Chinese (Protestant) tradition the transliteration of “Jehovah” is historically deeply rooted, even though there are also some historical burdens (Click or tap to see more details):

“YHWH” is rendered in the Chinese Union Version—the most widely used Bible translation in China—as well as most other Chinese Bible translations as yehehua 耶和華. According to Chinese naming conventions, yehehua could be interpreted as Ye Hehua, in which Ye would be the family name and Hehua — “harmonic and radiant” — the given name. In the same manner, Ye would be the family name of Jesus (transliterated as yesu 耶穌) and Su would be the given name. Because in China the children inherit the family name from the father, the sonship of Jesus to God the Father, yehehua, would be illustrated through this. Though this line of argumentation sounds theologically unsound, it is indeed used effectively in the Chinese church.” (see Wright 1953, p. 298, see also Jesus).

Ye 耶, an interrogative particle in classical Chinese, is part of the same phonetic series as ye 爺, which gives it a certain exchangeability. Ye 爺 carries the meaning “father” or is used as an honorable form of address. The choice of the first Bible translators to use the transliteration yehehua 爺火華 for Jehovah had a remarkable and sobering influence on the history of the 19th century in China by possibly helping to shape the fatal Taiping ideology, a rebellion that ended up costing an estimated 20 million lives.

“The founder of the Taiping rebellion, Hong Xiuquan, was given a tract (…) [that he used to] interpret a nervous breakdown he had had in 1837 as his “call” to be the “Messiah.” This “vision” that Hong experienced is likely to have had a direct correlation with the name of “God” in that tract. Shen yehuohua 神爺火華 (directly translated: ‘God (or: spirit); old man (or: father); fire; bright)” was the term that was used in that tract for ‘God Jehovah,’ but this was not indicated as a (in its second part) transliteration of a proper name. In his vision, Hong saw ‘a man venerable in years (corresponding with ye), with golden (corresponding with huo and hua) beard and dressed in a black robe,’ an image likely to have been inspired by a direct translation from that name for ‘God,’ especially as it appeared at the beginning of the tract. That this term was considered to be a term of some relevance to the Taiping ideology is demonstrated by the fact that both yehuohua 爺火華 as the personal name of God and ye 爺 as “God the Father” later appeared in Taiping writings.” (Source: Zetzsche in Malek 2002, p. 141ff.)

In American Sign Language it is translated with a sign that combines the letter Y and a sign that points up and is similar to the sign for “God.” (Source: RuthAnna Spooner, Ron Lawer)


“YHWH” in American Sign Language, source: Deaf Harbor

In British Sign Language is is translated with a sign that combines the signs for “God” and “name” and the finger-spelling of Y-H-W-H. (Source: Anna Smith)


“YHWH” in British Sign Language (source: Christian BSL, used with permission)

For further reading on the translation of YHWH, see Rosin 1956, p. 89-125 and Andy Warren-Rothlin in Noss / Houser, p. 618ff.

See also Lord, God, and Exod. 3:14-15.

Translation commentary on Lamentations 3:40

Let us test and examine our ways: Let us translates a command in the first person plural, which may also be expressed, for example, “We should test….” Us refers to the speaker and those he addresses his words to, and so some languages will require the inclusive pronoun. Test and examine are words of very similar meaning which Good News Translation and others reduce to a single verb, “Let us examine….” Our ways refers to “our way of life,” “the way we live,” “our conduct.” The thought is that by looking closely at our wrong manner of living, that is, our sinful lives, we will see that we should return to the LORD. This expression is used many times by the prophets in the sense of repenting of sins. For examples see Hosea 6.1; 7.10; 14.1; Amos 4.6, 8-11.

Verse 40 may sometimes be translated “We should examine carefully the way we are living, and we should then repent of our sins to the LORD” or, more idiomatically, “Let us look carefully at the wrong path we have taken, and let us say to the LORD, ‘Forgive us the wrong way we have walked.’ ”

Quoted with permission from Reyburn, William D. A Handbook on Lamentations. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 1992. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .