The Hebrew qorbān (קָרְבָּן) originally means “that which is brought near.” Most English Bibles translate it as “offering.” The Hebraic English translation of Everett Fox uses near-offering and likewise the German translation by Buber-Rosenzweig has (the neologism) Darnahung.
Targumim (or: Targums) are translations of the Hebrew Bible into Aramaic. They were translated and used when Jewish congregations increasingly could not understand the biblical Hebrew anymore. Targum Onqelos (also: Onkelos) is the name of the Aramaic translation of the Torah (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible) probably composed in Israel/Palestine in the 1st or 2nd century CE and later edited in Babylon in the 4th or 5th century, making it reflect Jewish Babylonian Aramaic. It is the most famous Aramaic translation and was widely used throughout the Jewish communities.
In many, but not all, cases the translation of Targum Onqelos avoids anthropomorphisms (attribution of human traits, emotions, or intentions) as they relate in the original Hebrew text to God.
The Hebrew of these verses that is translated in English as “sweet savour” or “pleasing odor” and refers to God’s reaction to an offering. These cases are translated in Targum Onqelos as “a sacrifice which is being accepted.” (Source: Schochet 1966, p. 29ff.)
Command the people of Israel and say to them: This quote frame introduces the words that the LORD wants Moses to speak to the Israelites on his behalf. Good News Translation uses indirect speech here by beginning this verse with “to instruct the Israelites….” Many languages will prefer to retain the direct speech as a more appropriate form of discourse for the direct commands of God.
My offering … in its due season: Good News Translation also changes this embedded quote into indirect speech by beginning it with “to present to God at the appointed times….” By doing this, Good News Translation reduces the number of levels of direct speech, thus making the English more natural. However, embedded speech is quite natural in some languages; in fact, direct speech would be the most natural way for the LORD to give instructions to his people. Good News Translation could have kept the direct speech here by beginning verses 1-2 as follows: “1 The LORD commanded Moses 2 to give the Israelites the following instructions: ‘Present to me at the appointed times….’ ” Compare Contemporary English Version with “1 The LORD told Moses 2 to say to the people of Israel: Offer sacrifices to me at the appointed times of worship….”
The fronted position of My offering indicates the importance of this concept in the entire section that follows. Offering renders the Hebrew word qorban, which is the vaguest and most common expression for a sacrificial gift (see 5.15), so it probably serves as a generic term here for all the sacrifices in the following instructions. Since the death of an animal is not specified here, a more general word for “offering” in the target language will be needed, instead of the more specific word “sacrifice” (Contemporary English Version).
My food is literally “my bread,” which is a figure of speech for food in general, since here it refers to the burnt flesh of animals as well as grain offerings. In some languages the local staple food can be understood in the same way to refer to food in general, and this will help to make the translation more expressive. Offerings constituted the daily symbolic “meals” of the LORD that were essential for maintaining his presence among the Israelites (so Gane, page 750).
For my offerings by fire: The Hebrew word for offerings by fire (ʾishsheh) is a general term for any sacrifice (see 15.3). It does not refer to a specific type of sacrifice, but to whatever is completely consumed by fire on the altar, including cereal offerings and libations (see, for example, verse 8). In some languages this word may be rendered “offerings consumed by the fire” (La Nouvelle Bible Segond). The phrase my food for my offerings by fire stands in apposition to the phrase My offering, so these two phrases may be rendered “my offering, which is my food consumed by fire.”
For my pleasing odor, see 15.3. This phrase gives the figurative result of my offerings by fire.
The four occurrences of the pronoun my in this verse underscore the anthropomorphic notion that sacrifices were actually food for God himself and that the smoke from the altar was a pleasing odor in his nostrils. Unfortunately, this important perspective is missing in Good News Translation, which omits these first person pronouns.
You shall take heed to offer to me: New Revised Standard Version is similar with “you shall take care to offer me,” and so is NET Bible with “be sure to offer.” The Hebrew pronoun for you is plural, referring to the Israelites. The Hebrew verb for offer (hiqrib) means literally “bring near, present” (see 3.4). This verb comes from the same root as the noun rendered offering (qorban) and refers to the offering of a sacrifice. Nominal or verbal forms of this root (q r b) occur frequently in this section (as they did in chapter 7), indicating the thematic importance of this concept of “bringing [offerings] near” to the LORD, that is, giving them to him.
In its due season means at the appointed times set by God for offerings to him, including the daily, monthly, and annual times. NET Bible has “at its appointed time.” Good News Translation uses the plural expression “at the appointed times,” which fits the context better. A similar phrase occurs at the end of this section in 29.39 (“at your appointed feasts”), so that the section is framed by these two phrases.
The rather complex combination of ritual terms in this verse, listed in apposition to one another, may need to be broken up and rendered as two sentences. One model for this verse that does this is:
• “Give the Israelites the following instructions from me: ‘Be careful to give my offerings at the appointed times. These food offerings by fire present me with a pleasing aroma.’
Quoted with permission from de Regt, Lénart J. and Wendland, Ernst R. A Handbook on Numbers. (UBS Helps for Translators). Miami: UBS, 2016. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .