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 Numbers 4:46 - 4:49

Verses 46-49 summarize the registration of all the Levite clans.

All those who were numbered of the Levites, whom Moses and Aaron and the leaders of Israel numbered …: Numbered renders the Hebrew verb paqad both times (see 1.3), so it is better translated “enrolled” (New Revised Standard Version) or “recorded” (New Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh). For leaders see verse 34.

By their families and fathers’ houses: See verse 34.

From thirty years old up to fifty years old: See verse 35.

Every one that could enter to do the work of service and the work of bearing burdens in the tent of meeting: See verse 35. To do the work of service is literally “to serve the service of service.” The Hebrew verb for “serve” (ʿabad) and both occurrences of the noun for “service” (ʿabodah) come from the same root. This verb plus cognate noun construction emphasizes the activity of service (compare 3.7). Bearing burdens renders the Hebrew word massaʾ (see verse 15).

Those who were numbered of them were eight thousand five hundred and eighty: The total number of Levites registered for service in the Tabernacle was 8,580. For numbered see above.

Verse 49 begins with the phrase According to the commandment of the LORD through Moses (literally “Upon the mouth of the LORD … by the hand of Moses”; see verse 37) and ends with the synonymous expression as the LORD commanded Moses. This boundary-marking inclusio stresses the divine authority behind the enrolment made by Moses, which is the main idea of this final verse in the concluding paragraph.

They were appointed: Appointed renders the Hebrew word paqad (see 1.3), which is better rendered “recorded” (New Living Translation).

Each to his task of serving or carrying is literally “a man a man on his service and on his load/burden.” The Hebrew word for each is actually repeated, which justifies translations such as “man by man” (Buber) and “one by one” (Revised English Bible). Carrying renders the Hebrew word massaʾ (see verse 15).

Thus they were numbered by him: Revised Standard Version follows the Septuagint here, which emends the Hebrew text. Most modern versions do the same; for example, New Revised Standard Version has “thus they were enrolled by him.” The Hebrew is literally “and his enrolled men,” which makes no clear sense in the context.

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 .