offering (qorban)

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.

See also burnt-offering and offering..


The Hebrew that is translated as “offering” in English is translated in Venda as nduvho. J. A. van Rooy (in The Bible Translator 1974, p. 439ff. ) explains: “It is derived from the verb u luvha (‘to pay homage to; to acknowledge the superiority of; at the same time usually asking for a favour’). It is sometimes used as a synonym for ‘asking something from a chief. The noun nduvho means ‘a gift of allegiance,’ which corresponds closely with minchah (מִנְחָה) as ‘offering of allegiance.’ This term nduvho has in it the elements of subjugation, of reciprocity (asking for a favor), of being taken up into the same community as the chief in allegiance to him. Only the element of expiation is missing.”

See also offering (qorban).

fat, oil

The different Hebrew and Greek terms that are translated as “(olive) oil” and “(animal) fat” in English are translated in Kwere with only one term: mavuta. (Pioneer Bible Translators, project-specific translation notes in Paratext)

Translation commentary on Numbers 7:12 - 7:17

For each of the twelve days and chiefs the Hebrew text describes the offerings in much the same way in verses 12-83. The function of all the repetition in relation to this text’s content and position in Numbers may be to underscore the fact that each tribe of Israel had an identical share in and responsibility for the support and maintenance of the Tent of Meeting, where the LORD communicated with his people. It also suggests the central importance of this place of fellowship, the altar of sacrifice in particular, to the nation as a whole.

Revised Standard Version follows the arrangement of the Hebrew text and divides verses 12-83 into twelve successive paragraphs (one per day and chief). However, Good News Translation combines them into two paragraphs. Good News Translation first gives a list of the days, tribes and chiefs, which is followed by a description of the offerings, brought by each one of the chiefs. After our comments on verses 78-83, we will compare and evaluate these two very different translation models.

The names of the chiefs in verses 12-83 are the same as in 1.5-15, but they and their tribes are mentioned in accordance with the layout of the Israelite camp (see 2.3-31), starting with Judah. The chiefs came one after the other on twelve consecutive days in the order of precedence of their tribes in the camp around the Tent of Meeting and in the prescribed order of the people’s march on their communal journeys.

Our following comments on verses 12-17 will largely suffice for the next eleven paragraphs.

He who offered his offering the first day was Nahshon the son of Amminadab, of the tribe of Judah: Offered his offering renders the same Hebrew verb and noun as in verses 3 and 11 (see the comments there). As in verse 10, some languages may prefer to say “offerings” instead of offering, since this offering consisted of several individual items. For Nahshon the son of Amminadab, of the tribe of Judah, see 1.7; for tribe see 1.4.

And his offering was one silver plate whose weight was a hundred and thirty shekels begins the list of items included in the offering of each leader. The Hebrew word for plate is qeʿarah, which comes from a root meaning “to be deep.” It is a general term for a dish that was probably deeper than the flat plates used in many places today (see the comments on 4.7, where the same word occurs). Good News Translation says “bowl,” which seems more accurate. As noted in the comments on 3.47, the standard shekel may have weighed about 11.4 grams (0.4 ounce), so a hundred and thirty shekels is about 1,500 grams (50 ounces). Most translations simply transliterate the Hebrew word shekel, which should be clearly defined in the glossary.

One silver basin of seventy shekels: As noted in the comments on 4.14, the Hebrew word for basin refers to bowls that were used to hold the blood of the animals that had been killed for sacrifices. Since the blood in these bowls was sprinkled on the altar (see Lev 1.5, 11), Contemporary English Version says “sprinkling bowl.” Seventy shekels is about 800 grams (30 ounces).

According to the shekel of the sanctuary: This official Tabernacle standard of weight is also mentioned in 3.47 (see the comments there). Good News Translation says “by the official standard,” which does not show that this standard was connected to the sanctuary, that is, it was either kept at the Tabernacle, or it was the weighing system used for the offerings given there (different from the later royal standard). A better model here is “by the official standard of the sanctuary” (similarly Bible en français courant, Bijbel in Gewone Taal). If the notion of “standard” is difficult, then another possible model is “by the official norm [or, measuring unit] of the sanctuary.” For sanctuary, which renders the Hebrew word qodesh, see the comments on 3.28.

Both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil for a cereal offering: For fine flour mixed with oil, see the comments on 6.15. It was probably coarsely milled wheat flour with olive oil mixed in it, but it may not be necessary to specify wheat flour, unless the target language requires it. New Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh has “choice flour with oil mixed in.” For cereal offering (“grain offering” in Good News Translation), see the comments on 4.16.

One golden dish of ten shekels: As mentioned in the comments on 4.7, the Hebrew word for dish is the same one as for the palm of the hand, so the word “bowl” (New Jerusalem Bible) expresses its hollow shape more accurately. Translators should select a deeper cup-like object used in the receptor culture. This gold bowl was comparatively light since it only weighed ten shekels, which is equivalent to about 115 grams (4 ounces). This whole phrase may be rendered “a small gold bowl weighing one hundred grams” (similarly Bijbel in Gewone Taal).

The gold bowl was full of incense. For incense see 4.16.

One young bull, one ram, one male lamb a year old, for a burnt offering: One young bull is literally “one young bull, son of a cow,” which refers to a young bull that is mature. A ram is an adult male sheep. It is older than a male lamb a year old (see 6.14). Each leader gave these three animals to be sacrificed as a burnt offering (see 6.11). This offering was for the consecration of the participants.

One male goat for a sin offering: The Hebrew expression for male goat refers to an adult billy goat. If the receptor language has a single word that contains the idea of maleness as well as the idea of goat, then it should be used here. Each leader gave this animal to be sacrificed as a sin offering (see 6.11). This offering was for the forgiveness of the unintentional offenses of participants.

And for the sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male lambs a year old: The Hebrew plural word rendered peace offerings refers to the individual sacrificial animals here. The sacrifice of peace offerings refers to one event, so many translations use a singular expression here, for example, “a/the fellowship offering” (Good News Translation, New International Version) or “a shared-offering” (Revised English Bible). For peace offerings, see 6.14. This sacrifice included two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male lambs a year old. The Hebrew word for oxen (baqar) is the same one used in verse 3. It is a general term referring to cows and bulls as well as oxen. In this context the word oxen may be inappropriate in some cultures where these animals are not considered suitable for sacrifice. If so, oxen may be rendered “bulls” (Good News Translation, Contemporary English Version, NET Bible, Revised English Bible).

This was the offering of Nahshon the son of Amminadab: The Hebrew word for offering (qorban) renders the same general term for all kinds of offering that was used at the beginning of the paragraph. This sentence at the end of the paragraph has no past tense verb corresponding with was. It is a verbless sentence that summarizes the paragraph. Perhaps there is a similar device to signal the close of a discourse unit in the target language, for example, a special verb form or conjunction. Chewa says “These they are the very things that were the offerings of Nahshon….”

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 .