Translation talk:Exodus

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For Exodus 4, which I'm translating, my source is the traditional Masoretic text, and for translating I've relied on four English public domain translations for help: John Nelson Darby's Translation, the Authorised/Common Version/King James Bible, Young's Literal Translation, and Walter Porter's ACV. In addition, I've used Strong's Concordance and Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Definitions for help with Hebrew. When really stumped, I've turned for assistance to the Septuagint Greek Text and its translation by Brenton, and to the Vulgate and its Douay-Rheims translation. Fontwords 15:44, 8 December 2007 (UTC)

For Exodus 1, I'm using and consulting the following texts:

The Torah: A Modern Commentary by the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1981 - which contains the traditional Masoretic text.

The Harper Collins Study Bible by HarperCollins Publishers, 1993 - this uses the New Revised Standard Version.

The NIV Study Bible by Zondervan Publishing House, 1995 - the New International Version

The Holy Bible, Translated from the Latin Vulgate, by the John Murphy Company, 1914 - a reprinting of the Douay Rheims Version (Old Testament in 1609, New Testament in 158)

Online sources include:

The King James Version - from [[1]]

A Hebrew-English Bible - from [[2]]


Sources for Exodus 34[edit]

I used the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia as my base text for the Leningrad Codex. Unfortunately, there are no extant manuscripts from the Aleppo Codex. For the Greek, I consulted Rahlf's edition of the Septuagint (Editio altera) and the Göttingen edition. I also consulted the Biblia Sacra Vulgata.

I use Koehler & Baumgartner's Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, and Lust's A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint. For Hebrew grammars I prefer Joüon & Muraoka's A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew. I also consult Waltke & O'Connor's An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, and Arnold & Choi's A Guide to Biblical Hebrew Syntax. I've also recently been impressed with Weingreen's Hebrew Grammar.

I consulted the KJV, the NRSV, and the NIV to see how translators have treated certain passages in the past, but if any influence is found in my translation it is most likely the result of my familiarity with the KJV.

New Chapter 1[edit]

I have no familiarity with KJV, or any other bible, I only read parts of the bible in Hebrew. I retranslated chapter 1, here are the salient differences:

Raubn, Shmoun, Lui, and Ieude; Ishshkr, Zbuln, and Bnimn; Dn and Nphthli; Gd and Ashr.

This is terrible, it breaks up the reading and there are good conventions for all these names in English.

Come on, we shall be wise to them, lest they increase, and it becomes that there shall be war, they are added even on the ones who hates us, and they fights us, and they leaves from the land?"

Aside from the slight grammar errors, the text uses a singular for the "nation of Israel" and it is possible to maintain that in the English by using a feminine singular, which I did.

"Ba parech" does not mean "ruthless", it means something closer to backbreaking.

But the biggest change is this:

And the midwives said to Pharaoh, "Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women. They're full of life! ((1:19) Heb., "lively") Before the midwife can come to them, they've given birth."

This is just a laughably absurd mistranslation (it appears elsewhere too). The word translated as "lively" actually means "animal", and the midwives are saying that the Hebrews are like animals, giving birth without help. 08:37, 27 November 2010 (UTC)

But it's not just a mistranslation to read hayot as lively. When you find the word "animals" in the Bible, it has a dagesh in the yod: hayyot. This hayot is pronounced differently. Now, if you want to make the argument that the Hebrew text is wrong here, and it should be read as hayyot is one thing. But saying things like "laughably absurd translation" to describe what nearly every other translator that yourself has done with this verse just shows that you haven't done your homework here. Alephb (talk) 02:37, 7 June 2017 (UTC)

Chapter 2[edit]

The issues are: "Stranger in a strange land" is "Ger be-eretz nochriah", which is better rendered as "Stranger in a foreign land", but this is an established biblical phrase, so this is not to be done lightly.

The other issues are the traditional beefing up of the Hebrew with needless interpretation, especially towards the end. The terse renditions are more accurate, so that "God knew" is better than "God recongnized them", which is an interpretation (the Hebrew for recongnize and know are not the same as they are in English), and the text doesn't say what God knew exactly. 14:47, 27 November 2010 (UTC)

Chapter 3[edit]

"Ehieh asher ehieh" is "I will be what I will be", or "I'll be what I'll be", I rendered the former to avoid contractions. The tense change to "I am that I am" is not terrible, but the "that" should be what, so that it is "I am what I am", but this is too Popeye. This is apparently a mash-up of a Yahwist and Elohist source, with the seam right at the point of "I'll be what I'll be". 16:05, 27 November 2010 (UTC)

You're applying modern Hebrew tenses to biblical Hebrew. The biblical Hebrew doesn't have "future" or "present" tenses in the modern sense of the terms. Alephb (talk) 02:03, 7 June 2017 (UTC)

Chapter 4[edit]

This was a nearly flawless translation, I repeated the work, just to make the style identical to ch 1-3, but the results are nearly the same. I borrowed three short phrases where this phrasing was superior to mine, and I inserted wholecloth the "Yahweh" business and comment in 4: 01:01, 28 November 2010 (UTC)

Previous chapter 4[edit]

And Moses answered and said, "But look--they will not believe me, nor listen to my voice, for they will say, 'Yahweh has not appeared to you.'"

2 And Yahweh said to him, "What is that in your hand?"

And he said, "A rod."

3And he said, "Throw it on the ground." And he threw it on the ground. And it became a snake, and Moses fled from it.

4And Yahweh said to Moses, "Put out your hand, and take it by the tail," (and he put out his hand, and grabbed it, and it became a rod in his hand) 5"so that they may believe that Yahweh, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you."

6And Yahweh said also to him, "Now put your hand into your bosom." And he put his hand into his bosom. And when he took it out, look: his hand was leprous, like snow. 7And he said, "Put your hand into your bosom again." And he put his hand into his bosom again, and when he took it out of his bosom, behold: it was turned back like his flesh [normally was]. 8"And it will happen, if they will not believe you, nor listen to the voice of the first sign, that they will believe the voice of the other sign. 9And it will happen, if they will not believe even these two signs, that you shall take the waters of the river, and pour [them] on the dry land, and it will happen that the waters which you take from the river will become blood on the dry land."

10And Moses said to Yahweh, "O Yahweh [(4:10--Yahweh)The Masoretic text reads "Adonai," or "Lord," here, but the Massorah indicates that originally the name "Yhwh," translated by many scholars as "Yahweh," originally stood here in the text.], I am not a man of words, neither yesterday, nor before, nor since you have spoken to your servant, for I am slow-mouthed and slow-tongued."

11And Yahweh said to him, "Who made man's mouth? Or who made the mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, Yahweh? 12And now, go and I will be with your mouth, and teach you what you will say."

13 And he said, "O Yahweh [1], please send by the hand [of whomever else] you will send."

14And the anger of Yahweh burned against Moses, and he said, "Isn't Aaron the Levite your brother? I know he speaks well. And also, look: he's coming to meet you. When he sees you, then he will be glad in his heart. 15And you will speak to him, and put the words in his mouth; and I will be with your mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what to do. 16And he will speak for you to the people. And will happen, that he will be to you for a mouth, and you will be to him for God. 17And you shall take this rod in your hand, with which you shall do signs."

18And Moses went and returned to Jethro his father-in-law, and said to him, "Please let me go and return to my brothers who are in Egypt, and see whether they are still alive."

And Jethro said to Moses in Midian, "Go in peace."

19And Yahweh said to Moses in Midian, "Go, return to Egypt, for all the men who sought your life have died." 20And Moses took his wife and his sons, and had them ride on the donkey, and returned to the land of Egypt, and Moses took the rod of God in his hand.

21And Yahweh said to Moses, "When you go back to Egypt, see that you do all those wonders which I have put in your hand, in front of Pharaoh. And I will harden his heart, and he will not send the people away. 22 And you shall say to Pharaoh, 'Yahweh says this: My son, my firstborn is Israel. 23And I tell you, send away my son, that he may serve me. And if you refuse to send him away, look: I will kill your son, your firstborn."

24And it came to pass on the way, in a lodging-place, that Yahweh met him, and sought to kill him. 25Then Zipporah took a flint stone, and cut off her son's foreskin, and touched it to his feet, and said, "Surely a bridegroom of blood you [are] to me." 26And he let him alone. Then she said, "A bridegroom of blood" in reference to the circumcision.

27And Yahweh said to Aaron, "Go meet Moses in the wilderness." And he went and met him on the mountain of God, and kissed him. 28And Moses declared to Aaron all the words of Yahweh which he had sent him, and all the signs which he had commanded him. 29And Moses went--along with Aaron--and they gathered together all the elders of the children of Israel. 30 And Aaron spoke all the words which Yahweh had spoken to Moses, and did the signs in the sight of the people. 31And the people believed when they heard that Yahweh had looked after the sons of Israel, and that he had seen their affliction, and they bowed their heads and worshipped.


  1. (4:13--Yahweh) Though the Masoretic text has "Adonai," "Yahweh is the original reading, as in verse 10.


This is a hard translation--- the word Cherub has drifted in meaning so much, so that the word has a cuddly cute naked baby image firmly implanted in the mind, and it is supposed to be a fearsome creature.

The question of whether the Cherubs are human-like or animal like is to my mind settled by the description here and in the prophets. The heads of the Cherubs are suppsoed to be resting on the cover of the ark of the covenant, and this is not reasonable if they are upright human-like creatures. The psalm where Yahweh is riding a Cherub is also problematic if they are winged humanlike angels, because it is a really crappy image to have Yahweh riding down on the shoulders of a dinky angel.

The proper image is, I am pretty confident, a sort of mythical creature with different animal parts and wings. The Griffin is the closest I could think of, and some forms of Griffin are nearly identical to the description of Cherubs given in the bible. Afterwards I found out that some people think the word "Griffin" is a Cognate of "Chruvim"(the hebrew pronounciation), which is entirely plausible to my ears, since the movement Ch->G, v->f, and m->n are all natural, and the vowels are mostly conjectural anyway.

So I took the bold step of replacing all but the first occurence of Cherub with Griffin, and it seems to make the text imagery more accurate and less babyish. Maybe its too much. 12:38, 23 January 2011 (UTC)

Except that a Keruv and a Griffin are two different creatures. If you want to distinguish these from the popular "Cherub" image, perhaps you could spell the whole work Keruvim and add a footnote. That way we're not reading "Griffins" into a text that doesn't have them. Alephb (talk) 02:39, 7 June 2017 (UTC)

Chapter 34[edit]

This older translation was already here, and it is probably superior to the later one, but I put in mine for the sake of style agreement with the rest of the book. I cannibalized the term "shine" (I originally thought to use glow), and I will cannibalize all the comments, which are very illuminting.

The only major difference in meaning is in one place, in verse 20.

וְלֹא-יֵרָאוּ פָנַי רֵיקָם

In this vocalization, it means "My face will not be seen absent these", but if the pronunciation of "Yirau" is really "Yir-u", then it means "they will not see my face absent these". I used the traditional masoretic pronunciation, and the other translation used the other possible pronunciation.

After reading the appropriate comment, I went along with the active reading, which is more straightforward, and seems better supported by the historical record. 09:51, 27 January 2011 (UTC)

Chapter 34 (earlier)[edit]

1And Yahweh said to Moses, “Carve for yourself two tablets of stone like the first; and I will write upon the tablets the words which were on the first tablets, which you broke.

2“And prepare yourself in the morning, and you will go up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and you will stand before me there on the top of the mountain

3“And no man shall go up with you, nor shall any man be seen in the entire mountain; nor shall the flocks and cattle be seen in front of the mountain.”

4And he carved two tablets of stone like the first; and Moses arose in the morning and went up Mount Sinai, just as יהוה commanded him. And he took in his hand two tablets of stone.

5And Yahweh descended in the cloud and he stood there with him. And he called out in the name of Yahweh.

6And Yahweh passed by his face, and he shouted, “O Yahweh, O Yahweh, merciful and gracious God, slow to anger, and full of compassion and truth!

7“You who shows compassion to thousands; you who takes away iniquity and injustice and sin; and that will by no means release them, as you avenge the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children of the children until the third and until the fourth generation!”

8And Moses hurried and bowed himself to the ground and worshipped.

9And he said, “If, by chance, I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, please depart, my lord, from our presence. Though the people are obdurate, forgive our iniquities and our sins, and take us as your possession.”

10And he said, “Observe. I cut a covenant: before all of your people I will do wonders which have not been done in all the lands and all the nations; and all the people, in whose presence you are, will see the works of יהוה, for it is to awesome, that which I will do with you.

11“Hold to that which I command you today. Observe, I will drive out from before you the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivvites, and the Jebusites.[1]

12“Watch yourself, lest you cut a covenant with the inhabitants of the land in which you enter, and they become a snare in your midst.

13“For you must break down their altars, and completely destroy their standing stones, and cut down their[2] cultic poles.[3]

14“For you will not worship another god,[4] because יהוה, whose name is Zealot, is a zealous god.

15“Lest you cut a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they prostitute themselves out to their gods, and offer sacrifices to their gods, and one call you and you eat from their sacrifice;

16“And you take of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters prostitute themselves out to their gods, and cause your sons to go whoring after their gods.

17“You shall not make gods of cast idols.

18“You shall observe the feast of unleavened bread. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you at the appointed time in the month of Abib; because in the month of Abib you left Egypt.

19“All the firstborn of the womb are mine, and all your cattle, you shall remember, which is firstborn, whether ox or sheep.

20“And you will redeem the firstborn donkey with a lamb, and if you do not redeem it, then you shall break its neck. All the firstborn of your sons you shall redeem, for they shall not appear before me[5] empty handed.

21“Six days you will labor, and on the seventh day you will cease from plowing and harvesting, and you shall rest.

22“You shall perform for yourself the feast of weeks, of the firstfruits of the wheat harvest, and the feast of the ingathering at the end of the year.

23“Three times in the year, all your males will appear before the lord[6] יהוה, the god of Israel.

24“For I will cast out the nations from your presence, and I will spread out your borders, and no man shall desire your land when you go up to appear before Yahweh your God three times in the year.

25“You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leaven, nor shall the sacrifice of the feast of the Passover remain over night until the morning.

26“The best of the firstfruits of your land you will bring to the house of Yahweh your God. You shall not boil a goat in its mother’s milk.”

27And יהוה said to Moses, “Write for yourself these words, for by way of these words I have cut a covenant with you and with Israel.”

28And he was there, with יהוה forty days and forty nights. He neither ate bread nor drank water, and he wrote upon the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.

29And it happened when Moses came down from Mount Sinai, that there were two tablets of the law in the hand of Moses. When he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone as he spoke to him.

30And Aaron and all the sons of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to approach him.

31And Moses called out to them, and they returned to him, Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation, and Moses spoke to them.

32And afterward all the sons of Israel drew near, and he commanded them in all that Yahweh said to him in Mount Sinai.

33And Moses finished speaking with them, and he had placed a veil over his face.

34And when Moses came before יהוה to speak with him, he removed the veil until he went back out; and he went out and told the sons of Israel that which he had been commanded.

35And the sons of Israel feared the presence of Moses, because the skin of Moses’ face shone, and Moses again put the veil over his face until he came to speak with him.


  1. (34:1)The Samaritan Pentateuch and the Septuagint include, “and the Girgashites.”
  2. (34:2)The Masoretic Text reads, “his cultic poles,” but readings in the Syriac, the Targums, and the Septuagint confirm the plural pronominal suffix.
  3. (34:3)The Septuagint adds, “and the carved images of their gods you will burn in fire.”
  4. (34:4)The Septuagint has the plural, “other gods.”
  5. (34:5)The the phrase יֵרָאוּ פָנַי alludes to a commandment first appearing in Exod 23:17. In the prefix conjugation there is no distinction in morphology between the Qal and Niphal, but the phrase appears in the infinitive construct in Exod 34:24, Deut 31:11, and Isa 1:12, and in all three instances the verb is vocalized in the Niphal, but is lacking the ה. The original reading was Qal (“to see”), but theological concerns led to the emendation of the text, rendering the verb passive rather than active. There is direct textual evidence that supports the Qal reading of Isa 1:12. Targum Neofiti records a variant reading For Deut 31:11 that is active. The Fragment Targums do the same for Exod 34:20. The Mekhilta of R. Ishmael interprets Exod 23:17 actively, stating the blind were exempt from the commandment. The original reading would be “to see the face of God.” Exod 33:20 does not preclude the original reading. For further discussion, see Carmel McCarthy, The Tiqqune Sopherim (Switzerland: Institute of the University of Fribourg, 1981), 198–204; E. Jenni, Theologisches Handwörterbuch zum Alten Testament (Munich, 1971), 2:695f; Kohler & Baumgartner, “ראה,” HALOT 2.1160; Joüon & Muraoka, A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew (Rome: Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico, 2006), 139. Gary Rendsburg maintains that the elision of the ה in Niphal infinitive constructs is normal (although not as common as in the Hiphil), based on the occurrence in Mishnaic Hebrew. See Rendsburg, “Laqtil Infinitives: Yiph’il or Hiph’il?” Orientalia 51.2 (1982): 233–35.
  6. (34:6)The Samaritan Pentateuch reads “before the ark of יהוה.”

קָּרֶשׁ Board or Plank?[edit]

I used board, following another translator's choice, but in modern Hebrew it's definitely plank. 07:08, 29 January 2011 (UTC)

It's definitely plank. The word for board is לֻחֹת, which also appears, and has connotions of writing surface, as in the English. 02:17, 30 January 2011 (UTC)
Just to be clear--- the other translator is the 1917 Jewish translation. 09:52, 30 January 2011 (UTC)

Negev-ward Teiman-ward[edit]

I was struggling to understand why "south" was rendered differently in this book, usually it's just "Negev-ward". I think it's to remove any ambiguity, because Sinai is south of the Negev, Negev-ward is north of Sinai. So they added "Teiman-wards" to put something further south than the Sinai there. I left the direction indicators there for this reason--- it's not the usual idiom for "south". 17:18, 29 January 2011 (UTC)

Just to clarify the comment: Teiman means Yemen, which is what is south of Sinai. 06:10, 16 April 2011 (UTC)
Right -- Negevward means toward the Negev, not always south. For an example where it north, see Genesis 13:1. Alephb (talk) 02:41, 7 June 2017 (UTC)

"Caftor" button or knob[edit]

The word "button" in English has connotations of a movable object, like a pushbutton or a clothes button. The Hebrew has more connotations of a "knob", which is certainly what is being described. 02:30, 30 January 2011 (UTC)

Karnaim -- horns or emanations?[edit]

The "Karnaim" on the altar are some sort of emanations, but I am not sure if they are traditional horn shapes, as the word "horn" implies in English. Maybe they were some sort of hooks to hang the meat on as it cooked. 09:42, 30 January 2011 (UTC)

שֵׁשׁ מָשְׁזָר[edit]

I rendered this, almost certainly wrongly, as "sixfold wrought cloth". From the roots, it reads something like "six of strange-feel", but "shesh" could be a loanword or an onomatopoeia, and then it would be "weird-feeling shesh-cloth". Maybe this is satin or velvet, but I wasn't sure, and I don't know the detailed history of ancient haberdashery.

תוֹלַעַת שָׁנִי, approximately second-twined I rendered as "second-weave". This is not really right. It's maybe something like a knit, where you first make yarn by one process, then you knit the stuff in a second process. But unlike the "shesh", which might be a loan, here the "sheni" is surely means "second", so the translation is not as crappy.

I still don't know about "pleated" for the clothes. That's the 1917 translation, but these clothing terms are weird. 20:43, 30 January 2011 (UTC)


This is the same passive construction as in 34:20: "my face will not be seen absent these". Should this be active too? It's the same sentence. 02:47, 31 January 2011 (UTC)

Tense struggle[edit]

There are long passages where Yahweh says "And you did this, and you did that" all in past tense, but he means "and you will do this and you will do that." The exact meaning is "And you will have done this and you will have done that", in a very long future-past tense in English, but this is the wrong translation, because the hebrew is not so verbose.

The solution I came up with is to use the past tense in English, throwing in a few future tenses every once in a while, so the reader understands that this is about the future. The readers reference frame eventually shifts so that the past tense is refering to a future time, and this frame shifting is exactly what the Hebrew reader does. Unfortunately, this doesn't look too good from a consistency standpoint, and some places I used more future tenses than past, and in other places, more past than future. I suppose a good balance can be struck by a later reviewer. 04:40, 31 January 2011 (UTC)

Biblical Hebrew uses what is called the "Vav Ha-hipuch" - a vav prefix which changes the tense from past to future or vice-versa. --Eliyak T·C 19:39, 31 January 2011 (UTC)