Worst Translated Sentence in Entire Bible: Judges 5: 7

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Jim Stinehart
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Joined: Sat Sep 28, 2013 11:33 am

Worst Translated Sentence in Entire Bible: Judges 5: 7

Post by Jim Stinehart »

Worst Translated Sentence in Entire Bible: Judges 5: 7

My candidate for the worst translated sentence in the entire Bible is Judges 5: 7. Rather than the grammar or syntax of archaic poetry being the problem, I myself see the problem as being the basic meaning of the first two words (or is the second one a name?): (i) חדלו; (ii) פרזון.

Here are the ten leading English translations of Judges 5: 7, none of which, in my opinion, understands what this verse is saying:

1. KJV: “The inhabitants of the villages ceased, they ceased in Israel, until that I Deborah arose, that I arose a mother in Israel.”

2. NRSV: “The peasantry prospered in Israel, they grew fat on plunder, because you arose, Deborah, arose as a mother in Israel.”

3. NIV: “Villagers in Israel would not fight; they held back until I, Deborah, arose, until I arose, a mother in Israel.”

4. JPS 2003: “Deliverance ceased, ceased in Israel, till you arose, O Deborah, Arose, O mother, in Israel!”

5. Darby: “The villages ceased in Israel, Ceased until that I Deborah arose, That I arose a mother in Israel.”

6. 1599 Geneva Bible: “The towns were not inhabited: they decayed, I say, in Israel, until I Deborah came up, which rose up a mother in Israel.”

7. Orthodox Jewish Bible: “The warrior ceased, they ceased in Yisroel, until I, Devorah, arose, I Em B’Yisroel arose.”

8. Knox Catholic Bible (based on Latin Vulgate): “Gone was the warrior breed, lost to the country-side, until Debbora came, Debbora, that played a mother’s part in Israel.”

9. Judges A (Septuagint, per NETS): “A spokesman was lacking in Israel; he was lacking until Debbora rose up, for she arose as a mother in Israel.”

10. Judges B (Septuagint, per NETS): “Mighty ones were lacking in Israel; they were lacking until Debbora should arise until she should arise as a mother in Israel.”

How do people on the b-Hebrew list view the foregoing ten translations? What does Judges 5: 7 mean?

Jim Stinehart
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Andrew Chapman
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Re: Worst Translated Sentence in Entire Bible: Judges 5: 7

Post by Andrew Chapman »

Judges 5:7 חָדְל֧וּ פְרָזֹ֛ון בְּיִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל חָדֵ֑לּוּ עַ֤ד שַׁקַּ֨מְתִּי֙ דְּבֹורָ֔ה שַׁקַּ֥מְתִּי אֵ֖ם בְּיִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃

There is a difficulty with the meaning of פְרָזֹ֛ון which also occurse in verse 11:

מִקֹּ֣ול מְחַֽצְצִ֗ים בֵּ֚ין מַשְׁאַבִּ֔ים שָׁ֤ם יְתַנּוּ֙ צִדְקֹ֣ות יְהוָ֔ה צִדְקֹ֥ת פִּרְזֹנֹ֖ו בְּיִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל אָ֛ז יָרְד֥וּ לַשְּׁעָרִ֖ים עַם־יְהוָֽה׃

חָדַל in verse 7 means to 'end, stop, discontinue'. The LXX has δυνατοί, mighty men, which gives an easier sense, so some have adopted this. But the cognates of פְרָזֹ֛ון, פְרָזָה and פְרָזִי mean 'open region, hamlet' and 'open, rural country', so a meaning like 'people who live in open country' (Holladay) is better supported for פְרָזֹ֛ון.

I don't yet understand where the NRSV rendering came from. The NIV strikes me as overly creative. I don't know where JPS got 'deliverance' from. The others seem OK.

So not particularly badly translated. Just that there is a difficulty with the meaning of a word.
Andrew Chapman
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