First of all, I would like to apologize (again) for such a long absence. My goal is to eventually get to the point where I post every day. However, the demands of life, work and school often impede that to a degree.
With that said, my desire to continue this blog is as strong as ever! To be sure, I want the translation page to be just as utilized as this blog. So, even if there is nothing on the blog, please do continue to check out the translation page! Honestly, most of the work I put into the sight goes into that. Obviously, progress will be slow just because of its nature, but hopefully I can elicit some assistance in the future. Again, my apologies for the absence and I am striving every day to become more consistent with this. With that said, all aboard the struggle bus!
So, I am having some trouble figuring out the precise way to translate a certain scripture, namely Daniel 1:9. Let’s start with the good ole’ Hebrew text first, and I will list out some popular level English Translations:
HEB: וַיִּתֵּן הָאֱלֹהִים אֶת־דָּנִיֵּאל לְחֶסֶד וּלְרַחֲמִים לִפְנֵי שַׂר הַסָּרִיסִים׃
NIV: Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel…
ESV: And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs…
NASB: Now God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the officials…
KJV: Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs…
Now, I realize that there are no earth-shattering, life-changing differences here. Also, I don’t really have the answer to the questions I am about to pose. What I want to illustrate today is that there are so many factors within the translation of any given scripture. Today, I want to highlight just one of those factors that seem to be convoluting this translation because (1) I think you should be aware of it, and (2) It’s just plain cool. With that said, let’s talk about diachronicity…
For our purposes, this just means that language changes over time. You have to think, the authors of the Hebrew Bible span a time of about 1,500 years. A language will change over time. Imagine having a part of your Bible in King James English, and another in NIV English, and that is only about 500 years! What will English look like another 1,000 years from now? Well, that seems to be part of what is giving me difficulty in this scripture. Let’s look at the scripture again.
וַיִּתֵּן הָאֱלֹהִים אֶת־דָּנִיֵּאל לְחֶסֶד וּלְרַחֲמִים לִפְנֵי שַׂר הַסָּרִיסִים׃
And God gave/set hesed and compassion to Daniel before the chief of the Eunuchs.
So the issue is this, did God show Daniel the favor directly causing him to be successful, or did God cause the Chief of the Eunuchs to look upon Daniel with favor? To put this another way, did God effect Daniel, or did He affect him? Again, not a huge deal, but in an effort to be accurate, it’s worth looking into. So what is making this difficult?
You see the letters I made bold? Back in the olden days (Think Genesis, Job, etc…) the one bolded to your furthest right was used by the Hebrews to point out the object of a verb. Also, in the olden days, the two bolded items on your left meant, roughly to, or, for.
Well, by the time of Daniel, the language was at a place where the bold letter on your left could take on the same function as the bold letter on your right. Some translators who may not be aware of this will struggle to make sense of this verse; is Daniel the direct or indirect object of God’s actions.
Indirect Object: And God gave hesed and compassion to Daniel before the Chief of Eunuchs
Direct Object: And God set Daniel before the Chief of Eunuchs for hesed and for compassion (i.e. God caused him to show mercy to Daniel).
The first option is probably the correct one. The reason being it would be awkward for the Chief Eunuch to show Daniel hesed (hence the KJV’s awkward translation above). Hesed is hard to translate into a single English word. It is usually (not always) a technical term meaning God acting towards His people out of His covenant faithfulness, but thats a rabbit trail for another day.
Again, that is a gross oversimplification of the issues in verses like this, I simply wanted to bring it to your attention. Alas, this post has gone on long enough at this point. I realize some of the above might be unclear. If you want clarification or have further questions, leave me a comment below. Also don’t forget to subscribe if you want to receive the posts (which will hopefully be more regular) as they are written!