Lost in Translation
By Jacqi Ballough
Have you ever received a package with anticipation of the expected item inside only to unwrap it and find disappointment because it wasn’t quite what you were expecting?
That’s what happened a few months ago when my husband had ordered a used Message Bible off of Amazon for the family. We happily received the package, but upon ripping into the box we pulled out a hot pink Bible. My son recoiled, “It’s pink!” Unfortunately, the grey cover attached to the original sale item was not very accurate.
Once the original shock that my men now had a neon pink Bible was over, they warmed up to the fact that it was still God’s Word no matter the outward appearance. The most positive aspect of this translation is that it breaks God’s word down into modern day language and even uses our slang terminology which is better understood by the majority and brings some laughs when you have been accustomed to reading the more “traditional” versions.
One morning while I made breakfast, I noticed my son reading it. I asked what he was reading, and he mentioned Exodus 32 when the Israelites made a false idol, sinned against God by worshiping it, and were to be punished. Then he stated, “I don’t like this.”
“What don’t you like?” I responded knowing he has read this story over and over from the time he was little.
“It says, ‘Moses tried to calm his God down.’” (Verse 11)
“What don’t you like about that?” I questioned.
“It sounds like God can be manipulated by man.”
“What is wrong with that?” I quizzed.
“Then He wouldn’t be God. God can’t be controlled.”
We continued the discussion by searching for another translation in the New International Version. This read, “Moses sought the favor of the Lord his God.” We both agreed this seemed to be a better translation as Moses wanted to please God. He was in a loving relationship with Him. He wasn’t trying to manipulate but instead came before him humbly requesting.
Digging in further and with the help of a dear friend, we found the original Hebrew word “chalah” which is best translated as “entreat or entreaty.” Subsequent research in the American Heritage dictionary defines entreaty as an “earnest request.” Request shows love, honor, and reverence whereas “trying to calm” implies control.
Because of Moses’s sincere heart toward God, I believe that is why the LORD changed His mind. God responded by listening and discussing the issue with Moses. Moses came before God requesting as a child in a loving relationship with a father.
The father will listen and consider the child’s words out of the relationship they have. Children can be frank and loving at the same time and can, in healthy relationships, question their parents without the fear of condemnation. They are able to discuss matters at hand (when the time is right) and with an attitude of humility.
Reading God’s word may be confusing at times, but I was grateful yet again that the Holy Spirit showed up to teach us. I want His truth written in our hearts and not lost in translation.