P2 A step-by-step guide to translating and applying a Hebrew Old Testament Text – 1 Samuel 16:1-10

Introduction and review:                                                                                                        In the last post I introduced the reader to a step-by-step process of taking a Hebrew Old Testament text from translation to application.  It represents the typical way this blogger approaches the text. In that post we covered the first three suggested steps:

1). Read the text out loud                                                                                                                   2). Note and parse the key verbs                                                                                                     3). Note the Masoretic text marks

The goal of the previous post and today’s post is to show the reader what can typically occur when working with the Hebrew text of the Old Testament, and how to make such an endeavor a regular part of one’s spiritual life and ministry. Even if the reader may not know Hebrew, the observations in these posts will hopefully whet the reader’s appetite to dig deeper into the text.  Many word study tools are available today to those readers who never had a course in the language.  Such tools can still give the reader some of the beneifts that come from doing word studies.  Today we will introduce three more additional steps to what we have already presented and continuing in our sample study of 1 Samuel 16:1-10.  To God be the glory!

1). Keep in mind what you have translated so as to aid you in what you are translating next

As you work with the Hebrew text, it is helpful to summarize what you have already translated so as not to get lost iin your work.  In the case of 1 Samuel 16:1-10, the verses are interconnected by a verb form we saw in 1 Samuel 16:2 (called the waw consecutive, referring to ongoing narrative action from the previous verse). For me, in translating these verses, I would summarize 16:1-3 as follows: The Lord tells Samuel to go to Jesse’s house in Bethlehem to anoint one of Jesse’s sons.  Samuel is fearful Saul will find out. God tells Samuel to put on a public sacrifice to which he will go to Jesse’s house to invite him (sort of like a Divine allibi). Samuel will have a stated reason in going to Jesse, with the ultimate purpose being to anoint the next king.

1 Samuel 16:4 וַיַּ֣עַשׂ שְׁמוּאֵ֗ל אֵ֚ת אֲשֶׁ֣ר דִּבֶּ֣ר יְהוָ֔ה וַיָּבֹ֖א בֵּ֣ית לָ֑חֶם וַיֶּחֶרְד֞וּ זִקְנֵ֤י הָעִיר֙ לִקְרָאתֹ֔ו וַיֹּ֖אמֶר שָׁלֹ֥ם בֹּואֶֽךָ׃

1 Samuel 16:4 (translated) So Samuel did as Yahweh had told Him and He went to the house in Bethlehem. He paid respect to the elders of the city and publicly invited them (to the sacrifice) saying: “peace be upon you”.

2). Do word studies on words you already know

When translating, there will be words that you will know from having studied vocabulary and having practiced translation in previous passages.  Certainly one should define words they don’t know, since that is part of the translation process.  However, it is often illuminating to take those words you already know and engage in word studies by consulting Hebrew dictionaries or lexicons. So for example, the Hebrew word for “consecrate” (הִֽתְקַדְּשׁ֔וּ = hith-qa-desh-oo) comes from the same root from whence we get our word “holy’.  Begin thinking about what it means to “consecrate”: to set apart, sanctify, deem holy, unique, in a class of its own.  Furthermore, the verb is in a Hebrew verbal form called the “hithpael”, which refers to putting oneself in a state.  So in this instance, Samuel is getting ready to get both he and those whom he is inviting mentally, spiritually and physically ready, urging all of them to get into the proper mindset and attitude for approaching God.  Clearly the gravity of this event (leading up to what will be David’s anointing) is being laid upon Samuel by the Lord. Reference works such as “Theological Dictionary of Old Testament Words” (often abbreviated TWOT) can aid greatly in bringing out further nuances. As you do word studies on fairly familiar words, you can often learn more vocabulary and enrich your understanding of the language and the text.

1 Samuel 16:5 וַיֹּ֣אמֶר ׀ שָׁלֹ֗ום לִזְבֹּ֤חַ לַֽיהוָה֙ בָּ֔אתִי הִֽתְקַדְּשׁ֔וּ וּבָאתֶ֥ם אִתִּ֖י בַּזָּ֑בַח וַיְקַדֵּ֤שׁ אֶת־יִשַׁי֙ וְאֶת־בָּנָ֔יו וַיִּקְרָ֥א לָהֶ֖ם לַזָּֽבַח׃

1 Samuel 16:5 (translation) Then he said: “peace”. I have come to offer a sacrifice and to consecrate myself in a state of consecration. Come with me to the sacrifice. The he went to consecrate Jesse and his sons and to invite them to the sacrifice.

3). Notice the dialogue or statements made by the main actors in the text

Whether studying the Bible in Hebrew or English, we ought to always take note of what is being said and by whom.  Samuel has arrived at Jesse’s house and is beginning the process of evaluating which of Jesse’s sons is to be the next king.  It is important to treat the Bible for what it is: a living book.  In other words, we do not read the Bible as disinterested observers, but aim to enter into the action and truly experience what God is doing in the lives of those in the passage.

1 Samuel 16:6 וַיְהִ֣י בְּבֹואָ֔ם וַיַּ֖רְא אֶת־אֱלִיאָ֑ב וַיֹּ֕אמֶר אַ֛ךְ נֶ֥גֶד יְהוָ֖ה מְשִׁיחֹֽו׃

1 Samuel 16:6 Once he arrived he saw Eliab and said: “Surely the Lord will reveal that he is the chosen one”

This writer hopes these posts are whetting reader’s appetites to get into the Biblical text.  Even if the reader does not know Hebrew, consulting multiple English translations or interlinears (Bibles that arrange the English text and Hebrew text in parallel lines, word-for-word to one another) can approximate some of what we are aiming for in these posts. To God be the glory!   MORE NEXT TIME….

About pastormahlon

By the grace of God I was converted to saving faith in Jesus Christ at the age of 10 and called into the Gospel ministry by age 17. Through the Lord's grace I completed a Bachelors in Bible at Lancaster Bible College in 1996 and have been married to my beautiful wife since that same year. We have been blessed with four children, ranging from 7-18 years of age. In 2002 the Lord enabled me to complete a Master of Arts in Christian Thought at Biblical Theological Seminary, Hatfield PA. For nearly 25 years I have been preaching and teaching God's Word and have been studying the original languages since 1994. In 2016 God called my family and me to move to begin a pastorate at a wonderful Southern Baptist Congregation here in Northern New York.
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