Maddening Bible translations

by André Piet
April 18th, 2012

Recently, I decided to make a presentation about the remarkable incident in the life of David, who behaved like a madman in the presence of the King of Gath (1Sam.21). When using the Interlinear Bible program, ISA, to take a very close look at the text of 1Samuël 21:13, I fell from one surprise into another. All translations that I know, without exception, promote the impression that David behaved himself to be insane, on purpose, in order to get out of a dangerous situation. This behavior of David puzzles every serious Bible reader, especially, since Psalm 34 and 56 give us a very different understanding. There, we read that David, in this dangerous predicament, sang praises to God, completely trusting God. From where this great difference?

Anyway, as you will find explained, elsewhere, the translators have wrongly portrayed David as being insane. From "he changed his taste", they have made it that David behaved like a madman. What does that have to do with translating?! Instead of the fact that David praised God (1Sam.21:13 used the ordinary Hebrew word halal, as in Hallelujah), they translated that he was ranting and going crazy. But who, here, is ranting? David or the translators? And once this idea was presented, the misrepresentations continued. The carving or drumming (LXX) on the gates became scrabbling and the (tear)moisture became saliva that was dripping in David's beard. Anyway, the translations are unanimous: David demeaned himself to be a madman…

To find out what was happening with David, the translators went to the Philistines (sec.) and the judgment of the king of Gath was guide to their translation of 1Sam.21:13. This is entirely contrary to the extensive and inspired commentary from David, himself, on this event. David himself testifies that in the day that he was afraid, He trusted God and praised Him and was no longer afraid (Ps.56:4,5). But where is that "praising", spoken of in Psalm 34 and 56, in the translation of 1Sam.21:13? While there, nota bene, the same word is used!?!

I have rarely come across an example, in which so clearly the bias of the translators is reflected, as in 1Sam.21:13; with the result that not only this passage, but also two psalms became completely incomprehensible.

On behalf of David and myself, you are warned: don't let Bible translations make you crazy!


Translation: Peter Feddema

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