I say again that the ESV is about as good as you can do for a modern English translation. (Though the KJV beats it for accuracy at almost every point of disagreement.) So my ESV rants in this series express my puzzlement and disappointment when the ESV translator makes what I view as the wrong choice. Especially when the choice breaks a connection or obscures an antecedent in the Biblical vocabulary.
So Rebekah’s disappointing son Esau marries a couple of the local Hittite girls, and Rebekah complains to Isaac about these “daughters of Heth.” Heth, as I’m sure we all recall, was one of Canaan’s two sons listed in Genesis 10. Heth becomes the forefather of one of the Canaanite tribes known as the Hittites. “Heth” and “Hittite” have the same Hebrew root. So sometimes the text calls the Hittites “Hittites”, and sometimes it calls them “sons of Heth.” The Hebrew has two different ways to say it. Does it make any difference?
Maybe. And my point all along has been that this is not a call that the translator should be making. Translators just translate, and leave interpretation, explanation, and cultural accommodation for the preacher and teacher. (Yes, yes, yes, it is not always that simple … but in these rant posts, I’m citing cases where I think it IS that simple.) At least I think we should pause before we just flatten out the text and change all the Bible’s “sons of Heth” into “Hittites.” Isn’t it possible that in some cases the Bible says “sons of Heth” to communicate a nuance or suggest a connection that “Hittite” doesn’t? A good translation does not obliterate those connections.
So, no surprise. KJV says “sons of Heth” where the Hebrew says “sons of Heth.” But ESV wobbles. When Rebekah complains about these “daughters of Heth,” ESV, for some reason, (WHY??!!), decides that “Hittite women” is better.
Guess what. I disagree.
(I wonder if this is a bias danger for the kind of guys who get put on the translation teams. Most of them are classroom professors, who always have one foot in the original language and the other foot in the classroom with a bunch of sleepy pastoral candidates who are just trying to survive the academics in order to go do gospel ministry. Most of these guys could not care less about parsing Hebrew verbs, so the prof always has to pull the Hebrew idiom into the modern world and dress it in skinny jeans and tattoos before their students’ eyes begin to open. That probably helps in the classroom, but is not the model for translation.)