How NOT to translate the story of Moses and the Burning Bush

I am helping to produce a children’s book of Bible stories here in Chad. Even though they translate in French, which I understand, I have difficulty finding time to translate the stories. So one day, I went to church, and asked some of the believers to help me. Most of the work they did is excellent. But some of it is interesting. I would like to share with you one such story.

It is so important to have interpreters who understand the languages we are working with! However, they should also be able to think as they translate. Even better, they should know the One for whom they are interpreting.

A young man, who grew up in church, translated the work below. Hence, his work helps us understand why we must tell these stories to Chadians in their own language; in doing so, they may truly learn of what God has done for them.

How NOT to Translate

Here is a perfect example of a bad translation of the story of Moses and the Burning Bush:

Once he had become big, Moses learned wisdom once again from the Egyptians. But in his heart he sees there is no one, so he killed the Israelites, who were now poor, wearing the hat of a slave.
At the same time, they serve the Good God, at the time when the Egyptians practiced idols and animals.

Moses called God to rescue the Israelites. When Pharaoh the King of Egypt heard through his efforts that he would free them from slavery, he became hungry. Moses ran to other countries. When Pharaoh suggested that he would kill him, then he became a shepherd.

moses and pharoah translateOne day, Moses saw a strange vision. The wilderness was all burned up in the mountains. He thought to keep it from burning, and it was not destroyed.

And another thing: Moses appeared in the wilderness, the angel appeared in the flame. A voice called Moses: “Never do it! Pull it out, for you it’s what is regular on the sacred ground.”

When God called Moses, “Come now, and your Pharaoh will be sent, and he will lead my people out of Egypt.” Moses answered, “What are these people of the world? What is God? What is his name?” God answered Moses, “Tell them, I am the one who is always alive.”

But Moses wanted to see the special sign, so God did two miracles. First, he told Moses to throw his French bread on the ground. When Moses obeyed, the French bread became a snake. Following that, God permitted Moses to bless his hand on the sick and the lepers.
Moses was killed, quite unable to go, he went sideways, he could not explain it very well.
God asked him, “Am I not the God who makes the month? I will teach what you say.”
Moses hesitated better. Then God said, “Could Aaron the brother of Moses be his linen man in the past?” Moses produced the call of God.

God gave some advice to Aaron about Moses, and together they went up to the head of Egypt. They gathered the “Alderons” of Israel and told them what the Lord said.

I have re-translated the above into English for your understanding and enjoyment. For a better understanding of the original story, please turn to in your Bibles to Exodus Chapters 2 through 4.

What is your favorite Bible story? Let us know in the comments below!

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0 thoughts on “How NOT to translate the story of Moses and the Burning Bush

  1. Wow! Thanks David for sharing that. I think I can see some cliches from the author’s African language sneaking in in his choice of words in French. Does the original African language use the verb ‘die’ as a way to refer to great surprise?

  2. Hi David. It looks like the French is a literal translation of what your informant understands in his MT. Wonderful example of why we need Chron. Bible Storying.