Funny renderings in the NEB – REB translations

I know that there are some of you out there (like ElShaddai) who are REB-lovers. But as I was doing research on the REB and NEB, I learned of some weird and hilarious renderings that I can’t help sharing. I really don’t know where the NEB/REB translators got these from? Some of them really need a good explanation. Here’s some examples of my favorites.


Song of Solomon 1:7

“That I [the bride] may not be left picking lice as I sit among my companions.” (NEB/REB)

“for why should I be like one who wanders beside the flocks of your companions?” (RSV)

“for why should I be like one who is veiled beside the flocks of your companions?” (NRSV)

“Why should I be like a veiled woman beside the flocks of your friends?” (TNIV)

  • Who has time to stand around picking lice?


Josh 15:18

she broke wind” (NEB)

she dismounted.” (REB)

“she got off her donkey” (HCSB, TNIV, ESV)

  • Someone cut the cheese.



Ezek 21:7

all men’s knees run with urine” (NEB)

all knees will turn to water.” (REB)

“Every heart will melt and every hand go limp; every spirit will become faint and every knee be wet with urine.” (TNIV)

“Every heart will melt and all hands will be feeble, every spirit will faint and all knees will turn to water.” (NRSV)

“Every heart will melt, and every hand will become weak. Every spirit will be discouraged, and every knee will turn to water.” (HCSB)

“When it comes, their hearts will be filled with fear, their hands will hang limp, their courage will fail, and their knees will tremble.” (GNT)

“When it comes true, the boldest heart will melt with fear; all strength will disappear. Every spirit will faint; strong knees will become as weak as water.” (NLT)

  • I forgot to wear my daipers. In this verse, the REB reverted to a more conservative rendering but the TNIV reverted from the conservative rendering in the NIV to a similar one in the NEB.



Proverbs 19:29 [edited]

“There is a rod in pickle for the arrogant, and blows ready for the stupid man’s back.” (NEB) / “for the fool’s back” (REB)

The irreverent have to learn reverence the hard way; only a slap in the face brings fools to attention.” (Message)

Judgments are prepared for mockers, and beatings for the backs of fools.” (HCSB)

Penalties are prepared for mockers, and beatings for the backs of fools. ” (TNIV)

  • I think a “rod in pickle” means a scolding in store or in waiting.



1 Cor 5:9

“…Have nothing to do with loose livers” (NEB)

“…Have nothing to do with those who are sexually immoral.” (REB)

“…not to associate with sexually immoral people” (NLT)

I’ve never heard of this term before.


Exodus 11:1

“he will send you packing, as a man might dismiss a rejected bride.” (NEB)

“…When he finally lets you go, he will drive you out forcibly as a man might dismiss a rejected bride.” (REB)

“When he lets you go, he will surely drive you out from here completely.” (NASB)

“indeed, when he lets you go, he will drive you away.” (NRSV)

  • Here, the NEB sounds as paraphrasical as The Message

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Author: Kevin S.

A follower of Jesus, a husband and a father. Hobbies include biking, keeping fish if they don't die on me, blogging when I can, theologizing and ministry, and pondering about world affairs.

10 thoughts on “Funny renderings in the NEB – REB translations”

  1. Good stuff, Kevin! As far as I know, the NEB’s “she broke wind” only appeared in the first impressions of the OT (1970) – it was edited for later editions.

    The Ezekiel example is an interesting demonstration of Hebrew-to-English idiom replacement – do you focus on the “urine” or the “knees”? If the former, I’d expect to see some flavor of “I wet my shorts”. The TNIV has gone more literal here and less (English) idiomatic.

    Here, the NEB sounds as paraphrasical as The Message.

    Indeed.

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  2. RE: “loose livers”

    If only they had used “loose lovers” instead – that wouldn’t be nearly as homonymically confusing, while retaining the alliteration!

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  3. Excellent post!

    I’ve been looking for a difference between the 1970 NEB and the 1972 corrected impression. Elshaddai is right. In the 1972 edition it says “she made a noise.”

    Thanks for a great post and an answer to my research!

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  4. What edition of the NEB has the “rod in pickle” rendering? It isn’t in my NEB editions or in the REB I have.

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  5. ElShaddai, I thought you’d like this post on the NEB/REB. The NEB really goes out there to use alternate renderings. It was bold of the translators. While the REB went back to “water, the TNIV’s rendering of water to “urine” really surprised me. I like what the NETS rendering of: “all thighs shall be sullied with moisture.” “Sullied” kind of implies one urinated but not exactly. NETS didn’t even focus on knees but thighs instead. This leads me to ask an imaginative quesiton: If a person were to urinate in their pants (or their robe), where would would it be wet? Their knees or their thighs. “loose lovers” makes more sense to me, and surprisingly, it would seem to work too.

    Brad, welcome to the NewEpistles blog. I corrected the “rod in pickle” reference. It was actually Ezek. chapter 19 and not 14 like I had before. I only have the 1970 edition but it should be in both editions and the REB too. You might have a hard task finding major differences between the 1970 and 1972 editions. Too bad there’s not a bible software out there for this.

    TC, I’m just posting as I find the time, but I may be busy again. I’ll see.

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  6. The NEB was big on exploring alternate renderings when the Hebrew was uncertain – the translators were especially interested in using related words from cognate languages, a practice that evidently is out of favor now.

    I’ll post more on the Ezekiel “urine/knees” passage on my blog – I’ve got some more thoughts that don’t warrant a massive comment reply.

    Too bad there’s not a bible software out there for this.

    A massive understatement…

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