Saturday, October 10, 2009

Are you peculiar?

I was reading in Exodus this week, and I was struck by this phrase "peculiar treasure" in the King James Version. I first found this in Exodus 19. Which is one chapter away from the giving of the Ten Commandments, and several chapters after the great deliverance.

Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which though shalt speak unto the children of Israel. (Exodus 19:5-6)

A quick search at revealed that this isn't the only time God calls his chosen people peculiar.

Praise the LORD; for the LORD is good: sing praises unto his name; for it is pleasant.
For the LORD hath chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure.
For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. (Psalm 135:3-5)

Aren't you curious about what the word peculiar meant to the translators of the King James Bible? Did it carry the same meaning then that it does now? How do other translators choose to translate that passage?

Well, the NASB translates "peculiar treasure" to "My own possession."
The NIV and ESV translate it as "my treasured possession."
The NKJV translates it as "a special treasure."
The NLT translates it as "my own special treasure."

As to the first question, Merriam Webster tells me, peculiar comes from the Middle English peculier, from Latin peculiaris of private property, special, from peculium private property, from pecu cattle; akin to Latin pecus cattle. It dates to the 15th century. The first definition is "characteristic of only one person, group, or thing." The second definition, the one I would say most people think of when the word comes up is: "different from the usual or normal." Clearly, the translators meant it as the first.

Regardless of which translation you prefer, I think we can all agree it is a good thing to be a part of God's treasured possession, to belong to Him.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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