Four Translations: Readability—Single verse comparisons

The Ephesians 1:3-14 passage is a classic to see how translations handle complex Greek texts. But, what about individual verses? In this post I will look at a few Old Testament texts. (Note: I am not concerned with indentations of poetic texts at this point, just whether the translations reflect current English usage.)

Isaiah 10:7

NIV 2011:

But this is not what he intends,
this is not what he has in mind;
his purpose is to destroy,
to put an end to many nations.

 ESV

But he does not so intend,
and his heart does not so think;
but it is in his heart to destroy,
and to cut off nations not a few;

HCSB

But this is not what he intends;
this is not what he plans.
It is his intent to destroy
and to cut off many nations.

GW

 But that’s not what they intend to do.
Their minds don’t work that way.
Their purpose is to destroy and put an end to many nations.

The ESV is awkward, especially the last line. Perhaps the translators were trying to be “poetic” but in the process they miss the ability to communicate in contemporary English.

Isaiah 22:17

NIV 2011

Beware, the LORD is about to take firm hold of you
and hurl you away, you mighty man.

ESV

Behold, the LORD will hurl you away violently, O you strong man. He will seize firm hold on you.

HCSB

Look, you strong man! The LORD is about to shake you violently. He will take hold of you,

GW

Look, mighty man!
The Lord will throw you out.
He will grab you.

In this case, the ESV uses an awkward phrase: “seize firm hold on you.” NIV 2011 is a little better, but it seems that the adverb might be best, such as NAS 95: “And He is about to grasp you firmly.” HCSB and GW seem bland in this verse.

Isaiah 63:10

NIV 2011

Yet they rebelled
and grieved his Holy Spirit.
So he turned and became their enemy
and he himself fought against them.

ESV

But they rebelled
and grieved his Holy Spirit;
therefore he turned to be their enemy,
and himself fought against them.

HCSB

But they rebelled
and grieved His Holy Spirit.
So He became their enemy
and fought against them.

GW

But they rebelled and offended his Holy Spirit.
So he turned against them as their enemy; he fought against them.

ESV is awkward in the last phrase; it seems to be missing a word: “he” before “himself.”

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