Various Translations

Job 29:6a is translated various ways. The apparently more literal one's being:

(KJV) When I washed my steps with butter

(NASB) When my steps were bathed in butter [NET has 'with butter']

(ESV) when my steps were washed with butter

(NIV) when my path was drenched with cream

However some, apparently literal, have a slightly different meaning given, where instead of the path being referenced, it is the feet themselves:

(HCSB) when my feet were bathed in cream

(Douay-Rheims) When I washed my feet with butter

And then Young's literal applies it more to the action itself of moving:

(YLT) When washing my goings with butter

The more interpretive translations attempt to give their view of the literal phrasing, with some varied results:

(NLT) My cows produced milk in abundance

(ISV) I was successful wherever I went

Questions on the Interpretation

The above leads to various questions about the proper translation of the original, and therefore the meaning of it. I'm desiring a more "literal" translation (I prefer to leave the symbolic connections to be made by the reader, not the translator). Some points I would like to see addressed in an answer are the following, related to the Hebrew text:

  1. Is it properly active "I washed" or passive "were washed" action?
  2. Is it properly "washed," "bathed," or "drenched" as the action?
  3. Is it properly the idea of the "path"/"steps," or the "feet" themselves, or the "goings" that is being referenced?
  4. Is it properly "butter" or "cream" referenced (similar, but yet different forms, the latter liquid, the former solid, indicating a different level of processing involved)?
  5. If #3 is to either "path"/"steps" or "feet," was there a historical practice of wealthy people (which Job is stated to be, Job 1:3) washing the particular item (path/feet) as either a show of themselves or benefit to them because of their wealth? Or is that aspect purely making a metaphorical statement (note: if there is a literal practice, it does not mean it may not have a metaphorical idea still), and not something that was ever done historically?
  6. Anything else you want to contribute is fine as well.

1 Answer 1


My persuasion is that the Masoret (with mitigated revision due from Dead Sea Scrolls) is the only biblically authoritative text for the books Genesis to Malakhi.

It is a mistake and even pointless to think about English/Latin grammatical concepts in order to accurately resolve the actual intention of the Hebrew text.

To map Hebrew grammatical elements to Romance grammatical elements is like trying to translate the 2D spheroid map of the world onto flat 2D maps using various strategies. This allegory is not accurate, because it is worse than that.

Biblical Hebrew rests on a totally different event-state model than that of Romance languages. A fact I unpopularly expressed at the question <<here>>.

ברחוץ הליכי בחמה

  • [רחוץ] = passive = state of being washed

  • [ברחוץ] = in the state of being washed

  • [הלך] = simple active = go, walk

  • [הליך] = causative = being caused to proceed ~= proceedings

  • [חמה] = curdled milk cream, which must be the predecessor to our firmer modern butter. We need to ask paleontologists if they think ancient butter could be called butter today.

In being awashed, my going-forths, with butter.

IOW, with high probability that butter is an extreme luxury.

I had all the butter I need wherever I went.

וצור יצוק עמדי פלגי שמן

and rock being poured within-my-vicinity brooks of oil

That is,

and rock around me pouring with oil

  • We essentially agree on the authoritative text, though I do disagree about not being able to map Hebrew to English (or grammatical concepts of each). Your answer is helpful (+1), and may prove to be acceptable (you certainly attempted to answer the questions I asked).
    – ScottS
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 15:23

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