I was reviewing occurrences of יָהּ throughout the Tanakh. It occurs in Exo. 17:16 which [verse] I noticed is translated differently by the various English versions.

Hebrew text:

וַיֹּאמֶר כִּי יָד עַל כֵּס יָהּ מִלְחָמָה לַיהוָה בַּֽעֲמָלֵק מִדֹּר דֹּר

which is translated by the King James Version as,

16 For he said, Because the LORD hath sworn that the LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation. KJV, 1769

However, the New Living Translation states,

16 He said, “They have raised their fist against the LORD’s throne, so now the LORD will be at war with Amalek generation after generation.” NLT, 2007

Other translations also differ. What is the cause for the diverging translations?

  • I'm not sure i understand your question. As far as i can see the translations do not differ in regards to the word יה, they both translate it as LORD. The difference is how you translate the verse כִּי יָד עַל כֵּס יָהּ, whereas the KJV translates it as god making an oath to destroy them (god swears while holding his throne), and the NLV translates as referring to the fight of the Amalekites themselves against god's throne. Im not sure how this affects the meaning of יה. Pardon me if i misunderstood your question.
    – bach
    Jun 2, 2017 at 3:10
  • “As far as i can see the translations do not differ in regards to the word יה.”—I did not say they did. I said they differed.
    – user862
    Jun 2, 2017 at 5:41
  • So you just want to know the cause for the different translations of the verse?
    – bach
    Jun 2, 2017 at 15:25
  • @Bach—Yes.......
    – user862
    Jun 2, 2017 at 18:44
  • The LXX has yet another rendering, which says: > ‘For, with a hidden (κρυφαία) hand, YHWH makes war against Amalek from > generation to generation.’
    – Joshua B
    Apr 20 at 2:11

1 Answer 1


This phrase is indeed archaic and extremely ambiguous. Literally the verse כִּי יָד עַל כֵּס יָהּ translates as "for the hand on the throne of god".

Now the KJV understands this to mean that the LORD swore to fight the Amalekites every generation. According to this interpretation "the hand" mentioned here refers to god's hand; and the hands on the throne symbolizes the oath that god made to destroy them. The NLT understands that the hand here refers to the hands of the Amalekites, meaning that they lifted their hands on the throne of god to topple and destory his kingdom.

I prefer the KJV translation as the verse flows better, since מִלְחָמָה לַיהוָה בַּֽעֲמָלֵק מִדֹּר דֹּר is obviously talking about god. But according to the NLT we have to insert the words "so now", which is not evident from the verse, and the verse doesn't flow so well either, since the verse has to be divided between Amalek (כִּי יָד עַל כֵּס יָהּ) and god (מִלְחָמָה לַיהוָה בַּֽעֲמָלֵק מִדֹּר דֹּר).

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