Why do English translations of Numbers 31:18 add "for yourselves"?

English: "But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves."

Hebrew: יחוְכֹל֙ הַטַּ֣ף בַּנָּשִׁ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר לֹא־יָֽדְע֖וּ מִשְׁכַּ֣ב זָכָ֑ר הַֽחֲי֖וּ לָכֶֽם:


I realize that Hebrew is not English, and there is not a word for word equivalence. But usually it is easy to see where the English words come from. Yet for Numbers 31:18 I cannot see why translators add the last two words "for yourselves". Those two words are damning and are often cited as proof that Moses was morally reprehensible. So there must be a good reason to add those words. Where do they come from in the Hebrew?

  • What do you think the last word means?
    – curiousdannii
    Sep 15 at 23:52
  • The last word of the verse is לָכֶֽם (lakem) = "for yourselves".
    – Dottard
    Sep 15 at 23:57
  • I don't read Hebrew, so can only repeat what the online sources say: "chayah" is to live, and the grammatical "hi phil" is the imperative. That is, the verse ends "make to live" or "keep alive". That all makes perfect sense from the context. I cannot see why the English words "for yourselves" are added. Sep 16 at 0:00
  • Ah, it looks like there is an error in the "QBible" site code. The English section does not link the final word. And before I refreshed the page, the last word in Hebrew was also "chayah" (to live), plus the grammatical "hi phil" for being imperative. Now that I have refreshed and resized the page, the Hebrew is correct, but the English part is still missing the Hebrew link. Sorry for wasting your time, and thanks for the quick replies. Sep 16 at 0:06
  • Many of the online interlinears will only link the content words, while ignoring all the grammatical morphemes. However even so you can do more research. Copy the word into Google, and you'll find a link to Wiktionary.
    – curiousdannii
    Sep 16 at 0:08

“When you approach a city to fight against it, you shall offer it terms of peace. If it agrees to make peace with you and opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall become your forced labor and shall serve you. However, if it does not make peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it. When the Lord your God gives it into your hand, you shall strike all the men in it with the edge of the sword. Only the women and the children and the animals and all that is in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as booty for yourself; and you shall use the spoil of your enemies which the Lord your God has given you. Thus, you shall do to all the cities that are very far from you, which are not of the cities of these nations nearby. Only in the cities of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, you shall not leave alive anything that breathes. But you shall utterly destroy them, the Hittite and the Amorite, the Canaanite and the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so, that they may not teach you to do according to all their detestable things which they have done for their gods, so that you would sin against the Lord your God.”

Israel would be permitted to keep as slaves those women and children captured in battle from far away nations, and even marry those women according to Deuteronomy 21:10-14.

“When you go out to battle against your enemies, and the Lord your God delivers them into your hands and you take them away captive, and see among the captives a beautiful woman, and have a desire for her and would take her as a wife for yourself, then you shall bring her home to your house, and she shall shave her head and trim her nails. She shall also remove the clothes of her captivity and shall remain in your house, and mourn her father and mother a full month; and after that you may go in to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife. It shall be, if you are not pleased with her, then you shall let her go wherever she wishes; but you shall certainly not sell her for money, you shall not mistreat her, because you have humbled her.”

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