Deuteronomy 33:2 KJV

2 And he said, The Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of saints: from his right hand went a fiery law for them.

Deuteronomy 33:2 ESV

2 He said,

“The Lord came from Sinai and dawned from Seir upon us;[a] he shone forth from Mount Paran; he came from the ten thousands of holy ones, with flaming fire[b] at his right hand.

Deuteronomy 33:2 NIV

2 He said:

“The Lord came from Sinai and dawned over them from Seir; he shone forth from Mount Paran. He came with[a] myriads of holy ones from the south, from his mountain slopes.[b]

Deuteronomy 33:2 YLT

2 and he saith: -- `Jehovah from Sinai hath come, And hath risen from Seir for them; He hath shone from mount Paran, And hath come [with] myriads of holy ones; At His right hand [are] springs for them.

Why are so many different translations of this text?

  • 1
    If you quote passages that have footnotes, you should include what the footnotes do or don't explain about the difficulty. Oct 9, 2021 at 11:56

2 Answers 2


The translations are not so different from one another as they might, at first, otherwise seem.

The first two main differences are found in the phrase "ten thousands" and "myriads" and "saints" and "holy ones".

The key here is knowing that the word myriad originally meant ten thousand, and then later, any sufficiently large number.

And the word saints means holy ones.

For myriad:



For saints:

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/saint (from the sense of something be sacred)


The question then merely revolves around the final phrases "fiery law", and etc.

As you might see in the footnote [b] for the ESV, the translators wrote the following:

The meaning of the Hebrew word is uncertain


The NIV has a similar footnote [b]:

The meaning of the Hebrew for this phrase is uncertain.


In Professor Richard Elliot Friedman's Commentary on the Torah: With a New English Translation and the Hebrew Text, for Deuteronomy 33:2, he has the following note:

33:2. slopes at His right. No one knows what this line means. (Frank Cross and David Noel Freedman once wrote, "Conjectures are almost as numerous as scholars.")

He then explains what he chose to do to create a translation.


Robert Altar leaves part of the verse transliterated but untranslated in his The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary.

He writes the verse this way:

"The LORD from Sinai came and from Seir He dawned upon them, He shone from Mount Paran and appeared from Ribeboth-Kodesh, from His right hand, fire-bolts for them...

His translation note reads as follows:

appeared from Ribeboth-Kodesh. It is safest to construe the last term here as an otherwise unattested place-name, though some scholars understand it as "the myriads of Kadesh" or "the myriads of holy ones"... fire bolts for them. The Hebrew 'eshday, anachronistically construed by later Hebrew exegetes to mean "fire of the law" is not intelligible...


The LXX merely reads:

μυριάσιν Κάδης or myriads of Kades, leaving the Hebrew untranslated, but transliterated.


So, for a final answer, the reason you have such varied translations is simply because scholars cannot agree on how to translate what amounts to a nearly untranslatable text, especially when no one is quite sure what the Hebrew even means.

  • Nice. One thing not mentioned here (FWIW) is that in 'eshday, it seems reasonable to perceive the root אש 'esh "fire", but what the other part contributes is unknown. And רבבות rebeboth clearly means "multitudes" without any specific number -- specifying ten thousand is just convention based not on the Hebrew but on the fact that the Greek word designates ten thousand. Septuagint style is pervasive in traditional translation! Oct 9, 2021 at 11:59

Brenton's Septuagint 2And he said, The Lord is come from Sina, and has appeared from Seir to us, and has hasted out of the mount of Pharan, with the ten thousands of Cades; on his right hand were his angels with him.

I consider any translation derived from the Masoretic text suspect. However, that's all we've got (as someone pointed out, above). So, I think of the word "retainer" - as of those men who are a constant part of the kings court in eastern culture (eunuchs).

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