Observations on life; particularly spiritual

Why do some Bibles use the word “ditches” in 2 Kings 3:16 and others the word “pools”?

Valley filled with waterWhen the armies of three nations ran out of water they sought the help of Elisha the prophet (2 Ki. 3:9-27). Elisha received a message from God saying that He would use a miracle to provide water for themselves and their animals. This happened on the following morning and God also used the appearance of the water to defeat their enemy. So God did more than they requested (Eph. 3:20).

The first part of God’s message as given in verse 16 has been translated in two ways:

  • “Make this valley full of ditches” (NKJV). This emphasises that the armies were to dig the ditches (or pits) and then the Lord would provide the water.
  • “I will fill this valley with pools of water” (NIV). This emphasises that God would provide the water.

See link for a comparison between different translations and a translation note from the New English Translation (NET). Here we see that both alternatives occur in more than one translation. The difference depends on whether the command is assumed to be literal or hyperbolic (a figure of speech). It has also been said that in this context “ditches” (or pits) and “pools” are nearly synonymous.

Possible applications to the two alternative translations are:

  • Pray, listen to God and do all you can to accomplish His purposes, while trusting God to act.
  • Pray and then wait and trust God to act.

Written, February 2013

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