Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Tie your donkey to a grape vine? Wash your clothes in wine?

What would you think if someone suggested that you tie your donkey to the branch of a grape vine? That is, if you had a donkey and a grape vine nearby to tie him to.

I don’t know much about donkeys and grape vines, but my thought is that the branches of grape vines aren’t very strong, so it wouldn’t be a good idea to tie your donkey to one, as if he wanted to escape, he could probably pull and the branch would break off, or he would uproot the plant.

In his blessing for Judah, Jacob says: “He ties his foal to a grapevine, the colt of his donkey to a choice vine. He washes his clothes in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes.” Gen 49:11 (NLT)

What does this mean? Why would you want to wash your clothes in red wine? Do we want our white shirts to have a red tinge to them?

I’ve been checking the Teop draft of Genesis 49 recently and I did some research on this verse. I learnt that tying a young donkey to a grape vine is not normally a good idea, but the reason isn’t because it might break the branch and run away – the reason is because it will eat the leaves and fruit.

What Jacob is saying here is that Judah’s land is going to be so fertile that grape vines will grow really well, and he won’t even worry about the fact that a young donkey might eat some, because he will have such an abundance of them.

The bit about washing clothes in wine is also referring to how wine will be plentiful. It will be so plentiful that you could use it like you could use water. Even if we were talking about white wine, you wouldn’t wash your clothes in it because it is expensive and you wouldn’t want to waste it like that. However Jacob is saying that wine is going be as abundant as water. He doesn’t mean that people will actually wash their clothes in it; rather he is using the image to illustrate how fertile the land will be.

I’ve tried to edit Genesis 49:11 in Teop so that the meaning of the verse is clear. If I didn’t, people wouldn’t understand the verse, it would just sound like nonsense. What’s the point of translating if the translation doesn’t communicate the intended meaning?


Nerida said...

I'd be interested to hear what you come up with! Given you needed to research it, having read it in English and not understood it, would you prefer the English translation made more sense also? There are lots of things in the Bible that are hard to understand initially because we are not the original readers. I'm just wondering how you draw the line between things you change in translation so they make sense, and things you leave the same that might need some explanation. Do you put any footnotes in the Teop translation like we have in some of ours?

Darine Conradie said...

What a surprise: I'm studying Gen 50 and randomly searched on Google for the meaning of the donkey tied to a grapevine. Opening this link, I recognised your photo! You are on the notice board in our Member Care Office here at KG where I work. Thanks for clarifying the meaning.