Job 6:6: "marshmallow" New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures

"Will tasteless things be eaten without salt, Or is there any taste in the slimy juice of marshmallow?"- New World Translation.(bold ours)

The Hebrew word rendered here by the NWT as "marshmallow" is, acording to Strong's Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary of the Old Testament, twmllx ,,transliterated as challamuwth(pronounced khal·law·mooth). Strong defines the word as "prob[ably] purslain."-italics his.(The word "egg" follows this entry but this relates only to how the KJV translators so rendered. It is not Strong's meaning.)

According to the footnotes to this word in many Bible translations this is an "obscure Hebrew word."

For example, while the New American Standard Version reads in part here "...white of an egg," its footnote in its Reference edition informs us "Heb[rew], hallamuth, meaning uncertain. Perhaps the juice of a plant."

Another Bible translation, this time the English Standard Version(2001) reads, in part here:

"...or is there any taste in the juice of the mallow"(bold ours)

and its footnote reads: "The meaning of the Hebrew word is uncertain."

An American Translation by Beck reads:

".....or is there any flavor in the white of an egg."

His footnote tells us: "The exact kind of insipid food meant is uncertain."

The Amplified Bible(1958-1962) here reads:

"Or is there any flavor in the white of an egg or in the juice of purslane [an herb]?"

Rotherham's Emphasised Bible also has "egg" for this Hebrew word. But in his footnote he tells us:

"Or: "the juice of purslain." an insipid salad. A meaning preferred by O.G."

By "O.G." he means The Oxford Gesenius: A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, based on the Lexicon of William Gesenius, edited by Brown, Driver and Briggs and printed at the Clarendon Press, Oxford.

We have The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew-English Lexicon, coded with Strong's Concordance Numbers as published by Hendrickson. Under this Hebrew word under discussion we read:

"2495 twmllx n.f. name of a plant, with thick, slimy juice, purslain, Jb 6:6 R[evised] V[ersion] m[margin]....."

It then offers another meaning, such as "in the white of an egg" but this is preceded by a < symbol which indicates that it is the preceding, in this case, "name of a plant.....," that is to be preferred. Hence, this Lexicon supports the New World Translation here that this word relates to a plant rather than to the white of an "egg".

The New Interpreter's Bible (1996)comments:

"The last phrase in [Job 6] v.6 is quite obscure, as the divergent translations of the N[ew] R[evised] S[tandard] V[ersion] and the N[ew] I[nternational] V[ersion] suggest."

The two volume encyclopaedia Insight on the Scriptures(© 1988 by WTB&TS) has this to say under its entry "Marshmallow":

"A perennial plant that is closely related to the hollyhock. The woody stems of the marshmallow measure up to 1.8 m (6 ft) in height. The plant’s large, wide leaves are notched and terminate in a sharp point. Both the stems and the leaves are covered with soft downy hair. The pale-pink, five-petal flowers are about 5 cm (2 in.) across. In times of famine, the marshmallow’s white carrotlike root has been used for food. The sole Scriptural reference to the marshmallow alludes to its tastelessness.—Job 6:6.
The Hebrew term chal·la·muth' found only at Job 6:6, has been variously rendered “egg” (AS, KJ ), “purslain” (AT), and, as defined in a Hebrew and Aramaic lexicon by L.Koehler and W.Baumgartner, “marsh-mallow.” Lexicon in Vestris Testamenti Libros, Lieden, 1958, p.304."

Once again, another Lexicon that supports the choice here by the NWT Translation Committee.

What about the offering "marshmallow" rather than "mallow"? Note in the Lexicon just quoted that the word is hyphenated(a small stroke which joins of two words), "marsh-mallow" rather than "marshmallow." But note how it is spelled in the encyclopeadia Insight on the Scritpures, above, Byington's translation below and this link. Note there that the plant is spelled as one word, "marshmallow" aswell as "marsh mallow." Also here where we can read from it's "additional comments": "The name Althaea is derived from the Greek altho, meaning to heal, and its medicinal qualities have been recognised since Ancient Egyptian times. Theophrastus reported that the root could be added to sweet wine to relieve coughs; Horace and Martial mentioned the laxative properties of the leaves and root; and Pliny wrote that 'whosoever shall take a spoonful of the Mallows shall that day be free from all diseases that may come to him'. Marshmallow is mentioned in the Bible and in Arabic and Chinese history as a valuable food during times of famine. In rural France, the young tops and leaves are eaten in salads for their kidney-stimulating effects. All members of the mallow family, such as the hollyhock and common mallow, have similar properties and can be used medicinally." -underlining ours. Also, the The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition also spells it as one word. In regard to hyphens: the hyphen's main function is to link words that form compound words. Compounds may be 'open', written as separate words(e.g. washing machine), 'hyphenated', linked by a hyphen (e.g. tax-free), or 'solid', written as one word(e.g. handkerchief). American English tends to use fewer hyphens than British English. In our copy of the Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language(College edition, 1964) under "marsh mallow" we find two entries the second reads: "a plant of the mallow family, with large, pink flowers, growing in marhes..." Note two words un-hyphenated. From this then we doubt very much if a reader of the New World Translation here at Job 6:6 would think the reference to "marshmallow" is anything but a plant. So, the fact is that the New World Translation's choice of the English word "marshmallow" is quite acceptable linguistically and above any pedantic, quibbling reproach from those who might prefer another rendition.

David J. A. Clines in the Word Biblical Commentary, Job 1-20(Word Books, 1989) translates Job 6:6:

".......Is there flavor in the juice of mallows?"(bold ours)

In a note for the word he renders "mallows" he states:

"""""twmllx is probably some vegetable, the word being cognate with the undentifiable hilimitu of the Alalakh texts(A.R.Millard, "What has no taste?(Job 6:6)," U[garit] F[orschungen] 1 [1969] 210). Holscher, Horst, Forhrer, NEB, JPS identify as "mallows," a "wild plant......having hairy stems and leaves and deeply-cleft reddish-purple flowers; it is very mucilaginous[sticky]" (OED, s.v.)- hence "the juice of mallows." RSV, following RVmg. and Driver have "purslane"(purslain), a leguminous plant exuding mucilage. Pope, following A.S. Yahuda, connects it with Arab. hal(l)um "soft cheese." AV, RV, JB, NAB, NIV retain the ancient interpretation of [the Hebrew words]as "white of an egg"; this follows the rabbinic explanation(e.g. Rashi) that [a related Hebrew word] is the yolk of an egg, its "slime" being the white of the egg."

The Revised English Bible(1989) reads here, in part:

".....or is there any flavour in the juice of mallow?"

S.T.Byington's translation The Bible in Living English(1972) reads:

".....or is there any flavor in marshmallow?"

The Revised Standard Version (OT 1952) has "purslane." But in the New Revised Standard Version of 1989 this was changed to "mallows." The footnotes in each reads the same, that the Hebrew is "uncertain." But, obviously, the translation committee of 1989 favoured "mallows" over and above the other choices.

Hence, there is no consensus among Biblical translators and scholars in how this word should be translated into English. Given that this is a fact that cannot be disputed and that there is much support for the choice made by the NWT Translation Committee for so rendering this Hebrew word twmllx as "marshmallow" rather than as "egg" or "purslane/purslain" then that choice is above any criticism even if one is to prefer another meaning such as "egg" and it is certainly no 'evidence' that the NWT Translation Committee "mis-translated" this "un-certain," "obscure" Hebrew word! The rendering "mallow," while acceptable here at Job 6:6, there is a Hebrew word, xwllm, for "mallow." See Job 30:4 English Standard Version. Gesenius states "xwllm n.[m] mallow; plant growing in salt-marsh; Job 30:4.." So we note that while this and some other Bible translations renders both Hebrew words, the one in 6:6 and the other at 30:4, with the one English word "mallow" the New World Translation accurately differentiates between them. Job 30:4 reads "salt herb" in the New World Translation. The NWT here seems to have good support and this from other Bible translation committees, Hebrew-English Lexicons and scholarly opinions and many of these coming after the New World Translation of the Hebrew Scriptures were produced.
It's choice of the word "marshmallow" is also acceptable in the target language, in this case, English. If anyone thinks this is not so then they would have to show, not just by mere opinion, which is often apt to come from un-warranted bias, that the English word in the New World Translation is unnatural, stylistically poor or communicates the wrong meaning from the original(i.e. by
Field testing). If this has not been done then there can be no evidence against it. No one should therefore deride the New World Translation at this place. To do so would say more about the critics own biases than anything about the New World Translation's choice of word.

Minor criticisms page

NWT Defense Pages