Joel 2:25: Where did "ears" come from?


Different Scripture translations carry very different translations of Joel 2:25.

The King James Version and most of the other non-Catholic translations read pretty much the way the New Jerusalem Bible translation does:

I will make up to you for the years devoured by grown locust and hopper, by shearer and young locust, my great army which I sent to invade you.

Which is in fair agreement with the Latin of the Vulgate:

Et reddam vobis annos, quos comedit locusta,
bruchus, et rubigo, et eruca:
fortitudo mea magna quam misi in vos.

Two popular Catholic translations, however, are interestingly different, which leads me to ask three questions.

The Douay-Rheims translation reads like this:

And I will restore to you the ears which the locust, and the bruchus, and the mildew, and the palmerworm have eaten; my great host which I sent upon you.

Question 1: How did ‘years’ become ‘ears’? (That just screams “typo!” but, really, one doubts such a thing would have got by the scholarly proofreaders of the Douay-Rheims…)

The New American Bible, Revised Edition, renders the verse as follows:

I will repay you double
what the swarming locust has eaten,
The hopper, the consuming locust, and the cutter,
my great army I sent against you.

Question 2: How did ‘years’ (or ‘ears’) become ‘double’?

I know different sources can provide different nuances or wordings, but the difference here was one I found particularly curious. Which leads to Question 3: Is there an online resource of Scriptural research where it might be more appropriate to ask these questions?


Ears of wheat and grain. Ever look at an old USA wheat penny?


Understood. I guess what I meant was, what source did the Douay-Rheims scholars use that contained ‘ears’? It’s curious to me that no other English translation (as far as I know) has that, and it’s not in the Vulgate.


Sorry, I should have read it more carefully. That is a good question. Perhaps it was not in the original Doui because ears to years is definitely suspicious. I have the facsimile of the original Doui somewhere on CD, i will have to look.


Well, God can certainly give back years of life or ears of grain in lost production… But I would ask you, does it make sense to you in the sentence you quoted:

“I will make up to you for the years devoured by grown locust and hopper, by shearer and young locust, my great army which I sent to invade you.”

So what did the locust devour? What do they eat, when they descend on a farmland or field?

I would tend to agree that they devoured the crops :wink:

If you read the LXX while the text does contain the word “years” however the meaning is that God will repay for the “Lost production” in a too convoluted way, so yes the better translation to me is that He will repay for the lost “ears” as the grain production that was lost.


The original Douay Rheims has years.
“And I wil render you the yeares, which the locust, the bruke, and the blaft, and the eruke hath eaten: my great strength, which I have sent upon you.”

Awesome catch!!! I am going to fix my online Douay Rheims linked below.


How interesting. So typo it apparently was. Now, to whom to submit a correction… :confused:

Thanks for your help!


I can see how they got confused with ears and years even in this context. But the latin is clear and the original douay is too. Locust swarms do eat everything and leave barren fields. So in a way, it is like eating away years of hard work.


From the Monsignor Knox Translation:

25 Profitless years, when the locust ravaged you, Gnaw-all and Ruin-all and Spoiler, that great army of mine I let loose among you, they shall be made good.

There are allegedly numerous copyist and/or typographical errors in the KJV which probably transferred to its derivatives. “Ears” are what are devoured by locusts, but Saint Jerome had access to the oldest copies of scripture extant and rendered this passage as “years” which seems straightforward enough.


I think the Baronius Press would like to know as they publish the Douay Rheims alone and side by side with the Vulgate. I have alerted them to other issues before that I have come across with a few cross references that are wrong in all Challoner version Douay Rheims. Since I have put them all online, I literally had to vet each one and discovered them.


There are a lot of verses in the Douay Rheims which use the word ‘penance’ instead of the correct word ‘repent’. Examples: Matt: 3:2, 3:8, 3:11 on and on. Big difference in those words. So I’m a little skeptical about that translation.


You guys ought to check out the list of typo’s compiled by the International Society of Bible Collectors. This is my favorite…

1638— “Vexing wives” Bible. In a KJV Bible at Num. 25:18 it reads “for they vex you with their wives” instead of “with their wiles.”
Read More…



Yes, my original is yeares (actually 1635, so close) and my 1899 edition also says years, agreeing with the Latin.
However, my 1914 D-R says ears. So it does seem to be a typo–interesting.


Regard to the “double” – if I’m not mistaken, many cases of restitution in OT law required a double payment. The idea is that God has destroyed something you had, so to make restitution he must return in double what he took.

Just a side note.


Well, there is not a single correct word to use in an English Bible because the Bible was not written in English. There can be two equally admissable translations for the same phrase. Additionally, the Douay-Rheims was created primarily as an English translation of the Vulgate, so it has a preference for anglicizing the existing Latin words. The problem is that Latin-derived words often have different connotations than they do in the original language.

As a translation of the Vulgate, the Douay-Rheims does well to translate with “to do penance,” as this is a word-for-word translation of “paenitentium agere.” It is a perfect translation of the Vulgate. Additionally, the Vulgate is a good translation of the Greek. If you consult a Latin dictionary, you will see that this does mean “to repent.”

In addition, the Biblical concept of repentance does include “doing penace” as well. For example, there is Matthew 11:20-21 where repentance is linked with acts of mortification.

As for ears vs. years, I have found numerous typos in the DR on my phone’s Bible app. Usually, they are obvious so the important thing is just to expect them. Same with the Summa Theologica on New Advent. I imagine that these errors are mostly just mistakes introduced while transcribing from text to an electronic format. For this typo in particular, I could imagine that it slipped by because ear was interpreted as in ears of corn, so it seemed to make some sense in context.


Actually “ears” applies to any grain. So in the OT context it would be “ears of wheat”.
Corn only existed in the Americas and would not be know to the rest of the world until the discovery and colonization by the Europeans.

With reagards to using penance vs repentance. If you think about it, any one doing penance HAD to repent first. So I would hesitate to call it a typo.

Something important to consider is that for most English translations were done from the Vulgate which was in itself a translation from Greek and Hebrew.

Also we need to acknowledge that English contrary to the Greek (ancient) or Latin is a languange that is alive and therefore changes.
Just try to read any of Shakespeare original works as penned and you will see this very clearly.
In fact we NEED translations of his works to better appreciate and understand them.

Imagine we actually need a translation from a not so ancient English to “current” English.
In the final analysis we need to weigh “literarity” a word for word translation, (What many people do when they use online tools like “google translate” and others) versus a translation that ACTUALLY interpretes what the original author meant.
And this applies to the OT or even to Shakespeare’s works.

So I would be weary of calling these examples as “typos” since the structure of the sentence and meaning is preserved and tries to better inform the reader.
Of course one cannot discard the hipotesis that there are typos still present, (real ones) versus perceived or apparent ones :wink:


“Corn” originally meant ‘cereal crop’ in the general sense: wheat, barley, oats, maize are all ‘corn’. It’s still used in that sense in British English. It’s only Americans, Canadians, Australians and people using American English who use “corn” specifically to mean ‘maize.’ :cool:

(Corn and grain both ultimately derive from the same Proto-Indo-European word nómǵr̥h[sub]2[/sub], but whereas corn is a ‘native’ Germanic word (cf. Dutch koren, German/Danish/Swedish/Norwegian korn), grain is a loanword from Latin granum.)


Thank you for the clarification reharding ears, though if you really want to split hairs, corn can also be any kind of grain as well.

I hope you are not saying that I called “do penance” a typo since I spent the majority of my post defending its use. It comes across as if you are responding to a post that you didn’t actually read. That’s not even what a typo is anyway. A typo would be something like “penence” where the word is misspelled or “pen ants” where the wrong word is used. Neither I nor the poster I responded to called penance a typo. He said it was a faulty translation.


For now I’m guessing that yes, this is a typo. For the record, this isn’t really something out-of-the-ordinary: most public-domain texts available on the Internet are either scanned or typed manually, and does not guarantee that a typo cannot sneak in. Even proofread texts can still contain a few mistakes after all. As for the NAB, it’s really more midway between a literal, ‘formal equivalence’ (word-for-word) translation and a ‘dynamic equivalence’ (thought-for-thought) translation, where the translation principle is not so much to render every word literally into English but to give out the (perceived) sense of the passage as a whole.


Going back to the original-original (the Hebrew), the word is ha-shanim, “the years.” That should settle it.

(FWIW, the PC Study Bible software that I use has about 30 English translations of the Bible, and the D-R version there is the one with “ears.”)

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