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Bible Dictionaries

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary

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We meet with this word twice in the history of Joseph. (Genesis 40:8; Gen 42:23) and once in the history of Job, (Job 33:23) The office of an interpreter, in the general acceptation of the word, is not difficult to apprehend. It means, in our present use of the term, merely a person who explains to each party between whom he acts what each saith, because they do not understand one another's language, and this interpreter understands both. But in the Scripture sense of the word, the character of an interpreter riseth much higher. The original word, translated interpreter, (Genesis 42:23) which is Malats, means something that is persuasive, smooth, or to soften, like our English word mollify. And the person that did this office between Joseph and his brethren is supposed, by the expression and the name of Malats, by which he is so called, to be a softener of Jacob's sons' speeches, by way of conciliating the favour of Joseph. And it would have been no violence to the passage if, instead of reading it as it is in our Bibles, it had been read, "and they knew not that Joseph heard them, for the Advocate was between them." The character of an interpreter in this sense, is truly interesting, and throws a great beauty upon this oriental history; and no less upon the similar passage in Job, for the word is the same in both. Indeed, some have not scrupled, in this last passage, to translate Malats, mediator, as conveying much nearer the sense of the passage, than that of an interpreter, unless it be remembered that in the eastern world a Malats, or interpreter, advocated the cause he interpreted.

And this view appears still more striking from Joseph's history as related to us in our own translation. For beside this interpretation given by the Malats to Joseph, it is plain, that Joseph and his brethren conversed together without the medium of an interpreter, as we read in the twenty-fourth verse: for there it is said, "that he turned himself about from them and wept; and returned to them again and communed with them." Hence, therefore, it should seem, that in the eastern countries this office of interpreter was, as the very name implies, a very affectionate, tender, and interesting office. And though I would not go so far as to say, that the glorious Mediator of his people was prefigured in every use of it, yet I do venture to think it was peculiarly significant on this occasion amidst the brethren of Joseph. The church of Christ now, which those sons of Israel then represented, when standing before our governor, do not always know, that our Almighty Joseph knows, hears, and regards all; and yet, while carrying on his many offices, how often doth he commune with his people, both with and without mediums! Well might John behold him with his many crowns upon his head; for surely every office of his, in every individual sinner saved by him, demands a new crown of glory. (Revelation 19:12)

Bibliography Information
Hawker, Robert D.D. Entry for 'Interpreter'. Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance and Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​pmd/​i/interpreter.html. London. 1828.
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