Category Archives: Hebrew



nātāh (1)

The Hebrew nātāh (H5186) appears 215 times in the OT and literally means “to extend, stretch out,” that is, extending something outward and toward, as one would extend his arm (Exo_7:5) or point a staff (Exo_7:19) or a spear (Jos_8:18). It is used also for stretching out, that is, pitching, a tent (Gen_12:8; Exo_33:7) and as the idiom for stretching out one’s hand against something in a hostile manner (Job_15:25).

This word is often used, however, in a figurative way, such as inclining or leaning toward something. As the psalmist Asaph writes, for example, we are to “incline [our] ears to the words of [God’s] mouth” (Psa_78:1). Of special note is Psa_119:36 : “Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness.” The godly believer is not inclined or reaching toward covetousness (“which is idolatry,” Col_3:5), not “[inclined] . . . to any evil thing, to practise wicked works” (Psa_141:4). Rather he or she is inclined toward God’s testimonies, that is, the solemn testimonies of His will, the serious expressions of His standards for human behavior.

This pictures the same truth that Paul declares in Php_3:13-14 : “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” In spite of being trained by our Lord Himself (implied in Gal_1:16-18) and thirty years of Christian growth and ministry, Paul says (in effect), “I haven’t arrived yet. I haven’t reached the prize. I don’t even fully comprehend the prize. I therefore continue to reach forth, to press toward, to pursue, to go after the prize of the knowledge of Christ.” “That I may know him,” was his driving motive (Gal_3:10).

Therefore, an essential part of a consistent Christian life is that we are always “reaching forth.” Sadly, many Christians, and even Christian leaders, get to a point in their lives where they become complacent and satisfied. They might say, “Well, I think I’m okay. I know the basic truths of Christianity, I know what I believe, and I love the Lord. That’s all I need.” Such an attitude shows we have already failed! If we are not always reaching, we begin to stagnate and even slide back.

Dear Christian Friend, are you always reaching?

Scriptures for Study: Read the following verses, noting what each encourages us to do: 1Ki_8:58; Psa_119:51; Psa_141:4; and Pro_2:2.



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Have you ever been really hungry? We don’t mean you missed lunch and were “starving” by suppertime. Rather, have you ever been without adequate food for days, weeks, months, or even years, perhaps to the point of death? Images that come to mind here are the countless pictures of the Jewish Holocaust, of the walking skeletons created by the Nazis. To prove this horror was not propaganda, and to answer those he knew would one day deny it even happened, General Eisenhower ordered all civilian news media, military camera units, and even regular GIs to take as many pictures as possible. Incredulously, some still deny it.

The Hebrew rā‘āḇ (H7458) appears some one hundred times in the OT and is usually translated famine (also “hunger, dearth, and famished”). Both Abraham and Isaac, for example, experienced famine in Canaan (Gen_12:10; Gen_26:1), and it is mentioned fifteen times in the story about Joseph and the famine in Egypt (Genesis 41-47).

The theological significance of rā‘āḇ is particularly striking. God is clearly sovereign over hunger and famine (Deu_8:3) and provides for His people who are hungry (Pro_10:3). Jeremiah is especially dramatic in his use of this word some thirty-two times, most of which refer to the judgment that is to come upon Judah (by way of the Babylonians) because of her headlong plunge into idolatry.

It is Amos, however, who pictures a famine far worse than any physical one: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD” (Pro_8:11). While Amos (a contemporary of Jonah, Hosea, and Isaiah) was a Judean prophet, God wanted him to speak to the northern tribes (Amo_7:15). During a time of great prosperity and security, God told the people the day was coming when because of their moral decay and rejection of truth, they would no longer hear the Word of God read or preached. This soon happened with the Assyrian captivity, and such “deafness” continues to this day.

What could possibly be worse than such a famine? And what of our own day? Amos does, indeed, have “a word for any nation in Israel’s condition,” one writer observes. “Put his descriptions in [modern] dress and they will strike home.” In a very real sense, some aspects of contemporary Christianity are causing a holocaust. Is the day coming when we will no longer hear the Word at all?

Scriptures for Study: Notice the further details of Amos’ prophecy in Amo_8:12-13.




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Lie Down [and] Green (Pastures)


rāḇas [and] deshe’

A particularly pictorial phrase found in Psa_23:2, another provision from the Shepherd, is, “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.” The Hebrew verb behind lie down is rāḇas (H7257), which is equivalent to the Akkadian rabāsu, meaning “a stable” or possibly “a lying place.” Appearing about thirty times, the idea in the Hebrew is not so much a place to sleep, but rather a place to lie down to rest from exertion.

We see just such a pastoral scene in verses such as Gen_29:2, where Jacob comes to Haran and sees a “well in the field, and, lo, there were three flocks of sheep lying by it; for out of that well they watered the flocks.” While a much smaller scene, the picture of a bird’s nest is no less tranquil as we watch the mother “sitting upon the young, or upon the eggs” (Deu_22:6). But who would want to rouse a lion when it is resting (Gen_49:9)?

Perhaps most blessed of all is a scene Isaiah paints for us of the coming Millennium, when “the wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ [viper’s] den” (Isa_11:6-8). What a day that will be!

But what about the here and now? What are the green pastures (literally, “pastures of tender grass”) God provides today? (Green is deše’, H1877, “the tender first shoots of vegetation.”) No one answers that question better than the beloved Puritan Matthew Henry: “God’s ordinances are the green pastures in which food is provided for all believers; the word of life is the nourishment of the new man. It is milk for babes, pasture for sheep, never barren, never eaten bare, never parched, but always a green pasture for faith to feed in. God makes his saints to lie down; he gives them quiet and contentment in their own minds, what ever their lot is; their souls dwell at ease in him, and that makes every pasture green.”

Dear Christian Friend, are you resting there today?

Scriptures for Study: Compare Eze_34:13-15 with Joh_6:35 and Mat_11:28. What is the promise then and now?




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David (2)



Of the many events in David’s life, few were as far-reaching as his adultery with Bathsheba. That act, along with his attempted cover-up, brought incalculable misery to David’s household, just as Nathan predicted (2Sa_12:10-11), starting with the death of the child conceived in that sin and then encompassing rape, rebellion, revenge, and revolt within his house (2Sa_12:15 to 2Sa_20:26).

Psalms 51, however, is a light in the darkness. While the consequences of sin were not diminished, this psalm records David’s confession and forgiveness. It stands even today as a model for Christians.

First, we see David’s repentance (Psa_51:1-6). “Acknowledge” (Psa_51:3) is yāḏa‘, which speaks of knowledge acquired by the senses. David uses personal pronouns thirteen times to underscore that only he was to blame for his sin, not Bathsheba, his parents, society, or even an aberrant gene in his DNA. His sin was willful (“transgressions” in Psa_51:1 is pesha‘, April 2), and was against God alone. Yes, he had betrayed and hurt his family, Bathsheba, Uriah, and the entire nation, but sin is always against God, the breaking of Hislaw. This passage emphasizes the broken heart brought on by sin, and the desire to turn from it and be forgiven.

Second, we see David’s refinement (Psa_51:7-12). He prayed that God would “purge [him] with hyssop” (Psa_51:7). Because of its stiff branches and hairy leaves, this common plant from the mint family was used for sprinkling purifying water (Lev_14:2-7; Lev_14:49-52; Num_19:1-19). David also prayed that God would “wash” him (Num_19:2; Num_19:7). The Hebrew kāḇas (H3526) commonly referred to washing clothes, both the ordinary task (Gen_49:11; 2Sa_19:24) and ritual cleansing (Exo_19:10; Exodus 14; Lev_11:25). Further, David wanted a “clean heart” (Lev_11:10). Clean is tāhôr (H2889), which speaks of the absence of impurity, filthiness, defilement, or imperfection, such as “pure gold” (Exo_37:11) or “pure words” (Psa_12:6). David did, indeed, want refinement, for only with such cleansing comes joy, “gladness,” and “[rejoicing]” (Psa_12:8).

Third, we see David’s restoration (Psa_51:13-19). Upon being delivered from sin, David now declares God’s salvation. He desires to proclaim to others what God will do in the repentant heart. As God recommissioned Peter for service (John 21), the restored believer is one who proclaims the gospel of Christ with new fervor.

Scriptures for Study: Read Psalms 32, where David tells of his joy after God forgave him. What does 1Jn_1:9 say about God’s forgiveness of His children?



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David (1)



While no more inspired than any other Scripture, Psalms 23 is, indeed, one of its crown jewels. “Using common ancient near-eastern images,” writes one expositor, “David progressively unveils his personal relationship with the LORD.” David refers to the LORD as his Shepherd (Jehovah-Rā‘â,), and then in beautiful poetry speaks of what he receives from his Shepherd: protection (Psa_23:1-4), provision (Psa_23:5), and permanence (Psa_23:6).

Let us consider the nameDavid. While the etymology is uncertain, it is commonly believed that Dāwiḏ (H1732) is derived from the root dôḏ (H1730), meaning “beloved, loved one, and even uncle” (e.g., Lev_20:20). Most of its fifty-eight occurrences refer to “the beloved” in Song of Solomon. As David prefigures Messiah (Eze_34:23-24; Eze_37:24-25; Hos_3:5; Jer_30:9), who in turn was spoken of as the Father’s “beloved Son” (Mat_3:17), this etymology seems at least possible.

While there is much detail about this pivotal character—his name appears more than 1,000 times—we can briefly summarize David with seven words:

(1) Son. The youngest of eight brothers, David was the son of Jesse of Bethlehem, grandson of Ruth and Boaz, tracing his heritage back to Abraham and then forward to Messiah (Mat_1:1-17). Anointed secretly by Samuel as the next king (1Sa_16:1-13), this young man was infused with the Spirit and destined for true greatness. (2) Shepherd. Oh, the lessons he learned as a shepherd! Courage, compassion, care, and much more helped mold a leader. (3) Singer. A musician and poet without equal, David penned most of the Psalms, providing unprecedented praise to God. (4) Soldier. Facing Goliath in his youth and later entire armies, David was a true warrior who received his power from God. (5) Sovereign. In a forty-year reign (1010–970 BC), the Hebrew nation reached the peak of its unity and power under King David’s leadership. (6) Sinner. As no one is perfect, David fell into sin, the most grievous of which was adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah. The consequences of sin are great, and untold misery came to David’s household. (7) Savior. Not David himself, of course, but the “Son of David,” Jesus Christ, who would save His people from their sins and sit on David’s throne.

Scriptures for Study:Read Psalms 51, David’s great psalm of repentance.



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Anoint (2)



The Hebrew māšach (H4886), is the most common word for anointing. Occurring about seventy times, its basic meaning is nothing special, simply to smear something, such as oil on a shield to prevent the leather from cracking (Isa_21:5), paint on a house (Jer_22:14), or oil on wafers as we might spread butter on bread (Exo_29:2). Other nonreligious significance in the ancient Near East included anointing with oil to confirm such things as diplomatic agreements and business contracts.

It is the theological sense of māšach, however, that is crucial. Its primary significance is as a symbol of sanctification and service. In its first occurrence, for example, Jacob awakens from his dream of “the ladder,” builds a monument to the event, consecrating it with oil, and even renaming the place “Bethel” (bēyṯ-‘ēl, H1008, “the house of God,” Gen_31:13). We see this symbol often. Aaron and his sons were anointed to “consecrate them, and sanctify them” so they could “minister unto [God] in the priest’s office” (Exo_28:41), as were prophets (1Ki_19:16; Isa_61:1). The tabernacle, the Ark, and various vessels were anointed and thereby set apart unto God (Exo_30:26-28). Even kings were anointed, such as Saul (1Sa_9:15-16; 1Sa_10:1; 1Sa_2:10) and David (1Sa_16:13; 2Sa_12:7), to set them apart for service to God and leading the people in sanctified obedience.

It is extremely significant that another form of māšach, namely māšiyach (H4899), is the source of the word Messiah. While OT references to Jesus as this future anointed one are not numerous, conservative scholars agree that passages such as Dan_9:24-26 and Psa_2:2, with its context, could not be clearer. Additionally, the Septuagint almost always renders this chriō (G5548), “to daub, smear, anoint with oil,” from which is derived christos (G5547), “Christ.” Chriō appears, in fact, five times in the NT, four of which refer to the Father’s anointing of Christ.

The final appearance of chriō declares that all believers have been anointed by God (2Co_1:21), demonstrating that we all are set apart, “sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work” (2Ti_2:21).

Scriptures for Study: The noun chrisma (G5545) also comes from chriō (G5548). Read its only two occurrences in 1Jn_2:20 (“unction”) and 27 (“anointing”), noting what we have in the Holy Spirit.



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Heritage (Inheritance)



The verb nāchal (H5157) means “to receive, to take property as a permanent possession, usually as the result of succession.” Appearing some sixty times in the OT, its first occurrence is in Exo_23:30, where God promises to drive the Canaanites from the land of promise, enabling His people to “be increased, and inherit the land.” Interestingly, two verses before, God promised to send “hornets” to aid in this task. This divine judgment could refer to literal hornets, but could possibly be figurative language for the Egyptians, as they raided Canaan regularly and the word for hornet (sir‘āh, or zirāh, H6880) is similar to the one for Egyptians (misrayim, H4714). We also find nāchal several times in Joshua (Jos_1:6; Jos_11:23; Jos_13:6-7; Jos_13:33; Jos_19:9;).

A wonderful occurrence of nāchal is in Psa_119:111 : “Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever,” or more literally, “I have inherited Thy testimonies.” While we might get really happy when someone does leave us something valuable in their will, that is merely temporal. God’s Word is the greatest inheritance we possess. Do we truly grasp that truth? Nothing, absolutely nothing, equals the value of the Word of God.

It is extremely significant that the Septuagint often translates nāchal as the Greek klēronomia (G2817), or a similar form. The NT repeatedly speaks of the inheritance we have as believers. There is no better place to see this emphasis, in fact, than in Ephesians 1. As the Urim and Thummim were used in the OT to discover God’s will (e.g., Num_27:21; 1Ch_24:5-6) and to divide land (1Ch_6:54-81), the same idea is found in Classical Greek, as lots were drawn to discover the will of the gods. The root klēros (G2819), in fact, referred to “the fragment of stone or piece of wood which was used as a lot (December 22). Paul, therefore, tells us in Eph_1:11, “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” In other words, the lot of inheritance has fallen to us, not by chance, but by the sovereign will of God. He goes on to say that the “earnest” (literally, “first installment,” arrabōn, G728) of our inheritance is the Holy Spirit, who has sealed (sphragizō,G4972) us in Christ (Eph_1:14). He then reveals the “riches of the glory of [Christ’s] inheritance in the saints” (Eph_1:18). Oh, what a heritage we have!

Scriptures for Study: Read Ephesians 1 today and rejoice in your riches!



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Rod [and] Staff


šēḇet [and] miš‘eneṯ

Today we discover a twofold provision of the Shepherd that is rooted in the simplicity of ancient sheepherding. Psa_23:4 assures us, “Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”

While there are times when these two words are a little difficult to differentiate—in some contexts perhaps even interchangeable—there is little problem in the present context. Rod is šēḇet (H7626), which is used in a variety of ways in the OT: a crude weapon (2Sa_23:21, staff), a threshing tool (Isa_28:27, rod), the shaft of a spear (2Sa_18:14, “darts”), and an instrument of discipline (Pro_13:24; Pro_22:15; Pro_29:15, rod). It is also used to refer to a tool to collect and count sheep (Lev_27:32; Eze_20:37).

Staff, then, is miš‘eneṯ (H4938), which refers to a “staff, pole, or support,” such as a cane or crutch (Exo_21:19; Zec_8:4). It is also a symbol of authority, such as a ruler’s scepter (Num_21:18) or the prophet’s staff (2Ki_4:29). Regarding the shepherd, this brings to mind the familiar image of the staff with a crook at the top used to rescue a sheep from a cliff or gully.

This provides us with the complete picture. As we journey through “the valley of the shadow of death,” it is with the rod the Shepherd protects us from the predators that attack and it is with the staff He rescues us from other perils that befall. That is why David says, in short, it is in this there is complete “comfort.” Just the sight of these “shepherd’s tools,” in fact, is a comfort; just knowing they are there ready for use is enough to calm our concerns. While much of the world’s so-called “comfort” comes from syrupy sentimentality, psychobabble, and philosophical clichés—into which even many Christians have been lured—the Shepherd provides true comfort by His very presence though His Word.

Dear Christian Friend, are you trusting in the Shepherd and His “tools” to safely protect and rescue you as you walk daily through life’s dangerous valley?

Scriptures for Study: What is the source of our comfort in Psa_119:50 (also Rom_15:4)?




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HEBREW – LORD of Recompense [Jehovah-Gemula]


Yāhweh Gemûlāh

Jeremiah 51:56

  1. Because of His perfect, absolute righteousness, God is also called by two names that speak of His judgment upon unrighteousness. 

    A. First, for example, in Jer_51:56, where He is called Jehovah Gemûlāh. The prophet foretells that God will come “upon Babylon, and her mighty men are taken, every one of their bows is broken: for the LORD God of recompences shall surely requite.”

    B. The Hebrew gemûlāh (H1578)—a derivative of gāmal (H1580), “to deal, to recompense, to ripen”—speaks of full repayment for what is deserved.


  2. There are many instances of this word (and other derivatives) that speak of recompense, both of judgment and blessing.

    A. Used positively, for example, when David was fleeing from Absalom, Barzillai provided him with supplies (2Sa_19:32), and David returned the favor (2Sa_19:36).

    B. It is even used to speak of benefits God has given (Psa_103:2). Here, benefits is the same Hebrew word as recompense.

    C. At times, the positive and negative are actually contrasted, as in the Virtuous Woman, who “will do [gāmal] him [her husband] good and not evil all the days of her life” (Pro_31:12).


  3. It is the negative, however, that is truly sobering.

    A. The instance here in our text speaks of God’s retribution on His enemies, as does Isa_59:18 : “According to their deeds, accordingly he will repay, fury to his adversaries, recompence to his enemies; to the islands he will repay recompence.”

    B. The psalmist calls upon this God of Recompense to “give [the wicked] according to their deeds, and according to the wickedness of their endeavours: give them after the work of their hands; render to them their desert [gemûl]” (Psa_28:4).

  1. We cannot help but make special note of Psa_94:2 :

    A. “Lift up thyself, thou judge of the earth: render a reward [gemûl] to the proud.”

    B. Pride is never used in a positive way of man in Scripture.

    C. Here we read of, in fact, its costliness; God will recompense it, judging it as harshly as He did the Babylonians. How this should show us what a serious sin pride is!

  2. The New Testament has – antapodidomi – translated as reward.

    A. Romans 12:17 leaves us with a positive virtue to all that are believers in the Lord. “Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.

    B. We further find the Lord claiming the right to recompense the enemies of believers. II Thessalonians 1:6 – “Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you.

    C. We often hear the phrase, “Vengence is mine sayeth the Lord.” Hebrews 10:30 is very effective in showing God’s attitude to the enemies of his people and also the judgment that will be brought to bear on His people. “For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belogeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people.

  3. Being “born again” by trusting in Jesus death, burial and resurrection has the greatest recompense. Luke 14:14 “And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompense at the resurrection of the just.


  4. Scriptures for Study: On the positive side, what does Psa_116:12 command? On the negative side, what does Isa_3:9 warn?


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HEBREW – Tremble (1)

In our study of the tabernacle, we referred to Isa_66:1-2 in passing, but there is a truth there that deeply affects this writer and that is well worth our serious consideration in light of our modern day: “Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.”
Does God demand magnificent structures, such as the breathtaking St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, to worship Him? Not according to Isaiah, who in this chapter continues his prophecy concerning the glorious future. He begins, however, by contrasting the attitude of the true and faithful servant of God with the apostate and worldly character of most of the nation. He declares that there are only two places where God dwells: first in heaven and second in the contrite heart of the person who trembles at His Word. God is not looking for a temple made of stone or sacrifices made without thought. He is concerned rather with what is in the heart, specifically, our attitude toward His Word.
Paul declared the same truth: “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Php_2:12). To our shame, we see little, if any, fear and trembling in our churches. Oh, we see much excitement, activity, and other user-oriented attitudes, but where is the trembling before God’s Word?
Trembleth is a translation of chārēḏ (H2730), “to shake,” from which are derived the ideas of trembling and fear. God told Gideon, for example, to limit the number of soldiers by observing who was afraid, which sent 22,000 back home (Jdg_7:3). In 1Sa_4:13, Eli sat “by the wayside watching: for his heart trembled for the ark of God,” because the Ark of the Covenant was in danger of being captured by the Philistines.
As we continue these thoughts in coming days, let us each ask ourselves, “Do I tremble before God’s Word? Do I have a deep reverence for God’s revelation and a fear in my heart of disobeying it?”
Scriptures for Study: Read the following verses, noting the emphasis on trembling at God’s Word: Ezr_9:4; Ezr_10:3; Psa_119:120.


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