Today we meditate on a word of deep significance. The English cleave appears twenty-six times in the OT, all but six of which are translated from dāḇaq (H1692), meaning “to cling to, join with, stay with.” It’s used, for example, in Job_19:20 for bone cleaving to skin, in Job_41:1; Job_41:15-17 of the great sea creature Leviathan, whose scales are tightly fastened together, in Job_38:38 for clods of earth being stuck together, and in Num_36:7 for someone holding on to an inheritance. So hard did Eleazar’s hand cleave to his sword as he fought the Philistines (2Sa_23:10), we could say poetically that the sword became a part of his arm.
More significant, however, is the figurative use of dāḇaq in picturing relationships, especially of their closeness and loyalty. The first appearance of dāḇaq, in fact, pictures the devotion and intimacy of marriage, where “a man [leaves] his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Gen_2:24). David’s men cleaved unto him in loyalty when Sheba rebelled against the king (2Sa_20:2).
Most important, however, are the pictures we see of the loyalty and devotion of God’s people to Him. We read several times of God commanding His people to cleave unto Him (Deu_10:20; Deu_11:22; Deu_13:4; Jos_22:5; Jos_23:8), for such cleaving demonstrates true love for Him (Deu_30:20).
A particularly striking example of such faithfulness appears in Psa_119:31, where the psalmist says to God, “I have stuck unto thy testimonies.” “Stuck” is dāḇaq. In Psa_119:25, David says, “My soul cleaveth unto the dust,” that is, despair was sticking to him as though it were glued. Now, however, it is he who is glued, glued to God’s Word (testimonies, February 17). “While the dust of despair is glued to me,” David says in effect, “I am ever glued to God’s standards.” A woodworker uses glue to join boards together, and so strong is that bond that the board will break in another spot before it will break on that joint. That is how we are to be glued to the Word of God.
Scriptures for Study: What were God’s people told not to cleave to in Jos_23:12? Read the verses in Deuteronomy and Joshua noted above and meditate on your closeness to God.