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    Sacrifice — Sword


    Zebach (זֶבַח, Strong's #2077), “sacrifice.” This root with the meaning “to sacrifice” is represented in other Semitic languages: Akkadian, Ugaritic, Phoenician, Aramaic, and Arabic. Zebach continued to be used in Mishnaic Hebrew, and its use is greatly reduced in modern Hebrew, since there is no temple. The word is used 162 times in the Hebrew Old Testament and in all periods. The first occurrence is in Genesis 31:54: “Then Jacob offered sacrifice upon the mount, and called his brethren to eat bread: and they did eat bread, and tarried all night in the mount.”VED-OT Sacrifice.2

    The basic meaning of zebach is “sacrifice.” When a “sacrifice” had been slaughtered by the priest, he then offered it to God. The purpose was not just to create communion between God and man; rather, the “sacrifice” represented the principle that, without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins (Leviticus 17:11; cf. Hebrews 9:22). In the act of “sacrifice” the faithful Israelite submitted himself to the priest, who, in keeping with the various detailed regulations (see Leviticus), offered the “sacrifice” in accordance with God’s expectations. The “sacrifices” are the Passover “sacrifice” (Exodus 12:27), “sacrifice” of the peace offering (Leviticus 33:1ff.), “sacrifice” of thanksgiving (Leviticus 7:12), and “sacrifice” of the priest’s offering (qarban; Leviticus 7:16). The zebach was not like the burnt offering (‘olah), which was completely burnt on the altar; and it was unlike the sin offering (chatta’t), where the meat was given to the priest, for most of the meat of the zebach was returned to the person who made the “sacrifice.” The fat was burned on the altar (Leviticus 3:4-5), and the blood was poured out around the altar (3:2). The person who made the zebach had to share the meat with the officiating priest (Exodus 29:28; Leviticus 7:31-35; Deuteronomy 18:3).VED-OT Sacrifice.3

    view of the fact that the people shared in the eating of the zebach, the “sacrifice” became a communal meal in which the Lord hosted His people. Zephaniah’s message of judgment is based on this conception of “sacrifice”: “Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord God: for the day of the Lord is at hand: for the Lord hath prepared a sacrifice, he hath bid his guests” (Zephaniah 1:7). The Israelite came to the temple with the animal to be sacrificed. It was butchered, boiled, and eaten in the area of the sanctuary (1 Samuel 2:13). Apart from the sanctuaries, the Israelites also celebrated God’s goodness together in their native villages. The story of Samuel gives several good illustrations of this custom (cf. 1 Samuel 9:13; 1 Samuel 16:2-3).VED-OT Sacrifice.4

    The prophets looked with condemnation on apostate Israel’s “sacrifices”: “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the Lord: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats” (Isaiah 1:11). Hosea spoke about the necessity of Israel’s love for God: “For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6). Samuel the prophet rebuked Saul with the familiar words: “Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22). David knew the proper response to God when he had sinned: “For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Psalms 51:16-17).VED-OT Sacrifice.5

    The Septuagint gives the following translation: thusia (“sacrifice; offering”). The KJV gives these senses: “sacrifice; offering.”VED-OT Sacrifice.6


    A. Verb. VED-OT Sanctify.2

    Qâdash (קָדַשׁ, Strong's #6942), “to sanctify, be holy.” This verb also appears in Phoenician, biblical Aramaic, and Ethiopic. In Ugaritic q-d-sh signifies “sanctuary,” and in Old Babylonian qadashu means “shine.” Qâdash appears about 170 times in biblical Hebrew and in all periods of the language. In the primary stem the verb signifies an act whereby, or a state wherein, people or things are set aside for me in the worship of God: they are consecrated or “made sacred.” By this act and in this state the thing or person consecrated is to be withheld from workaday use (or profane use) and to be treated with special care as a possession of God. The first use of qâdash in this stem focuses on the act: “And thou shalt take of the blood that is upon the altar, and of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it upon Aaronand upon his garments, and upon his sons, and upon the garments of his sons with him: and he shall be hallowed, and his garments, and his sons, and his sons’ garments with him” (Exodus 29:21). There are also overtones of ethicalmoral (spiritual) holiness here since the atoning blood was applied to the people involved. The state appears to be emphasized when the word is used in Exodus 29:37: “Seven days thou shalt make an atonement for the altar, and sanctify it, and it shall be an altar most holy: whatsoever toucheth the altar shall be holy.” Thus, whatever touches the altar enters into a new state. Now it belongs to God to be used solely by Him in the way He sees fit. In some cases this means destruction (2 Samuel 66:6ff.), while in others it means such things are to be used only by those who are ritualistically pure (Numbers 4:15; 1 Samuel 21:6). It might mean that such things are to be used in the sanctuary itself (Numbers 166:37ff.) In some passages qâdash seems to mean the opposite of “holy,” defiled so as not to be usable to Israel (God’s consecrated people): “Thou shalt not sow thy vineyard with [two kinds ofseeds: lest the fruit of thy seed which thou hast sown, and the fruit of thy vineyard, be defiled” (Deuteronomy 22:9; cf. Ezekiel 44:19; 46:20, etc.).VED-OT Sanctify.3

    In the passive stem the verb means “to prove oneself holy.” So Moses wrote: “This is the water of Meribah; because the children of Israel strove with the Lord, and he was sanctified in them” (Numbers 20:13). This proving refers not to an act of judgment against sin (an ethical-moral holiness) but a miraculom act of deliverance. Some scholars see an emphasis here on divine power, arguing that at this stage of their history Israel’s concept of holiness was similar to that of the pagans, namely, that “holy” signified the presence of extraordinary power. A similar use of the word occurs in the prophet’s promise of the future restoration of Israel: “When I … am sanctified in them in the sight of many nations …” (Ezekiel 39:27).VED-OT Sanctify.4

    Another emphasis of this stem appears in Leviticus 10:3 (its first biblical appearance), “to be treated as holy”: “… I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me [approach me in formal worship], and before all the people I will be glorified.” Again, the emphasis appears to be on divine power; God will have people obey Him and view Him as a powerful (holy) God. There is an ethical-moral overtone here, too, for God desires His people to obey Him, to hate sin and love righteousness (cf. Isaiah 5:16). It is love not fear that lies at the root of Israel’s relationship to their God (Deuteronomy 6:3, 5ff.).VED-OT Sanctify.5

    Finally, this stem may be used as a true passive of the primary stem in the sense of “to be consecrated or set aside for God’s use”: “And there [the tent of meeting] I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by my glory” (Exodus 29:43).VED-OT Sanctify.6

    Qâdash has several emphases in the intensive stem. First, it can mean “to declare something holy” or to declare it to be med exclusively for celebrating God’s glory. In Genesis 2:3 (the first biblical occurrence of the word) “God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: became that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.” A related meaning of the word appears in the Ten Commandments: “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). Israel is to remember the Sabbath by keeping it holy, by celebrating God’s person or worshiping Him in the way He specifies. In a still different nuance, “to sanctify” a holy day means to proclaim it, to bind oneself and one’s fellows to keep it holy when it comes. This sense can be applied to pagan holy days: “Proclaim a solemn assembly for Baal. And they proclaimed it” (2 Kings 10:20). In Joel 1:14 the verb is applied to Israel’s holy days: “Sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly.…” Thus, the word comes to mean “to declare” and “to make proper preparations for.” In this sense it is sometimes applied to warfare: “Prepare ye war against her; arise, and let us go up at noon” (Jeremiah 6:4; cf. Micah 3:5). Even pagans declare holy war: “Set ye up a standard in the land, blow the trumpet among the nations, prepare the nations against her, call together against her the kingdoms of Ararat, Minni …” (Jeremiah 51:27).VED-OT Sanctify.7

    This stem may also be used of putting something or someone into a state reserved exclusively for God’s use: “Sanctify unto me all the first-born, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine” (Exodus 13:2). The first-born of every beast is to be offered up to God by being given to the temple or killed (Exodus 13:12-13). The first son may be redeemed (bought back from the Lord; Numbers 18:15-16) or given to the temple (1 Samuel 1:24).VED-OT Sanctify.8

    Qâdash may also be used in the sense of making something or someone cultically pure and meeting all God’s requirements for purity in persons or things used in the formal worship of Him. This act appears in Exodus 19:10, where God told Moses to “go unto the people, and sanctify them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes.” Thus consecrated, the people could come into God’s presence. In a related sense, the verb means “to set someone aside for divine service.” Although the primary emphasis here is ritualistic, there are ethicalmoral overtones. Thus, God directed Moses to have the artisans make special clothing for Aaron: “… And they shall make holy garments for Aaron thy brother, … that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office” (Exodus 28:4). When the consecration occurred, Aaron and his sons were sprinkled with the blood of the atonement. Such an offering necessitated their confessing their sin and submitting to a substitutionary (albeit typological) sacrifice. Used in this sense the word describes the necessary step preceding ordination to the priestly office.VED-OT Sanctify.9

    Qâdash is also applied to the consecration of things by placing them into a state of ritualistic or cultic purity and dedicating them solely to God’s use (cultic use; cf. Exodus 29:36; Leviticus 16:19). In some cases consecrating something to God requires no act upon the object, but leaving it entirely alone. Moses acknowledges to God that “the people cannot come up to mount Sinai: for thou chargedst us, saying, Set bounds about the mount, and sanctify it” (Exodus 19:23). In Isaiah 29:23-24 the verb means “to recognize God as holy,” as the only real source of truth, and to live according to His laws: “But when he [the home of Jacob] seeth his children, the work of mine hands, in the midst of him, they shall sanctify my name, and sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and shall fear the God of Israel. They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine.” In Ezekiel 36:23 qâdash means “to prove oneself to be holy, or to demonstrate and vindicate one’s holiness.”VED-OT Sanctify.10

    In the causative stem the word means “to give for God’s use”: “And it shall be upon Aaron’s forehead, that Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things, which the children of Israel shall hallow …” (Exodus 28:38). The act whereby someone gives things to God is also described by the word qâdash. The priests performed the actual consecration ceremony while an individual decided that something he owned was to be given to God: “… King David did dedicate [these vessels] unto the Lord …” (2 Samuel 8:11). In Leviticus 277:14ff. several objects are listed which may be given to God as a gift and which may be redeemed by substitutionary payments. In Numbers 8:17 God identified “sanctifying” the first-born and killing them. Thus, they were removed from profane use and taken over completely by God: “… On the day that I smote every first-born in the land of Egypt I sanctified them for myself.”VED-OT Sanctify.11

    God’s consecrating something or someone may also mean that He accepts that person or thing as in His service: “… I have hallowed this house, which thou hast built, to put my name there for ever; and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually” (1 Kings 9:3). In a more emphatic nuance the word is a correlative of election, signifying God’s appointing someone to His service: “… Before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5; cf. 12:3). This verb also means “to prepare to approach God”: “… For the Lord hath prepared a sacrifice, he hath bid his guests” (Zephaniah 1:7). Here, since the word is synonymously parallel to the concept “prepare,” or “make ready,” it, too, refers to making ready. In Numbers 20:12 the stem presents the word in the meaning “trust as holy”; Moses did not follow God’s orders recognizing His demand for perfect obedience (cf. Isaiah 8:13).VED-OT Sanctify.12

    B. Nouns. VED-OT Sanctify.13

    Qôdesh (קֹדֶשׁ, Strong's #6944), “holy thing.” This noun which occurs about 470 times in biblical Hebrew, also appears in Ugaritic. Appearing in all periods of biblical Hebrew, it reflects several of the verbal meanings just presented. First, qôdesh is used of things or people belonging to God. All Israel is holy (Exodus 30:31), separated to God’s service, and therefore should keep itself separated to that service by observing the distinction between things holy (allowed by God) and things unclean (Leviticus 10:10).VED-OT Sanctify.14

    The word also describes things set aside for exclusive use by God’s people (Isaiah 35:8). It is used of a more narrow sense of “sacred,” or something set aside for me in the temple (cultic use). So the word describes the priestly (sacred) garments (Exodus 28:2). It can be used of sacred things given to the Lord (to be used in the sanctuary and/or by the priests and Levites; Exodus 28:38) and sacred things to be used only by the priests and/or Levites (Exodus 29:32-33). In some cases such dedicated (sacred) gifts may be given to others—at the Lord’s direction (Deuteronomy 26:13). In a similar sense qôdesh describes sacred things appointed for sacrifice and ritualistic-cultic worship (Exodus 30:25; Leviticus 27:10). Israel is to set aside certain sacred days (Sabbaths) exclusively for divine service—for rest from labor (Exodus 20:10), rest in the Lord (Deuteronomy 5:14), and holy convocation (Exodus 12:16).VED-OT Sanctify.15

    Qôdesh can also be used of what God makes a person, place, or thing to be. He designates a place to be His (Exodus 3:5—the first biblical appearance of the word), that is, separate and unique. Even more, God designates His sanctuary a holy place (Exodus 36:1). The outer part of the sanctuary is the holy place, the inner part the holy of holies (Exodus 26:33), and the altar a most holy place. This means that to varying degrees these places are identified with the holy God (2 Samuel 6:10-11), the God who is separate from and hates all that is death and/or associated with death and idolatry (Ezekiel 39:25). This word is also used (infrequently) to describe God’s majestic holiness, in that He is without equal and without imperfection (Exodus 15:11). In at least one place the emphasis is on God’s holiness as power (Jeremiah 23:9).VED-OT Sanctify.16

    The noun miqdash, which occurs in biblical Hebrew about 74 times, appears in Aramaic and post-biblical Hebrew. The word represents a “sacred place” or “sanctuary,” a place set aside by men upon God’s direction and acceptance as the place where He meets them and they worship Him (Exodus 15:17—the first biblical occurrence of the word).VED-OT Sanctify.17

    The noun qadesh, which occurs about 11 times in biblical Hebrew, indicates a “cult prostitute,” whether female (Genesis 38:21—the first biblical appearance) or male. Male cultic prostitutes were homosexuals (1 Kings 22:46). This noun appears in the Pentateuch, all periods of historical writings, and Hosea and Job.VED-OT Sanctify.18

    C. Adjective. VED-OT Sanctify.19

    Qâdôsh (קָדֹשׁ, Strong's #6918), “holy.” The adjective qâdôsh occurs about 116 times in biblical Hebrew and in all periods. This adjective is more focused in emphasis than the noun qodesh. Qashdosh can refer (infrequently) to cultic holiness, or ritualistic ceremonial holiness (Numbers 5:17). Its most frequent use, however, represents God’s majestic (1 Samuel 2:2), moral (Leviticus 11:44), and dynamistic holiness (holiness as power; 1 Samuel 6:20). The word is also used of what God claims for Himself, what is consecrated to His service (Exodus 29:31). When applied to people, the word may mean “set apart for God” (Psalms 16:3), ritualistically separated to Him (Exodus 19:6—the first biblical occurrence of the word), and thoroughly purified and perfected by Him from all moral evil (Isaiah 4:3). Infrequently qâdôsh is used of non-human beings, separate from this world and endued with great power (Job 5:1; Daniel 8:13).VED-OT Sanctify.20


    Śâṭân (שָׂטָן, Strong's #7854), “adversary; Satan.” This word appears 24 times in the Old Testament. Most uses of the term relate to the cosmic struggle in the unseen world between God and the opposing forces of darkness.VED-OT Satan.2

    In Psalms 38:20, David cried out because he was the target of attack by his “adversaries.” Possibly David suffered because of mistakes he made; and within the permissive will of God, He used David’s enemies to discipline His servant.VED-OT Satan.3

    In another psalm of distress by an individual, a godly man expressed his deep faith in the Lord. The writer prayed concerning those who were “adversaries” to his soul: “Let them be confounded and consumed that are adversaries to my soul; let them be covered with reproach and dishonor that seek my hurt” (Psalms 71:13). He expressed the reality of the powers of darkness against an individual who sought to live for God.VED-OT Satan.4

    Imprecatory psalms call for judgment upon one’s enemies, reflecting the battle in the unseen world between darkness and light. David’s enemies became his “adversaries,” but he continued to pray for them (Psalms 109:4). Because those enemies repaid him evil for good and hatred for his love, the king prayed: “Set thou a wicked man over him: and let Satan stand at his right hand” (Psalms 109:6). When they spoke evil against his soul, David called for the Lord’s reward against his “adversaries” (Psalms 109:20), and finally, became David’s accusers had intended him so much harm, he asked that his accusers be clothed with shame and dishonor (Psalms 109:29). In all of these passages, God worked indirectly by permitting individuals to act as “adversaries” of His people.VED-OT Satan.5

    In another instance, David was merciful with members of Saul’s family who cursed him and wished him harm when he fled from Absalom (2 Samuel 166:5ff.). David restrained his army commanders from killing Saul’s family who had repented of their misdeeds. The king did not want his officers to be his “adversaries” on the day of victory and joy (2 Samuel 19:22).VED-OT Satan.6

    God can also be the “adversary.” When Balaam went to curse the sons of Israel, God warned him not to do so. When the prophet persisted, God disciplined him: “And God’s anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the Lord stood in the way for an adversary against him” (Numbers 22:22). God stood as an “adversary” because no curse could undo the covenants and agreements already made with Israel.VED-OT Satan.7

    God took up a controversy with Solomon. When Solomon added more and more pagan wives to his harem, God was greatly displeased (Deuteronomy 17:17). But when the king built pagan shrines for his wives, God raised up “adversaries” against him(1 Kings 11:14), a direct action which caused the Edomites and Syrians to revolt against Israel.VED-OT Satan.8

    Another special instance of intervention was the occasion when “… Satan [literally, “an adversary”] stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel” (1 Chronicles 21:1). (No definite article is here in Hebrew and, therefore, “an adversary” is in mind.) In a parallel passage the Lord moved David to number Israel and Judah (2 Samuel 24:1). Even as the Lord stirred up an “adversary” against Solomon, so here God took a direct action to test David to help him learn a vital lesson. God tests believers to help them make the right choices and not depend upon their own human strength.VED-OT Satan.9

    In the Book of Job, the word śâṭân always has the definite article preceding it (Job 1:6-12; Job 2:1-7), so the term emphasizes Satan’s role as “the adversary.” God permitted Satan to test Job’s faith, and the adversary inflicted the patriarch with many evils and sorrows. Satan was not all-powerful because he indicated that he could not get beyond God’s protection of Job (Job 1:10). He penetrated the “hedge” only with God’s permission and only for specific instances that would demonstrate God’s righteousness. Job became the battleground between the forces of darkness and light. He learned that Satan could be defeated by making the right choices and that God can be glorified in every circumstance. Zechariah recorded a vision of “… Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him” (literally, “be his adversary”; Zechariah 3:1). The Lord rebuked “the adversary” (Zechariah 3:2). Satan was once again in conflict with God’s purposes and the angels of God, but “the adversary” was not all-powerful and was subject to rebuke by God Himself A general usage of śâṭân (“adversary”) appears in 1 Kings 5:4: “But now the Lord my God hath given me rest on every side, so that there is neither adversary or evil occurrent.” In another instance, David went over to the side of the Philistines; in attempting to fight with them against Israel, some of the Philistine leaders doubted David’s sincerity and felt that he would be “an adversary” in any battle between the two armies (1 Samuel 29:4).VED-OT Satan.10

    In the Septuagint, the word is diabolos.VED-OT Satan.11

    Satisfied, to Be

    Śâba‛ (שָׂבֵעַ, Strong's #7646), “to be satisfied, sated, surfeited.” This word is found in Akkadian and Ugaritic, as well as in all periods of Hebrew. It occurs some 96 times in the Hebrew Old Testament. In its first occurrence in the Old Testament text, śâba‛ expresses the idea of “being filled, sated”: “… When the Lord shall give you in the evening flesh to eat, and in the morning bread to the full …” (Exodus 16:8). As here, the word is frequently used in parallelism with “to eat,” or “to graze” when used with cattle or sheep (Jeremiah 50:19). The earth too “can be sated, have its fill,” of rain (Job 38:27).VED-OT Satisfied, to Be.2

    In a notoriously difficult verse (Habakkuk 2:5), wine seems to be referred to as never “being satisfied, never having enough.” Instead of “wine,” the Habakkuk Dead Sea Scroll reads “wealth,” which seems more appropriate in the context which points to Assyria as the concern of Habakkuk’s complaint.VED-OT Satisfied, to Be.3

    Śâba‛ sometimes expresses “being surfeited with,” as in Proverbs 25:16: “Hast thou found honey? Eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it.” God too can “become surfeited,” especially when men offer sacrifices with the wrong motives: “… I am full of the burnt offerings of rams …” (Isaiah 1:11). The wise man noted that the lazy man “that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough [be surfeited with poverty]” (Proverbs 28:19; to translate “will have plenty of poverty,” as does the RSV, is not quite strong enough).VED-OT Satisfied, to Be.4

    Śâba‛ often expresses God’s “satisfying, supplying,” man with his material needs: “… Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Psalms 103:5). But even when God “fed them to the full,” Israel was not satisfied and went after strange gods (Jeremiah 5:7). Used in parallelism with “to enrich” in Ezekiel 27:33, śâba‛ implies something of enriching as well: “… Thou filledst many people; … thou didst enrich the kings of the earth.…”VED-OT Satisfied, to Be.5


    A. Verb. VED-OT Save.2

    Yâsha‛ (יָשַׁע, 3467), “to help, deliver, save.” Outside Hebrew this word is attested only in Moabite. It appears in all periods of Hebrew (including post-biblical Hebrew) and in biblical Hebrew about 205 times. The verb occurs only in the causative and passive stems.VED-OT Save.3

    Essentially the word means “to remove or seek to remove someone from a burden, oppression, or danger.” In Exodus 2:17 (the first appearance of this verb) yâsha‛ signifies to remove someone from a burden or job: “… Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock.” The word is frequently used of removing or seeking to remove someone from the danger of defeat: “And the men of Gibeon sent unto Joshua … saying, slack not thy hand from thy servants; come up to us quickly, and save us, and help us …” (Joshua 10:6). This is a request to preserve them from possible death. The real danger is not yet upon them but soon will be. The Gibeonites see in Israel their only help.VED-OT Save.4

    Yâsha‛ is used in other situations as when Jephthah tells the Ephraimites that they had been summoned to the war at a crucial time but did not respond and “delivered me not out of their [children of Ammon] hands” (Judges 12:2). Here the emphasis is “set free,” or “liberate,” in other words, to remove someone from a condition already upon him. Militarily the word can also be used of “helping,” emphasizing the union of forces so as to forge a single and stronger fighting unit. This is no last-ditch stand for the unit being helped. So Joab told Abishai: “If the Syrians be too strong for me, then thou shalt help me …” (2 Samuel 10:11). Also, compare: “So the Syrians feared to help [to serve as an ally of] the children of Ammon any more” (2 Samuel 10:19).VED-OT Save.5

    In the realm of justice and civil law yâsha‛ represents an obligation on the part of anyone who hears an outcry of one being mistreated: “For he [the rapist] found her [the one he was about to rape] in the field, and the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to save her” (Deuteronomy 22:27; cf. 28:29). Therefore, one may appeal especially to the king as the one obligated to help maintain one’s rights: “And when the woman of Tekoah spake to the king, she fell on her face to the ground, and did obeisance, and said, Help, O king” (2 Samuel 14:4; cf. 2 Kings 6:26). The king also “delivered” his people from subjection to their enemies (1 Samuel 10:27; Hosea 13:10). Jeremiah says of the messianic king: “In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely …” (23:6). Here yâsha‛ is paralleled by “dwell safely,” a phrase which identifies the meaning of yâsha‛ as “to be preserved from danger.” Ultimately, God is the Great King who “goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you [deliver you from danger]” (Deuteronomy 20:4), and the Judge of all Israel.VED-OT Save.6

    The word appears in many prayer petitions: “Arise, O Lord; save me, O my God …” (Psalms 3:7). This is a combination, therefore, of military emphasis (a prayer for deliverance from some enemy by forceful interference) and judicial emphasis (a prayer for that which is the petitioner’s due and the obligation of the one petitioned—in God’s case the obligation is selfimposed through the establishment of the covenantal relationship; cf. Psalms 20:9). In other instances the judicial obligation is in view: “He [the Lord’s anointed king] shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor” (Psalms 72:4). In this passage the word in synonymous parallelism to yâsha‛ is shapat, “to see that legal justice is executed.” Very often the psalmist has in view the spiritual aspect of God’s eternal covenant. This is clear in passages such as Psalms 86, where David confesses that, although the ruler of Israel, he is humbled (godly), and that, although enjoying kingly wealth, he is needy (trusting in God). On the basis of these spiritual conditions he prays for God’s covenantal response: “Preserve my soul; for I am holy: O thou my God, save thy servant that trusteth in thee” (Psalms 86:2). The blessings sought here are both eternal (Psalms 86:11-13) and temporal (Psalms 86:14-17).VED-OT Save.7

    B. Nouns. VED-OT Save.8

    Yeshû‛âh (יְשׁוּעָה, Strong's #3444), “salvation.” This word appears about 78 times and refers primarily to God’s acts of help which have already occurred and been experienced. In Genesis 49:18 (the first biblical occurrence), the word includes the idea of “salvation” through divinely appointed means and from inequity. In 1 Samuel 14:45 yeshû‛âh is used of a human act: “And the people said unto Saul, Shall Jonathan die, who hath wrought this great salvation in Israel?” The word is used infrequently of deliverance and/or help effected by things (Isaiah 12:3).VED-OT Save.9

    The noun teshû‛âh also means “salvation.” It occurs about 34 times. The word is frequently joined with responses of thanksgiving and rejoicing (Judges 15:18—the first occurrence; 1 Samuel 11:13). Teshû‛âh, therefore, is sometimes rendered “deliverance” (Judges 15:18), “victory” (2 Samuel 19:2), as well as “salvation” (Isaiah 45:17). The idea of “salvation” is that of preservation from threatened, impending, and perhaps deserved danger and suffering. Yeshû‛âh is used in a few instances of a human act: “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14).VED-OT Save.10

    The noun yesha’ which occurs 36 times, signifies that which God will do in man’s behalf (2 Samuel 22:3), or that which has been done by Him for man (2 Samuel 22:36). In two instances this word means simply the general absence of oppression and need (Job 5:4, 11).VED-OT Save.11

    The word may be translated as “salvation” or “safety.” The noun mosha’ot occurs only once to mean “saving acts” (Psalms 68:20).VED-OT Save.12


    A. Noun. VED-OT Savor.2

    Rêyach (רֵיחַ, Strong's #7381), “savor; smell; fragrance; aroma.” Of the 61 appearances of this word, 43 refer specifically to sacrifices made to God and appear in Genesis-Numbers and Ezekiel. This word refers to the “scent or smell” of a person or thing: “And he [Jacob] came near, … and he [Isaac] smelled the smell of his raiment …” (Genesis 27:27). In Song of Song of Solomon 1:12 rêyach signifies the “fragrance” of perfume and in Song of Song of Solomon 2:3 the “fragrance” of a flower.VED-OT Savor.3

    This word is used of a bad “smell” in Exodus 5:21: “… Because ye have made our savor to be abhorred [have made us odious] in the eyes of Pharaoh.…” Most frequently rêyach is used of the “odor” of a sacrifice being offered up to God. The sacrifice, or the essence of the thing it represents, ascends to God as a placating “odor”: “And the Lord smelled a sweet [NASB, “soothing”] savor …” (Genesis 8:21—the first occurrence of the word).VED-OT Savor.4

    B. Verb. VED-OT Savor.5

    Rûach (רוּחַ, Strong's #7306), “to perceive, enjoy, smell.” Genesis 8:21 is the first occurrence: “And the Lord smelled a sweet savor.…” The word appears about 14 times.VED-OT Savor.6

    Say, Speak, Answer

    A. Verb. VED-OT Say, Speak, Answer.2

    'Âmar (אָמַר, Strong's #559), “to say, speak, tell, command, answer.” This verb occurs in all Semitic languages and in all periods of those languages although it has the meaning “to say, speak” only in the so-called Northwest Semitic dialects (except in Ugaritic) and in Aramaic. Elsewhere the word means “to say” or “to see.” This verb is med about 5,280 times in Old Testament Hebrew.
    Âmar refers to the simple act of communicating with the spoken word. Usually the word is used of direct speech (“say”), although it may be used of indirect speech as well (“speak”).
    VED-OT Say, Speak, Answer.3

    The usual subject of this verb is some selfconscious personality—man (Genesis 2:23) or God (Genesis 1:3—the first occurrence of the word). Infrequently animals (Genesis 3:1) or, in figures of speech such as personification, inanimate objects “say” something (Judges 99:8ff.). This verb bears many connotations and in some passages is better translated accordingly. The KJV renders this verb “answer” 98 times (“say as a response”), while the NASB translates such passages “said.” In Genesis 9:8 we read: “God spoke to Noah” (NASB); the specific content of the communication is not immediately detailed. In Genesis 22:2 Abraham is to offer Isaac on the “mountain of which” God “tells [says to] him” (NASB). Moses requests Pharaoh to let Israel go and sacrifice to God as He “commands” them (Exodus 8:27); the force of God’s speaking is more than merely making a statement: It is authoritative.VED-OT Say, Speak, Answer.4

    In addition to these frequently occurring connotations, 'âmar is rendered with many words representing variom aspects of spoken communication, such as “appoint” or “assign” (1 Kings 11:18), “mention” or “name” (Genesis 43:27), “call” (Isaiah 5:20), and “promise” (2 Kings 8:19). Although not always so translated, this word can imply the act of thinking within oneself (Genesis 44:28) and the intention to do something (Exodus 2:14).VED-OT Say, Speak, Answer.5

    When used of divine speaking, this verb may refer to simple communication (Genesis 1:26). Often, however, there is a much fuller sense where God’s saying effects the thing spoken (cf. Genesis 1). The phrase “thus says the Lord,” so frequent in the prophets, has been analyzed as a message-formula. Ancient Near Eastern letters from, for example, Mari (1750-1697 B.C.) and Amarna (1400-1360 B.C.) contain a similar formula. One might compare our letters which open with “Dear sir.” Divine messages are often concluded with the words “says the Lord.” The Bible recognizes that behind the divine speaking is divine authority and power.VED-OT Say, Speak, Answer.6

    The Septuagint renders this verb by over 40 different Greek words and most often by lego (“to say”) and eipen (“he said”).VED-OT Say, Speak, Answer.7

    B. Nouns. VED-OT Say, Speak, Answer.8

    'Êmer (אֵמֶר, Strong's #561), “word; speech.” This noun appears 48 times. 'Êmer refers to “words” in Proverbs 2:1: “My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee.”VED-OT Say, Speak, Answer.9

    Several other nouns are related to the verb ’amar’Imrah also means “word, speech,” and it occurs 37 times. One occurrence of ‘imrah is in 2 Samuel 22:31 (cf. Psalms 18:30). The noun ‘omer is found 6 times and means “word, speech, promise” (Psalms 68:11; Habakkuk 3:9). Ma’amar and me’mar mean “word, command.” Ma’amar occurs 3 times (Esther 1:15; 2:22; 9:32), and me’mar occurs twice (Ezra 6:9; Daniel 4:17).VED-OT Say, Speak, Answer.10

    Say, Utter, Affirm

    A. Verb. VED-OT Say, Utter, Affirm.2

    Ne'ûm (נְאֻם, Strong's #5002), “to say, utter an affirmation, speak.” The word is a verbal form of the verb ne'ûm, which occurs only once in the entire Old Testament: “Behold, I am against the prophets, saith [ne’um] the Lord, that use their tongues, and say [na’am], He saith [ne’um]” (Jeremiah 23:31). The word ne'ûm appears as many as 361 times and, because of the frequency in the prophetical books, it is characteristic of prophetic speech.VED-OT Say, Utter, Affirm.3

    Ne'ûm is an indicator which generally appears at the end of the quotation: “What mean ye that ye beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor? saith [ne'ûm] the Lord God of hosts” (Isaiah 3:15). The word may also be found in the middle of an argument: “And I raised up of your sons for prophets, and of your young men for Nazarites. Is it not even thus, O ye children of Israel? saith [ne’um] the Lord. But ye gave the Nazarites wine to drink; and commanded the prophets, saying, Prophesy not” (Amos 2:11-12).VED-OT Say, Utter, Affirm.4

    B. Noun. VED-OT Say, Utter, Affirm.5

    Ne'ûm (נְאֻם, Strong's #5002), “utterance; saying.” The use of ne'ûm is rare at the beginning of a statement: “The Lord said unto my Lord [literally, “a statement of Jehovah to my Lord”], Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool” (Psalms 110:1).VED-OT Say, Utter, Affirm.6

    With one exception (Proverbs 30:1) in the sayings of Agur, the usage throughout the Old Testament is virtually limited to a word from God. In Numbers the utterances of Balaam are introduced with the formula “and he uttered his oracle”: “The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor, the oracle of the man whose eye is opened” (Numbers 24:3, RSV; cf. v. 15). David’s concluding words begin with these words: “Now these are the last words of David: The oracle of David, the son of Jesse, the oracle of the man who was raised on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, the sweet psalmist of Israel” (2 Samuel 23:1, RSV). Apart from these instances there are a few more examples, but as a rule ne'ûm is a prophetic term, which even beyond the prophetical literature is associated with a word from God.VED-OT Say, Utter, Affirm.7

    The Septuagint gives the following translation(s): legein (“utterance in words”) and hode (used with reference to what follows, e.g., “this is what … says”).VED-OT Say, Utter, Affirm.8


    Pûts (פָּצַץ, Strong's #6327), “to scatter, disperse, be scattered.” This term is found in both ancient and modern Hebrew. Occurring some 65 times in the Hebrew Old Testament, the word is found for the first time in Genesis 10:18: “… The families of the Canaanites spread abroad.” The word is used 3 times in the story of the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:4, 8-9), apparently to emphasize how men and their languages “were spread” throughout the world.VED-OT Scatter.2

    Pûts , in the sense of “scattering,” often has an almost violent connotation to it. Thus, when Saul defeated the Ammonites, “they which remained were scattered, so that two of them were not left together” (1 Samuel 11:11). Such “scattering” of forces seems to have been a common thing after defeats in battle (1 Kings 22:17; 2 Kings 25:5). Many references are made to Israel as a people and nation “being scattered” among the nations, especially in the imagery of a scattered flock of sheep (Ezekiel 34:5-6; Zechariah 13:7). Ezekiel also promises the gathering together of this scattered flock: “… I will even gather you from the people, … where ye have been scattered …” (Ezekiel 11:17; 34, 41).VED-OT Scatter.3

    In a figurative sense, this word is used to refer to lightning as arrows which God “scatters” (2 Samuel 22:15). According to Job, “the clouds scatter his lightning” (Job 37:11, RSV). No harvest is possible unless first the seeds “are scattered” in rows (Isaiah 28:25).VED-OT Scatter.4


    Yâm (יָם, Strong's #3220), “sea; ocean.” This word has cognates in Aramaic, Akkadian, Ugaritic, Phoenician, and Ethiopic. It occurs about 390 times and in all periods of biblical Hebrew.VED-OT Sea.2

    This word refers to the body of water as distinct from the land bodies (continents and islands) and the sky (heavens): “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea and all that in them is …” (Exodus 20:11). Used in this sense yâm means “ocean.” This is its meaning in Genesis 1:10, its first biblical appearance; unlike the use in the singular, where the word is a collective noun, it appears here in the plural: “And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas.…”VED-OT Sea.3

    Yâm may be used of “seas,” whether they are salty or fresh. The Great Sea is the Mediterranean: “From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast” (Joshua 1:4). This sea is also called the sea of the Philistines (Exodus 23:31) and the hinter or western sea (Deuteronomy 11:24; KJV, “uttermost sea”). The Dead Sea is called the Salt Sea (Genesis 14:3), the Arabah (Deuteronomy 3:17; KV, “plain”), and the east sea (Ezekiel 47:18). Thus, yâm can be used of an inland salty “sea.” It can also be used of a fresh water “sea” such as the Sea of Galilee: “… And the border shall descend, and shall reach unto the side of the Sea of Chinnereth eastward” (Numbers 34:11).VED-OT Sea.4

    The word is sometimes used of the direction west or westward, in the sense of toward the (Great) Sea: “Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward” (Genesis 13:14). In Genesis 12:8 yâm means “on the west side”: “And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Beth-el, and pitched his tent, having Beth-el on the west, and Hai on the east.…” This word can also refer to a side of something and not just a direction, but it is the side that faces westward: “He turned about to the west side …” (Ezekiel 42:19). Exodus 10:19 uses yâm as an adjective modifying “wind”: “And the Lord turned a mighty strong west wind, which took away the locusts.…”VED-OT Sea.5

    Yâm is used of the great basin immediately in front of the Holy Place: “And the pillars of brass that were in the house of the Lord, and the bases, and the brazen sea that was in the house of the Lord, did the Chaldees break in pieces, and carried the brass of them to Babylon” (2 Kings 25:13). This is also called the “sea” of cast metal (1 Kings 7:23; KJV, “molten sea”) or simply the “sea” (Jeremiah 27:19).VED-OT Sea.6

    Yâm is used of mighty rivers such as the Nile: “And the waters shall fail from the sea, and the river shall be wasted and dried up” (Isaiah 19:5). This statement occurs in the middle of a prophecy against Egypt. Therefore, “the river” is the Nile. But since the term “river” is in synonymous parallelism to “the sea,” this latter term also refers to the Nile. Ezekiel 32:2 uses yâm of the branches of the Nile: “… And thou art as a whale in the seas: and thou camest forth with thy rivers, and troubledst the waters with thy feet, and fouledst their rivers.” This word can also be used of the Euphrates River (Jeremiah 51:36).VED-OT Sea.7

    In some instances the word yâm may represent the Canaanite god Yamm, “which alone spreadeth out the heavens, and treadeth upon the waves of the sea” (Job 9:8). If understood as a statement about Yamm, this passage would read: “and tramples upon the back of Yamm.” The parallelism between “heavens” and “seas,” however, would lead us to conclude that the reference here is to the literal “sea.” Psalms 89:9-10 is a more likely place to see a mention of Yamm, for there the word is identified as one of God’s enemies in immediate proximity to the goddess Rahab: “Thou rulest the raging of the sea [Yamm]: when the waves thereof arise, thou stillest them. Thou hast broken Rahab in pieces, as one that is slain; thou hast scattered thine enemies with thy strong arm.” Especially note Job 7:12: “Am I a sea [Yamm], or a whale, that thou settest a watch over me?” (cf. Job 26:12; Psalms 74:13).VED-OT Sea.8


    Sôd (סוֹד , Strong's #5475), “secret or confidential plan(s); secret or confidential talk; secret; council; gathering; circle.” This noun occurs 21 times in biblical Hebrew.VED-OT Secret.2

    Sôd means, first, “confidential talk”: “Hide me from the secret counsel of the wicked …” (Psalms 64:2). In Proverbs 15:22 the word refers to plans which one makes on one’s own and before they are shared by others: “Without counsel [self-made] purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counselors they [succeed].” Sometimes the word signifies simply a talk about something that should be kept confidential: “Debate thy cause with thy neighbor himself; and discover not a secret to another” (Proverbs 25:9).VED-OT Secret.3

    Second, the word represents a group of intimates with whom one shares confidential matters: “O my soul, come not thou into their [Simeon’s and Levi’s] secret; unto their assembly, mine honor, be not thou united …” (Genesis 49:6—the first occurrence of the word). Jeremiah 6:11 speaks of the “assembly [informal but still sharing confidential matters] of young men together.” To “have sweet counsel” is to be in a group where everyone both shares and rejoices in what is being discussed and/or done (Psalms 55:14).VED-OT Secret.4


    A. Nouns. VED-OT Security.2

    Mibṭâch (מִבְטָח, Strong's #4009), “the act of confiding; the object of confidence; the state of confidence or security.” This word occurs 15 times. The word refers to “the act of confiding” in Proverbs 21:22: “A wise man scaleth the city of the mighty, and casteth down the strength of the confidence thereof.” Mibṭâch means the “object of confidence” in Job 8:14 and the “state of confidence or security” in Proverbs 14:26.VED-OT Security.3

    Bâṭach is a noun meaning “security, trust.” One occurrence is in Isaiah 32:17: “… And the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance [bâṭach] for ever.”VED-OT Security.4

    B. Verb. VED-OT Security.5

    Bâṭach (בָּטַח, Strong's #982), “to be reliant, trust, be unsuspecting.” This verb, which occurs 118 times in biblical Hebrew, has a possible Arabic cognate and a cognate in late Aramaic. The word means “to trust” in Deuteronomy 28:52: “And he shall besiege thee in all thy gates, until thy high and fenced walls come down, wherein thou trustedst, throughout all thy land.…”VED-OT Security.6

    C. Adjective. VED-OT Security.7

    Bâṭach (בָּטַח, Strong's #982), “secure.” In two passages this word is used as an adjective suggesting trust and security: “And Gideon went up … and smote the host: for the host was secure [unsuspecting]” (Judges 8:11; cf. Isaiah 32:17).VED-OT Security.8

    D. Adverb. VED-OT Security.9

    Beṭach (בֶּטַח, Strong's #983), “securely.” The occurrences of this word appear in all periods of biblical Hebrew.VED-OT Security.10

    In its first occurrence beṭach emphasizes the status of a city which was certain of not being attacked: “… Two of the sons … took each man his sword, and came upon the city boldly, and slew all the males” (Genesis 34:25). Thus the city was unsuspecting regarding the impending attack. In passages such as Proverbs 10:9 (cf. Proverbs 1:33) beṭach emphasizes a confidence and the absence of impending doom: “He that walketh uprightly walketh surely: but he that perverteth his ways shall be known [faces certain judgment].” Israel dwells in security apart from any possible doom or danger because God keeps her completely safe (Deuteronomy 33:12, 28; cf. 12:10). This condition is contingent on their faithfulness to God (Leviticus 25:18-19). In the eschaton, however, such absence of danger is guaranteed by the Messiah’s presence (Jeremiah 23:5-6).VED-OT Security.11

    See, Perceive

    A. Verb. VED-OT See, Perceive.2

    Râ'âh (רָאָה, Strong's #7200), “to see, observe, perceive, get acquainted with, gain understanding, examine, look after (see to), choose, discover.” This verb occurs only in Moabite and all periods of Hebrew. It appears in the Bible about 1,300 times.VED-OT See, Perceive.3

    Basically râ'âh connotes seeing with one’s eyes: Isaac’s “eyes were dim, so that he could not see” (Genesis 27:1). This is its meaning in Genesis 1:4, its first biblical appearance. The word can be used in the sense of seeing only what is obvious: “… For the Lord seeth not as man seeth …” (1 Samuel 16:7). This verb can also mean “to observe”: “… And there were upon the roof about three thousand men and women, that beheld while Samson made sport” (Judges 16:27). The second primary meaning is “to perceive,” or to be consciously aware of—so idols “neither see, nor hear” (Deuteronomy 4:28). Third, râ'âh can represent perception in the sense of hearing something—God brought the animals before Adam “to see what he would call them” (Genesis 2:19). In Isaiah 44:16 the verb means “to enjoy”: “… I am warm, I have seen the fire.” It can also mean “to realize” or “to get acquainted with”: “When I applied mine heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done upon the earth …” (Ecclesiastes 8:16). The rebellious men of Jerusalem tell God they will not “see sword nor famine”; they will not experience it (Jeremiah 5:12).VED-OT See, Perceive.4

    This verb has several further extended meanings. For example, râ'âh can refer to “perceiving or ascertaining” something apart from seeing it with one’s eyes, as when Hagar saw that she had conceived (Genesis 16:4). It can represent mentally recognizing that something is true: “We saw certainly that the Lord was with thee …” (Genesis 26:28). Seeing and hearing together can mean “to gain understanding”: “… Kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider” (Isaiah 52:15). In Malachi 3:18 the verb means “to distinguish”: “Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked.…” The word can mean to consider the fact that Israel is God’s people (Exodus 33:13).VED-OT See, Perceive.5

    In addition to these uses of râ'âh referring to intellectual seeing, there is seeing used in the sense of living. “To see the light” is to live life (Job 3:16; cf. 33:28). It can mean “experience” in the sense of what one is aware of as he lives: “Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity … reap the same” (Job 4:8). In 2 Kings 25:19 the verb is used in the unique sense of “having trusted concourse with” when it speaks of the five advisors of the king.VED-OT See, Perceive.6

    A fourth idea of seeing is “to examine”: “And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower …” (Genesis 11:5). This examining can have to do with more than looking something over; it can refer to looking after or supervising something (Genesis 39:23). Used in this sense râ'âh can imply looking upon with joy or pain. Hagar asked that she not be allowed to look on the death of Ishmael (Genesis 21:16). This verb may be used of attending to or visiting—so Jonadab said to Amnon: “… When thy father cometh to see thee, say unto him …” (2 Samuel 13:5). When Joseph advised Pharaoh “to look out a man discreet and wise,” he was telling him to choose or select such a man (Genesis 41:33). “To examine” may also be “to observe” someone in order to imitate what he does (Judges 7:17), or “to discover” something (find it out; Judges 16:5).VED-OT See, Perceive.7

    B. Nouns. VED-OT See, Perceive.8

    Rô'eh (רֹאֶה, Strong's #7203), “seer; vision.” Rô'eh, which occurs 11 times, refers to a “prophet” (emphasizing the means by which revelation was received; 1 Samuel 9:9) and to “vision” (Isaiah 28:7).VED-OT See, Perceive.9

    Several other nouns are related to the verb ra’ah. Re’i appears once to mean “looking-glass” (Job 37:18). Re’ut, which occurs 4 times, means “looking, appearance” (1 Samuel 16:12, NASB). Re’ut occurs once, and it means “look” (Ecclesiastes 5:11). Mar’ah means “visionary appearance” or "(prophetic) vision” (Genesis 46:2) and “looking glasses” (Exodus 38:8); this word appears 12 times. Of its 15 occurrences the noun to’ar means “form, shape” in 1 Samuel 28:14 and “stately appearance” in 1 Samuel 25:3. Mar’eh occurs 103 times; this word and to’ar are descriptive of blessing in Genesis 39:6: “Now Joseph was handsome in form [mar’eh] and appearance [mar’eh]” (NASB). Mar’eh refers more to external “appearance” (Genesis 2:9), and the word can also connote “sight” as in a range of vision (Leviticus 13:3) and “sight” in the sense of a supernatural “sight” or manifestation (Exodus 3:3).VED-OT See, Perceive.10


    A. Verbs. VED-OT Seek.2

    Bâqash (בָּקַשׁ, Strong's #1245), “to seek, search, consult.” This verb occurs only in Ugaritic, Phoenician, and Hebrew (both biblical and post-biblical). It appears in the Bible about 220 times and in all periods.VED-OT Seek.3

    Basically bâqash means “to seek” to find something that is lost or missing, or, at least, whose location is unknown. In Genesis 37:15 a man asks Joseph: “What seekest thou?” A special nuance of this sense is “to seek out of a group; to choose, select” something or someone yet undesignated, as in 1 Samuel 13:14: “… The Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart.…” To seek one’s face is “to seek” to come before him, or to have a favorable audience with him; all the world “was seeking” the presence of Solomon (1 Kings 10:24). In a similar sense one may “seek” God’s face by standing before Him in the temple praying (2 Samuel 21:1).VED-OT Seek.4

    The sense “seek to secure” emphasizes the pursuit of a wish or the accomplishing of a plan. Moses asked the Levites who rebelled against the unique position of Aaron and his sons: “… Seek ye the priesthood also?” (Numbers 16:10). This usage may have an emotional coloring, such as, “to aim at, devote oneself to, and be concerned about.” So God asks the sons of men (mankind): “… How long will ye turn my glory into shame? How long will ye love vanity, and seek after [sin]?” (Psalms 4:2). Cultically one may “seek” to secure God’s favor or help: “And Judah gathered themselves together, to ask help of the Lord …” (2 Chronicles 20:4). In such usages the intellectual element usually is in the background; there is no seeking after information. An exception to this is Judges 6:29: “And when they inquired [darash] and asked [baqash], they said, Gideon the son of Joash hath done this thing.” Infrequently this verb is used of seeking information from God (Exodus 33:7). In a similar sense one may “seek” God’s face (2 Samuel 21:1). Here bâqash is clearly used of searching for information (a cognitive pursuit). Also, compare the pursuit of wisdom (Proverbs 2:4).VED-OT Seek.5

    This sense of “seeking to secure” may also be used of seeking one’s life (nepsh). God told Moses to “go, return into Egypt: for all the men are dead which sought thy life” (Exodus 4:19). Bâqash may be used with this same nuance but without nepesh—so Pharaoh “sought to slay Moses” (Exodus 2:15). Only twice is this nuance applied to seeking to procure one’s good as in Psalms 122:9: “Because of the house of the Lord our God I will seek thy good” (usually daresh is used of seeking one’s good).VED-OT Seek.6

    About 20 times bâqash means to hold someone responsible for something because the speaker has a (real or supposed) legal right to it. In Genesis 31:39 (the first biblical occurrence of the verb) Jacob points out to Laban that regarding animals lost to wild beasts, “of my hand didst thou require it.”VED-OT Seek.7

    Only infrequently is bâqash used of seeking out a place, or as a verb of movement toward a place. So Joseph “sought [a place] to weep; and he entered into his chamber, and wept there” (Genesis 43:30).VED-OT Seek.8

    Theologically, this verb can be used not only “to seek” a location before the Lord (to stand before Him in the temple and seek to secure His blessing), but it may also be used of a state of mind: “But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him [daras] with all thy heart and with all thy soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29). In instances such as this where the verb is used in synonymous parallelism with darash, the two verbs have the same meaning.VED-OT Seek.9

    Dârash (דָּרַשׁ, Strong's #1875), “to seek, inquire, consult, ask, require, frequent.” This word is a common Semitic word, being found in Ugaritic and Syriac as well as in Hebrew in its various periods. It is commonly used in modern Hebrew in its verbal form for “to interpret, expound” and then in its derived noun forms for “sermon, preacher.” Occurring more than 160 times in the Old Testament, dârash is first used in Genesis 9:5: “And surely your blood of your lives will I require.…” It often has the idea of avenging an offense against God or the shedding of blood (see Ezekiel 33:6).VED-OT Seek.10

    One of the most frequent uses of this word is in the expression “to inquire of God,” which sometimes indicates a private seeking of God in prayer for direction (Genesis 25:22), and often it refers to the contacting of a prophet who would be the instrument of God’s revelation (1 Samuel 9:9; 1 Kings 22:8). At other times this expression is found in connection with the use of the Urim and Thummim by the high priest as he sought to discover the will of God by the throwing of these sacred stones (Numbers 27:21). Just what was involved is not clear, but it may be presumed that only yes-or-no questions could be answered by the manner in which these stones fell. Pagan people and sometimes even apostate Israelites “inquired of” heathen gods. Thus, Ahaziah instructed messengers: “Go, inquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron whether I shall recover of this disease” (2 Kings 1:2). In gross violation of the Mosaic law (Deuteronomy 18:10-11), Saul went to the witch of Endor “to inquire of” her, which in this instance meant that she was to call up the spirit of the dead prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 288:3ff.). Saul went to the witch of Endor as a last resort, saying, “Seek out for me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her” (1 Samuel 28:7, RSV).VED-OT Seek.11

    This word is often used to describe the “seeking of” the Lord in the sense of entering into covenantal relationship with Him. The prophets often used dârash as they called on the people to make an about-face in living and instead “seek ye the Lord while he may be found …” (Isaiah 55:6).VED-OT Seek.12

    B. Noun. VED-OT Seek.13

    Midrash can mean “study; commentary; story.” This noun occurs a few times in late biblical Hebrew (2 Chronicles 13:22); it is commonly used in post-biblical Judaism to refer to the various traditional commentaries by the Jewish sages. One occurrence of the word is in 2 Chronicles 24:27: “Now concerning his sons, and the greatness of the burdens laid upon him … they are written in the story [commentary] of the Book of the Kings.”VED-OT Seek.14


    Mâkar (מָכַר, Strong's #4376), “to sell.” Common in both ancient and modern Hebrew, this word is also found in ancient Akkadian and Ugaritic. It occurs approximately 70 times in the text of the Hebrew Old Testament and is found for the first time in the Old Testament in Genesis 25:31: “And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright.”VED-OT Sell.2

    Anything tangible may be “sold,” such as land (Genesis 47:20), houses (Leviticus 25:29), animals (Exodus 21:35), and human beings as slaves (Genesis 37:27-28). Daughters were usually “sold” for an agreed bride price (Exodus 21:7).VED-OT Sell.3

    Mâkar is often used in the figurative sense to express various actions. Nineveh is accused of “selling” or “betraying” other nations (Nahum 3:4). Frequently it is said that God “sold” Israel into the power of her enemies, meaning that He gave them over entirely into their hands (Judges 2:14). Similarly, it was said that “the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman” (Judges 4:9). “To be sold” sometimes means to be given over to death (Esther 7:4).VED-OT Sell.4


    A. Verb. VED-OT Send.2

    Shâlach (שָׁלַח, Strong's #7971), “to send, stretch forth, get rid of.” This verb occurs in the Northwest Semitic languages (Hebrew, Phoenician, and Aramaic). It occurs in all periods of Hebrew and in the Bible about 850 times. Biblical Aramaic uses this word 14 times.VED-OT Send.3

    Basically this verb means “to send,” in the sense of (1) to initiate and to see that such movement occurs or (2) to successfully conclude such an action. In Genesis 32:18 the second emphasis is in view—these animals are “a present sent unto my lord Esau.” In Genesis 38:20 the first idea is in view: When “Judah sent the kid by the hand of his friend … , he found her not”; it never reached its goal. In 1 Samuel 15:20 Saul told Samuel about the “way which the lord sent” him; here, too, the emphasis is on the initiation of the action.VED-OT Send.4

    The most frequent use of shâlach suggests the sending of someone or something as a messenger to a particular place: “… He shall send his angel before thee, and thou shalt take a wife unto my son from thence” (Genesis 24:7); God’s angel (messenger) will be sent to Nahor to prepare things for the successful accomplishment of the servant’s task. One may also “send a word” by the hand of a messenger (fool); one may send a message (Proverbs 26:6), send a letter (2 Samuel 11:14), and send instructions (Genesis 20:2).VED-OT Send.5

    Shâlach can refer to shooting arrows by sending them to hit a particular target: “And he sent out arrows, and scattered them …” (2 Samuel 22:15). In Exodus 9:14 God “sends” His plague into the midst of the Egyptians; He “sends” them forth and turns them loose among them. Other special meanings of this verb include letting something go freely or without control: “Thou givest thy mouth to evil …” (Psalms 50:19).VED-OT Send.6

    Quite often this verb means “to stretch out.” God was concerned lest after the Fall Adam “put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life” (Genesis 3:22). One may stretch forth a staff (1 Samuel 14:27) or a sickle (Joel 3:13).VED-OT Send.7

    For the most part the intensive stems merely intensify the meanings already set forth, but the meaning “to send away” is especially frequent: “… Abner was no longer with David in Hebron, for David had sent him away …” (2 Samuel 3:22, NIV). That is, David “let him go” (v. 24, NIV). God sent man out of the garden of Eden; He made man leave (Genesis 3:23—the first occurrence of the verb). Noah sent forth a raven (Genesis 8:7). Shâlach can also mean to give someone a send off, or “to send” someone on his way in a friendly manner: “… And Abraham went with them to bring them on the way [send them off]” (Genesis 18:16). In Deuteronomy 22:19 the word is used of divorcing a wife, or sending her away.VED-OT Send.8

    This verb can signify “to get rid of” something: “They bow themselves, they bring forth their young ones, they cast out their [labor pains]” (Job 39:3). It can also be used of setting a bondservant free: “And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty” (Deuteronomy 15:13). In a less technical sense shâlach can mean to release someone held by force. The angel with whom Jacob wrestled said: “Let me go, for the day breaketh” (Genesis 32:26). Yet another nuance is “to hand someone over,” as in Psalms 81:12: “So I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lust.…” Shâlach can also mean to set something afire, as in “set the city on fire” (Judges 1:8).VED-OT Send.9

    In the passive sense the verb has some additional special meanings; in Proverbs 29:15 it means “to be left to oneself”: “… But a child left to himself [who gets his own way] bringeth his mother to shame.”VED-OT Send.10

    B. Nouns. VED-OT Send.11

    Mishlach means “outstretching; undertaking.” This noun occurs 7 times. The word refers to an “undertaking” in Deuteronomy 28:8: “The Lord shall command the blessing upon thee in thy storehouses, and in all that thou settest thine hand unto; and he shall bless thee.…” The phrase “that thou settest” embodies the meaning of michach here (cf. Deuteronomy 28:20).VED-OT Send.12

    Other nouns are related to shalah. Schilluchim occurs 3 times and means “presents” in the sense of something sent out to or with someone (1 Kings 9:16). Mishloach is found 3 times and refers to “the act of sending” (Esther 9:19, 22) or “the place hands reach when stretched forth” (Isaiah 11:14, RSV). Shelach means " something sent forth as a missile,” and it can refer to a sword or a weapon. Shelach occurs 8 times (2 Chronicles 32:5; Job 33:18; Nehemiah 4:17). The proper noun shiloah appears in Isaiah 8:6 and refers to a channel through which water is sent forth.VED-OT Send.13


    A. Verbs. VED-OT Separate.2

    Pârad (פָּרַד, Strong's #6504), “to divide, separate.” This word and its derivatives are common to both ancient and modern Hebrew. It is found in the text of the Hebrew Old Testament only about 25 times. Pârad occurs for the first time in the text in Genesis 2:10: “And a river went out of Eden … and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads.” The meaning here must be “dividing into four branches.”VED-OT Separate.3

    This word often expresses separation of people from each other, sometimes with hostility: “Separate thyself … from me …” (Genesis 13:9). A reciprocal separation seems to be implied in the birth of Jacob and Esau: “Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels …” (Genesis 25:23). Sometimes economic status brings about separation: “… The poor is separated from his neighbor” (Proverbs 19:4). Generally speaking, pârad has more negative than positive connotations.VED-OT Separate.4

    Nâzar (נָזַר, Strong's #5144), “to separate, be separated.” This verb occurs about 10 times in the Old Testament. The root nâzar is a common Semitic verb. In Akkadian, nâzaru meant “to curse,” but in West Semitic it connoted “to dedicate.” Students of Semitic languages often relate Hebrew nâzar to nadhar (“to vow”).VED-OT Separate.5

    “To separate” and “to consecrate” are not distinguished from one another in the early Old Testament books. For example, the earliest use of nâzar in the Pentateuch is in Leviticus 15:31: “Thus shall ye separate the children of Israel from their uncleanness; that they die not in their uncleanness, when they defile my tabernacle that is among them.” Here Moses uses the word in a cultic sense, meaning a kind of “consecration.” A comparison of various twentieth-century translations will show that nâzar in Leviticus 22:2 is sometimes rendered “to separate,” and sometimes “to dedicate.” The NIV translates this verse: “Tell Aaron and his sons to treat with respect the sacred offerings the Israelites consecrated to me, so that they will not profane my holy name. I am the Lord.”VED-OT Separate.6

    In the days of the prophet Zechariah, Jews asked the Lord whether certain fasts which they had voluntarily adopted were to be continued and observed. “When they had sent unto the home of God Sherezer and Regemmelech, and their men, to pray before the Lord, And to speak unto the priests which were in the house of the Lord of hosts, and to the prophets, saying, Should I weep in the fifth month, separating myself [NASB, “abstain”], as I have done these so many years?” (Zechariah 7:2-3). The Lord’s response stated that it was no longer necessary and therefore needed not to be continued.VED-OT Separate.7

    In prophetic literature, the verb nâzar indicates Israel’s deliberate separation from Jehovah to dedication of foreign gods or idols. In Hosea 9:10, the various versions differ in their rendering of nâzar: “I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your fathers as the firstripe in the fig tree at her first time: but they went to Baal-peor, and separated [NASB, “devoted”; NEB, RSV, “consecrated”] themselves unto that shame; and their abominations were according as they loved.” The prophet Ezekiel employed nâzar: “For every one of the house of Israel, or of the stranger that sojourneth in Israel, which separateth himself from me, and setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to a prophet to inquire of him concerning me; I the Lord will answer him by myself” (Ezekiel 14:7).VED-OT Separate.8

    B. Noun. VED-OT Separate.9

    Nâzı̂yr (נָזִר, Strong's #5139), “one who is separated; Nazarite.” There are 16 occurrences of the word in the Old Testament. The earliest use of nâzı̂yr is found in Genesis 49:26: “The blessings of thy father … shall be on the head of Joseph … that was seperate from his brethren” (cf. Deuteronomy 33:16). Some modern-speech translators have translated nâzı̂yr in these two verses as “prince” (NIV, NEB, NAB). The KJV and RSV render the phrase “separate from his brethren.” This interpretation might be justified by assuming that Joseph was separated from his brethren to become the savior of his father, his brethren, and their families.VED-OT Separate.10

    Most frequently in Old Testament usage, nâzı̂yr is an appellation for one who vowed to refrain from certain things for a period of time: “And this is the law of the Nazarite, when the days of his separation are fulfilled: he shall be brought unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation” (Numbers 6:13).VED-OT Separate.11

    According to Numbers 6, a lay person of either sex could take a special vow of consecration to God’s service for a certain period of time. A “Nazarite” usually made a vow voluntarily; however, in the case of Samson (Judges 13:5, 7) his parents dedicated him for life. Whether or not this idea of separation to God was distinctive alone to Israel has been debated. Numbers 6:1-23 laid down regulatory laws pertaining to Nazaritism. There were two kinds of “Nazarites”: the temporary and the perpetual. The first class was much more common than the latter kind. From the Bible we have knowledge only of Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist as persons who were lifelong “Nazarites.”VED-OT Separate.12

    According to the Mishna, the normal time for keeping a Nazarite vow was thirty days; but sometimes a double vow was taken, lasting sixty days. In fact, a vow was sometimes undertaken for a hundred days.VED-OT Separate.13

    During the time of his vow, a “Nazarite” was required to abstain from wine and every kind of intoxicating drink. He was also forbidden to cut the hair of his head or to approach a dead body, even that of his nearest relative. If a “Nazarite” accidently defiled himself, he had to undergo certain rites of purification and then had to begin the full period of consecration over again. The “Nazarite” was “holy unto the Lord,” and he wore upon his head a diadem of his consecration.VED-OT Separate.14

    There is but one reference in the prophetic literature to “Nazarites”: The prophet Amos complained that the Lord had given the Israelites, Nazarites and prophets as spiritual leaders, but that the people “gave the Nazarites wine to drink; and commanded the prophets, saying, Prophesy not” (Amos 2:11-12).VED-OT Separate.15

    The New Testament occasionally refers to what appear to have been Nazarite vows. For example, Acts 18:18 says that Paul sailed with Priscilla and Aquila, “having shorn his head … for he had a vow” (cf. Acts 21:23-24).VED-OT Separate.16


    A. Verbs. VED-OT Serve.2

    Shârath (שָׁרַת, Strong's #8334), “to serve, minister.” This word occurs less than 100 times in the Old Testament. In the vast majority of instances, shârath appears in the form of an infinitive or participle. When the participle is translated as a verbal noun, such as “servant” or “minister,” it loses the connotation of duration or repetition. Another grammatical feature of shârath is its usage exclusively in the intensive form.VED-OT Serve.3

    The reader of a modern English version can no longer be aware of the distinctive meaning of shârath because it and its synonym, ‘abad (or ‘ebed), are both rendered “serve” or “servant.”VED-OT Serve.4

    Shârath often denotes “service” rendered in connection with Israel’s worship; about 60 of its 97 occurrences have this meaning. When Samuel was still a boy, he “… did minister unto the Lord before Eli the priest” (1 Samuel 2:11), and the Lord called to him while he “… ministered unto the Lord before Eli” (1 Samuel 3:1). This kind of “service” was to honor only the Lord, for Israel was not to be “as the heathen, as the families of the countries; to serve wood and stone” (Ezekiel 20:32). In the temple of Ezekiel’s vision, those Levites who had “… ministered unto them [the people] before their idols …” were forbidden by the Lord to serve as priests (Ezekiel 44:12). Furthermore, “… the Lord separated the tribe of Levi … to minister unto him, and to bless in his name …” (Deuteronomy 10:8). From the tribe of Levi, Moses was to anoint Aaron and his sons and consecrate them, that they may “minister” as priests (Exodus 29:30). Those not of the family of Aaron, though chosen “to minister unto him forever,” acted as assistants to the priests, performing such physical tasks as keeping the gates, slaughtering the burnt offering, caring for the altars and the utensils of the sanctuary (1 Chronicles 15:2; Ezekiel 44:11). But Isaiah foresees the time when “… the sons of strangers … shall minister unto thee” (Isaiah 60:10).VED-OT Serve.5

    In a number of situations, the word is used to denote “service” rendered to a fellow human being. Though the person “served” usually is of a higher rank or station in life, this word never describes a slave’s servitude to his master. Moses was instructed: “Bring the tribe of Levi near, and present them before Aaron, the priest, that they may minister [NASB, “serve”] unto him” (Numbers 3:6; cf. 8:26). Elisha “ministered” to Elijah (1 Kings 19:21). Abishag is said to have “ministered” unto David (1 Kings 1:15). Various kinds of officials “ministered” to David (1 Chronicles 28:1). David’s son Amnon had a “servant that ministered unto him” (2 Samuel 13:17). There were seven eunuchs that “served in the presence of Ahasuerus the king …” (Esther 1:10). He also had “servants that ministered unto him …” (Esther 2:2).VED-OT Serve.6

    ‛Âbad (עָבַד, Strong's #5647), “to serve, cultivate, enslave, work.” This root is used widely in Semitic and Canaanite languages. This verb appears about 290 times in all parts of the Old Testament. The verb is first used in Genesis 2:5: “… And there was not a man to till the ground.” God gave to man the task “to dress [the ground]” (Genesis 2:15; 3:23; cf. 1:28, NASB). In Genesis 14:4 “they served Chedorlaomer …” means that they were his vassals. God told Abraham that his descendants would “serve” the people of a strange land 400 years (Genesis 15:13), meaning, as in the NIV, “to be enslaved by.”VED-OT Serve.7

    ‛Âbad is often used toward God: “… Ye shall serve God upon this mountain” (Exodus 3:12), meaning “to worship” as in the NASB and the NIV. The word is frequently used with another verb: “Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him …” (Deuteronomy 6:13), or “… hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him …” (Deuteronomy 11:13). All nations are commanded: “Serve the Lord with gladness …” (Psalms 100:2). In the reign of Messiah, “all nations shall serve him” (Psalms 72:11). The verb and the noun may be used together as in Numbers 8:11 “And Aaron shall offer the Levites before the Lord … that they may execute the service of the Lord.”VED-OT Serve.8

    B. Nouns. VED-OT Serve.9

    ‛Ăbôdâh (עֲבוֹדָה, Strong's #5656), “work; labors; service.” This noun appears 145 times in the Hebrew Old Testament, and the occurrences are concentrated in Numbers and Chronicles. ‛Ăbôdâh is first used in Genesis 29:27: “… We will give thee this also for the service which thou shalt serve with me.…”VED-OT Serve.10

    The more general meaning of ‛ăbôdâh is close to our English word for “work.” “Labor” in the field (1 Chronicles 27:26), daily “work” from morning till evening (Psalms 104:23), and “work” in the linen industry (1 Chronicles 4:21) indicate a use with which we are familiar. To this, it must be added that ‛ăbôdâh may also be “hard labor,” such as that of a slave (Leviticus 25:39) or of Israel while in Egypt: “Go ye, get you straw where ye can find it: yet not aught of your work shall be diminished” (Exodus 5:11).VED-OT Serve.11

    The more limited meaning of the word is “service.” Israel was in the “service” of the Lord: “But that it may be a witness between us, and you, and our generations after us, that we might do the service of the Lord before him with our burnt offerings, and with our sacrifices, and with our peace offerings; that your children may not say to our children in time to come, Ye have no part in the Lord” (Joshua 22:27). Whenever God’s people were not fully dependent on Him, they had to choose to serve the Lord God or human kings with their requirements of forced “labor” and tribute: “Nevertheless they shall be his servants; that they may know my service, and the service of the kingdoms of the countries” (2 Chronicles 12:8).VED-OT Serve.12

    Further specialization of the usage is in association with the tabernacle and the temple. The priests were chosen for the “service” of the Lord: “And they shall keep his charge, and the charge of the whole congregation before the tabernacle of the congregation, to do the service of the tabernacle” (Numbers 3:7). The Levites also had many important functions in and around the temple; they sang, played musical instruments, and were secretaries, scribes, and doorkeepers (2 Chronicles 34:13; cf. 8:14). Thus anything, people and objects (1 Chronicles 28:13), associated with the temple was considered to be in the “service” of the Lord. Our understanding of “worship,” with all its components, comes close to the Hebrew meaning of ‘abodah as “service”; cf. “So all the service of the Lord was prepared the same day, to keep the passover, and to offer burnt offerings upon the altar of the Lord, according to the commandment of King Josiah” (2 Chronicles 35:16).VED-OT Serve.13

    The Septuagint translations are: leitourgia (“service”); doulia (“slavery”); ergon (“work; deed; occupation”); and ergasia (“pursuit; practice; working; profit; gain”). The KJV gives these senses: “service; bondage; work.”VED-OT Serve.14

    ‛Ebed (עֶבֶד, Strong's #5650), “servant.” This noun appears over 750 times in the Old Testament. ‛Ebed first appears in Genesis 9:25: “… A servant of servants shall he [Canaan] be unto his brethren,” meaning “the lowest of slaves” (NIV). A “servant” may be bought with money (Exodus 12:44) or hired (1 Kings 5:6). The often repeated statement of God’s redemption of Israel is: “I brought you out of the house of slaves” (Exodus 13:3, Hebrews 2:15; KJV, RSV, “bondage”; NASB, NIV, “slavery”). ‛Ebed was used as a mark of humility and courtesy, as in Genesis 18:3: “… Pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant” (cf. Genesis 42:10). Moses addressed God: “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant …” (Exodus 4:10). It is the mark of those called by God, as in Exodus 14:31: “… [They] believed the Lord, and his servant Moses.” God claimed: “For unto me the children of Israel are servants …” (Leviticus 25:55; cf. Isaiah 49:3). “And the Lord spake by his servants the prophets …” (2 Kings 21:10). The psalmist said: “I am thy servant” (116 indicating the appropriateness of the title to all believers.)VED-OT Serve.15

    Of prime significance is the use of “my servant” for the Messiah in Isaiah (42:1-7; 49:1- 7; 50:4-10; 52:13-53:12). Israel was a blind and deaf “servant” (Isaiah 42:18-22). So the Lord called “my righteous servant” (Isaiah 53:11; cf. 42:6) "[to bear] the sin of many” (Isaiah 53:12), “that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6).VED-OT Serve.16

    The “servant” was not a free man. He was subject to the will and command of his master. But one might willingly and lovingly submit to his master (Exodus 21:5), remaining in his service when he was not obliged to do so. Hence it is a very fitting description of the relationship of man to God.VED-OT Serve.17

    The Septuagint translates ‘abad and its nouns by 7 different Greek roots that give more specific meanings to the term. Through these the basic uses of ‘abad come into the New Testament. Notable is Jesus’ fulfillment of the Servant of the Lord in Isaiah: “That signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus (Acts 4:30; RSV, NASB, NIV, “servant Jesus”); and another important use is Paul’s personal use of “a servant of Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:1; KJV, RSV, NIV; but more precisely, “bond servant” in NASB).VED-OT Serve.18

    C. Participle. VED-OT Serve.19

    Shârath (שָׁרַת, Strong's #8334), “servant; minister.” This word is most regularly translated “minister”; Joshua 1:1 is one example: “Now after the death of Moses the servant [‘ebed] of the Lord it came to pass, that the Lord spake unto Joshua, the son of Nun, Moses’ minister [shârath].…” Ezekiel 46:24 refers to a place in the temple complex which is reserved for “… the ministers of the house.…” The privilege of serving the Lord is not restricted to human beings: “Bless ye the Lord, all ye his hosts [angels]; ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure” (Psalms 103:21). Fire and wind, conceived poetically as persons, are also God’s “ministers” (Psalms 104:3-4). Joshua was the “minister” of Moses (Exodus 24:13), and Elisha had a “servitor” (2 Kings 4:43; NASB, “attendant”).VED-OT Serve.20

    Set in Order

    ‛Ărak (עָרַךְ, Strong's #6186), “to arrange, set in order, compare.” While it occurs some 75 times in the Hebrew Old Testament, this root is also found in modern Hebrew, being connected with “editing” and “dictionary.” The word is first found in the Old Testament in Genesis 14:8: “… They joined battle [literally, “they arranged,” referring to opposing battle lines].…” It is used in this way many times in the record of the battles of Israel.VED-OT Set in Order.2

    A common word in everyday life, ‛ârak often refers to “arranging” a table (Isaiah 21:5; Ezekiel 23:41). The word is used several times in the Book of Job with reference to “arranging” or “setting” words “in order,” as in an argument or rebuttal (Job 32:14; 33:5; 37:19). In Job 13:18, Job declares: “Behold now, I have ordered my cause [literally, “I have set my judgment in order”].…” “To arrange in order” makes it possible “to compare” one thing with another. So, to show the superiority of God over the idols, the prophet asks: “To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him?” (Isaiah 40:18).VED-OT Set in Order.3

    Set On, Set Up

    A. Verb. VED-OT Set On, Set Up.2

    ı̂ym (שִׂים, Strong's #7760), “to put, place, set, fix.” This word also appears in Akkadian (as shamu), Aramaic (including biblical Aramaic), Arabic, and Ethiopic. It appears about 580 times in biblical Hebrew, in all periods, and almost exclusively in the primary stem.VED-OT Set On, Set Up.3

    In its first biblical appearance śı̂ym means “to put or place someone somewhere”: “And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed” (Genesis 2:8). In Exodus 40:8 the verb means “to set up,” in the sense of “to place or put something so that it is perpendicular or vertical”: “And thou shalt set up the court round about, and hang up the hanging at the court gate.” Other things are “set up” in a figurative sense, like a wall. So Micah speaks of “setting up” a siege, a wall, around a city: “… He hath laid siege against us …” (Micah 5:1; cf. 1 Kings 20:12). This image is also used figuratively of a human wall in one’s path: “I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt” (1 Samuel 15:2).VED-OT Set On, Set Up.4

    ı̂ym is used sometimes in the sense “to set over, impose on” (negatively): “Therefore they did set [imposed] over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens” (Exodus 1:11). A more positive use of the word in the sense “to appoint” (where the appointment is pleasing to the wards) appears in 1 Samuel 8:5—the elders of Israel asked the aged Samuel: “… Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.” In such usages one in authority determines or is asked to determine something. This is the focus of the word in Numbers 24:23, where Balaam said: “Alas, who shall live when God doeth this!”VED-OT Set On, Set Up.5

    This verb means “to make,” as it does in Zephaniah 3:19: “… And I will get them praise and fame [make their shame into praise and fame] in every land where they have been put to shame.”VED-OT Set On, Set Up.6

    In some passages śı̂ym is used in the figurative sense of setting something or putting it before one’s mind: “… They have not set God before them” (Psalms 54:3). The same phrase is used in a literal sense in Ezekiel 14:4 (cf. NIV).VED-OT Set On, Set Up.7

    ı̂ym also means “to put down” in the sense of literally setting something on the ground, on a chair, or a flat surface: “… Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood” (Genesis 22:9). In a related sense one “puts down” a distance or space between himself and someone else: “And he set three days’ journey betwixt himself and Jacob …” (Genesis 30:36). In Job 4:18 the word means to charge someone with an error, or “to put it down” against or to him. Closely related to this legal use of śı̂ym is 1 Samuel 22:15, where it means “to impute” (lay to one’s charge), and Deuteronomy 22:8, where it means “to bring guilt upon oneself.” Other passages use this verb of putting clothing on, in the sense of setting it down upon one’s body (Ruth 3:3). So, too, one may obligate someone with a task: one may impose it upon him (Exodus 5:8).VED-OT Set On, Set Up.8

    When used with “hand,” śı̂ym may signify putting (Exodus 4:21) or taking something (Judges 4:21) into one’s grasp. Closely related is the phrase “putting hands on,” or “arresting” (2 Kings 11:16).VED-OT Set On, Set Up.9

    This verb may be used in the sense of “giving for” (in behalf of). So Job says: “Lay down now, put me in a surety with thee … ,” or give a pledge for me (Job 17:3). In a related sense the Servant of the Lord would “make his soul an offering for sin” (Isaiah 53:10).VED-OT Set On, Set Up.10

    In Daniel 1:7 śı̂ym signifies “to assign something to, or give to”; the commander of the officials assigned new names to them. In Job 5:8 this giving constitutes handing over one’s cause to another, while in Exodus 21:1 it represents fully stating God’s word in the presence of His people so as to make it possible for them to receive it fully.VED-OT Set On, Set Up.11

    To place or put something on one’s heart means to consider it (Isaiah 47:7) or to pay heed to it (1 Samuel 21:12). The meaning “to fix,” as to fix something in a particular place, appears in Genesis 24:47: “… And I put the earring upon her face, and the bracelets upon her hands.” So, too, in Deuteronomy 14:1 God commands Israel not “to fix” a bald spot on their foreheads for the sake of the dead. Other things may be so “fixed,” such as plants (Isaiah 28:25) and ashes (Leviticus 6:10). The word means “to make” in Exodus 4:11“Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf …?” The first nuance here signifies the creation of the thing (fixing its nature) and the second its disposition (fixing its use; cf. Genesis 13:16). Closely related is the use of the verb to represent “to state, to appoint, or to assign”; in Exodus 21:13, God will appoint a place for the manslayer to flee. In an extended sense śı̂ym signifies “to assign to continue,” or “to preserve”: “And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance” (Genesis 45:7). Thus, to set a remnant is to keep it alive. Therefore, śı̂ym means “to preserve.” To set glory and praise to the Lord is to establish it by stating it (Joshua 7:19). God’s establishing the plagues on Pharaoh is also an appointing (Exodus 8:12).VED-OT Set On, Set Up.12

    B. Noun. VED-OT Set On, Set Up.13

    Tesumet, means “something laid down; a deposit or joint property.” This noun occurs only once in biblical Hebrew: “If a soul sin, and commit a trespass against the Lord, and lie unto his neighbor in that which was delivered him to keep, or in fellowship [tesumet] …” (Leviticus 6:2).VED-OT Set On, Set Up.14

    Set, Place

    Shı̂yth (שִׁית, Strong's #7896), “to put, place, set, station, fix.” In addition to biblical Hebrew, this verb is found frequently in ancient Ugaritic. It occurs more than 80 times in the Hebrew Old Testament, for the first time in Genesis 3:15: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman.…”VED-OT Set, Place.2

    Generally speaking, this word is a term of physical action, typically expressing movement from one place to another. Often it expresses “putting” hands on someone or something: “… Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes [close your eyes]” (Genesis 46:4). One may “put on” ornaments (Exodus 33:4); Naomi laid her “grandchild” Obed in her bosom (Ruth 4:16); a fine may be “laid” on someone for injury (Exodus 21:22). Sheep may be “set” or stationed, at a particular place (Genesis 30:40). “To set” one’s heart to something is to give heed to, to pay attention (Exodus 7:23; RSV, “he did not lay even this to heart”). To set one’s heart may also be to reflect: “Then I saw, and considered it [set my heart to it] …” (Proverbs 24:32).VED-OT Set, Place.3

    “To set” boundaries is “to set,” or “fix,” limits: “And I will set thy bounds from the Red Sea even unto the sea of the Philistines …” (Exodus 23:31). When Job cries: “Oh … that thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me!” (Job 14:13), he wants limits “set” for him.VED-OT Set, Place.4

    Shı̂yth is sometimes used to express the making of something: “… I will make him prince …” (1 Kings 11:34); “And I will lay it waste …” (Isaiah 5:6); “… I will make thee a wilderness …” (Jeremiah 22:6).VED-OT Set, Place.5


    A. Verb. VED-OT Shame.2

    Bûsh (בּוֹשׁ, Strong's #954), “to be ashamed, feel ashamed.” This verb, which occurs 129 times in biblical Hebrew, has cognates in Ugaritic, Akkadian, and Arabic. The word has overtones of being or feeling worthless. Bûsh means “to be ashamed” in Isaiah 1:29: “For they shall be ashamed of the oaks which ye have desired, and ye shall be confounded for the gardens that ye have chosen.”VED-OT Shame.3

    B. Noun. VED-OT Shame.4

    Bôsheth (בּשֶׁת, Strong's #1322), “shame; shameful thing.” The 30 appearances of this noun are mostly in poetic materials—only 5 appearances are in historical literature.VED-OT Shame.5

    This word means a “shameful thing” as a substitute for the name Baal: “For shame hath devoured the labor of our fathers from our youth …” (Jeremiah 3:24; cf. Jeremiah 11:13; Hosea 9:10). This substitution also occurs in proper names: Ish-bosheth (2 Samuel 2:8), the “man of shame,” was originally Esh-baal (cf. 1 Chronicles 8:33), the “man of Baal.”VED-OT Shame.6

    This word represents both “shame and worthlessness”: “Thou son of the perverse rebellious woman, do not I know that thou hast chosen the son of Jesse … unto the confusion of thy mother’s nakedness” (1 Samuel 20:30). The “shame of one’s face” (2 Chronicles 32:21) may well mean being red-faced or embarrassed.VED-OT Shame.7


    She'ôl (שְׁאֹל, Strong's #7585), “Sheol.” The 66 occurrences of this word are distributed throughout every period of biblical Hebrew.VED-OT Sheol.2

    First, the word means the state of death: “For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?” (Psalms 6:5; cf. 18:5). It is the final resting place of all men: “They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave (Job 21:13). Hannah confessed that it was the omnipotent God who brings men to she'ôl (death) or kills them (1 Samuel 2:6). “Sheol” is parallel to Hebrew words for “pit” or “hell” (Job 26:6), “corruption” or “decay” (Psalms 16:10), and “destruction” (Proverbs 15:11).VED-OT Sheol.3

    Second, “Sheol” is used of a place of conscious existence after death. In the first biblical appearance of the word Jacob said that he would “go down into the grave unto my son mourning” (Genesis 37:35). All men go to “Sheol”—a place and state of consciousness after death (Psalms 16:10). The wicked receive punishment there (Numbers 16:30; Deuteronomy 32:22; Psalms 9:17). They are put to shame and silenced in “Sheol” (Psalms 31:17). Jesus alluded to Isaiah’s use of she'ôl (14:13-15) in pronouncing judgment on Capernaum (Matthew 11:23), translating “Sheol” as “Hades” or “Hell,” meaning the place of conscious existence and judgment. It is an undesirable place for the wicked (Job 24:19) and a refuge for the righteous (Job 14:13). Thus “Sheol” is also a place of reward for the righteous (Hosea 13:14; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:55). Jesus’ teaching in Luke 16:19-31 seems to reflect accurately the Old Testament concept of she'ôl; it is a place of conscious existence after death, one side of which is occupied by the suffering, unrighteous dead separated by a great chasm from the other side peopled by the righteous dead enjoying their reward.VED-OT Sheol.4


    A. Verb.VED-OT Shepherd.2

    Râ‛âh (רָעָה, Strong's #7462), “to pasture, shepherd.” This common Semitic root appears in Akkadian, Phoenician, Ugaritic, Aramaic, and Arabic. It is attested in all periods of Hebrew and about 170 times in the Bible. (The word should be distinguished from the verb “to have dealings with or associate with.”)VED-OT Shepherd.3

    Râ‛âh represents what a shepherd allows domestic animals to do when they feed on grasses in the fields. In its first appearance Jacob tells the shepherds: “Lo, it is yet high day, neither is it time that the cattle should be gathered together: water ye the sheep, and go and feed them” (Genesis 29:7).VED-OT Shepherd.4

    Râ‛âh can also represent the entire job of a shepherd. So “Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; and [he was still a youth]” (Genesis 37:2). Used metaphorically this verb represents a leader’s or a ruler’s relationship to his people. At Hebron the people said to David: “Also in time past, when Saul was king over us, thou wast he that leddest out and broughtest in Israel: and the Lord said to thee, Thou shalt feed my people Israel, and thou shalt be a captain over Israel” (2 Samuel 5:2). The verb is used figuratively in the sense “to provide with nourishment” or “to enliven”: “The lips of the righteous feed many: but fools die for want of wisdom” (Proverbs 10:21).VED-OT Shepherd.5

    Râ‛âh is used intransitively describing what cattle do when they feed on the grass of the field. So Pharaoh dreamed that “there came up out of the river seven well-favored kine and fatfleshed; and they fed in a meadow” (Genesis 41:2). This usage is applied metaphorically to men in Isaiah 14:30: “And [those who are most helpless] shall feed, and the needy shall lie down in safety.…” This word is used to describe destruction: “Also the children of Noph and Tahapanes have broken [literally, “consumed as a domestic animal utterly bares a pasture”] the crown of thy head” (Jeremiah 2:16).VED-OT Shepherd.6

    B. Nouns. VED-OT Shepherd.7

    Ro’eh (רָעָה, Strong's #7462), “shepherd.” This noun occurs about 62 times in the Old Testament. It is applied to God, the Great Shepherd, who pastures or feeds His sheep (Psalms 23:1-4; cf. John 10:11). This concept of God, the Great Shepherd, is very old, having first appeared in the Bible on Jacob’s lips in Genesis 49:24: “… From thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel.”VED-OT Shepherd.8

    When applied to human kings, ro’eh recalls its usage among non-Israelites. There it depicts the king as the head of the cultus (official public worship) and the mediator between the god(s) and men. It also suggests that he is the center of national unity, the supreme protector and leader of the nation, the bestower of every earthly blessing, and the dispenser of justice. Interestingly, no biblical king claimed the title ro’eh for himself (cf. 2 Samuel 5:2). In later times leaders other than the kings were also called “shepherds” (cf. Isaiah 44:28; Ezekiel 34:2).VED-OT Shepherd.9

    Other nouns derived from the verb râ‛âh occur infrequently. Mir’eh , which occurs 12 times, means “pasture or pasturage” in the sense of where animals graze, and/or what they graze on (Genesis 47:4). Mar’it appears 10 times and refers to a “pasture” (Psalms 74:1). Re’l is found once and means “pasture” (1 Kings 4:23).VED-OT Shepherd.10


    Sâgar (סָגַר, Strong's #5462), “to shut, close, shut up or imprison.” Found in ancient Ugaritic, this verb is common also in ancient and modern Hebrew. It is found some 80 times in the text of the Hebrew Old Testament. Sâgar is used for the first time in the Old Testament in the story of the creation of the woman from the rib of the man: “And the Lord God … closed up the flesh instead thereof” (Genesis 2:21).The obvious use of this verb is to express the “shutting” of doors and gates, and it is used in this way many times in the text (Genesis 19:10; Joshua 2:7). More specialized uses are: fat closing over the blade of a sword (Judges 3:22) and closing up a breach in city walls (1 Kings 11:27).VED-OT Shut.2

    Figuratively, men may “close their hearts to pity” (Psalms 17:10, RSV; KJV, “They are inclosed in their own fat,” with “fat” symbolizing an unresponsive heart). In the books of Samuel, sâgar is used in the special sense of “to deliver up,” implying that all avenues of escape “are closed”: “This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand …” (1 Samuel 17:46; cf. 1 Samuel 24:18; 26:8; 2 Samuel 18:28).VED-OT Shut.3

    In Leviticus 13-14, in which the priest functions as a medical inspector of contagious diseases, sâgar is used a number of times in the sense of “to isolate, to shut up” a sick person away from other people (see Leviticus 13:5, 11, 21, 26). The more extreme sense of “to imprison” is found in Job 11:10: “If he cut off, and shut up, or gather together, then who can hinder him?”VED-OT Shut.4

    Sick, to Be

    A. Verb. VED-OT Sick, to Be.2

    Châlâh (חָלָה, Strong's #2470), “to be sick, weak.” This verb is common in all periods of the Hebrew language and occurs approximately 60 times in the Hebrew Bible. It is found in the text for the first time near the end of the Book of Genesis when Joseph is told: “Behold, thy father is sick …” (Genesis 48:1).VED-OT Sick, to Be.3

    A survey of the uses of châlâh shows that there was a certain lack of precision in many of its uses, and that the context would be the deciding factor in its meaning. When Samson told Delilah that if he were tied up with bowstrings he would “be weak, and be as another man” (Judges 16:7), the verb obviously did not mean “become sick,” unless being sick implied being less than normal for Samson. When Joram is described as being sick because of wounds suffered in battle (2 Kings 8:29, RSV), perhaps it would be better to say that he was weak. Sacrificial animals that are described as being lame or “sick” (Malachi 1:8) are actually imperfect or not acceptable for sacrifice.VED-OT Sick, to Be.4

    This word is sometimes used in the figurative sense of overexerting oneself, thus becoming “weak.” This is seen in the various renderings of Jeremiah 12:13: “They have put themselves to pain …” (KJV); “they have tired themselves out …” (RSV); “they have worn themselves out” (JB); “they sift but get no grain” (NEB). The versions are divided in the translation of Song of Song of Solomon 2:5, which the KJV, RSV, and JB translate “sick of/with love,” while the NEB and NAB make it “faint with love.” The NASB renders it “lovesick,” but the TEV is probably closest to the meaning when it says “weak with passion.”VED-OT Sick, to Be.5

    B. Noun. VED-OT Sick, to Be.6

    Chŏlı̂y (חֳלִי, Strong's #2483), “sickness.” This noun occurs about 23 times. The use of this word in the description of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53:3-4 has resulted in various translations. The RSV, KJV, and NASB render it “grief.” It is “sufferings in the NEB, JB, TEV and “infirmity” in the NAB. The meaning of “sickness” occurs in Deuteronomy 7:15: “And the Lord will take away from thee all sickness, and will put none of the evil diseases [madweh] of Egypt.…” Chŏlı̂y is used metaphorically as a distress of the land in Hosea 5:13.VED-OT Sick, to Be.7


    'Ôth (אוֹת, Strong's #226), “sign; mark.” Cognates of this word appear in Aramaic and Arabic. It occurs 78 times in biblical Hebrew and in all periods of the language.VED-OT Sign.2

    This word represents something by which a person or group is characteristically marked. This is its emphasis in Genesis 4:15: “And the Lord set a mark [NASB, “sign”] upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.” In Exodus 8:23 God promises to “put a division between my people and thy people: tomorrow shall this sign be” (cf. Exodus 12:13). Numbers 2:2 uses 'ôth to represent a military banner, while Job 21:29 uses the word of the identifying banners of nomadic tribes. Rahab asked her Israelite guests for a trustworthy “mark” (NASB, “pledge of truth”), which they stipulated to be the scarlet cord by which she lowered them out of her window and outside Jericho’s walls (Joshua 2:12, 18).VED-OT Sign.3

    The word means “sign” as a reminder of one’s duty. This usage first appears in Genesis 9:12: “This [the rainbow] is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature …” (cf. vv. 4-15).VED-OT Sign.4

    A reminding token is represented by 'ôth: “And it [the observance of the Feast of Unleavened Bread] shall be for a sign unto thee upon thine hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes, that the Lord’s law may be in thy mouth …” (Exodus 13:9).VED-OT Sign.5

    A “sign” eventually showing the truth of a statement is indicated by 'ôth: “Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain (Exodus 3:12).VED-OT Sign.6

    In passages such as Exodus 4:8 'Ôth represents a miraculous “sign”: “And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe thee, neither hearken to the voice of the first sign, that they will believe the voice of the latter sign.” “Signs” are attestations of the validity of a prophetic message, but they are not the highest or final test of a prophet; he must speak in conformity to past revelation (cf. Deuteronomy 13:1-5).VED-OT Sign.7

    Several passages use 'ôth of omens and/or indications of future events: “But if they say thus, Come up unto us; then we will go up: for the Lord hath delivered them into our hand: and this shall be a sign unto us (1 Samuel 14:10).VED-OT Sign.8

    An 'ôth can be a “warning sign”: “The censers of these sinners against their own souls, let them make them broad plates for a covering of the altar: for they offered them before the Lord therefore they are hallowed: and they shall be a sign unto the children of Israel” (Numbers 16:38).VED-OT Sign.9

    The first occurrence of 'ôth is in Genesis 1:14. Here it refers to the stars, indicators of the time of day and seasons.VED-OT Sign.10


    A. Noun. VED-OT Silver.2

    Keseph (כֶּסֶף, Strong's #3701), “silver; money; price; property.” This word has cognates in Akkadian, Ugaritic, Phoenician, and Aramaic. It occurs about 402 times in biblical Hebrew and in all periods.VED-OT Silver.3

    This word represents the “metal ore silver”: “Take away the dross from the silver, and there shall come forth a vessel for the finer” (Proverbs 25:4; cf. Job 28:1).VED-OT Silver.4

    Keseph may signify the “metal silver,” or what has been refined from silver ore: “And the servant brought forth jewels of silver, and jewels of gold …” (Genesis 24:53). As a precious metal “silver” was not as valuable as gold—probably because it is not so rare: “And all king Solomon’s drinking vessels were of gold, and all the vessels of the house of the forest of Lebanon were of pure gold; none were of silver: it was nothing accounted of in the days of Solomon” (1 Kings 10:21).VED-OT Silver.5

    “Silver” was often a form of wealth. This is the meaning of keseph in Genesis 13:2 (the first biblical occurrence): “And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold.” Silver pieces (not coins) were used as money: “Then Joseph commanded to fill their sacks with corn, and to restore every man’s money into his sack …” (Genesis 42:25). Frequently the word absolutely (by itself) and in the singular form means “pieces of silver”: “Behold, I have given thy brother a thousand pieces of silver …” (Genesis 20:16). In Leviticus 25:50 the word is used in the general sense of “money, value, price”: “And he shall reckon with him that bought him from the year that he was sold to him unto the year of jubilee: and the price of his sale shall be according unto the number of years.…”VED-OT Silver.6

    Since it was a form of wealth, “silver” often was one of the spoils of war: “The kings came, they fought; … they got no spoils of silver” (Judges 5:19, RSV).VED-OT Silver.7

    This word may be used in the sense of “valuable property”: “Notwithstanding, if he [the slave who has been beaten] continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money” (Exodus 21:21).VED-OT Silver.8

    Keseph sometimes represents the color “silver”: “Though ye have lain among the pots, yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold” (Psalms 68:13).VED-OT Silver.9

    B. Verb. VED-OT Silver.10

    Kasaph means “to long for.” Some scholars derive keseph from this verb which occurs 5 times in the biblical text. Kasaph means “to long for” in the sense of “to be pale by reason of longing”: “And now, though thou wouldest needs be gone, because thou sore longedst after thy father’s house, yet wherefore hast thou stolen my gods?” (Genesis 31:30).VED-OT Silver.11


    A. Nouns.VED-OT Sin.2

    'Âven (אָוֶן, Strong's #205), “iniquity; vanity; sorrow.” Some scholars believe that this term has cognates in the Arabic words ‘ana, (“to be fatigued, tired”) and ‘aynun (“weakness; sorrow; trouble”), or with the Hebrew word ‘ayin (“nothingness”). This relationship would imply that 'âven means the absence of all that has true worth; hence, it would denote “moral worthlessness,” as in the actions of wrongdoing, evil devising, or false speaking.VED-OT Sin.3

    Other scholars believe that the term implies a “painful burden or difficulty”—i.e., that sin is a toilsome, exhausting load of “trouble and sorrow,” which the offender causes for himself or others. This meaning is indicated in Psalms 90:10: “The days of our years are three score years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow [RSV, “trouble”].…” A similar meaning appears in Proverbs 22:8: “He that soweth iniquity shall reap vanity ['âven]: and the rod of his anger shall fail.”VED-OT Sin.4

    'Âven may be a general term for a crime or offense, as in Micah 2:1: “Woe to them that devise iniquity …” (cf. Isaiah 1:13). In some passages, the word refers to falsehood or deception: “The words of his mouth are iniquity and deceit: he hath left off to be wise, and to do good” (Psalms 36:3). “For the idols have spoken vanity [NASB, “iniquity”] …” (Zechariah 10:2). Isaiah 41:29 portrays idols deceiving their worshipers: “Behold, they are all vanity; their works are nothing: Their molten images are wind and confusion.”VED-OT Sin.5

    'Âshâm (אָשָׁם, Strong's #817), “sin; guilt; guilt offering; trespass; trespass offering.” Cognates appear in Arabic as ‘ithmun (“sin; offense; misdeed; crime”), ‘athima (“to sin, err, slip”), and ‘athimun (“sinful; criminal; evil; wicked”); but the Arabic usage does not include the idea of restitution. In the Ugaritic texts of Ras Shamra, the word atm occurs in similar passages. Scholars believe this Ugaritic word may mean “offense” or “guilt offering,” but this cannot be ascertained.VED-OT Sin.6

    'Âshâm implies the condition of “guilt” incurred through some wrongdoing, as in Genesis 26:10: “And Abimelech said, … one of the people might lightly have lain with thy wife, and thou shouldest have brought guiltiness upon us.” The word may also refer to the offense itself which entails the guilt: “For Israel hath not been forsaken … though their land was filled with sin against the Holy One of Israel” (Jeremiah 51:5). A similar meaning of the word appears in Psalms 68:21: “But God shall wound the head of his enemies and the hairy scalp of such a one as goeth on still in his trespasses [RSV, “guilty ways”; NASH, “guilty deeds”].”VED-OT Sin.7

    Most occurrences of 'âshâm refer to the compensation given to satisfy someone who has been injured, or to the “trespass offering” or “guilt offering” presented on the altar by the repentant offender after paying a compensation of six-fifths of the damage inflicted (Numbers 5:7-8). The “trespass offering” was the blood sacrifice of a ram: “And he shall bring a ram without blemish out of the flock, with thy estimation, for a trespass offering, unto the priest: and the priest shall make an atonement for him concerning his ignorance wherein he erred and wist it not, and it shall be forgiven him” (Leviticus 5:18; cf. Leviticus 7:5, 7; Leviticus 14:12-13). The most significant theological statement containing 'âshâm is in Isaiah 53:10, which says that the servant of Yahweh was appointed as an 'âshâm for sinful mankind. This suggests that His death furnished a 120- percent compensation for the broken law of God.VED-OT Sin.8

    'Âmâl (עָמָל, Strong's #5999), “evil; trouble; misfortune; mischief; grievance; wickedness; labor.” This noun is related to the Hebrew verb ‛âmâl (“to labor, toil”). The Arabic cognate ‘amila means “to get tired from hard work.” The Aramaic ‛âmâl means “make” or “do,” with no necessary connotation of burdensome labor. The Phoenician Canaanite usage of this term was closer to the Arabic; the Book of Ecclesiastes (which shows considerable Phoenician influence) clearly represents this use: “Yea, I hated all my labor which I had taken under the sun …” (Ecclesiastes 2:18). “And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labor …” (Ecclesiastes 3:13). A related example appears in Psalms 107:12: “Therefore he brought down their heart with labor; they fell down and there was none to help.”VED-OT Sin.9

    In general, ‛âmâl refers either to the trouble and suffering which sin causes the sinner or to the trouble that he inflicts upon others. Jeremiah 20:18 depicts self-inflicted sorrow: “Wherefore came I forth out of the womb to see labor [‛âmâl] and sorrow [yagon], that my days should be consumed with shame?” Another instance is found in Deuteronomy 26:7: “And when we cried unto the Lord God of our fathers, the Lord heard our voice, and looked on our affliction [‘oni], and our labor [‛âmâl], and our oppression [lachats].”VED-OT Sin.10

    Job 4:8 illustrates the sense of trouble as mischief inflicted on others: “… They that plow iniquity [‘awen], and sow wickedness [‛âmâl] reap the same.” The word appears in Psalms 140:9: “As for the head of those that compass me about, let the mischief of their own lips cover them.” Habakkuk 1:3 also refers to the trouble inficted on others: “Why dost thou show me iniquity [‘awen], and cause me to behold grievance [‘amal]? For spoiling and violence are before me; and there are that raise up strife and contention.”VED-OT Sin.11

    ‛Âvôn (עָווֹן, Strong's #5771), “iniquity.” This word is derived from the root ‘awah, which means “to be bent, bowed down, twisted, perverted” or “to twist, pervert.” The Arabic cognate ‘awa means “to twist, bend down”; some scholars regard the Arabic term ghara (“to err from the way”) as the true cognate, but there is less justification for this interpretation.VED-OT Sin.12

    ‛Âvôn portrays sin as a perversion of life (a twisting out of the right way), a perversion of truth (a twisting into error), or a perversion of intent (a bending of rectitude into willful disobedience). The word “iniquity” is the best single-word equivalent, although the Latin root iniquitas really means “injustice; unfairness; hostile; adverse.”VED-OT Sin.13

    ‛Âvôn occurs frequently throughout the Old Testament in parallelism with other words related to sin, such as chatta’t (“sin”) and pesha’ (“transgression”). Some examples are 1 Samuel 20:1: “And David … said before Jonathan, what have I done? what is mine iniquity [‛âvôn]? and what is my sin [chatta’t] before thy father, that he seeketh my life?” (cf. Isaiah 43:24; Jeremiah 5:25). Also note Job 14:17: “My transgression [pesha’] is sealed up in a bag, and thou sewest up mine iniquity [‛âvôn]” (cf. Psalms 107:17; Isaiah 50:1).VED-OT Sin.14

    The penitent wrongdoer recognized his “iniquity” in Isaiah 59:12: “For our transgressions are multiplied before thee, and our sins testify against us: for our transgressions are with us; and as for our iniquities, we know them” (cf. 1 Samuel 3:13). “Iniquity” is something to be confessed: “And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel …” (Leviticus 16:21). “And the seed of Israel … confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers” (Nehemiah 9:2; cf. Psalms 38:18).VED-OT Sin.15

    The grace of God may remove or forgive “iniquity”: “And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee …” (Zechariah 3:4; cf. 2 Samuel 24:10). His atonement may cover over “iniquity”: “By mercy and truth iniquity is purged; and by the fear of the Lord men depart from evil” (Proverbs 16:6; cf. Psalms 78:38).VED-OT Sin.16

    ‛Âvôn may refer to “the guilt of iniquity,” as in Ezekiel 36:31: “Then shall ye remember your own evil ways … and shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations” (cf. Ezekiel 9:9). The word may also refer to “punishment for iniquity”: “And Saul sware to her by the Lord, saying, As the Lord liveth, there shall no punishment happen to thee for this thing” (1 Samuel 28:10). In Exodus 28:38, ‛âvôn is used as the object of natsa’ (“to bear, carry away, forgive”), to suggest bearing the punishment for the “iniquity” of others. In Isaiah 53:11, we are told that the servant of Yahweh bears the consequences of the “iniquities” of sinful mankind, including Israel.VED-OT Sin.17

    Râshâ‛ (רָשָׁע, Strong's #7563), “wicked; criminal; guilty.” Some scholars relate this word to the Arabic rash’a (“to be loose, out of joint”), although that term is not actively used in literary Arabic. The Aramaic cognate resha’ means “to be wicked” and the Syriac apel (“to do wickedly”).VED-OT Sin.18

    Râshâ‛ generally connotes a turbulence and restlessness (cf. Isaiah 57:21) or something disjointed or ill-regulated. Thus Robert B. Girdlestone suggests that it refers to the tossing and confusion in which the wicked live, and to the perpetual agitation they came to others.VED-OT Sin.19

    In some instances, râshâ‛ carries the sense of being “guilty of crime”: “Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness” (Exodus 23:1) “Take away the wicked from before the king, and his throne shall be established in righteousness” (Proverbs 25:5). “An ungodly witness scorneth judgment: and the mouth of the (wicked [plural form] devoureth iniquity” (Proverbs 19:28; cf. Proverbs 20:26).VED-OT Sin.20

    Justifying the “wicked” is classed as a heinous crime: “He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the Lord” (Proverbs 17:15; cf. Exodus 23:7).VED-OT Sin.21

    The râshâ‛ is guilty of hostility to God and His people: “Arise, O Lord, disappoint him, cast him down: deliver my soul from the wicked, which is thy sword” (Psalms 17:13); “Oh let the wickedness of the (wicked [plural form] come to an end; but establish the just …” (Psalms 7:9). The word is applied to the people of Babylon in Isaiah 13:11 and to the Chaldeans in Habakkuk 1:13.VED-OT Sin.22

    Chaṭṭâ'th (חַטָּאָה, Strong's #2403), “sin; sin-guilt; sinpurification; sin offering.” The noun chaṭṭâ'th appears about 293 times and in all periods of biblical literature.VED-OT Sin.23

    The basic nuance of this word is “sin” conceived as missing the road or mark (155 times). Chaṭṭâ'th can refer to an offense against a man: “And Jacob was wroth, and chode with Laban: and Jacob answered and said to Laban, What is my trespass [pesha’]? what is my sin, that thou hast so hotly pursued after me?” (Genesis 31:36). It is such passages which prove that chaṭṭâ'th is not simply a general word for “sin”; since Jacob used two different words, he probably intended two different nuances. In addition, a full word study shows basic differences between chaṭṭâ'th and other words rendered “sin.”VED-OT Sin.24

    For the most part this word represents a sin against God (Leviticus 4:14). Men are to return from “sin,” which is a path, a life-style, or act deviating from that which God has marked out (1 Kings 8:35). They should depart from “sin” (2 Kings 10:31), be concerned about it (Psalms 38:18), and confess it (Numbers 5:7). The noun first appears in Genesis 4:7, where Cain is warned that “sin lieth at the door.” This citation may introduce a second nuance of the word—“sin” in general. Certainly such an emphasis appears in Psalms 25:7, where the noun represents rebellious sin (usually indicated by pasha’): “Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions.…”VED-OT Sin.25

    In a few passages the term connotes the guilt or condition of sin: “… The cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and … their sin is very grievous” (Genesis 18:20).VED-OT Sin.26

    The word means “purification from sin” in two passages: “And thus shalt thou do unto them, to cleanse them: Sprinkle water of purifying upon them …” (Numbers 8:7; cf. 19:9).VED-OT Sin.27

    Chaṭṭâ'th means “sin offering” (135 times). The law of the “sin offering” is recorded in Leviticus 4:1-5:13; Leviticus 6:24-30. This was an offering for some specific “sin” committed unwittingly, without intending to do it and perhaps even without knowing it at the time (Leviticus 4:2; 5:15).VED-OT Sin.28

    Also derived from the verb chata’ is the noun chet’, which occurs 33 times in biblical Hebrew. This word means “sin” in the sense of missing the mark or the path. This may be sin against either a man (Genesis 41:9—the first occurrence of the word) or God (Deuteronomy 9:18). Second, it connotes the “guilt” of such an act (Numbers 27:3). The psalmist confessed that his mother was in the condition of sin and guilt (cf. Romans 5:12) when he was conceived (Psalms 51:5). Finally, several passages use this word for the idea of “punishment for sin” (Leviticus 20:20).VED-OT Sin.29

    The noun chaṭṭâ'th, with the form reserved for those who are typified with the characteristic represented by the root, is used both as an adjective (emphatic) and as a noun. The word occurs 19 times. Men are described as “sinners” (1 Samuel 15:18) and as those who are liable to the penalty of an offense (1 Kings 1:21). The first occurrence of the word is in Genesis 13:13: “But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly.”VED-OT Sin.30

    B. Adjectives.VED-OT Sin.31

    Râshâ‛ (רָשָׁע, Strong's #7563), “wicked; guilty.” In the typical example of Deuteronomy 25:2, this word refers to a person “guilty of a crime”: “And it shall be, if the wicked man be worthy to be beaten, that the judge shall cause him … to be beaten.…” A similar reference appears in Jeremiah 5:26: “For among my people are found wicked [plural form] men: they lay wait, as he that setteth snares; they set a trap, they catch men.” Râshâ‛ is used specifically of murderers in 2 Samuel 4:11: “How much more, when wicked men have slain a righteous person in his own house upon his bed? …” The expression “guilty of death” (rasha’ lamut) occurs in Numbers 35:31 and is applied to a murderer.VED-OT Sin.32

    Pharaoh and his people are portrayed as “wicked” people guilty of hostility to God and His people (Exodus 9:27).VED-OT Sin.33

    Ra‛ (רַע, Strong's #7451), “bad; evil; wicked; sore.” The root of this term is disputed. Some scholars believe that the Akkadian term raggu (“evil; bad”) may be a cognate. Some scholars derive ra‛ from the Hebrew word ra’a’ (“to break, smash, crush”), which is a cognate of the Hebrew ratsats (“to smash, break to pieces”); ratsats in turn is related to the Arabic radda (“to crush, bruise”). If this derivation were correct, it would imply that ra’ connotes sin in the sense of destructive hurtfulness; but this connotation is not appropriate in some contexts in which ra’ is found.VED-OT Sin.34

    Ra’ refers to that which is “bad” or “evil,” in a wide variety of applications. A greater number of the word’s occurrences signify something morally evil or hurtful, often referring to man or men: “Then answered all the wicked men and men of Belial, of those that went with David …” (1 Samuel 30:22). “And Esther said, the adversary and enemy is the wicked Haman” (Esther 7:6). “There they cry, but none giveth answer, because of the pride of evil men” (Job 35:12; cf. Psalms 10:15). Ra’ is also used to denote evil words (Proverbs 15:26), evil thoughts (Genesis 6:5), or evil actions (Deuteronomy 17:5, Nehemiah 13:17). Ezekiel 6:11 depicts grim consequences for Israel as a result of its actions: “Thus saith the Lord God; smite with thine hand, and stamp with thy foot, and say, Alas for all the evil abominations of the house of Israel! For they shall fall by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence.”VED-OT Sin.35

    Ra’ may mean “bad” or unpleasant in the sense of giving pain or caming unhappiness: “And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, … Few and evil have the days of the years of my life been …” (Genesis 47:9). “And when the people heard these evil tidings, they mourned …” (Exodus 33:4; cf. Genesis 37:2). “Correction is grievous [ra’] unto him that forsaketh the way: and he that hateth reproof shall die” (Proverbs 15:10).VED-OT Sin.36

    Ra’ may also connote a fierceness or wildness: “He cast upon them the fierceness of his anger, wrath, and indignation, and trouble, by sending evil [ra] angels among them” (Psalms 78:49). “Some evil beast hath devoured him …” (Genesis 37:20; cf. Genesis 37:33; Leviticus 26:6).VED-OT Sin.37

    In less frequent uses, ra’ implies severity: “For thus saith the Lord God; How much more when I send my four sore [ra’] judgments upon Israel …” (Ezekiel 14:21; cf. Deuteronomy 6:22); unpleasantness: “And the Lord will take away from thee all sickness, and will put more of the evil diseases of Egypt … upon thee …” (Deuteronomy 7:15; cf. Deuteronomy 28:59); deadliness: “When I shall send upon them the evil arrows of famine, which shall be for their destruction …” (Ezekiel 5:16; cf. “hurtful sword,” Psalms 144:10); or sadness: “Wherefore the king said unto me, why is thy countenance sad …” (Nehemiah 2:2).VED-OT Sin.38

    The word may also refer to something of poor or inferior quality, such as “bad” land (Numbers 13:19), “naughty” figs (Jeremiah 24:2), “illfavored” cattle (Genesis 41:3, 19), or a “bad” sacrificial animal (Leviticus 27:10, 12, 14).VED-OT Sin.39

    In Isaiah 45:7 Yahweh describes His actions by saying, “… I make peace, and create evil [ra] …”; moral “evil” is not intended in this context, but rather the antithesis of shalom (“peace; welfare; well-being”). The whole verse affirms that as absolute Sovereign, the Lord creates a universe governed by a moral order. Calamity and misfortune will surely ensue from the wickedness of ungodly men.VED-OT Sin.40

    C. Verbs.VED-OT Sin.41

    ‛Âbar (עָבַר, Strong's #5674), “to transgress, cross over, pass over.” This word occurs as a verb only when it refers to sin. ‛Âbar often carries the sense of “transgressing” a covenant or commandment—i.e., the offender “passes beyond” the limits set by God’s law and falls into transgression and guilt. This meaning appears in Numbers 14:41: “And Moses said, wherefore now do ye transgress the commandment of the Lord? but it shall not prosper.” Another example is in Judges 2:20: “And the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel; and he said, Because that this people hath transgressed my covenant which I commanded their fathers, and have not hearkened unto my voice” (cf. 1 Samuel 15:24; Hosea 8:1).VED-OT Sin.42

    Most frequently, ‛âbar illustrates the motion of “crossing over” or “passing over.” (The Latin transgedior, from which we get our English word transgress, has the similar meaning of “go beyond” or “cross over.”) This word refers to crossing a stream or boundage (“pass through,” Numbers 21:22), invading a country (“passed over,” Judges 11:32), crossing a boundary against a hostile army (“go over,” 1 Samuel 14:4), marching over (“go over,” Isaiah 51:23), overflowing the banks of a river or other natural barriers (“pass through,” Isaiah 23:10), passing a razor over one’s head (“come upon,” Numbers 6:5), and the passing of time (“went over,” 1 Chronicles 29:30).VED-OT Sin.43

    Châṭâ' (חָטָא, Strong's #2398), “to miss, sin, be guilty, forfeit, purify.” This verb occurs 238 times and in all parts of the Old Testament. It is found also in Assyrian, Aramaic, Ethiopic, Sabean, and Arabic.VED-OT Sin.44

    The basic meaning of this verb is illustrated in Judges 20:16: There were 700 lefthanded Benjamite soldiers who “could sling stones at a hair breadth, and not miss.” The meaning is extended in Proverbs 19:2: “He who makes haste with his feet misses the way” (RSV, NIV, KJV NASB, “sinneth”). The intensive form is used in Genesis 31:39: “That which was torn of beasts I brought not unto thee; I bare the loss of it.…”VED-OT Sin.45

    From this basic meaning comes the word’s chief usage to indicate moral failure toward both God and men, and certain results of such wrongs. The first occurrence of the verb is in Genesis 20:6, God’s word to Abimelech after he had taken Sarah: “Yes, I know that in the integrity of your heart you have done this, and also I have kept you from sinning against Me” (NASB; cf. Genesis 39:9).VED-OT Sin.46

    Sin against God is defined in Joshua 7:11: “Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them.…” Also note Leviticus 4:27: “And if any one of the common people sin through ignorance, while he doeth somewhat against any of the commandments of the Lord concerning things which ought not to be done, and be guilty.” The verb may also refer to the result of wrongdoing, as in Genesis 43:9: “… Then let me bear the blame for ever.” Deuteronomy 24:1-4, after forbidding adulterous marriage practices, concludes: “… For that is abomination before the Lord: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin …” (KJV); the RSV renders this passage: “You shall not bring guilt upon the land.” Similarly, those who pervert justice are described as “those who by a word make a man out to be guilty” (Isaiah 29:21, NIV). This leads to the meaning in Leviticus 9:15: “And he … took the goat … and slew it, and offered it for sin.…” The effect of the offerings for sin is described in Psalms 51:7: “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean …” (cf. Numbers 19:1-13). Another effect is seen in the word of the prophet to evil Babylon: “You have forfeited your life” (Habakkuk 2:10 RSV, NIV; KJV, NASB, “sinned against”). The word is used concerning acts committed against men, as in Genesis 42:22: “Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child …?” and 1 Samuel 19:4: “Do not let the king sin against his servant David, since he has not sinned against you …” (NASB; NlV, “wrong, wronged”).VED-OT Sin.47

    The Septuagint translates the group of words with the verb hamartano and derived nouns 540 times. They occur 265 times in the New Testament. The fact that all “have sinned” continues to be emphasized in the New Testament (Romans 3:10-18, 23; cf. 1 Kings 8:46; Psalms 14:1-3; Ecclesiastes 7:20). The New Testament development is that Christ, “having made one sacrifice for sins for all time sat down at the right hand of God.… For by one offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:12-14, NASB).VED-OT Sin.48


    A. Verbs. VED-OT Sing.2

    Rânan (רָנַן, Strong's #7442), “to sing, shout, cry out.” Found in both ancient and modern Hebrew, this word is used in modern Hebrew in the sense of “to chant, sing.” It occurs approximately 50 times in the Hebrew Old Testament, with about half of these uses being in the Book of Psalms, where there is special emphasis on “singing” and “shouting” praises to God. Rânan is found for the first time in Leviticus 9:24 at the conclusion of the consecration of Aaron and his sons to the priesthood. When the fire fell and consumed the sacrifice, the people “shouted, and fell on their faces.”VED-OT Sing.3

    Rânan is often used to express joy, exultation, which seems to demand loud singing, especially when it is praise to God: “Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion: for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee” (Isaiah 12:6). When Wisdom calls, she cries aloud to all who will hear (Proverbs 8:3). To shout for joy (Psalms 32:11) is to let joy ring out!VED-OT Sing.4

    Shı̂yr (שׁוּר, Strong's #7891), “to sing.” This word appears frequently in ancient and modern Hebrew, as well as in ancient Ugaritic. While it occurs almost 90 times in the Hebrew Old Testament, it is not used until Exodus 15:1: “Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord.…” One might wonder if it took the miracle of the Exodus from Egypt to give the Israelites something “to sing” about!VED-OT Sing.5

    Over one quarter of the instances of shı̂yr are found in the Book of Psalms, often in the imperative form, calling the people to express their praise to God in singing. One such example is found in Psalms 96:1: “O sing unto the Lord a new song: sing unto the Lord, all the earth.” Frequently shı̂yr is found in parallelism with zamar, “to sing” (Psalms 68:4, 32).VED-OT Sing.6

    B. Participle. VED-OT Sing.7

    Shı̂yr (שׁוּר, Strong's #7891), “singers.” In the Books of Chronicles, shı̂yr is used in the participial form some 33 times to designate the Levitical “singers” (1 Chronicles 15:16). “Female singers” are referred to occasionally (2 Samuel 19:35; 2 Chronicles 35:25; Ecclesiastes 2:8).VED-OT Sing.8

    C. Noun. VED-OT Sing.9

    Shı̂yr (שִׁירָה, Strong's #7892), “song.” This noun is found about 30 times in the titles of various psalms as well as elsewhere in the Old Testament. Shı̂yr is used of a joyous “song” in Genesis 31:27: “… And didst not tell me, that I might have sent thee away with mirth, and with songs, with tabret, and with harp?” In Judges 5:12 the word refers to a triumphal “song,” and in Nehemiah 12:46 the word is used of a religious “song” for worship. The book that is commonly designated “The Song of Solomon” actually has the title “The Song of Songs” in Hebrew. While this love “song” continues to create questions in the minds of many regarding its inclusion in the biblical canon, it must have had some special meaning to have earned the title it has. Rather than rationalize its place in the canon by stating that it is an allegory of the love between God and Israel, and then Christ and the church, perhaps one should simply recognize that it is a love “song,” pure and simple, and that love has its rightful place in the divine plan for mature men and women.VED-OT Sing.10


    'Âchôth (אָחוֹת, Strong's #269), “sister.” Like the words for “brother” and “father,” this noun is common to many Semitic languages. Whereas “brother” appears 629 times, “sister” occurs only 114 times. The usage is rare in the poetic literature with the exception of the Song of Solomon (7 times). The first occurrence is in Genesis 4:22: “And Zillah, she also bare Tubal-cain, an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron: and the sister of Tubalcain was Naamah.”VED-OT Sister.2

    The translation of “sister” for 'âchôth is only the beginning. In Hebrew custom the word was a term employed to refer to the daughter of one’s father and mother (Genesis 4:22) or one’s half-sister (Genesis 20:12). It may also refer to one’s aunt on the father’s side (Leviticus 18:12; 20:19) or on the mother’s side (Leviticus 18:13; 20:19).VED-OT Sister.3

    The use of 'âchôth more generally denotes female relatives: “And they blessed Rebekah, and said unto her, Thou art our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of millions, and let thy seed possess the gate of those which hate them” (Genesis 24:60). This meaning lies behind the metaphorical use, where two divisions of a nation (Judah and Israel; Jeremiah 3:7) and two cities (Sodom and Samaria; Ezekiel 16:46) are portrayed as sisters—Hebrew names of geographical entities are feminine.VED-OT Sister.4

    The more specialized meaning “beloved” is found only in Song of Song of Solomon 4:9: “Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister [or beloved], my spouse; thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck.” Here 'âchôth is used as a term of endearment rather than a term for a blood relative.VED-OT Sister.5

    The Septuagint translates the word adelphe (“sister”).VED-OT Sister.6


    A. Verb. VED-OT Slaughter.2

    Zâbach (זָבַח, Strong's #2076), “to slaughter, sacrifice.” This word is a common Semitic term for sacrifice in general, although there are a number of other terms used in the Old Testament for specific sacrificial rituals. There is no question that this is one of the most important terms in the Old Testament; zâbach is found more than 130 times in its verbal forms and its noun forms occur over 500 times. The first time the verb occurs is in Genesis 31:54, where “Jacob offered sacrifice upon the mount.” In Exodus 20:24 the word is used in relation to the kinds of sacrifices to be made.VED-OT Slaughter.3

    While there were grain and incense offerings prescribed as part of the Mosaic laws dealing with sacrifice (see Leviticus 2), the primary kind of sacrifice was the blood offering which required the slaughter of an animal (cf. Deuteronomy 17:1; 1 Chronicles 15:26). This blood was poured around the altar, for the blood contained the life, as stated in Leviticus 17:11: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it for you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement, by reason of the life” (RSV). Since the blood was the vehicle of life, it belonged to God alone. Because the blood is the life, and became it is given to God in the process of pouring it about the altar, it becomes the means of expiating sin, as an offering for sin and not because it becomes a substitute for the sinner.VED-OT Slaughter.4

    Zâbach is also used as a term for “slaughter for eating.” This usage is closely linked with “slaughter for sacrifice” since all eating of flesh was sacrificial among ancient Hebrews. The word carries this meaning in 1 Kings 19:21: “And he returned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen, and slew them, and boiled their flesh … and gave unto the people, and they did eat.”VED-OT Slaughter.5

    B. Nouns. VED-OT Slaughter.6

    Zebach (זֶבַח, Strong's #2077), “sacrifice.” This noun occurs more than 160 times in biblical Hebrew. The “sacrifice” which was part of a covenant ritual involved the sprinkling of the blood on the people and upon the altar, which presumably symbolized God as the covenant partner (see Exodus 24:6-8). Another special “sacrifice” was “the sacrifice of the feast of the passover” (Exodus 34:25). In this case the sacrificial lamb provided the main food for the passover meal, and its blood was sprinkled on the doorposts of the Israelite homes as a sign to the death angel.VED-OT Slaughter.7

    The “sacrifice” of animals was in no way unique to Israelite religion, for sacrificial rituals generally are part of all ancient religious cults. Indeed, the mechanics of the ritual were quite similar, especially between Israelite and Canaanite religions. However, the differences are very clear in the meanings which the rituals had as they were performed either to capricious Canaanite gods or for the one true God who kept His covenant with Israel.VED-OT Slaughter.8

    The noun zebach is used of “sacrifices” to the one true God in Genesis 46:1: “And Israel took his journey with all that he had … and offered sacrifices unto the God of his father Isaac” (cf. Exodus 10:25; Nehemiah 12:43). The noun refers to “sacrifices” to other deities in Exodus 34:15: “Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice” (cf. Numbers 25:2; 2 Kings 10:19).VED-OT Slaughter.9

    The idea of “sacrifice” certainly is taken over into the New Testament, for Christ became “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29, RSV). The writer of Hebrews makes much of the fact that with the “sacrifice” of Christ, no more sacrifices are necessary (Hebrews 9)VED-OT Slaughter.10

    Mizbêach (מִזְבֵּחַ, Strong's #4196), “altar.” This word is used more than 400 times in the Old Testament. This frequent use is obviously another direct evidence of the centrality of the sacrificial system in Israel. The first appearance of mizbêach is in Genesis 8:20, where Noah built an “altar” after the Flood.VED-OT Slaughter.11

    Countless “altars” are referred to as the story of Israel progresses on the pages of the Old Testament: that of Noah (Genesis 8:20); of Abram at Sichem (Genesis 12:7), at Beth-el (Genesis 12:8), and at Moriah (Genesis 22:9); of Isaac at Beersheba (Genesis 26:25); of Jacob at Shechem (Genesis 33:20); of Moses at Horeb (Exodus 24:4), of Samuel at Ramah (1 Samuel 7:17); of the temple in Jerusalem (1 Kings 6:20; 8:64); and of the two “altars” planned by Ezekiel for the restored temple (Ezekiel 41:22; Ezekiel 43:13-17).VED-OT Slaughter.12


    A. Adjectives. VED-OT Small.2

    Qâṭân (קָטֹן, Strong's #6996), “small; youngest”; qâṭôn (קָטֹן, Strong's #6996), “small; young; insignificant.” These adjectives are synonymous. Both occur in all periods of biblical Hebrew—qâṭân, 47 times; qâṭôn, 56 times.VED-OT Small.3

    Qâṭôn in its first appearance means “small and insignificant”: “And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night …” (Genesis 1:16). The first appearance of qâṭân bears the sense “youngest”: “And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him” (Genesis 9:24).VED-OT Small.4

    In their first nuance, “small,” the words are often contrasted to gadol, “great”: “And all the vessels of the house of God, great and small, and the treasures of the house of the Lord …” (2 Chronicles 36:18). Other uses of the words to mean “small” include their application to the size of a set of weights (Deuteronomy 25:13), to the size of the smallest finger of one’s hand (1 King 12:10), and to the degree of seriousness of a given sin (Numbers 22:18).VED-OT Small.5

    In the sense “young” these words refer to the relative age of an individual: “And the Syrians had gone out by companies, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid …” (2 Kings 5:2). Notice 2 Kings 5:14: “Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child.…” In a related use the word is comparative, contrasting the age of a given individual with that of his sibling(s): “Hereby ye shall be proved: By the life of Pharaoh ye shall not go forth hence, except your youngest brother come hither” (Genesis 42:15).VED-OT Small.6

    Finally, these adjectives can represent the idea “insignificant,” or small in importance or strength: “Ye shall not respect persons in judgment; but ye shall hear the small as well as the great …” (Deuteronomy 1:17). In a related nuance qâṭôn signifies “low in social standing”: “When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel …?” (1 Samuel 15:17). In Exodus 18:22 the word suggests triviality: “And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge.…”VED-OT Small.7

    B. Verb. VED-OT Small.8

    Qâṭôn means “to be small, insignificant.” This verb occurs 4 times in biblical Hebrew and emphasizes smallness in quality or quantity. The word refers to “being insignificant” in Genesis 32:10: “I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast showed unto thy servant …” (cf. 2 Samuel 7:19, NASB). In Amos 8:5, qâṭôn refers to “making small.”VED-OT Small.9

    Sojourn, Dwell

    A. Verb. VED-OT Sojourn, Dwell.2

    Gûr (גּוּר, Strong's #1481), “to dwell as a client, sojourn.” This verb occurs only in Northwest Semitic and outside Hebrew only as a noun. In biblical Hebrew the verb gûr occurs 84 times and in every period of the language. This sense of gûr should be distinguished from one that means “to be afraid of” (Numbers 22:3).VED-OT Sojourn, Dwell.3

    This verb means “to dwell in a land as a client.” The first occurrence of the word is in Genesis 12:10, where it is reported that Abram journeyed to Egypt and dwelt there as a client. In Genesis 21:23, Abraham makes a covenant with Abimelech, saying, “… According to the kindness that I have done unto thee, thou shalt do unto me, and to the land wherein thou hast sojourned.”VED-OT Sojourn, Dwell.4

    B. Nouns. VED-OT Sojourn, Dwell.5

    Gêr (גֵּיר, Strong's #1616), “client; stranger.” Gêr occurs about 92 times and in every period of biblical Hebrew.VED-OT Sojourn, Dwell.6

    A “client” was not simply a foreigner (nakri) or a stranger (zar). He was a permanent resident, once a citizen of another land, who had moved into his new residence. Frequently he left his homeland under some distress, as when Moses fled to Midian (Exodus 2:22). Whether the reason for his journey was to escape some difficulty or merely to seek a new place to dwell, he was one who sought acceptance and refuge. Consequently he might also call himself a toshab, a settler. Neither the settler nor the “client” could possess land. In the land of Canaan the possession of land was limited to members or descendants of the original tribal members. Only they were full citizens who enjoyed all the rights of citizenry, which meant sharing fully in the inheritance of the gods and forefathers—the feudal privileges and responsibilities (cf. Ezekiel 47:22).VED-OT Sojourn, Dwell.7

    In Israel a ger, like a priest, could possess no land and enjoyed the special privileges of the third tithe. Every third year the tithe of the harvest was to be deposited at the city gate with the elders and distributed among “the Levite, (became he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates …” (Deuteronomy 14:29). In the eschaton such “clients” were to be treated as full citizens: “And it shall come to pass, that ye shall divide it [the land] by lot for an inheritance unto you, and to the strangers that sojourn among you, which shall beget children among you: and they shall be unto you as born in the country among the children of Israel; they shall have inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel” (Ezekiel 47:22). Under the Mosaic law aliens were not slaves but were usually in the service of some Israelite whose protection they enjoyed (Deuteronomy 24:14). This, however, was not always the case. Sometimes a “client” was rich and an Israelite would be in his service (Leviticus 25:47).VED-OT Sojourn, Dwell.8

    The ger was to be treated (except for feudal privileges and responsibilities) as an Israelite, being responsible to and protected by the law: “Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between every man and his brother, and the stranger that is with him” (Deuteronomy 1:16); “ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations; neither any of your own nation, nor any stranger that sojourneth among you” (Leviticus 18:26); “ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for one of your own country: for I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 24:22).  The ger also enjoyed the Sabbath rest (Leviticus 25:6) and divine protection (Deuteronomy 10:18). God commanded Israel to love the “client” as himself (Leviticus 19:34).VED-OT Sojourn, Dwell.9

    The ger could also be circumcised (Exodus 12:48) and enjoy all the privileges of the true religion: the Passover (Exodus 12:48-49), the Atonement feast (Leviticus 16:29), presenting offerings (Leviticus 17:8), and all the feasts (Deuteronomy 16:11). He was also obligated to keep the purity laws (Leviticus 17:15).VED-OT Sojourn, Dwell.10

    Israel is told that God is the true owner of all the land and its people are but “clients” owing Him feudal obedience (Leviticus 19:34; Deuteronomy 10:19). They are admonished to treat the client with justice, righteousness, and love because like Abraham (Genesis 23:4) they were “clients” in Egypt (Exodus 22:21). In legal cases the “client” could appeal directly to God the great feudal Lord (Leviticus 24:22).VED-OT Sojourn, Dwell.11

    Two other nouns related to gur are megurim and gerut. Megurim occurs 11 times and refers to the “status or condition of being a client” (Genesis 17:8) and to a “dwelling where one is a client” (Job 18:19). Gerut appears once to refer to a “place where clients dwell” (Jeremiah 41:17). Some scholars think this word is a proper name, a part of a place name.VED-OT Sojourn, Dwell.12

    Soul; Self; Life

    A. Noun. VED-OT Soul; Self; Life.2

    Nephesh (נֶפֶשׁ, Strong's #5315), “soul; self; life; person; heart.” This is a very common term in both ancient and modern Semitic languages. It occurs over 780 times in the Old Testament and is evenly distributed in all periods of the text with a particularly high frequency in poetic passages.VED-OT Soul; Self; Life.3

    The basic meaning is apparently related to the rare verbal form, nephesh. The noun refers to the essence of life, the act of breathing, taking breath. However, from that concrete concept, a number of more abstract meanings were developed. In its primary sense the noun appears in its first occurrence in Genesis 1:20: “the moving creature that hath life,” and in its second occurrence in Genesis 2:7: “living soul.”VED-OT Soul; Self; Life.4

    However, in over 400 later occurrences it is translated “soul.” While this serves to make sense in most passages, it is an unfortunate mistranslation of the term. The real difficulty of the term is seen in the inability of almost all English translations to find a consistent equivalent or even a small group of high-frequency equivalents for the term. The KJV alone uses over 28 different English terms for this one Hebrew word. The problem with the English term “soul” is that no actual equivalent of the term or the idea behind it is represented in the Hebrew language. The Hebrew system of thought does not include the combination or opposition of the terms “body” and “soul,” which are really Greek and Latin in origin. The Hebrew contrasts two other concepts which are not found in the Greek and Latin tradition: “the inner self” and “the outer appearance” or, as viewed in a different context, “what one is to oneself” as opposed to “what one appears to be to one’s observers.” The inner person is nephesh while the outer person, or reputation, is shem, most commonly translated “name.” In narrative or historical passages of the Old Testament, nephesh can be translated as “life” or “self,” as in Leviticus 17:11: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for [yourselves].…” Needless to say, the reading “soul” is meaningless in such a text.VED-OT Soul; Self; Life.5

    But the situation in the numerous parallel poetic passages in which the term appears is much more difficult. The Greek Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate both simply use the Greek and Latin equivalent “soul,” especially in the Psalms. The first occurrence is in Psalms 3:2: “Many are saying of my soul, // There is no deliverance for him in God” (NASB). The next occurrence is in Psalms 6:3: “And my soul is greatly dismayed; // But Thou, O Lord— how long?” (NASB). In both passages the parallel contrast is between nephesh and some aspect of the self, expressed as “him” in Psalms 3:2 and not expressed but understood in Psalms 6:3. There is no distinction as to whether it appears as an “A” or “B” word in the parallelism. However, since Hebrew rejects repeating the same noun in both halves of a poetic line, nephesh is often used as the parallel for the speaker, primary personal subject, and even for God, as in Psalms 11:5: “The Lord trieth the righteous: but the wicked // and him that loveth violence [he himself] hateth.” Such passages are frequent, and a proper understanding of the word enlightens many wellknown passages, such as Psalms 119:109: “My life is continually in my hand, // Yet I do not forget Thy law” (NASB). The versions vary widely in their readings of nephesh, with the more contemporary versions casting widely for meanings.VED-OT Soul; Self; Life.6

    B. Verb. VED-OT Soul; Self; Life.7

    Naphash means “to breathe; respire; be refreshed.” This verb, which is apparently related to the noun nephesh, appears 3 times in the Old Testament (Exodus 23:12; 31:17). The other appearance is in 2 Samuel 16:14: “And the king, and all the people that were with him, came weary and refreshed themselves there.”VED-OT Soul; Self; Life.8


    A. Verb. VED-OT Sow.2

    Zâra‛ (זָרַע, Strong's #2232), “to sow, scatter seed, make pregnant.” Common throughout the history of the Hebrew language, this root is found in various Semitic languages, including ancient Akkadian. The verb is found approximately 60 times in the Hebrew Old Testament. It occurs first in Genesis 1:29 in the summary of the blessings of creation which God has given to mankind: “… In the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed.…”VED-OT Sow.3

    In an agricultural society such as ancient Israel, zâra‛ would be most important and very commonly used, especially to describe the annual sowing of crops (Judges 6:3; Genesis 26:12). Used in the figurative sense, it is said that Yahweh “will sow” Israel in the land (Hosea 2:23); in the latter days, Yahweh promises: “… I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man, and with the seed of beast” (Jeremiah 31:27). Of great continuing comfort are the words, “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy” (Psalms 126:5). The universal law of the harvest, sowing and reaping, applies to all areas of life and experience.VED-OT Sow.4

    A good example of the need for free translation of the inherent meaning rather than a strictly literal rendering involves zâra‛, in both its verb and noun forms. This is found in Numbers 5, which describes the law of trial by ordeal in the case of a wife accused of infidelity. If she was found innocent, it was declared: “… She shall be free, and shall conceive [zâra‛] seed [zera’]” (Numbers 5:28). This phrase is literally: “She shall be acquitted and shall be seeded seed,” or “She shall be made pregnant with seed.”VED-OT Sow.5

    An Old Testament name, Jezreel, has been connected with this root. Jezreel (“God sows”) refers both to a city and valley near Mt. Gilboa (Joshua 17:16; 2 Samuel 2:9) and to the symbolically named son of Hosea (Hosea 1:4).VED-OT Sow.6

    B. Noun. VED-OT Sow.7

    Zera‛ (זֶרַע, Strong's #2233), “seed; sowing; seedtime; harvest; offspring; descendant(s); posterity.” This word occurs about 228 times in biblical Hebrew and in all periods. It has cognates in Aramaic, Phoenician, Arabic, Ethiopic, and Akkadian.VED-OT Sow.8

    Zera‛ refers to the process of scattering seed, or “sowing.” This is the emphasis in Genesis 47:24: “And it shall come to pass in the increase, that ye shall give the fifth part unto Pharaoh, and four parts shall be your own, for seed of the field, and for your food.…” Numbers 20:5 should be rendered: “It [the wilderness] is not a place of sowing [NASB, “grain”] or figs or vines or pomegranates, nor is there water to drink.” Ezekiel 17:5 should be rendered: “He also took some of the seed of the land and planted it in a field [suitable for] sowing” (NASB, “in a fertile field”). A closely related emphasis occurs in passages such as Genesis 8:22, where the word represents “sowing” as a regularly recurring activity: “While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat … shall not cease.”VED-OT Sow.9

    Zera‛ frequently means “seed.” There are several nuances under this emphasis, the first being what is sown to raise crops for food. The Egyptians told Joseph: “Buy us and our land for bread, and we and our land will be servants unto Pharaoh: and give us seed, that we may live, and not die, that the land be not desolate” (Genesis 47:19). The word represents the product of a plant: “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed [food], and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself …” (Genesis 1:11-the first biblical appearance). In this and other contexts zera‛ specifically refers to “grain seed,” or “edible seed” (cf. Leviticus 27:30). This may be the meaning of the word in 1 Samuel 8:15: “And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards.…” However, it is possible that here the word refers to arable land, as does its Akkadian cognate. In other contexts the word represents an entire “crop or harvest”: “For the seed [harvest] shall be prosperous; the vine shall give her fruit, and the ground shall give her increase, and the heavens shall give their dew …” (Zechariah 8:12). In Isaiah 23:3 zera‛ and the usual Hebrew word for “harvest” (gatsir) are in synonymous parallelism.VED-OT Sow.10

    Zera‛ sometimes means “semen,” or a man’s “seed”: “And if any man’s seed of copulation go out from him [if he has a seminal emission] …” (Leviticus 15:16). A beast’s “semen” can also be indicated by this word (Jeremiah 31:27). Zera‛ often means “offspring.” Only rarely is this nuance applied to animals: “And I will put enmity between thee [the devil] and the woman [Eve], and between thy seed and her seed …” (Genesis 3:15). This verse uses the word in several senses. The first appearance means both the descendants of the snake and those of the spiritual being who used the snake (evil men). The second appearance of the word refers to all the descendants of the woman and ultimately to a particular descendant (Christ). In Genesis 4:25 zera‛ appears not as a collective noun but refers to a particular and immediate “offspring”; upon the birth of Seth, Eve said: “God … hath appointed me another seed [offspring].…” Genesis 46:6 uses the word (in the singular) of one’s entire family including children and grandchildren (cf. Genesis 17:12). One’s larger family, including all immediate relatives, is included in the word in passages such as 1 Kings 11:14. The word is used of an entire nation of people in Esther 10:3.VED-OT Sow.11

    Zera‛ is used of groups and individuals marked by a common moral quality. This usage was already seen in Genesis 3:15. Isaiah 65:23 mentions the “seed” of the blessed of God. The Messiah or Suffering Servant will see His “offspring,” or those who believe in and follow Him (Isaiah 53:10). We also read about the followers of the righteous (Proverbs 11:21), the faithful “seed” (Jeremiah 2:21), and godly “offspring.” In each case this word represents those who are united by being typified by the modifier of zera‛. Several other passages exhibit the same nuance except that zera‛ is modified by an undesirable quality.VED-OT Sow.12


    A. Verb. VED-OT Speak.2

    Dâbar (דָּבַר, Strong's #1696), “to speak, say.” This verb occurs in all periods of Hebrew, in Phoenician (starting from around 900 B.C.), and in imperial Aramaic (starting from about 500 B.C.). In Old Testament Hebrew it occurs about 1,125 times.VED-OT Speak.3

    This verb focuses not only on the content of spoken verbal communication but also and especially on the time and circumstances of what is said. Unlike ‘amar, “to say,” dâbar often appears without any specification of what was communicated. Those who “speak” are primarily persons (God or men) or organs of speech. In Genesis 8:15 (the first occurrence of this verb) God “spoke” to Noah, while in Genesis 18:5 one of the three men “spoke” to Abraham. Exceptions to this generalization occur, for example in Job 32:7, where Elihu personifies “days” (a person’s age) as that which has the right “to speak” first. In 2 Samuel 23:2 David says that the Spirit of the Lord “spoke” to him; contrary to many (especially liberal) scholars, this is probably a reference to the Holy Spirit (cf. NASB).VED-OT Speak.4

    Among the special meanings of this verb are “to say” (Daniel 9:21), “to command” (2 Kings 1:9), “to promise” (Deuteronomy 6:3), “to commission” (Exodus 1:17), “to announce” (Jeremiah 36:31), “to order or command” (Deuteronomy 1:14), and “to utter a song” (Judges 5:12). Such secondary meanings are, however, quite infrequent.VED-OT Speak.5

    B. Nouns. VED-OT Speak.6

    Dâbâr (דָּבָר, Strong's #1697), “word, matter; something.” This noun occurs 1,440 times. The noun dâbâr refers, first, to what is said, to the actual “word” itself; whereas ‘emer is essentially oral communication (the act of speaking). Before the dispersion from the tower of Babel all men spoke the same “words” or language (Genesis 11:1). This noun can also be used of the content of speaking. When God “did according to the word of Moses” (Exodus 8:13), He granted his request. The noun can connote “matter” or “affair,” as in Genesis 12:17, where it is reported that God struck Pharaoh’s household with plagues because of the “matter of Sarah” (KJV, “because of Sarai”). A rather specialized occurrence of this sense appears in references to records of the “events of a period” (cf. 1 Kings 14:19) or the activities of a particular person (1 Kings 11:41; cf. Genesis 15:1). Dâbâr can be used as a more general term in the sense of “something”—so in Genesis 24:66 the “everything” (KJV, “all things”) is literally “all of something(s)”; it is an indefinite generalized concept rather than a reference to everything in particular. This noun also appears to have had almost a technical status in Israel’s law procedures. Anyone who had a “matter” before Moses had a law case (Exodus 18:16).VED-OT Speak.7

    As a biblical phrase “the word of the Lord” is quite important; it occurs about 242 times. Against the background just presented it is important to note that “word” here may focus on the content (meaning) of what was said, but it also carries overtones of the actual “words” themselves. It was the “word of the Lord” that came to Abram in a vision after his victory over the kings who had captured Lot (Genesis 15:1). In most cases this is a technical phrase referring expressly to prophetic revelation (about 225 times). It has been suggested that this phrase has judicial overtones although there are only 7 passages where this is certain (cf. Numbers 15:31). This noun is used twice of God’s “affairs” in the sense of the care of the temple (1 Chronicles 26:32).VED-OT Speak.8

    The “word” of God indicates God’s thoughts and will. This should be contrasted with His name, which indicates His person and presence. Therefore, God’s “word” is called “holy” only once (cf. Psalms 105:42), while His name is frequently called “holy.”VED-OT Speak.9

    There is much discussion regarding the “word” as a hypostatization of divine reality and attributes as seen, for example, in John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word.” This theme is rooted in such Old Testament passages as Isaiah 9:8: “The Lord sent a word into Jacob …” (cf. 55:10-11; Psalms 107:20; 147:15). Some scholars argue that this is no more than the poetical device of personification and does not foreshadow John’s usage. Their evidence is that human attributes are frequently separated from a man and objectivized as if they had a separate existence (cf. Psalms 85:11-12).VED-OT Speak.10

    The Septuagint translates the noun dâbâr with two words respectively carrying overtones of the (1) content and (2) form of speaking: (1) logos and (2) rema.VED-OT Speak.11

    Several other nouns related to the verb dabar occur infrequently. Dibrah, which occurs 5 times, means “cause, manner” (Job 5:8). Dabberet means “word” once (Deuteronomy 33:3). Deborah appears 5 times and refers to “honey bee” (Deuteronomy 1:44; Psalms 118:12). Midbar refers to “speaking” once (Song of Song of Solomon 4:3).VED-OT Speak.12

    Spirit (of the Dead), Necromancer

    'ôb (אוֹב, Strong's #178), “spirit (of the dead); necromancer; pit.” This word has cognates in Sumerian, Akkadian, and Ugaritic, where the meanings “pit” and “spirit of one who has died” occur. In its earliest appearances (Sumerian), 'ôb refers to a pit out of which a departed spirit may be summoned. Later Assyrian texts use this word to denote simply a pit in the ground. Akkadian texts describe a deity that is the personification of the pit, to whom a particular exorcism ritual was addressed. Biblical Hebrew attests this word 16 times.VED-OT Spirit (of the Dead), Necromancer.2

    The word usually represents the troubled spirit (or spirits) of the dead. This meaning appears unquestionably in Isaiah 29:4: “… Thy voice shall be, as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust.” Its second meaning, “necromancer,” refers to a professional who claims to summon forth such spirits when requested (or hired) to do so: “Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards” (Leviticus 19:31—first occurrence). These mediums summoned their “guides” from a hole in the ground. Saul asked the medium (witch) of Endor, “Divine for me from the hole ['ôb] (1 Samuel 28:8, author’s translation).VED-OT Spirit (of the Dead), Necromancer.3

    God forbade Israel to seek information by this means, which was so common among the pagans (Leviticus 19:31; Deuteronomy 18:11). Perhaps the pagan belief in manipulating one’s basic relationship to a god (or gods) explains the relative silence of the Old Testament regarding life after death. Yet God’s people believed in life after death, from early times (e.g., Genesis 37:35; Isaiah 144:15ff.) Necromancy was so contrary to God’s commands that its practitioners were under the death penalty (Deuteronomy 13). Necromancers’ unusual experiences do not prove that they truly had power to summon the dead. For example, the medium of Endor could not snatch Samuel out of God’s hands against His wishes. But in this particular incident, it seems that God rebuked Saul’s apostasy, either through a revived Samuel or through a vision of Samuel. Mediums do not have power to summon the spirits of the dead, since this is reprehensible to God and contrary to His will.VED-OT Spirit (of the Dead), Necromancer.4

    Spirit; Breath

    Rûach (רוּחַ, Strong's #7307), “breath; air; strength; wind; breeze; spirit; courage; temper; Spirit.” This noun has cognates in Ugaritic, Aramaic, and Arabic. The word occurs about 378 times and in all periods of biblical Hebrew.VED-OT Spirit; Breath.2

    First, this word means “breath,” air for breathing, air that is being breathed. This meaning is especially evident in Jeremiah 14:6: “And the wild asses did stand in the high places, they snuffed up the wind like dragons.…” When one’s “breath” returns, he is revived: “… When he [Samson] had drunk [the water], his spirit [literally, “breath”] came again, and he revived …” (Judges 15:19). Astonishment may take away one’s “breath”: “And when the queen of Sheba had seen all Solomon’s wisdom, and the home that he had built, And the meat of his table, … there was no more spirit in her [she was overwhelmed and breathless]” (1 Kings 10:4-5). Rûach may also represent speaking, or the breath of one’s mouth: “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth”(Psalms 33:6; cf. Exodus 15:8; Job 4:9; 19:17).VED-OT Spirit; Breath.3

    Second, this word can be used with emphasis on the invisible, intangible, fleeting quality of “air”: “O remember that my life is wind: mine eyes shall no more see good” (Job 7:7). There may be a suggestion of purposelessness, uselessness, or even vanity (emptiness) when rûach is used with this significance: “And the prophets shall become wind, and the word is not in them …” (Jeremiah 5:13). “Windy words” are really “empty words” (Job 16:3), just as “windy knowledge” is “empty knowledge” (Job 15:2; cf. Ecclesiastes 1:14, 17—“meaningless striving”). In Proverbs 11:29 rûach means “nothing”: “He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind.…” This nuance is especially prominent in Ecclesiastes 5:15-16: “And he came forth of his mother’s womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labor, which he may carry away in his hand. And this also is a sore evil, that in all points as he came, so shall he go: and what profit hath he that hath labored for the wind?”VED-OT Spirit; Breath.4

    Third, rûach can mean “wind.” In Genesis 3:8 it seems to mean the gentle, refreshing evening breeze so well known in the Near East: “And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool [literally, “breeze”] of the day.…” It can mean a strong, constant wind: “… And the Lord brought an east wind upon the land all that day, and all that night …” (Exodus 10:13). It can also signify an extremely strong wind: “And the Lord turned a mighty strong west wind …” (Exodus 10:19). In Jeremiah 4:11 the word appears to represent a gale or tornado (cf. Hosea 8:7). God is the Creator (Amos 4:13) and sovereign Controller of the winds (Genesis 8:1; Numbers 11:31; Jeremiah 10:13).VED-OT Spirit; Breath.5

    Fourth, the wind represents direction. In Jeremiah 49:36 the four winds represent the four ends of the earth, which in turn represent every quarter: “And upon Elam will I bring the four winds [peoples from every quarter of the earth] from the four quarters of heaven, and will scatter them toward all those winds; and there shall be no nation whither the outcasts of Elam shall not come.” Akkadian attests the same phrase with the same meaning, and this phrase begins to appear in Hebrew at a time when contact with Akkadian-speaking peoples was frequent.VED-OT Spirit; Breath.6

    Fifth, rûach frequently represents the element of life in a man, his natural “spirit”: “And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, … All in whose nostrils was the breath of life …” (Genesis 7:21-22). In these verses the animals have a “spirit” (cf. Psalms 104:29). On the other hand, in Proverbs 16:2 the word appears to mean more than just the element of life; it seems to mean “soul”: “All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the Lord weigheth the spirits [NASB, “motives”].” Thus, Isaiah can put nepesh, “soul,” and rûach in synonymous parallelism: “With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early …” (26:9). It is the “spirit” of a man that returns to God (Ecclesiastes 12:7).VED-OT Spirit; Breath.7

    Sixth, rûach is often used of a man’s mind-set, disposition, or “temper”: “Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile” (Psalms 32:2). In Ezekiel 13:3 the word is med of one’s mind or thinking: “Woe unto the foolish prophets, that follow their own spirits, and have seen nothing” (cf. Proverbs 29:11). Rûach can represent particular dispositions, as it does in Joshua 2:11: “And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you …” (cf. Joshua 5:1; Job 15:13). Another disposition represented by this word is “temper”: “If the spirit [temper] of the ruler rise up against thee, leave not thy place …” (Ecclesiastes 10:4). David prayed that God would “restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free Spirit” (Psalms 51:12). In this verse “joy of salvation” and “free Spirit” are parallel and, therefore, synonymous terms. Therefore, “spirit” refers to one’s inner disposition, just as “joy” refers to an inner emotion.VED-OT Spirit; Breath.8

    Seventh, the Bible often speaks of God’s “Spirit,” the third person of the Trinity. This is the use of the word in its first biblical occurrence: “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2). Isaiah 63:10-11 and Psalms 51:12 specifically speak of the “holy or free Spirit.”VED-OT Spirit; Breath.9

    Eighth, the non-material beings (angels) in heaven are sometimes called “spirits”: “And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said, I will persuade him” (1 Kings 22:21; cf. 1 Samuel 16:14).VED-OT Spirit; Breath.10

    Ninth, the “spirit” may also be used of that which enables a man to do a particular job or that which represents the essence of a quality of man: “And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him …” (Deuteronomy 34:9). Elisha asked Elijah for a double portion of his “spirit” (2 Kings 2:9) and received it.VED-OT Spirit; Breath.11


    Hôd (הוֹד, Strong's #1935), “splendor; majesty; authority.” A possible cognate of this word appears in Arabic. All but 4 of its 24 biblical appearances occur in poetry. The basic significance of “splendor and majesty” with overtones of superior power and position is attested in the application of this word to kings: “Therefore thus saith the Lord concerning Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah; They shall not lament for him, saying, Ah my brother! or, Ah sister! they shall not lament for him, saying, Ah lord! or, Ah his glory!” (Jeremiah 22:18). This concept is equally prominent when the word is used of God: “Fair weather cometh out of the north: with God is terrible majesty” (Job 37:22).VED-OT Splendor.2

    In many cases hôd focuses on “dignity and splendor” with overtones of superior power and position but not to the degree seen in oriental kings: “And thou shalt put some of thine honor upon him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient” (Numbers 27:20— the first occurrence of the word). When used of the olive tree (Hosea 14:6), hôd focuses on its “splendor and dignity” as the most desired and desirable of the trees (cf. Judges 9:9-15). The proud carriage of a war horse and seeming bravery in the face of battle lead God to say “The glory of his nostrils is terrible” (Job 39:20). In every use of the word the one so described evokes a sense of amazement and satisfaction in the mind of the beholder.VED-OT Splendor.3

    Spread Out

    Pâraś (פָּרַשׂ, Strong's #6566), “to spread out, scatter, display.” Found in both ancient and modern Hebrew, this word occurs approximately 65 times in the Hebrew Old Testament. It is found for the first time in Exodus 9:29: “… I will spread abroad my hands unto the Lord.…” Such stretching of the hands probably reflected the characteristic posture of prayer in the Bible (cf. Psalms 143:6; Isaiah 1:15).VED-OT Spread Out.2

    Pâraś sometimes expresses the “spreading out” of a garment to its widest extent (Judges 8:25). It is commonly med of wings’ “being spread,” opened fully (Deuteronomy 32:11; 1 Kings 6:27). “To spread out” a net is to set a snare or trap (Hosea 7:12). Sometimes “to spread out” is “to display”: “… A fool layeth open his folly” (Proverbs 13:16). “To spread” may mean “to cover over” and thus to hide from vision: “And the woman took and spread a covering over the well’s mouth, and spread ground corn thereon; and the thing was not known” (2 Samuel 17:19). In some instances, “to spread” may have a more violent meaning of “to scatter”: “… They that remain shall be scattered toward all winds …” (Ezekiel 17:21).VED-OT Spread Out.3


    Zâraq (זָרַק, Strong's #2236), “to throw; sprinkle; strew; toss; scatter abundantly.” This word is found in both ancient and modern Hebrew and is used in ancient Akkadian in the sense of “to spray.” Used 35 times in the text of the Hebrew Old Testament, in 26 of those times it expresses the “throwing” or “sprinkling” of blood against the sacrificial altar or on the people. Thus, it appears very often in Leviticus (1:5, 11; 3:2, 8, 13 et al.).VED-OT Sprinkle.2

    Ezekiel’s version of “the New Covenant” includes the “sprinkling” of the water of purification (Ezekiel 36:25). In the first use of zâraq in the Old Testament, it describes the “throwing” of handsful of dust into the air which would settle down on the Egyptians and cause boils (Exodus 9:8, 10). In his reform, Josiah ground up the Canaanite idol images and “scattered, strewed,” the dust over the graves of idolworshipers (2 Chronicles 34:4). In Ezekiel’s vision of the departure of God’s glory from the temple, the man in linen takes burning coals and “scatters” them over Jerusalem (Ezekiel 10:2).VED-OT Sprinkle.3


    A. Verbs. VED-OT Stand.2

    Nâtsab (נָצַב, Strong's #5324), “to stand, station, set up, erect.” Found in both ancient and modern Hebrew, this word goes back at least to ancient Ugaritic. It is found approximately 75 times in the Hebrew Bible. Its first occurrence in the Old Testament is in Genesis 18:2: “… Three men stood by him.…”VED-OT Stand.3

    There are various ways of standing. One may “stand” for a definite purpose at a particular spot: “… Wait for him by the river’s brink …” (Exodus 7:15, RSV; literally, “stand by the river’s bank”). One often stands upright: “… And stood every man at his tent door …” (Exodus 33:8); “… my sheaf arose, and also stood upright …” (Genesis 37:7). One who is “stationed” in a position is usually over someone else: “And Azariah the son of Nathan was over the officers [literally, “those standing over”] …” (1 Kings 4:5). “To stand” something may be “to erect” something: “And Jacob set up a pillar …” (Genesis 35:14). The waters of the Sea of Reeds were said to “stand as a heap” (Psalms 78:13). To fix a boundary is “to establish or erect” a boundary marker (Deuteronomy 32:8).VED-OT Stand.4

    ‛Âmad (עָמַד, Strong's #5975), “to take one’s stand; stand here or be there; stand still.” Outside biblical Hebrew, where it occurs about 520 times and in all periods, this verb is attested only in Akkadian (“to stand, lean on”). A word spelled the same way appears in Arabic, but it means “to strive after.”VED-OT Stand.5

    The basic meaning of this verb is “to stand upright.” This is its meaning in Genesis 18:8, its first biblical occurrence. It is what a soldier does while on watch (2 Samuel 18:30). From this basic meaning comes the meaning “to be established, immovable, and standing upright” on a single spot; the soles of the priests’ feet “rested” (stood still, unmoving) in the waters of the Jordan (Joshua 3:13). Also, the sun and the moon “stood still” at Joshua’s command (Joshua 10:13). Idols “stand upright” in one spot, never moving. The suggestion here is that they never do anything that is expected of living things (Isaiah 46:7). ‛Âmad may be used of the existence of a particular experience. In 2 Samuel 21:18 there “was” (hayah) war again, while in 1 Chronicles 20:4 war “existed” or “arose” (‛âmad) again. Cultically (with reference to the formal worship activities) this verb is used of approaching the altar to make a sacrifice. It describes the last stage of this approaching, “to stand finally and officially” before the altar (before God; cf. Deuteronomy 4:11). Such standing is not just a standing still doing nothing but includes all that one does in ministering before God (Numbers 16:9).VED-OT Stand.6

    In other contexts ‛âmad is used as the opposite of verbs indicating various kinds of movement. The psalmist praises the man who does not walk (behave according to) in the counsel of the ungodly or “stand” (serve) in the path of the sinful (Psalms 1:1). Laban told Abraham not “to stand” (remain stationary, not entering) outside his dwelling but to come in (Genesis 24:31). The verb can suggest “immovable,” or not being able to be moved. So the “house of the righteous shall stand” (Proverbs 12:7). Yet another nuance appears in Psalms 102:26, which teaches the indestructibility and/or eternity of God— the creation perishes but He “shalt endure [will ever stand].” This is not the changelessness of doing nothing or standing physically upright, but the changelessness of ever-existing being, a quality that only God has in Himself. All other existing depends upon Him; the creation and all creatures are perishable. In a more limited sense the man who does not die as the result of a blow “stands,” or remains alive (Exodus 21:21). In a military context “to stand” refers to gaining a victory: “Behold, two kings stood not before him: how then shall we stand?” (2 Kings 10:4; cf. Judges 2:14) .VED-OT Stand.7

    ‛Âmad can be used of the ever unchanged content and/or existence of a document (Jeremiah 32:14), a city (1 Kings 15:4), a people (Isaiah 66:22), and a divine worship (Psalms 19:9).VED-OT Stand.8

    Certain prepositions sometimes give this verb special meanings. Jeroboam “ordained” (made to stand, to minister) priests in Bethel (1 Kings 12:32). With “to” the verb can signify being in a certain place to accomplish a predesignated task—so Moses said that certain tribes should “stand upon mount Gerizim to bless the people” (Deuteronomy 27:12). With this same preposition this verb can be used judicially of (1) the act of being in court, or standing before a judge (1 Kings 3:16), and (2) the position (whether literal or figurative) assumed by a judge when pronouncing the sentence (Ezekiel 44:24) or delivering judgment (Isaiah 3:13; cf. Exodus 17:6). With the preposition “before” ‛âmad is used to describe the service of a servant before a master—so Joshua “stood” before Moses (Deuteronomy 1:38). This is not inactivity but activity.VED-OT Stand.9

    In Nehemiah 8:5 the verb means “to stand up or rise up”; when Ezra opened the book, all the people “stood up” (cf. Daniel 12:13).VED-OT Stand.10

    The Septuagint renders ‛âmad usually with a verb meaning “to stand” and, where the contexts show it refers to temporal standing, with verbs meaning “to abide or remain.”VED-OT Stand.11

    B. Nouns. VED-OT Stand.12

    ‛Ammûd (עַמֻּד, Strong's #5982), “pillar; standing place.” The noun ‛ammûd occurs 111 times and usually signifies something that stands upright like a “pillar” (Exodus 26:32; Judges 16:25). It may occasionally refer to a “standing place” (2 Kings 11:14).VED-OT Stand.13

    Several other nouns are derived from the verb ’amad‘Omed occurs 9 times and refers to “standing places” (2 Chronicles 30:16). ‘Emdah means “standing ground” once (Micah 1:11). Ma’amad, which occurs 5 times, refers to “service” in 2 Chronicles 9:4 and to “office or function” (in someone’s service) in 1 Chronicles 23:28. Ma’omad occurs once to mean “standing place” or “foothold” (Psalms 69:2).VED-OT Stand.14


    Tselem (צֶלֶם, Strong's #6754), “statue; image; copy.” Cognates of this word appear in Ugaritic and Phoenician (perhaps), Akkadian, Aramaic, and Arabic. Old Testament Hebrew attests it 17 times.VED-OT Statue.2

    This word means “statue”: “And all the people of the land went into the house of Baal, and brake it down; his altars and his images brake they in pieces thoroughly …” (2 Kings 11:18; cf. Numbers 33:52).VED-OT Statue.3

    This word signifies an “image or copy” of something in the sense of a replica: “Wherefore ye shall make images of your emerods, and images of your mice that mar the land; and ye shall give glory unto the God of Israel …” (1 Samuel 6:5). In Ezekiel 23:14 tselem represents a wall painting of some Chaldeans.VED-OT Statue.4

    The word also means “image” in the sense of essential nature. So Adam “begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth” (Genesis 5:3). Human nature in its internal and external characteristics is what is meant here rather than an exact duplicate. So, too, God made man in His own “image,” reflecting some of His own perfections: perfect in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, and with dominion over the creatures (Genesis 1:26). Being created in God’s “image” meant being created male and female, in a loving unity of more than one person (Genesis 1:27). It is noteworthy that in Genesis 1:26 (the first occurrence of the word) the “image” of God is represented by two Hebrew words (tselem and demut); by selem alone in Genesis 1:27 and 9:6; and by demut alone in Genesis 5:1. This plus the fact that in other contexts the words are used exactly the same leads to the conclusion that the use of both in passages such as Genesis 1:26 is for literary effect.VED-OT Statue.5

    In Psalms 39:6 tselem means “shadow” of a thing which represents the original very imprecisely, or it means merely a phantom (ghost?), a thing which represents the original more closely but lacks its essential characteristic (reality): “Surely every man walketh in a vain show [tselem]; surely they are disquieted in vain: he heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them” (cf. Psalms 73:20—the word represents a “dream image”).VED-OT Statue.6

    Statute, Ordinance

    A. Nouns. VED-OT Statute, Ordinance.2

    Chôq (חֹק, Strong's #2706), “statute; prescription; rule; law; regulation.” This noun is derived from the verb haqaq, “to cut in, determine, decree.” Chôq occurs 127 times in biblical Hebrew.VED-OT Statute, Ordinance.3

    The first usage of hoq is in Genesis 47:22: “Only the land of the priests bought he not; for the priests had a portion [chôq] assigned them of Pharaoh.…” This word is frequent in Deuteronomy and Psalms and rare in the historical books and in the prophets. The meaning of chôq in the first occurrence (Genesis 47:22) differs from the basic meaning of “statute.” It has the sense of something allotted or apportioned. A proverb speaks about “the food that is my portion” (Proverbs 30:8, NASB; KlV, “food convenient for me”; literally, “food of my prescription or portion”). Job recognized in his suffering that God does what is appointed for him: “For he performeth the thing that is appointed for me [literally, “he will perform my Law”] …” (23:14). The “portion” may be something that is due to a person as an allowance or payment. The Egyptian priests received their income from Pharaoh (Genesis 47:22), even as God permitted a part of the sacrifice to be enjoyed by the priests: “And it shall be Aaron’s and his sons’ [as their portion] for ever from the children of Israel: for it is a heave offering …” (Exodus 29:28).VED-OT Statute, Ordinance.4

    The word chôq also signifies “law,” or “statute.” In a general sense it refers to the “laws” of nature like rain: “When he made a decree for the rain, and a way for the lightning of the thunder” (Job 28:26; cf. Jeremiah 5:22); and the celestial bodies: “He hath also stablished them for ever and ever: he hath made a decree which shall not pass” (Psalms 148:6 cf). “Thus saith the Lord, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The Lord of hosts is his name: If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the Lord, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever” (Jeremiah 31:35-36). Moreover, the word chôq denotes a “law” promulgated in a country: “And Joseph made it a law over the land of Egypt unto this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth part; except the land of the priests only, which became not Pharaoh’s” (Genesis 47:26).VED-OT Statute, Ordinance.5

    Finally, and most important, the “law” given by God is also referred to as a chôq: “When they have a matter, they come unto me; and I judge between one and another, and I do make them know the statutes [chôq] of God, and his laws [torah]” (Exodus 18:16). The word’s synonyms are mitswah, “commandment”; mishpat, “judgment”; berit, “covenant”; torah, “law”; and ‘edut, “testimony.” It is not easy to distinguish between these synonyms, as they are often found in conjunction with each other: “Ye shall diligently keep the commandments [mitswah] of the Lord your God, and his testimonies [‘edah], and his statutes [chôq], which he hath commanded thee” (Deuteronomy 6:17).VED-OT Statute, Ordinance.6

    Chûqqâh (חֻקָּה, Strong's #2708), “statute; regulation; prescription; term.” This noun occurs about 104 times.VED-OT Statute, Ordinance.7

    Chûqqâh is found for the first time in God’s words of commendation about Abraham to Isaac: “Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments [mitswah], my statutes [chuqqah], and my laws [torah]” (Genesis 26:5), together with its synonyms mishmeret, mitswah, and torah. The primary use of chûqqâh is in the Pentateuch, especially in Leviticus and Numbers. It is extemely rare in the poetical books and in the prophetic writings (except for Jeremiah and Ezekiel).VED-OT Statute, Ordinance.8

    The meaning of “fixed” is similar to the usage of choq, in the sense of the laws of nature: “Thus saith the Lord; If my covenant be not with day and night, and if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth” (Jeremiah 33:25; cf. Job 38:33). Even as the Israelites had a period of rainfall from October to April, there was a fixed period of harvest (from April to June): “Neither say they in their heart, Let us now fear the Lord our God, that giveth rain, both the former and the latter, in his season: he reserveth unto us the appointed weeks of the harvest” (Jeremiah 5:24). ln addition to regularity of nature, the word chûqqâh signifies regular payment to the priests: “Which the Lord commanded to be given them of the children of Israel, in the day that he anointed them, by a statute for ever throughout their generations” (Leviticus 7:36).VED-OT Statute, Ordinance.9

    In non-religious usage, the word  $%% refers to the customs of the nations: “After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do: and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do: neither shall ye walk in their ordinances” (Leviticus 18:3; cf. 20:23). The reason for the requirement to abstain from the pagan practices is that they were considered to be degenerate (Leviticus 18:30).VED-OT Statute, Ordinance.10

    The most significant usage of chûqqâh is God’s “law.” It is more specific in meaning than choq. Whereas choq is a general word for “law,” chûqqâh denotes the “law” of a particular festival or ritual. There is the “law” of the Passover (Exodus 12:14), Unleavened Bread (Exodus 12:17), Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:41), the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 166:29ff.), the priesthood (Exodus 29:9), and the blood and fat (Leviticus 3:17).VED-OT Statute, Ordinance.11

    The word chûqqâh has many synonyms. At times it forms a part of a series of three: “Beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God, in not keeping his commandments [mitswah], and his judgments [mishpat], and his statutes [chûqqâh], which I command thee this day” (Deuteronomy 8:11), and at other times of a series of four: “Therefore thou shalt love the Lord thy God, and keep his charge [mishmeret], and his statutes [chûqqâh] and his judgments [mishpat], and his commandments [mitswah], always” (Deuteronomy 11:1; cf. Genesis 26:5 with torah instead of mishpat).VED-OT Statute, Ordinance.12

    The “statutes” of people are to be understood as the practices contrary to God’s expectations: “For the statutes of Omri are kept, and all the works of the home of Ahab, and ye walk in their counsels, that I should make thee a desolation, and the inhabitants thereof a hissing: therefore ye shall bear the reproach of my people” (Micah 6:16). The prophet Ezekiel condemned Judah for rejecting God’s holy “statutes”: “And she hath changed my judgments into wickedness more than the nations, and my statutes [chûqqâh] more than the countries that are round about her: for they have refused my judgments and my statutes [chûqqâh], they have not walked in them” (Ezekiel 5:6). He also challenged God’s people to repent and return to God’s “statutes” that they might live: “If the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed, walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die” (Ezekiel 33:15).VED-OT Statute, Ordinance.13

    The Septuagint gives the following translations of both choq and chûqqâh: prostagma (“order; command; injunction”); dikaioma (“regulation; requirement; commandment”); and nomimos (“lawful; conformable to law”). A translation of choq is duatheke (“last will; testament; covenant”). A translation of chûqqâh is nomos (“law”).VED-OT Statute, Ordinance.14

    B. Verb. VED-OT Statute, Ordinance.15

    Châqaq (חָקַק, Strong's #2710), “to cut in, determine, decree.” This root is found in Semitic languages with the above meaning or with the sense “to be true” (Arabic), “to be just” (Akkadian). This verb occurs less than 20 times in the Old Testament.VED-OT Statute, Ordinance.16

    Châqaq is used in Isaiah 22:16 with the meaning “to cut in”: “… That graveth a habitation for himself in a rock.” In Isaiah 10:1 the verb is used of “enacting a decree”: “Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed.”VED-OT Statute, Ordinance.17


    A. Noun. VED-OT Step.2

    Pa‛am (פַּעֲמָה, Strong's #6471), “step; foot; hoofbeats; pedestal; stroke; anvil.” This noun’s attested cognates appear in Ugaritic (pcn) and Phoenician. Biblical occurrences of this word number about 117 and appear in every period of the language.VED-OT Step.3

    The nuances of this word are related to the basic meaning “a human foot.” The psalmist uses this meaning in Psalms 58:10: “The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked.” In Exodus 25:12 the word is applied to the “pedestals or feet” of the ark of the covenant: “And thou shalt cast four rings of gold for it, and put them in the four [feet] thereof; and two rings shall be in the one side of it, and two rings in the other side of it.” Elsewhere the word signifies the “steps” one takes, or “footsteps”: “Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not” (Psalms 17:5). Judges 5:28 applies the word to the “steps” of a galloping horse, or its hoofbeats. This focus on the falling of a foot once is extended to the “stroke” of a spear: “Then said Abishai to David, … let me pin him to the earth with one stroke of the spear …” (1 Samuel 26:8, RSV). Finally, pa‛am represents a footshaped object, an “anvil” (Isaiah 41:7).VED-OT Step.4

    B. Adverb. VED-OT Step.5

    Pa‛am (פַּעֲמָה, Strong's #6471), “once; now; anymore.” This word functions as an adverb with the focus on an occurrence or time. In Exodus 10:17 the word bears this emphasis: “Now therefore forgive, I pray thee, my sin only this once, and entreat the Lord your God.…” The first biblical appearance of the word focuses on the finality, the absoluteness, of an event: “This is now bone of my bones …” (Genesis 2:23). The thrust of this meaning appears clearly in the translation of Genesis 18:32—Abraham said to God: “Oh, let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once [only one more time].…”VED-OT Step.6


    'Eben (אֶבֶן, Strong's #68), “stone.” A comparison of Semitic languages shows that 'eben was the common word for “stone” among the ancients. Exact philological and semantic cognates are found in Akkadian, Ugaritic, Phoenician, Aramaic, Old South Arabic, and several Ethiopic dialects. The Greek Old Testament usually has lithos (lithos) for 'eben. Used almost exclusively for movable stone(s), 'eben is to be distinguished from cela’, “rock,” and tsur, “cliff.”VED-OT Stone.2

    The noun 'eben occurs in the Old Testament 260 times, with almost equal frequency in the singular (and collective) as in the plural. It appears more frequently in prose than in poetry.VED-OT Stone.3

    Palestine was (and is) famous for its ubiquitous “stone.” So much was “stone” a part of the ancient writer’s consciousness that it served the literary interests of simile (Exodus 15:5), metaphor (Ezekiel 11:19), and hyperbole (1 Kings 10:27; 2 Chronicles 1:15; 9:27). That building with “stone” was the rule rather than the exception in Palestine is suggested by the biblical writer’s allusion to the Mesopotamian custom of using clay bricks (Genesis 11:3). Yet it seems that Israelite craftsmen at the time of David lagged behind somewhat in the art of stonework, for stonemasons from Tyre were employed in constructing the royal residence (2 Samuel 5:11).VED-OT Stone.4

    Beyond their use as a construction material, “stones” served as covers for wells (Genesis 299:3ff.), storage containers (Exodus 7:19), weights (Deuteronomy 25:13; Proverbs 11:1), and slingstones (1 Samuel 17:49). Plumblines were suspended stones (Isaiah 34:11); pavement was sometimes made of “stone” (2 Kings 16:17); and the Bible speaks of hailstones (Joshua 10:11; Ezekiel 133:11ff.). The Israelite custom of cave burials presumes stone tombs (Isaiah 14:19); on 3 occasions when bodies were not interred, they were heaped with “stones” (Joshua 7:26; 8:29; 2 Samuel 18:17).VED-OT Stone.5

    Pentateuchal laws relating to purity-impurity concepts stipulated that certain crimes were punishable by stoning. The standard formula employed either the verb ragam or caqal followed by a preposition and the noun 'eben. Included under this penalty were the crimes of blasphemy (Leviticus 24:23; Numbers 15:35-36), Molech worship (Leviticus 20:2), idolatry (Deuteronomy 13:10), and prostitution (Deuteronomy 22:21, 24). Originally, stoning was a means of merely expelling the lawbreaker from the community; however, in ancient Israel it was a means of capital punishment whereby the community could rid itself of the impure offender without coming into direct contact with him.VED-OT Stone.6

    As for the cult, the carved “stone” figurines commonly worshiped throughout the ancient Near East were strictly forbidden to Israel (Leviticus 26:1). To carve “stone” which was to be used in the cult was to profane it (Exodus 20:25). Altars and memorials especially common to the patriarchal age and the period of the Conquest were all made of unhewn “stones” (Genesis 288:18ff.; 31:45; Joshua 4:5; Joshua 24:26-27). Of the cult objects in Israel’s wilderness shrine, only the tablets of the Decalogue were made of “stone” (Exodus 24:12; 1, 4; Deuteronomy 4:13; Ezekiel 40:42—the stone tables of Ezekiel’s temple served only utilitarian purposes).VED-OT Stone.7

    Precious “stones” such as onyx (Genesis 2:12) and sapphire (Ezekiel 1:26) are mentioned frequently in the Bible, especially with regard to the high priest’s ephod and breastplate (Exodus 399:6ff.). The expensiveness of the high priest’s garments corresponded to the special workmanship of the most holy place where Aaron served.VED-OT Stone.8

    In certain texts, 'eben has been given theological interpretations. God is called the “stone of Israel” in Genesis 49:24. And several occurrences of 'eben in the Old Testament have been viewed as messianic, as evidenced by the Greek Old Testament, rabbinic writings, and the New Testament, among them: Genesis 28:18; Psalms 118:22; Isaiah 8:14; 28:16; Daniel 2:34; Zechariah 4:7.VED-OT Stone.9


    A. Noun. VED-OT Street.2

    Chûts (חֻץ, Strong's #2351), “street.” This word, of uncertain origin, appears in biblical, mishnaic, and modern Hebrew. In the Old Testament the total number of occurrences of the noun and adverb is about 160.VED-OT Street.3

    A particular use of chûts denotes the place outside the houses in a city, or the “street.” The “street” was the place for setting up bazaars: “The cities, which my father took from thy father, I will restore; and thou shalt make streets for thee in Damascus, as my father made in Samaria” (1 Kings 20:34). Craftsmen plied their trade on certain “streets” named after the guild—for example, the Bakers’ Street: “Then Zedekiah the king commanded that they should commit Jeremiah into the court of the prison, and that they should give him daily a piece of bread out of the bakers’ street, until all the bread in the city were spent” (Jeremiah 37:21). The absence of justice in the marketplace was an indication of the wickedness of the whole population of Jerusalem. Jeremiah was called to check in the “streets” to find an honest man: “Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, if there be any that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth; and I will pardon it” (5:1).VED-OT Street.4

    Other descriptions of the “streets” are given by the prophets. Several mention that the “streets” were muddy: “… And to tread them down like the mire of the streets” (Isaiah 10:6; cf. Micah 7:10; Zechariah 10:5). Others make reference to the blood (Ezekiel 28:23), the famished (Lamentations 2:19), and the dead (Nahum 3:10) which filled the “streets” in times of war.VED-OT Street.5

    The area outside a city was also known as the chûts. In this case it is better translated as “open country” or “field”; cf. “That our garners may be full, affording all manner of store, that sheep may bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our streets” (Psalms 144:13, KJV; RSV, “fields”; cf. Job 5:10; Proverbs 8:26).VED-OT Street.6

    B. Adverb. VED-OT Street.7

    Chûts (חֻץ, Strong's #2351), “outside.” The first occurrence of this word is in Genesis 6:14: “Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without [chûts ] with pitch.”VED-OT Street.8

    By chûts the general idea of “the outside” is intimated. It is sometimes indeterminate where “outside” is, especially when connected with a verb: “You shall also have a place outside the camp; he may not reenter the camp” (Deuteronomy 23:12, NASB). The area could be “outside” a home, tent, city, or camp—hence the adverbial usage of “outside.” The word is also connected with a preposition with the sense of “in, to, on, toward the outside”: “If he rise again, and walk abroad upon his staff, then shall he that smote him be quit: only he shall pay for the loss of his time, and shall cause him to be thoroughly healed” (Exodus 21:19).VED-OT Street.9


    Chel'âh (חֶלְאָה, Strong's #2458), “strength; power; wealth; property; capable; valiant; army; troops; influential; upper-class people (courtiers).” The cognates of this word have been found in Aramaic, Akkadian, Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic. Biblical Hebrew attests it about 245 times and in all periods.VED-OT Strength.2

    First, this word signifies a faculty or “power,” the ability to effect or produce something. The word is used of physical “strength” in the sense of power that can be exerted: “If the iron be blunt, and he do not whet the edge, then must he put to more strength …” (Ecclesiastes 10:10). Quite often this word appears in a military context. Here it is the physical strength, power, and ability to perform in battle that is in view. This idea is used of men in 1 Samuel 2:4: “The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength” (cf. Psalms 18:32, 39). Psalms 33:17 applies the word to a war horse. An interesting use of chel'âh appears in Numbers 24:17-18, where Balaam prophesied the destruction of Moab and Edom at the hands of Israel: “And Edom shall be a possession, Seir also shall be a possession for his enemies; and lsrael shall do valiantly” (v. 18). The idea here is dynamic; something is happening. One might also render this phrase: “Israel performs mightily.” This translation of the word is somewhat inexact; a noun is translated as an adverb.VED-OT Strength.3

    Second, chel'âh means “wealth, property.” This nuance of the word focuses on that which demonstrates one’s ability, his wealth or goods; Levi, Simeon, and their cohorts attacked the Shechemites: “And all their wealth, and all their little ones, and their wives took they captive, and spoiled even all that was in the home” (Genesis 34:29—the first biblical occurrence of the word). In Numbers 31:9 chel'âh includes all the possessions of the Midianites except the women, children, cattle, and flocks. Thus it seems to be a little narrower in meaning. When this nuance is used with the Hebrew word “to do or make,” the resulting phrase means “to become wealthy or make wealth” (cf. Deuteronomy 8:18; Ruth 4:11). This is in marked contrast to the emphasis of the same construction in Numbers 24:18. Joel 2:22 uses chel'âh in the sense of “wealth” or products of the ability of a tree to produce fruit.VED-OT Strength.4

    Third, several passages use the word in the sense of “able.” In Genesis 47:6 the ability to do a job well is in view. Pharaoh told Joseph: “The land of Egypt is before thee; in the best of the land make thy father and brethren to dwell; in the land of Goshen let them dwell: and if thou knowest any men of activity [capable men] among them, then make them rulers over my cattle.” This word can also represent the domestic skills of a woman—Ruth is described as a woman of ability and, therefore, either potentially or actually a good wife (Ruth 3:11; Proverbs 12:4). When applied to men, chel'âh sometimes focuses on their ability to conduct themselves well in battle as well as being loyal to their commanders (1 Samuel 14:52; 1 Kings 1:42). When used in such contexts, the word may be translated “valiant”: “And there was sore war against the Philistines all the days of Saul: and when Saul saw any strong man, or any valiant man, he took him unto him” (1 Samuel 14:52; cf. Numbers 24:18; 1 Samuel 14:48).VED-OT Strength.5

    Fourth, this word sometimes means “army”; “And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be honored upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host [army] …” (Exodus 14:4). The word can also refer to the army as troops in the sense of a combination of a lot of individuals. Under such an idea the word can represent the members of an army distributed to perform certain functions. Jehoshaphat “placed forces in all the fenced cities of Judah, and set garrisons in the land of Judah …” (2 Chronicles 17:2). This is also the emphasis in 1 Kings 15:20: “Ben-hadad … sent the captains of the hosts which he had [NASB, “commanders of his armies”] against the cities of Israel.…”VED-OT Strength.6

    Fifth, chel'âh sometimes represents the “upper class,” who, as in all feudal systems, were at once soldiers, wealthy, and influential; Sanballat “spake before his brethren and the army of Samaria,” i.e., in the royal court (NASB, “wealthy men”; Nehemiah 4:2). The Queen of Sheba was accompanied by a large escort of upperclass people from her homeland: “And she came to Jerusalem with a very great train …” (1 Kings 10:2).VED-OT Strength.7

    Stretch Out

    A. Verb. VED-OT Stretch Out.2

    Nâṭâh (נָטָה, Strong's #5186), “to stretch forth, spread out, stretch down, turn aside.” This verb also occurs in Arabic, late Aramaic, and postbiblical Hebrew. The Bible attests it in all periods and about 215 times.VED-OT Stretch Out.3

    Nâṭâh connotes “extending something outward and toward” something or someone. So God told Moses: “… I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments” (Exodus 6:6). This is a figure of God’s active, sovereign, and mighty involvement in the affairs of men. So this phrase means “to stretch out” something until it reaches a goal. The verb can also mean “to stretch out toward” but not to touch or reach anything. God told Moses to tell Aaron to take his staff in hand (cf. Exodus 9:23) and “stretch it out.” This act was to be done as a sign. The pointed staff was a visible sign that God’s power was directly related to God’s messengers: “… Take thy rod, and stretch out thine hand upon the waters of Egypt, upon their streams, upon their rivers, and upon their ponds … ,” over all the water in Egypt (Exodus 7:19). God “stretched out” (offered) 3 things to David (1 Chronicles 21:10); this is a related sense with the absence of anything physical being “stretched out.”VED-OT Stretch Out.4

    This verb may connote “stretch out” but not toward anything. When a shadow “stretches out,” it lengthens. Hezekiah remarked: “It is a light thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees …” (2 Kings 20:10), to grow longer. Nâṭâh may be used in this sense without an object and referring to a day. The Levite was asked to “comfort thine heart, I pray thee. And they tarried until afternoon [literally, the “stretching” (of the day, or of the shadows)] …” (Judges 19:8). “To stretch out” one’s limbs full length is to recline: “And they lay themselves down upon clothes laid to pledge by every altar …” (Amos 2:8). This is a figure of temple prostitution. This verb may also mean “to extend” in every direction. It represents what one does in pitching a tent by unrolling the canvas (or skins sewn together) and “stretching it out.” The end product is that the canvas is properly “spread out.” Abram “pitched his tent, having Beth-el on the west, and Hai on the east …” (Genesis 12:8—the first appearance of the word). This act and its result is used as a figure of God’s creating the heavens: “… Which alone spreadeth out the heavens …” (Job 9:8).VED-OT Stretch Out.5

    This verb also implies “stretching down toward” so as to reach something. Earlier in the Bible Rebekah was asked to “let down thy pitcher, … that I may drink” (Genesis 24:14); she was asked to “stretch it down” into the water. This is the nuance when God is said to have “inclined [stretched down] unto me, and heard my cry” (Psalms 40:1). Issachar is described as a donkey which “bowed his shoulder to bear [burdens]” (Genesis 49:15). In somewhat the same sense the heavens are bowed; the heavens are made to come closer to the earth. This is a figure of the presence of thick clouds: “He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was under his feet” (Psalms 18:9). The somewhat new element here is that the heavens do not touch the speaker but only “stretch downward” toward him.VED-OT Stretch Out.6

    This verb may mean “to turn aside” in the sense of “to visit”: “… Judah went down from his brethren, and turned in to [visited] a certain Adullamite …” (Genesis 38:1). Another special nuance appears in Numbers 22:23, where it means “to go off the way”: “And the ass saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way … , and the ass turned aside out of the way.…” Applied to human relationships, this may connote seduction: “With her much fair speech she caused him to yield …” (Proverbs 7:21).VED-OT Stretch Out.7

    B. Nouns. VED-OT Stretch Out.8

    Maṭṭeh (מַטָּה, Strong's #4294), “rod; staff; tribe.” This noun occurs about 250 times. In Genesis 38:18 the word refers to a shepherd’s “staff”: “And he said, What pledge shall I give thee? And she said, Thy signet, and thy bracelets, and thy staff that is in thine hand.” The word is used to refer to a number of kinds of “rods”: A “rod” which symbolizes spiritual power, such as Moses’ rod (Exodus 4:2), Aaron’s rod (Exodus 7:9), and the sorcerers’ rods (Exodus 7:12), and rods symbolizing authority (Numbers 17:7). This noun is often used elliptically instead of “the rod of the tribe of”; the word signifies “tribe” (cf. Exodus 31:2). Maṭṭeh is also used in the phrase “the staff of bread,” of staves around which loaves are suspended to keep them from mice (Leviticus 26:26).VED-OT Stretch Out.9

    Some other nouns are related to the verb natah. Muṭṭot occurs once (Isaiah 8:8) and refers to the “stretching out” of wings. Miṭṭah occurs about 29 times and means something which is stretched out. Miṭṭah is used of a couch (Song of Song of Solomon 3:7) and of a metal framework (Esther 1:6). Miṭṭah may also refer to a room, a bedchamber (2 Kings 11:2).VED-OT Stretch Out.10

    C. Adverb. VED-OT Stretch Out.11

    Maṭṭâh (מַטָּה, Strong's #4295), “downwards; beneath.” This word occurs about 17 times. It means “beneath” (Deuteronomy 28:13), “downward” (2 Kings 19:30), and “underneath” (Exodus 28:27).VED-OT Stretch Out.12


    A. Verb. VED-OT Strife.2

    Rı̂yb (רוּב, Strong's #7378), “to strive, contend.” This verb occurs 65 times and in all periods of biblical Hebrew.VED-OT Strife.3

    In Exodus 21:18 rı̂yb is used in connection with a physical struggle: “And if men strive together, and one smite another with a stone, or with his fist, and he die not.…” rı̂yb appears in Judges 6:32 with the meaning of “to contend against” through words.VED-OT Strife.4

    B. Nouns. VED-OT Strife.5

    rı̂yb (רִב, Strong's #7379), “strife; quarrel; dispute; case; contentions; cause.” This noun has a cognate only in Aramaic. Its 60 occurrences appear in all periods of biblical Hebrew. The noun rı̂yb is used of conflicts outside the realm of law cases and courts. This conflict between individuals may break out into a quarrel, as in Proverbs 17:14: “The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water: therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with.” In Genesis 13:7-8 (the first occurrence of rı̂yb) the word is used of “contention” prior to open fighting between two groups: “And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdmen of Lot’s cattle.…” In such a case the one with the “strife” is clearly the guilty party.VED-OT Strife.6

    Rı̂yb sometimes represents a “dispute” between two parties. This “dispute” is set in the context of a mutual law structure binding both parties and a court which is empowered to decide and execute justice. This may involve “contention” between two unequal parties (an individual and a group), as when all Israel quarreled with Moses, asserting that he had not kept his end of the bargain by adequately providing for them. Moses appealed to the Judge, who vindicated him by sending water from a rock (cliff?) smitten by Moses: “And he called the name of the place Massah, and Meribah, because of the chiding [quarrel] of the children of Israel …” (Exodus 17:7). God decided who was the guilty party, Moses or Israel. The “contention” may be between two individuals as in Deuteronomy 25:1, where the two disputants go to court (having a “case or dispute” does not mean one is a wrongdoer): “If there be a controversy between men, and they come unto judgment, that the judges may judge them; then they shall justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked.” So in Isaiah 1:23 the unjust judge accepts a bribe and does not allow the widow’s just “cause” (NASB, “widow’s plea”) to come before him. Proverbs 25:8-9 admonishes the wise to “debate thy cause with thy neighbor” when that neighbor has “put thee to shame.”VED-OT Strife.7

    Rı̂yb may represent what goes on in an actual court situation. It is used of the entire process of adjudication: “Neither shalt thou [be partial to] a poor man in his cause” (Exodus 23:3; cf. Deuteronomy 19:17). It is also used of the various parts of a lawsuit. In Job 29:16, Job defends his righteousness by asserting that he became an advocate for the defenseless: “I was a father to the poor: and the cause which I knew not I searched out.” Here, then, the word means the false charge brought against a defendant. Earlier in the Book of Job (13:6), rı̂yb represents the argument for the defense: “Hear now my reasoning, and hearken to the pleadings of my lips.” Elsewhere the word represents the argument for the prosecution: “Give heed to me, O Lord, and hearken to the voice of them that contend with me [literally, “the men presenting the case for the prosecution”]” (Jeremiah 18:19). Finally, in Isaiah 34:8 rı̂yb signifies a “case” already argued and won and awaiting justice: “For it is the day of the Lord’s vengeance, and the year of recompenses for the controversy of Zion.”VED-OT Strife.8

    Two other related nouns occur rarely. Meribah occurs twice, and it means “strife.” The word refers to an extra-legal (Genesis 13:8) and to a legal confrontation (Numbers 27:14). Yarib appears 3 times to mean “disputant; opponent; adversary” (Psalms 35:1; Isaiah 49:25; Jeremiah 18:19).VED-OT Strife.9

    Strong, to Be

    A. Verb. VED-OT Strong, to Be.2

    Châzaq (חָזַק, Strong's #2388), “to be strong, strengthen, harden, take hold of” This verb is found 290 times in the Old Testament. The root also exists in Aramaic and Arabic.VED-OT Strong, to Be.3

    The word first occurs in Genesis 41:56: “… And the famine waxed sore in the land of Egypt” (NASB, NIV, “was severe”). The strong form of the verb is used in Exodus 4:21: “… I will harden his [Pharaoh’s] heart.…” This statement is found 8 times. Four times we read: “Pharaoh’s heart was hard” (Exodus 7:13, 22; 8:19; 9:35, NIV; KJV, RSV, NASB, was hardened”). In Exodus 9:34 Pharaoh’s responsibility is made clear by the statement “he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart.…”VED-OT Strong, to Be.4

    In the sense of personal strength châzaq is first used in Deuteronomy 11:8 in the context of the covenant: “Therefore shall ye keep all the commandments which I command you this day, that ye may be strong, and go in and possess the land.…” Moses was commanded to “charge Joshua, and encourage him” (Deuteronomy 3:28). The covenant promise accompanies the injunction to “be strong and of a good courage”: “… For the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” (Deuteronomy 31:6). The same encouragement was given to the returned captives as they renewed the work of rebuilding the temple (Zechariah 8:9, 13; cf. Haggai 2:4).VED-OT Strong, to Be.5

    If in the above examples there is moral strength combined with physical, the latter is the sense of Judges 1:28: “And it came to pass, when Israel was strong, that they put the Canaanites to [forced labor].…” Israel sinned and the Lord “strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel” (Judges 3:12). The word is used in reference to a building: “… The priests had not repaired the breaches of the house” (2 Kings 12:6), or to a city: “Moreover Uzziah built towers in Jerusalem … and fortified them” (2 Chronicles 26:9). In battle châzaq means: “So David prevailed over the Philistine …” (1 Samuel 17:50).VED-OT Strong, to Be.6

    As the prophet said, “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show himself strong in the behalf of them [NASB, “to strongly support them”] whose heart is perfect toward him” (2 Chronicles 16:9). To His Servant, the Messiah, God said: “I … will hold thine hand …” (Isaiah 42:6); and to Cyrus He said: “… Whose right hand I have holden …” (Isaiah 45:1). Other noteworthy uses of the word are: “… Thou shalt relieve him [a poor Israelite] …” (Leviticus 25:35); and “… [Saul] laid hold upon the skirt of his mantle, and it rent” (1 Samuel 15:27).VED-OT Strong, to Be.7

    In summary, this word group describes the physical and moral strength of man and society. God communicates strength to men, even to the enemies of His people as chastisement for His own. Men may turn their strength into stubbornness against God.VED-OT Strong, to Be.8

    B. Adjective. VED-OT Strong, to Be.9

    Châzâq (חָזָק, Strong's #2389), “strong; mighty; heavy; severe; firm; hard.” This adjective occurs about 56 times and in all periods of biblical Hebrew.VED-OT Strong, to Be.10

    First, the word means “firm” or “hard” in the sense that something is impenetrable. In Ezekiel 3:8-9 the prophet’s face is compared to rock; God has made him determined to his task just as Israel is determined not to listen to him: “Behold, I have made thy face [hard] against their faces, and thy forehead [hard] against their foreheads. As an adamant harder than flint have I made thy forehead.…” Job 37:18 uses châzâq of molten solidified metal.VED-OT Strong, to Be.11

    Second, this word means “strong.” In its basic meaning it refers to physical strength. God’s hand (an anthropomorphism; cf. Deuteronomy 4:15, 19) as a symbol of His effecting His will among men is “strong”: “And I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not by a mighty hand” (Exodus 3:19—the first biblical occurrence). This word modifies a noun, specifying that it is the opposite of weak, or unable to effect anything (Numbers 13:18). Isaiah speaks of God’s “sore and great and strong sword” (27:1). When Ezekiel wrote of “fat and strong” animals, he probably meant that they were well fed and healthy (34:16).VED-OT Strong, to Be.12

    Third, châzâq means “heavy.” When applied to a battle or war, it describes the event(s) as severe (1 Samuel 14:52). The word is also used to indicate a severe sickness (1 Kings 17:17) and famine (1 Kings 18:2).VED-OT Strong, to Be.13

    Stumble, Be Weak

    Kâshal (כָּשַׁל, Strong's #3782), “to stumble, stagger, totter, be thrown down.” As in biblical Hebrew, this word is used in modern Hebrew in the sense of “to stumble, fail.” It occurs in the text of the Hebrew Old Testament approximately 60 times, the first time being in Leviticus 26:37: “And they shall fall one upon another.…” This use illustrates the basic idea that one “stumbles” because of something or over something. Heavy physical burdens cause one “to stagger”: “… The children fell under the [loads of] wood” (Lamentations 5:13).VED-OT Stumble, Be Weak.2

    This word is often used figuratively to describe the consequences of divine judgment on sin: “Behold, I will lay stumbling blocks before this people, and the fathers and the sons together shall fall upon them …” (Jeremiah 6:21). Babylon, too, will know God’s judgment: “And the most proud shall stumble and fall …” (Jeremiah 50:32). When the psalmist says: “My knees totter from my fasting” (Psalms 109:24, NAB), he means: “My knees are weak” (as translated by KJV, NASB, RSV, JB, NEB, TEV).VED-OT Stumble, Be Weak.3

    Stupid Fellow

    Kesı̂yl (כְּסִיל, Strong's #3684), “stupid fellow; dull person; fool.” This word occurs in the Old Testament 70 times. All of its occurrences are in wisdom literature except 3 in the Psalms.VED-OT Stupid Fellow.2

    The kesı̂yl is “insolent” in religion and “stupid or dull” in wise living (living out a religion he professes). In Psalms 92:6 the first emphasis is especially prominent: “A brutish man knoweth not; neither doth a fool understand this.” The psalmist is describing an enemy of God who knew God and His word but, seeing the wicked flourishing, reasoned that they have the right life-style (Psalms 92:7). They have knowledge of God but do not properly evaluate or understand what they know. The second emphasis is especially prominent in wisdom contexts: “How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge?” (Proverbs 1:22). In such contexts the person so described rejects the claims and teachings of wisdom. However, in the Bible wisdom is the practical outworking of one’s religion. Therefore, even in these contexts there is a clear connotation of insolence in religion.VED-OT Stupid Fellow.3

    Kesı̂yl means “stupidity; imperturbability; confidence.” This noun occurs 6 times. It means “stupidity” in Ecclesiastes 7:25 and “confidence” in Proverbs 3:26. The meaning of “confidence” also appears in Job 31:24: “If I have made gold my hope.…”VED-OT Stupid Fellow.4


    A. Noun.VED-OT Suburbs.2

    Migrâsh (מִגְרָשָׁה, Strong's #4054), “suburbs; pasture land; open land.” This noun occurs about 100 times, mainly in Joshua and First Chronicles. It denotes the untilled ground outside a city or the “pasture land” belonging to the cities: “For the children of Joseph were two tribes, Manasseh and Ephraim: therefore they gave no part unto the Levites in the land, save cities to dwell in, with their suburbs for their cattle and for their substance” (Joshua 14:4).VED-OT Suburbs.3

    Ezekiel describes a strip of land for the Levites around the city. Part of the land was to be used for houses and part to be left: “And the five thousand, that are left in the breadth over against the five and twenty thousand, shall be a profane place for the city, for dwelling, and for suburbs: and the city shall be in the midst thereof” (Ezekiel 48:15). The Septuagint translates the word perisporia (“suburb”).VED-OT Suburbs.4

    B. Verb.VED-OT Suburbs.5

    Gârash (גָּרַשׁ, Strong's #1644), “to drive out, cast out.” This verb occurs about 45 times. An early occurrence in the Old Testament is in Exodus 34:11: “… Behold, I drive out before thee the Amorite, and the Canaanite.…” The word may be used of a divorced woman as in Leviticus 21:7—a woman that is “put away from her husband.”VED-OT Suburbs.6


    Day (דַּי, Strong's #1767), “sufficiency; the required enough.” Cognates of this word appear in late Aramaic, Syriac, and Phoenician. Its 42 biblical occurrences appear in all periods of biblical Hebrew.VED-OT Sufficiency.2

    The word is translated variously according to the needs of a given passage. The meaning “sufficiency” is clearly manifested in Exodus 36:7: “For the stuff they had was sufficient for all the work to make it, and too much.” A different translation is warranted in Jeremiah 49:9: “If thieves [come] by night, they will destroy till they have enough” (cf. Obadiah 5). In Proverbs 25:16 the word means only what one’s digestive system can handle: “Hast thou found honey? Eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it.” Other passages use this word of money (Deuteronomy 15:8). In Jeremiah 51:58 day preceded by the preposition ke means “only for”: “… The people shall labor in vain [only for nothing], and the folk in the fire [only for fire], and they shall be weary.” The phrase “as long as there is need” signifies until there is no more required (Malachi 3:10, NEB; KVJ, “that there shall not be room enough to receive it”). The word first appears in Exodus 36:5 and is preceded by the preposition day: “The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work, which the Lord commanded to make.”VED-OT Sufficiency.3

    There are many special uses of day where the basic meaning is in the background and the context dictates a different nuance. In Job 39:25 the word preceded by the preposition be may be rendered “as often as”: “As often as the trumpet sounds he says, Aha!” (NASB). When preceded by the preposition ke, “as,” the word usually means “according to”: “… The judge shall cause him to lie down, and to be beaten before his face, according to his fault, by a certain number” (Deuteronomy 25:2). Preceded by day, “from,” the word sometimes means “regarding the need.” This illuminates passages such as 1 Samuel 7:16: “And he [Samuel] went from year to year [according to the need of each year; NASB, “annually”] in circuit to Beth-el …” (cf. Isaiah 66:23). In other places this phrase (day preceded by min) signifies “as often as”: “Then the princes of the Philistines went forth: and it came to pass, after [NASB, “as often as”] they went forth, that David behaved himself more wisely than all the servants of Saul …” (1 Samuel 18:30).VED-OT Sufficiency.4


    Shemesh (שֶׁמֶשׁ, Strong's #8121), “sun; Shamshu (?); sunshield; battlement.” Cognates of this word occur in Ugaritic (sh-p-sh), Akkadian, Aramaic, Phoenician, and Arabic. It appears 134 times in biblical Hebrew and in all periods.VED-OT Sun.2

    This word means “sun”: “And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram …” (Genesis 15:12—the first occurrence of the word). The “wings of the sun” are probably its rays (Malachi 4:2). The “sun” and especially its regularity supported by divine sovereignty (Genesis 8:22) figures the security of God’s allies: “So let all thine enemies perish, O Lord: but let them that love him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might” (Judges 5:31). God can also make the “sun” stand still when He wishes (Joshua 10:12-13) or darken as an indication of His judgment upon His enemies and salvation for His people (Joel 2:31-32). The “sun” and all the heavenly bodies were created by God (Genesis 1:16) and are summoned to praise Him (Psalms 148:3). The Canaanites and other people worshiped the “sun” as a god, and this paganism appeared among Israelites in times of spiritual decline (Deuteronomy 4:19). In 2 Kings 23:5 perhaps one could translate: “Those who burned incense to Shamshu” (cf. v. 11). Perhaps passages like Psalms 148:3 are allusions to the sun god (although this is questionable).VED-OT Sun.3

    Shemesh is used in phrases indicating direction. The east is “the rising of the sun”: “And they journeyed from Oboth, … toward the sunrising” (Numbers 21:11). The west is “the setting of the sun”: “Are they not on the other side of Jordan, by the way where the sun goeth down …?” (Deuteronomy 11:30). In Psalms 84:11 the word represents a sunshaped shield: “For the Lord God is a sun and shield.…”VED-OT Sun.4

    Shemesh may be a structural term: “And I will make thy windows [NASB, “battlements”] of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles …” (Isaiah 54:12).VED-OT Sun.5

    There are a few noteworthy phrases related to shemesh. To be “before the sun” or “before the eyes of the sun” is to be openly exposed: “Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the Lord against the sun [NASB, “in broad daylight”] …” (Numbers 25:4). To “see the sun” is “to live”: “… Like the untimely birth of a woman, that they may not see the sun” (Psalms 58:8). Something “under the sun” is life lived on the earth apart from God in contrast to life lived on earth with a proper relationship with God (Ecclesiastes 1:3).VED-OT Sun.6


    Bâla‛ (בָּלַע, Strong's #1104), “to swallow, engulf.” Commonly used throughout the history of the Hebrew language, this word is also found in ancient Akkadian, as well as several other Semitic languages. It occurs about 50 times in the Hebrew Old Testament. Bâla‛ is first used in Genesis 41:7 in Pharaoh’s dream of seven lean ears of grain “swallowing up” the seven plump ears.VED-OT Swallow.2

    While it is used of the normal physical swallowing of something quite frequently, such as Jonah’s “being swallowed” by the great fish (Jonah 1:17), the word is used more often in the figurative sense, often implying destruction. Thus, the violent “overwhelm” the innocent (Proverbs 1:11-12); an enemy “swallows” those he conquers “like a dragon” (Jeremiah 51:34); and thVED-OT Swallow.3


    Shâba‛ (שָׁבַע, Strong's #7650), “to swear; take an oath.” This is a common word throughout the history of the Hebrew language. The fact that it occurs more than 180 times in the Hebrew Bible attests to its importance there also. Shâba‛ occurs for the first time in the Hebrew Bible in Genesis 21:23-24, where Abimelech requests Abraham to “… swear unto me here by God that thou wilt not deal falsely with me, nor with my son.… And Abraham said, I will swear.”VED-OT Swear.2

    Often “to swear or to take an oath” is to strongly affirm a promise. Thus, Joshua instructs the spies concerning Rahab of Jericho: “Go into the harlot’s house, and bring out thence the woman, and all that she hath, as ye sware unto her” (Joshua 6:22). David and Jonathan strongly affirmed their love for each other with an oath (1 Samuel 20:17). Allegiance to God is pledged by an oath (Isaiah 19:18). Zephaniah condemns the idolatrous priests “that worship and that swear by the Lord, and that swear by Malcham [the Ammonite god]” (Zephaniah 1:5). In making and upholding His promises to men, God often “swears” by Himself. To Abraham after his test involving His command to sacrifice his son Isaac, God said: “By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee …” (Genesis 22:16-17; cf. Isaiah 45:23; Jeremiah 22:5). God also “swears” by His holiness (Amos 4:2).VED-OT Swear.3

    The root for “to swear” and the root for “seven” are the same in Hebrew, and since the number seven is the “perfect number,” some have conjectured that “to swear” is to somehow “seven oneself,” thus to bind oneself with seven things. Perhaps this is paralleled by the use of “seven” in Samson’s allowing himself to be bound by seven fresh bowstrings (Judges 16:7) and weaving the seven locks of his head (Judges 16:13). The relationship between “to swear” and “seven” is inconclusive.VED-OT Swear.4


    A. Noun. VED-OT Sword.2

    Chereb (חֶרֶב, Strong's #2719), “sword; dagger; flint knife; chisel.” This noun has cognates in several other Semitic languages including Ugaritic, Aramaic, Syriac, Akkadian, and Arabic. The word occurs about 410 times and in all periods of biblical Hebrew.VED-OT Sword.3

    Usually chereb represents an implement that can be or is being used in war, such as a “sword.” The exact shape of that implement, however, is not specified by this word. Presentday archaeology has unearthed various sickle swords and daggers from the earliest periods. Sickle swords are so named because they are shaped somewhat like a sickle with the outer edge of the arc being the cutting edge. These were long one-edged “swords.” This is what chereb refers to when one reads of someone’s being slain with the edge of the “sword”: “And they slew Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house …” (Genesis 34:26). The first biblical occurrence of the word (Genesis 3:24) probably also represents such an implement: “… And he placed at the east of the garden of Eden cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way.…”VED-OT Sword.4

    The precise meaning of chereb is confused, however, by its application to what we know as a “dagger,” a short two-edged sword: “But Ehud made him a dagger which had two edges, of a cubit [eighteen to twenty-four inches] length …” (Judges 3:16).VED-OT Sword.5

    The sickle sword was probably the implement used up to and during the conquest of Palestine. About the same time the Sea Peoples (among whom were the Philistines) were invading the ancient Near East. They brought with them a new weapon—the long twoedged “sword.” The first clear mention of such a “sword” in the biblical record appears in 1 Samuel 17:51: “Therefore David ran, and stood upon the Philistine [Goliath], and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath thereof, and slew him.…” Perhaps Saul also used the highly superior Philistine armor and “sword” (1 Samuel 17:39), but this is not clear. It is also possible that the angel who confronted Balaam with a drawn “sword” wielded a long two-edged “sword” (Numbers 22:23). Certainly this would have made him (humanly speaking) a much more formidable sight. By the time of David, with his expertise and concern for warfare, the large two-edged “sword” was much more prominent if not the primary kind of “sword” used by Israel’s heavy infantry.VED-OT Sword.6

    This two-edged “sword” can be compared to a tongue: “… Even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword” (Psalms 57:4). This usage tells us not only about the shape of the “sword” but that such a tongue is a violent, merciless, attacking weapon. In Genesis 27:40 “sword” is symbolic of violence: “And by thy sword shalt thou live.…” Proverbs 5:4 uses chereb (of a long twoedged “sword”) to depict the grievous result of dealing with an adulteress; it is certain death: “But her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword.”VED-OT Sword.7

    The “sword” is frequently depicted as an agent of God. It is not only used to safeguard the garden of Eden, but figures the judgment of God executed upon His enemies: “For my sword shall be bathed in heaven: behold, it shall come down upon Idumea …” (Isaiah 34:5; cf. Deuteronomy 28:22).VED-OT Sword.8

    Chereb may be used of various other cutting implements. In Joshua 5:2 it means “knife”: “Make thee sharp knives, and circumcise again the children of Israel the second time.” Ezekiel 5:1 uses chereb of a barber’s “razor”: “And thou, son of man, take thee a sharp knife, take thee a barber’s razor, and cause it to pass upon thine head and upon thy beard.…” The exact size and shape of this tool cannot be determined, but it is clear that it was used as a razor.VED-OT Sword.9

    This word can also be used of tools (“chisels”) for hewing stone: “And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it” (Exodus 20:25). The fact that a “sword,” an implement of death, would be used to cut the stone for an altar, the instrument of life, explains why this action would profane the altar.VED-OT Sword.10

    B. Verb. VED-OT Sword.11

    Charab means “to smite down, slaughter.” This verb, which appears 3 times in biblical Hebrew, has cognates in Arabic. The word appears in 2 Kings 3:23: “This is blood: the kings are surely slain.…”VED-OT Sword.12

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