The Prophetic Nature of Psalm 22

Psalm 22 is one of the most prophetic and Messianic pieces of scripture in the Old Testament.  Jesus quotes Psalm 22:1 while on the cross crying out, “My God, My God, why have your forsaken me.”  (Matthew 27:46)  Psalm 22:7 states, “All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads.”   Matthew 27:39 states, “And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads.”  Psalm 22:8 states that people were saying, “He trusts in the Lord, let Him deliver him, let Him rescue him, for He delights in him.” While the religious leaders at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion stated, “He trusts in God, let God deliver Him now, if He desires Him, For He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” (Matt 27:43)  Additionally the Psalm describes the activity of the oppressors as, “they divide my garments among them by casting lots.” The Roman soldiers at the foot of the cross reportedly, “divided His garments among them by casting lots.”  (Matthew 27:35)  Perhaps the most Messianic/prophetic picture that this Psalm creates is in verse 16, which states, “They pierced my hands and my feet.”  Thus, the foreshadowing of the crucifixion of Christ is painfully obvious.  Or is it?  Many translations will have a footnote which states something like, “The Hebrew here reads, ‘like a Lion, my hands and my feet.’”  Perhaps you, like me, are wondering why is there such a divergence between “pierced” and “like a Lion.”  It is the purpose of this article to delve into this subject.

The Hebrew word in question is “rak”.  The first letter of the word “k” called a Kaf, can be what is called, an inseparable preposition.  It is called inseparable because it actually attaches itself to the beginning of the word.  The Kaf as a preposition means, “like, or as.”  The rest of the word, “ra” is the Hebrew word for Lion.  On the surface, the translation seems fairly simple, “like a lion” or is it?  The problem arises with the remainder of the verse (ylgdw ydy oor my hands and my feet, for explanation of the verse see footnote (1)) which is “my hands and my feet.”  So, the literal translation of this phrase is “like a lion, my hands and my feet.”  This doesn’t seem to make any sense in any language.  The problem is compounded by a lack of a verb.  Also, the phrase doesn’t seem to make sense even in the Masoretic Hebrew. Perhaps we should pause here, and discuss the use of the masoretic text.

The Masorites were a group of Jewish scribes that lived in Israel between the years of 700AD to the early 1200’s.  They set out to revive the Hebrew text of the Old Testament.  They desired to preserve the oral traditions of the Hebrew and they developed a system of vowels, called pointing, that preserved the oral transmission of the text into a written document.  At this time in history, the Jews were undergoing some pretty harsh persecution from the Christians.  One pope had actually outlawed Judaism within regions that were Catholic.  Hence, the Masorites were trying to translate a text that would preserve their traditions and their people.  Hence, there are several places that the New Testament quotes as applying to Jesus and the Masoretic text renders a completely different reading.(2)  This can be done in Hebrew as most words revolve around a three letter root, and when the vowels, which the Masorites added, are changed, it can change the meaning of the text.  This may very well be the case with the verse currently in discussion.  For the most part, the masoretic text is a wonderful translation, but there are some sections that seem to change the meaning, perhaps away from a pro-Jesus slant.  However, they did preserve a text that is widely accepted as the standard for Old Testament translation.  Additionally, the Masorites left us some clues to syntax within the text.

There is a device that is found in each verse of Hebrew that is called an “Athnah”.  An Athnah is a very small upside down “v” which is placed on the accented syllable of the word that divides the verse in half.  Generally, the first part of the verse gives us a clue or a “lead in” into what the second part of the verse should mean.  Well, in this case, the first part of verse 16 states, “For dogs have surrounded me; the congregation of the wicked has enclosed me.”  Then, if our lion translation is correct, we would add, “like a lion, my hands and my feet.”  Additionally, following the word my feet, is another exegetical device called a Sof Pasaq.  This looks like two little diamonds stacked on top of each other, and it is designed to mark the end of the sentence. So, based upon these two disjunctive accents, (3) we have what the Masorites wanted us to have; mainly, For dogs have surrounded me, the congregation of the wicked has enclosed me, like a lion my hands and my feet.”   This makes absolutely no sense in Hebrew or any other language for that matter.  Thus, something must be missing from the Masoretic Hebrew of this verse.  Our investigation of this verse must go deeper.

There is a Greek translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint. (4)  After the division between Jews and Christians became evident, the Christians adopted the Septuagint as their Old Testament scriptures.  In fact, Eastern Orthodox Christianity retains the Septuagint for the Old Covenant even today while most others have adopted the Masoretic text.  Because the Septuagint was translated around 250-150 BC, the rabbis who translated it were using Hebrew manuscripts that don’t exist today.(5)  However, the Greek of the Septuagint remains with us.  Hence, if we can look at the Greek, it may give a glimpse into some older Hebrew that doesn’t exist anymore.  The Septuagint, for the word in question, uses the Greek word “wruxan” which literally means, “to dig.” (6) This word is obviously a verb.  The ending “xan” is in the aorist active third person format, which is roughly, a past tense.  Additionally, a third person pronoun is automatically listed in the English translation as it is implied in the Greek but not explicitly stated.  Hence, the Greek gives us the translation, “they dug through or pierced my hands and my feet.”

Another ancient translation of the Old Testament is the Latin Vulgate.  The Vulgate was translated by St. Jerome around 382-384AD.  Jerome was a man ahead of his time.  Every translator in Christendom, at his time, was translating from the Septuagint Greek into Latin.  Jerome, however, moved to Bethlehem, built a monastery, and learned Hebrew from the Jews.  Then he translated the Hebrew into Latin, even to the objection of Augustine.  This is relevant for us because the Hebrew that Jerome used doesn’t exist, but, the Latin of the vulgate remains.  Thus, like the Greek of the Septuagint, we can look at the Latin and it will give us a possible glimpse into some older Hebrew.  Jerome will break the case upon for us by using the Latin word “Foderunt” which is roughly translated “to dig.”  The sense here is to dig through or to tunnel through thus creating a hole.  To carry this idea into English, the word “pierce” is used.  So, how does “to dig” break the case open?  Well, first, it agrees with the Septuagint.  Thus, it provides a second witness for the translation as “they pierced my hands and feet.”  However, there is another ancient manuscript that needs to be examined.

The Aramaic Peshitta is yet another translation of the Old Testament that predates the Hebrew of the Masoretic text.  The oldest Aramaic manuscript that is available dates to the fifth century AD.  Again, it is four hundred years older than the Masoretic text.  Aramiac and Hebrew are very similar in the language and style.  They share the same alphabet and the letters are pronounced, pretty much, the same. Because of its date and its closeness to the language of the Hebrew, an examination of the verse in question would be in order.  The Aramaic has, for this word, “wewb” which means “ to dig.”  Thus, the Aramaic, the Septuagint, and the Latin Vulgate all agree that the translation is “to pierce.”

As previously stated, critical scholars scoffed at the historical reliability of the Old Testament because the Masorites translated so far after the events that they were describing.  The critical scholars made some valid points.  First, how could oral translations continue for thousands of years without anything getting lost?  A great point! God, however, provided an answer.  In the late 1950’s a Bedouin shepherd boy was playing around a cave around the Dead Sea near Qumran.  He picked up a rock and through it into a cave and heard the sound of something breaking.  He went inside to see what it was and unearthed the greatest archeological/biblical find in history.  What he heard break was a ceramic jar.  These jars housed every single Old Testament book (with the exception of Esther) and they were a thousand years older than the Masoretic text.  Hence, scholars now set out to see if the Masorites really did preserve the text.  What did they find?  First, Dead Sea scroll Hebrew doesn’t have vowels so it was different in that regard to the Masoretic text.  Secondly, they found that these scrolls were an almost identical match in the consonantal forms.  Thus, demonstrating that the consonantal transmission of the text withstood the test of time.  To many, including this writer, this is evidence that a power greater than humans is behind the preservation of these documents.  In regards to the word/verse in question, I have not the Hebrew of the Dead Sea Scrolls available and am not sure of any Hebrew text of it that are available.  However, translations of it are available.  There is a footnote in the translation that I do have and I will quote it here regarding the verse we are examining.  It reads,”Psalm 22 is a favorite among Christians since it is often linked in the New Testament with the suffering and death of Jesus.  A well-known and controversial reading is found in verse 16, where the Masoretic Text reads, “like a lion are my hands and feet,” whereas the Septuagint has “they have pierced my hands and feet.”  Among the scrolls the reading in question is found only in the Psalms scroll found at Nahal Hever which reads, “They have pierced my hands and my feet!” (7)  In order to be fair, we don’t have the Hebrew available for our own examination, but we will trust that these translators are writing free from theological bias.

In order for us to preserve our theory that the Masorites tweaked the vowels of this passage, we must be able to produce a word that is similar to “to dig or to pierce.”  If this is possible, then we can safely assume that the older Hebrew presented in the Dead Sea Scrolls preserves the original reading of the text which makes it all the more prophetically Messianic.  Such a theory does exist.  The two words that we are looking at are “yrak” vs “wrak.”    All that has to happen to change “to dig” into “like a Lion” is the erasing of half of the last letter.  Notice in the second word listed above that it ends in a “w” and the first word ends with a “y”  The word that ends with a “y” is “like  lion” and the word that ends with the “w” is the verb “to dig.”  As you can see, it would be very simple to erase half of the “w” to make a “y” and then add a few vowel points and “voila” we have changed the meaning of the text. (8)

In conclusion, four ancient manuscripts that pre-date the Masoretic text support the translation, “they pierced my hands and feet.”  The Vulgate, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Aramaic Peshitta, and the Greek Septuagint all have verbs that similarly read, “to dig.”  Thus, it must be concluded that the Masoretic text must have something missing in its translation that has caused some ambiguity in the verse.  However, the profoundly Messianic/prophetic picture of this Psalm survives.  It survives in a survey of ancient Old Testament Manuscripts. (9)

Endnotes

  1.  The phrase “ylgdw ydy” I am unable to put the vowel points in because I have not that font on my computer, but the verse is simple enough to explain.  The phrase “ydy” is pronounced “Yadi”.  The word “Yad” is the Hebrew word for hand and the “ee” on the end is an ending that is added to a word to make it “my” You will notice the same ending on the second word.  Notice the “w” called a vav, in front of the second word.  This is called the conjunctive vav and it is the most frequently used Hebrew word of the old testament, over 50,000 times, and it means, and, also, or even.  Thus the phrase is translated “my hands and my feet.”
  2. See Acts 15:17, where James quotes from the Septuagint and states, “mankind” will seek the Lord.  Look it up in your bible and you will see that the Masoretic text will have something different.  It will have “Edom”  Both of these words are based on the same three letter root in Hebrew “mda” James is reading it as “Adam” which can be translated mankind, a very pro Christian standpoint.  While the Masorites, who added the vowels read this as “Edom” by placing different vowels and leaving the same three root consonants.  Thus it changes the meaning to a very pro-Israel statement from a pro Christian one.
  3. Disjunctive Accents: information on these has come from Dr. Russell Fuller’s. “Invitation to Biblical Hebrew” it is a wonderful course complete with DVD lectures, text and workbook.
  4. The Septuagint, as the legend goes, was translated around 250-150 BC in Alexandria by 70 Rabbis; hence , the name Septuagint.  It was developed to assist Jews outside of Israel in learning the law, writings, and prophets in Greek rather than Hebrew.   For more on this see, FF.Bruce, The Canon of Scripture, Intra-Varsity Press.  There is also some internal evidence that the translation occured around 114 BC.  At the end of the book of Ester there is a foot note added there which gives us a potential date and time when the “book” or letter was writtem.  It states, “In the fourth year of the reighn of Ptolemy and Cleopatra, Dositheus, who said he was a priest and a Levite, and Ptolemy his son brought in the letter of Purim, which they declared existed, and that Lysimachus, the son of Ptolemy, who was in Jerusalem had translated it.”  This is taken from the Eastern Orthodox Study Bible and their commentary dates this footnote as 10:3k and dates it at 114 BC.
  5. The oldest manuscript, before the advent of the Dead Sea Scrolls, was published around the ninth century AD.  Which, from a historical reliability standpoint, is not very good.  The closer a document is to the date of the stuff that it describes, the more “historically reliable” the document is said to be.  Thus, for years, critical scholars doubted the reliability of the Old Testament, until the Dead Sea Scrolls.
  6. http://isv.org/catacombs/psalm22_v16_like_a_lion.
  7. Abegg, Marin, Flint, Peter, Ulrich, Eugene, The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible, the Oldest Known Bible Translated for the First Time into English., Harper Press, San Francisco, CA, 1999, page 519.
  8. Much of this section was gleaned from:  “Avram Yehoshua at:   http://www.seedofabraham.net/nltr25.html
  9. Martin Luther was a revolutionary.  One of his many desires, was to produce a German bible in the language of the common folk.  In his day, only the priest who knew Latin, could read the scriptures.  Luther set out to translate it into the language of the commoner.  In the verse in question, Luther translates the verb, “durchgraben” which, I am told by my German speaking friends, literally means “to dig or to tunnel.”  Here we see Luther is preserving the same idea that was put forth by Jerome in the Vulgate.
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Revival through Justice and Burning

“When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and purged the blood of Jerusalem from her midst by the spirit of judgment and the spirit of burning then the Lord will create above every dwelling place of Mount Zion, and above her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night.  For over all the glory there will be a covering.” (Isaiah 4:4-5)

 

     When I read passages like this one, I get pumped for revival.  I can imagine being in the assembly when the cloud and smoke and fire of the presence of God manifest itself.  This is what revival is built upon, the continual abiding presence of God.  Here in this passage, God gives us two distinct spiritual elements that usher in revival.  Let’s examine the two phrases, “spirit of judgment” and spirit of burning” to see if we can develop a fuller understanding of what takes place as a precursor of revival.

     The Hebrew phrases are “reb hOrbO tpvm hOrB” which is correctly translated “the spirit of judgment and the spirit of burning.”  The Hebrew word for spirit, “hOr” is used twice in the passage. (It is used as hOrB and as hOrbO respectively.  The reader will notice the O in the front of the second occurrence, this is the conjunctive vav and means and, but ,and also.  The reader will also notice the b which occurs in front of both occurrences.  This is an inseparable preposition and it attaches to the front of the word.  It’s basic meaning with “b” is with.  The reader will also notice the dot in the middle of the first occurrence.  This is called a dagesh lene and occurs with certain letters called beghadkephat {a pneumonic device for Hebrew letters that will receive the dagesh lene namely tpkdkb.}  These letters will receive the dagesh lene and occasionally will change the pronunciation, though not the meaning of words.  In this case, the first would be pronounced as a “b” sound while the second would be pronounced as a “v” sound.)  The basic idea of spirit is “wind in motion.”  That these two spirits are separate and distinct from the Holy Spirit can be evidenced by the missing title “cdooiioqh” pronounced Ha-kodesh” meaning Spirit of the Holy.  It seems to me that these are two spirits that are sent from God to accomplish His purposes.  God lives in a realm that is spiritual and He is Spirit (John 4:24)  God reigns supreme in ths realm and beings such as spiritual ones complete his purposes.  This is what we are looking at in this passage.  We will come back to this momentarily.

     The Hebrew word for judgment is the word “tpvm” which is pronounced, “mishphat.”  Judgment doesn’t quite effectively convey the essence of this Hebrew word.  An example of what it means may readily explain what it means.  Solomon, when he prays for wisdom, asks God to give him wisdom so that he can “misphat” the children of Israel.  Mishphat means to establish an order.  The establishment of the correct understanding of order or government.  The essence is the establishment of an order where justice is the normal function of the established system.  This word has also been translated as manner or custom meaning that they system that is established yields a social more or law that all are expected to order their lives according too.  This is what Solomon asked God for and this spirit of Mishphat was granted and it brought about huge revival during the reign of Solomon including the aforementioned cloud and smoke of the presence.  The Greek word that is used in the Septuagint carries a very similar meaning but also carries the idea of separation.  This implies that judgment will separate the people of justice from the people of lawlessness.  To the verse in question, this tells us that order and justice is an actual spiritual force that is released by God to counteract the prevailing spirit of lawlessness that operates where wanton sin abounds.

     The Hebrew word for “burning” is the word, “reb” which is pronounced “va-er.”  The basic idea here is to seek out, to glean, or to collect in order to destroy by fire.  Basically, mishphat separates and identifies evil and sin and vaer completely destroys and consumes it.  The Greek of the Septuagint carries a similar idea “to suffer from feverish burning” as in the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah when God rained down fire from heaven which yielded complete destruction of evil and sin.  To the passage in question, God releases an actual spiritual force that yields the complete consumption of the effects of sin and evil.  This spiritual force, like a raging consuming fire, completely destroys whatever it is targeted against, in this case, the evil that is identified through mishphat.  Once this takes place, only that which is good; pure; and holy remains.  Then, the presence of God will swell with us as a cloud by dire and a fire by night.  This is the essence of revival.  No compromise with evil and sin.  The Presence will not tolerate moral compromise and injustice.  Evil must be completely eliminated and the establishment of justice; order, and the proper use of government ushers in revival. Perhaps our prayer should be for God to send the spirit of judgment and burning into our lives, our churches, and our nation, in order to usher in real individual, corporate, and national revival and reform.

Judge Me?

Judge me, O Lord, for I walk in my innocence (Psalm 25:1)

     In this Psalm, David is asking God to judge him because he believes in his own innocence.  Wow!  That’s a pretty bold statement.  Who among us is so brave that they are asking to stand before God so that they can be judged?  Certainly not me.  However, if we examine the Hebrew and the Greek of this passage, we will begin to understand that this is not what David is asking for at all. 

     Both the Hebrew of the Masoretic text and the Greek of the Septuagint use similar words for “judge.”  The issue comes into play because neither of them translate very well into English.  The Hebrew word is “fpv” which is transliterated, “shaphat.”  It’s primary meaning is to exercise the process of government.  Basically, to establish a governmental process that protects the innocence.  The Greek word “krinos” carries much the same meaning but adds the idea of separation.  Meaning, to separate the evil from the good.  This is really what a theocratic process of government does.  It separates good from evil and destroys the evil.  This is what David is praying for when he cries out, “Judge Me!”  He is saying that his desire is to be separated from the assembly of evildoers to remain in the assembly of the righteous.

     Innocence.  Is David really claiming that he is innocent before God.  This is the man that had Uriah killed because he got his wife pregnant.  Is David really ready to stand before God for judgment and make a case for his own innocence?  I think not.  The Hebrew word for innocence used here is the word, “hMf” which is transliterated “temah.”  It is a derivative of the word for completion.  It is the word that is used to describe the sacrifices that the law required to be “temah” and perfect.  The Greek equivalent “akakon” is used of Christ in Hebrews 7:26 describing Him as perfect, innocence, and the righteous sacrifice and high priest.  Things still aren’t looking to good for David so far.  However, Job was also described “temah.”  Job was described as blameless not sinless.  This tells us that inside the establishment of God’s order and government, there has been provided a system by which sin can be atoned.  In the OT it was the blood of “temah” bulls and goats, in the NT it is the blood of the “temah” Lamb of God.  What I mean here is that inside the government of God, sin does not distinguish between the righteous and the wicked.  The distinction is made between the heart that desires to follow God’s law and order and the lawless and wicked who desire to follow the devices of their heart.  Theirs is a theology built upon selfishness.  The government of God is a theology built upon the human hearts response to the established order of God.  The psalms use the same word to describe both groups of people.  It is the word assembly, congregation, or church.  There are only two types of assemblies.  Those of the wicked and those of the righteous.  The assembly of the wicked takes delight on doing evil and encourages it.  The assembly of the righteous takes delight in the presence of God, living according to His law and order, and loving one another.  The basis for the assembly of the wicked is selfishness.  The basis for the assembly of the righteous in the covenantal love (Hebrew Hesed of verse 3 in this Psalm) that has established the order and us within it.

     Let’s regroup.  This is what David is really saying.  “Make a distinction, LORD, between me and the assembly of the wicked because I have arranged my life according to your established order which is built upon your love and in this order, my sins are atoned for so I  can have boldness to stand before your throne.”  Indeed, Judge us, Oh God!”

Clean Hands and a Pure Heart

     It has been said that the Old Testaments sets the stage for the New.  That the Old Covenant prepared the way for the new one.  That the spiritual principles of the Old paved the way for a greater realization of those principles in the New.  This couldn’t be any clearer than in the relationship between Psalm 24:4 and Matthew 5:8.

     “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8) The obvious meaning here is that those who are pure in heart shall receive manifestations of the Divine.  “Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord?  Or who may stand in His holy place?” is the question proposed by the sweet psalmist of Israel.  He answers his own rhetorical question with, “He who has clean hands and a pure heart.” (Psalm 24:4)  We see here that the qualifying factor for entering into the divine Presence is “clean hands and a pure heart.”  Let’s dissect these two phrases from the linguistic standpoint and draw some spiritual conclusions.  Let’s begin with the Old and work our way into the New to see if we can build upon the foundation of the Old.

     The Hebrew of the Psalm reads, “bbl rbO mypk yqn”  Let’s look at these words one at a time a delve deeper into their meanings.  The first word, yqn iis transliterated “naw-kie.”  It is derived from the word which means “to pour out, or the pouring out” of a sacrifice.  Thus, the sense here is that the result of the cleanliness is the outpouring of the sacrifice.  That the individual is blameless before God, not sinless.  That the worshipper has taken responsibility for his/her sin and made the appropriate sacrifice according to God’s law and order.  Thus, they are clean.  The second word, “mypk” is transliterated, “kaw-phim.”  This is not the usual word for hand.  The usual word is “dy” or yad.  This word means to pen or turn out the hands as to expose the palm of the hand.  This position of the hands is the proper posture of prayer and worship.  So far we have the idea of cleanliness coming through sacrifice as the worshiper praises and prays to God with the lifting of the hands.  Thus, the translation, “clean hands” while accurate, doesn’t quite convey the entire meaning of the phrase.  The next word “rb” is transliterated, “bier.”  (The reader will notice that I have removed the O from the front of the word as this is a conjunctive vav which attaches to the front of the word and carries the meaning of and, even also.)  The word means “purified”  as in, that which is purified by an act of sacrifice and worship.  The last word is a very significant word of biblical Hebrew.  It is the word “bbl” and is transliterated “Li-vav.” It carries a plethora of meanings that I will attempt to summarize here.  It means, “The totality of man’s inner nature, the seat of emotions, thought, and will, and the place where morals are decided upon.  Thus, this place must be purified by an act of sacrifice.  To put this all together, the spiritual sense of the phrase is:  “The individual who has cleansed their hands through acts of prayer, worship, and sacrifice shall ascend the hill of the Lord.  Moreover, the individual who has their inner nature, the seat of their emotions and will and thoughts purified through an act of worship and sacrifice, shall stand in His Holy Place.”  This sets the stage for the Beatitude that Jesus puts forth.  Perhaps the Lord even had this passage of scripture in mind as the Greek of the Septuagint is the exact same Greek of the New Testament.

     Matthew 5:8 reads in Greek:  “makaroi oi kaqaroi th kardia oti autoi ton qeon ojontai.”    In order to grasp a fuller meaning of the Greek here, let me just offer a paraphrase of the verse rather than a literal breakdown.  The meaning behind the verse is basically this:  “The privileged recipient of divine favor is the one who is guiltless and blameless before God because God is at the center and source of his inner life where moral life is decided upon, having his conscience purified and sprinkled by the blood of Christ sacrifice, this one, will continually see God.”  This is the essence of the Greek behind the passage.  However, notice the “ontai” ending on the verb, to see, which is “ojontai.”  This ending indicates the passive voice.  The passive voice in Greek means that the subject is going to be acted upon.  In the English sentence, “the ball was thrown”, this is the passive voice as the subject “the ball” was being acted upon, mainly, thrown.  So, the subject of the sentence will be the one receiving the action.  Additionally, the verbal tense is the progressive passive voice which means that the action can be and often is repeated.  Please notice the repetitive occurrence of “oi” in the beginning of the verse.  It is the marker of the nomitive case, specifically the plural of the nomitive case which identifies it as the subject of the sentence.  Hence, the “pure of heart” will be the subject of the sentence and they will be acted upon.  Also notice the “on” ending on the back of the word for God “qeon.”  This is the marker of the accusative case, specifically, the plural of the accusative case and identifies this word as the direct object of the sentence.  In the English sentence, “the ball was thrown by the boy.”  The boy is the direct object and he is the one that is acting on the subject.  This is generally how the passive voice works in Greek also.  Hence, God, the direct object, will be acting upon the subject.  So, the essence of the Greek here is this:  “God will repeatedly reveal himself to the individuals who have purified their inner man through the sacrifice of Christ and this will make them blessed, the recipients of divine favor.”  Again, we can see how the translation, al beit accurate, doesn’t quite convey the full meaning of the Greek text.  But, this is a powerful spiritual revelation for the born-again Christian.  Why?  Because, it is one thing for me to chase after God for a revelation of Him and quite another thing for God to continually be chasing after me to reveal Himself to me.  This the promise of this verse and it is what makes us blessed people.  The fact that we have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus and the Spirit of God resides in our inner man qualifies us to receive repeated revelations of the manifest presence of God.  This makes us, Blessed!!!  Thus we can see how the Psalm sets the stage for the fuller realization that Christ would pre-qualify us for continued and repeated revelations of God through His Sacrifice.

The Fear of the LORD is Wisdom

“And unto man He said, Behold, the fear of the LORD, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.” (Job 28:28 KJV)

 

     We hear the phrase, “Fear God” all the time but it seems that there is no real consensus regarding what that exactly means and entails.  Hence, it is the purpose of this post to briefly examine wisdom in relation to the Fear of the Lord and attempt to draw some conclusions.

     To begin with, the Hebrew word for fear, used in the above quoted verse and often in the Old testament, is the word “Yirah.”  It has a couple of different meanings.  First, is the emotion of “fear” as in Deuteronomy 5:5 when Father manifests on Sinai before the children of Israel.  This was a terrifying experience for them.  However, there was a reason for this experience.  Namely, as Moses states in the Exodus account, “Fear not:  for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.” (Exodus 20:20 KJV)  Secondly, it is often used in passages meaning, proper or righteous people such as Job who “feared God and turned away from evil.” (Job 1:1)  Thirdly, fearing the Lord carries the idea of a reverent awe or respect for God.  This can clearly be seen in the Egyptian midwives who put their own lives at risk by refusing Pharoah’s command to kill all the male babies of the children of Israel.  The bible states as their reason, “They feared God.” (Exodus 1:17-21)  Another interesting passage demonstrates the “fear of the Lord” while not completing following the Lord in 2 Kings 17:32.  In this passage, the people whom the king of Assyria relocated into the Northern Kingdom of Israel had a polytheistic approach to life.  Meaning, they had several gods that they worshipped and they also included Yahveh in this because the “they also feared the LORD.”  To summarize all of these three ideas into one sentence it could be “A respect for God that is rooted in experiences with Him and these impact all the actions and decisions that are subsequently made.”  In essence, that is what it means to “fear the LORD.”

      The two words that are used for wisdom in both Hebrew and Greek have a very similar meaning.  The Hebrew word is “hakmah” and the Greek word is “sofia”.  The basic idea of New Testament wisdom is: The wisdom of God that existed in Jesus and now has been given to us via the Holy Spirit.  It is true insight into the nature of things.”  Wisdom is the bi-product of relationship with God.  We gain true insight into the nature of things as we fear the Lord, considering Him in all our actions and decisions, and this shows us the nature of all things.

     This idea has merit to the translators of the Septuagint.  In the above quoted verse at the top of the post, they didn’t include the usual phrase for “Fear of the LORD”.  Instead, they used “jeosebeia” which is basically translated “godliness.”  It carries the meaning of proper conduct in reverence towards God.  It is what Abraham feared was missing in Abimelech’s kingdom (Genesis 20:11) and what the angel of the LORD commended Abraham for having as he prepared to sacrifice Issac (Genesis 22:11)  So, we see that the ideas we have presented here have support from the Rabbi’s who translated the Septuagint.

     Here is the sum of the matter, “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13 ESV)  When we have reference for God that is rooted in experience and we implement that in our daily lives, we live a life that “keeps his commandments.”  This also, as we’ve seen in the above-quoted passage of Job, gives us true insight into the nature of things by the power of the Holy Spirit, which is  wisdom. 

Fresh Insights from Job

“And unto man He said, Behold, the fear of the LORD, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.” (Job 28:28 KJV)

     I recently finished reading Job and got some fresh insights that I would like to share.  First, Job never suffered because of sin.  He suffered because of his righteousness.  It was the very fact that he walked in relationship with God and was “blameless and upright” before the Lord that caused his suffering.  This was a new revelation to consider when things go bad in my life.  I generally, like the Puritans of old, look for some sin that needs to be confessed and subsequently, repented from.  Oftentimes, I have even invented some type of sin just so I could confess, repent, and receive relief from suffering. I’ve used this as a formula to alleviate suffering.  I took the advice of Job’s friends and came up with some strange commandment that I wasn’t keeping and tried to “make peace with God.”   This new insight gave me a new understanding of why godly people suffer.  It might not be because of any sin at all.  It may very well be because Christ is my righteousness.  I’m looking forward, sort of, to the next time things go wrong.  I hope to step back, examine for the presence of any Holy Spirit conviction regarding sin, and if none are present, I will rejoice with the disciples of old who said, “They were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.” (Acts 5:41)

     Towards the ends of Job’s discourses with his friends, Job makes the above-quoted statement.  This is such a wonderful statement.  If biblical wisdom is defined as “insight into the true nature of things”, then the fear of the LORD would give us this insight.  There is much we could say about “The Fear of the LORD” and it will be the subject of another post, but suffice to say here, that it means that “considering every decision regarding how it will affect our relationship with God.”  We will use this as our definition for “Fear the Lord.”  If we could take a minute and consider how our next action would affect our relationship with Him, it might gives us some insight past the enticing and seductiveness of sin.  This consideration would give us true insight into the nature of the sin and we would “shun evil” thus demonstrating our understanding.

     Lastly, when God shows up on the scene, this makes more of a statement than anything that the LORD has to say.  The very fact that he showed up demonstrates that He was not absent from Job during his sufferings, but that He was very near, contrary to what both Job and his friends thought.  The primary insight that God gives to Job, “Will you even put me in the wrong?  Will you condemn me that you may be in the right?” (Job 40:8 ESV)  He calls Job the “faultfinder” (40:2) Ouch!!!  I’ve done this so many times.  I would accuse God of injustice in order to justify myself.  It is rooted in a low self-esteem.  If I confess that I have sin, then it will make me feel even worse about myself than I already do, so, rather than deal with sin, I accuse God of violating His Word which promises me blessings.  As the Lord has said to Job, “Will you condemn me in order to justify yourself.”  Again, I’m, sort of, looking forward to the next time things  go wrong, where there is no conviction of sin, to rejoice and bless God in the midst of the storm.

The Silver Cord

The Silver Cord

Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.”(Ecclesiastes 12:6 KJV)

     Years ago, I heard an evangelist discuss being attacked in the night by a witch.  The witch was having an out of body experience and she appeared in his hotel room at night to strangle him.  When he awoke, he prayed and the Holy Spirit told him to tell her that he would, “cut the silver cord if she didn’t leave immediately.”  She left.  When he began looking for some biblical support for what had just happened to him, he stumbled across the above-quoted passage.  Let’s look at the Hebrew of the Masoretic text and the Greek of the Septuagint to determine if this interpretation is indeed plausible.

      First, the Hebrew text reads, “hebel haceseph” which is roughly translated, “cord the silver.”  What is interesting about the word for cord is that it is a derivative of the word, “to bind.”  The idea here is that when strands are bound together, they become a cord or a rope.  Sometimes it is translated as “snares” as in Psalm 116:3:  “The snares of death encompassed me.” (ESV)  In the present context, the silver cord seems to mean “that which binds the soul or the inner man, to the physical body of a man.  When this cord is cut, “the spirit will return unto God” (Ecclesiastes 12:7) As the Keil and Delitzsch commentary notes, “…the third brings to view the dissolution of the life of the body, by which the separation of the soul and the body, and return of both to their original condition is completed. Ere the silver cord is loosed, and the golden bowl is shattered, and the pitcher is broken at the fountain, and the wheel is shattered in the well, and the dust returns to the earth as that which it was, the spirit returns to God who gave it.” (1)  Hence, it would seem that the silver cord is what binds the spirit man to the natural man.

      The Greek of the Septuagint affords a similar interpretation.  It reads, “anatraph to scoinion tou arguriou.”   Which is roughly translated, “destroyed is the cord of silver.”  The Greek word used for cord here, “scoinion” which is used in the New Testament.  In John 2:16 when Jesus fashions a whip of cords, this is the Greek word that is used.  Consequently, the same idea of “that which is bound” is presented here in the Greek text.

   Solomon may also be using a Near Eastern household commodity as an allegorical representative of a spiritual truth in light of the context.  “The extinction of consciousness is figuratively represented by the golden lamp, which is hung up by a sliver cord in the midst of a house or tent, and now, since the cord which hold it is broken, it falls down and is shattered to pieces, so that there is at once deep darkness; the destruction of the bodily organism, by a fountain, at which the essential parts of it s machinery, the pitcher and windlass, are broken and rendered forever useless.” (2)

      In conclusion, we can see both from the linguistic text and the context of the verse, that Solomon was using a physical example to represent a spiritual reality.  There is something that binds the spirit man to the physical man.  When that bond is severed, both return to their original states.  They simply cannot exist with each other.  God has created us to be His “image-bearers” in the physical realm.  He has created us with a spirit man that communes with Him.  The purpose of this endeavor is for us to be here in the physical realm all that He is in the spiritual realm.  The bond that holds this union between physical and spiritual is “the silver cord.”

Endnotes

 1.   Keil, C.F., Delitzsch, F. “Commentary On The Old Testament” Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, Mass. 2006, volume 6, page 800.

 2. Ibid page 802.