Tag Archives: Hebrew words

Hebrew – Love

The most often-used Hebrew word for love in the OT is ’āhaḇ (H157), which speaks generally of desire, affection, or inclination, “a strong emotional attachment to and desire either to possess or to be in the presence of the object.” ’āhaḇ has an extremely wide range of meanings, so wide, in fact, that its some 250 occurrences cover just about everything from “God’s infinite affection for his people to the carnal appetites of a lazy glutton.”
Unlike the Greek words philos (G5384, “esteem, tender affection”) and agapē (G26, “selfless, sacrificial love”), which differentiate kinds of love, Hebrew does not do this quite as clearly. While other words do show somewhat differing ideas—dôḏ (H1730), for example, speaks strongly of sexual affection (Pro_7:18; Son_1:2; Son_1:4; Son_7:12)—for the most part Hebrew words for love are general.
Like the word faith, therefore, the real crux of love (’āhaḇ) lies in its object. A man can love “pleasure” and “wine,” for example, but these will bring him to poverty (Pro_21:17). Likewise, it can refer to sexual lust, as Absalom had for his sister Tamar (2Sa_13:1). The prophets spoke of the wrong object of love when God’s people committed spiritual adultery with pagan gods (Jer_22:20; Jer_22:22; Eze_16:36; Eze_23:5; Hos_2:5-13).
On the positive side, examples of good love and affection include: a father for his son, such as Abraham had for Isaac (Gen_22:2); a husband for his wife, such as Elkanah’s love for Hannah (1Sa_1:5); and one friend for another, as was true of David and Jonathan (1Sa_20:17). Certainly one of the greatest objects of love in our lives should be wisdom: “Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee” (Pro_4:6). Another is truth coupled with peace (Zec_8:19).
Still another, and most notably, is God’s Word. ’Āhaḇ appears no less than twelve times in Psalms 119 to demonstrate the psalmist’s love for the Word (Psa_119:140). It was his “meditation all the day” (Psa_119:97) because he loved its commandments (Psa_119:47-48; Psa_119:127), law (Psa_119:97; Psa_119:113; Psa_119:163; Psa_119:165), testimonies (Psa_119:119; Psa_119:167), and precepts (Psa_119:159). We should also interject that He loved God’s name (Psa_119:132).
This should encourage us to be conscious of the objects of our love.
Scriptures for Study: What are the objects of love (positive or negative) in the following verses: Psa_4:2; Psa_11:5; Psa_26:8; Psa_40:16; Pro_22:11?


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dāḇār [and] ‘imrāh


One of the most significant words used for Scripture, of course, is the term word, which actually is a translation of several Hebrew words. Today we examine two of the most important.


The first is dāḇār (H1697), which means a word or “speech” and is a general term for God’s revelation. The Ten Commandments are referred to in Exo_34:28 and Deu_10:4 using dāḇār, which we could translate as “the ten words” because they are exactly what God said. The passion of the Christian should not be the most entertaining speaker of the day or the latest self-help teacher. The believer’s passion should be, “God says . . .” Its first occurrence in Psalms 119, for example, is in Psa_119:9 : “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word,” a clear reference to God’s moral law being the one and only path to right living (February 14).


Another Hebrew word translated word is ’imrāh (H565), a derivative of ’āmar (H559). While the latter is found often, the former is a rare poetic word that appears more in Psalms 119 than everywhere else combined. It is more or less a synonym for dāḇār and simply emphasizes not just a concept or thought but the very words of God, and is often used in the phrase “the words of my mouth” (e.g., Psa_19:14; Pro_4:5; Pro_5:7; Pro_7:24; Pro_8:8). Another form (’ēmer; H561) is often translated with the Greek rhēma (G4487) in the Septuagint (e.g., Psa_78:1; Psa_138:4), which usually relates to individual words and utterances.


Turning once again to Psalms 119, the first occurrence of ’imrāh there is that wonderful verse, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psa_119:11). In a day when God’s words are more and more being replaced by concepts, or what is called “dynamic equivalence,” this word underscores that it is the individual words that are crucial. The same principle is underscored in Psa_12:6-7 : “The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.” Let us truly desire the words of Scripture.


Scriptures for Study: Read a few of the occurrences of ’imrāh in Psalms 119, noting the significance of each: Psa_119:50; Psa_119:67; Psa_119:76; Psa_119:103, and Psa_119:117.




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Hebrew – Law (1)




In addition to the fascinating study of God’s many names, which formed the bulk of our readings in the past, there is another OT subject that has many facets, namely God’sWord. There are, in fact, no less than eight different Hebrew words in Psalms 119 alone that describe the many aspects of God’s Word.


The first such word is law, which is the most frequent of all, appearing some 219 times. The Hebrew is tôrāh (H8451), a feminine noun meaning “direction, teaching, and instruction.” Generally speaking, law most often refers to a body of teaching, and that is precisely what allScripture is. While we will examine in subsequent studies the Mosaic Law and its bearing on NT believers, all Scripture provides direction and instruction. While not all Scripture was written to the church (NT believers), all Scripture was written for the church. In other words, all Scripture provides legitimate application for us in this age.


It’s interesting and instructive that the very first occurrence of tôrāh is in Gen_26:5, long before God gave the Mosaic Law: “Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” In other words, God has always had laws. This is further evident in the fact that before God gave the Mosaic Law, some of its basic principles already existed among the Babylonians, Hittites, and other civilizations. This clearly demonstrates that at the very least a basic verbal law had been handed down through the years. It eventually was ignored by the majority after Babel, but there were some, such as Abraham, who retained the knowledge of God’s law. We see the same implication in Job (which predates the Mosaic Law): “Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food” (Job_23:12). Again, long before Moses, there were commandments, that is, law, which while eventually replaced by the Mosaic Law, was nonetheless a code of behavior and a body of teaching by which man was bound. As we will see, this is the law written in man’s hearts (Rom_2:15), a law he cannot escape.


Scriptures for Study: What do Psa_1:1-3; Psa_119:1 promise to those who keep God’s law, that is, the instruction of His Word in general?




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