The New Testament word for “guarantee” (Greek arrabon) has a peculiar meaning. I’m not sure what you think of when someone gives you a guarantee, but it is usually a verbal promise of some sort.
In the biblical world, a guarantee would usually be accompanied by a pledge, or a token, portion of the whole of the item promised. In the OT, a pledge was given by Judah (in a really *cough* complicated story in Genesis 38:17-20). Judah provided his seal and staff to Tamar as a promise that he’d send a young goat from his flock after he returned home.
The guarantee was supported by a tangible pledge, an item pointing towards the whole.
This idea is used by Paul in Ephesians 1. In speaking of the Ephesian’s hope for salvation, Paul said,
“When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory.” (Eph. 1:13-14)
A common anxiety I hear as a pastor is, “How do I know that I belong to God?” Paul’s answer is that the Spirit is given to us in order to point towards God’s renewed world, that we get to both to anticipate later and to participate in today.
I am away from my office desk and without Mounce’s text for this week’s Text Tuesday post. Instead, I am working on sermons for the remainder of our Jonah series this month.
As I work through Jonah 2, I’m struck by the language in Jonah’s prayer. Verse 5 says,
“The engulfing waters threatened me,
the deep surrounded me;
seaweed was wrapped around my head.”
Jonah uses a familiar term “engulfed” (Hebrew: afafuni) to describe his experience after being hurled into the ocean. This word is used by the psalmists to describe drowning, which fits the theme of the first part of Jonah: descent. Jonah goes “down, down, down,” to Joppa, to the bottom of the ship, to the depths of the ocean, and into the depths of the fish.
Perhaps you’ve experienced the panic of being under water longer than you anticipated, how the immediate dread spills over one’s mind when the air runs out. Jonah felt this on a couple of different levels: physical and emotional, I’d expect. He was surrounded; there was no way out.
In that place, he poured his heart out to God in what is, for the most part, a penitent and thoughtful prayer. When we are surrounded, we tend to say the most honest prayers.
On Tuesdays, I scour Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament words to find some extra insight into the biblical text. Today’s word is “heavy,” or “to be/to make something heavy.”
In the Hebrew Old Testament text, “heavy” (kabed) means “to honor.” This is an interesting Jewish idiom that we use today. When someone powerful or important speaks we often say, “Her words carry a lot of weight.”
In the Greek New Testament, “to be made heavy” (lype) has a different meaning. It carries the idea of grief or sorrow, a person experiencing a heaviness because of a loss of a loved one. The action of grief exhausts someone and they feel heavy because of it.
The two, distinct meanings in the two languages reminds us that reading the Bible is complex, for the same word “heavy” in English has two different meanings in the text. We get to do the tough work of hearing the ancient voices in order to understand the text.
Each Tuesday, I’ll try to text a word found in the Bible and draw some insight from it through some Hebrew and Greek study, using Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words.
Today’s word: Enemy
Both Old Testament words for enemy: verb (oyeeb) and noun (sar) give an underlying idea of “hate” or “hostility” or “adversary.” It’s worth noting, that Satan is never described by either of these words in the OT. A famous enemy character in the OT is Haman in Esther who was hell-bent on the destruction of the Jews while they were in Persian captivity.
The New Testament Greek word (echthros) carries a similar idea. An enemy is one who opposes you. Mounce makes a theological statement about the use of enemy in the NT, “A child of God may have enemies but is not to be an enemy toward another person.” In contrast, “enemy” is used to describe both Satan and death in the NT.
The biblical idea of enemy is important. It is healthy to acknowledge that there is a category for “enemies” in the life of the believer. The challenging call of Jesus, however, is to not seek their absence from our lives because we are at odds with them. The call of the gospel is to love our enemies, to pray for them, and even to suffer long with them. May God give us the grace to do so.
On Tuesdays, I’ll try to provide a bit of background on a biblical word using William Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words.
Today’s word: woe.
In the Old Testament, “woe” (Hebrew hoy) expresses personal pain and anguish because of the dread of a situation. Woe is also used to express anxiety about future troubles, used by the Writing Prophets in the later parts of the Old Testament. (see Isaiah 5:8, 11, 18, for example)
In the New Testament, “woe” (Greek ouai) is an injection at the beginning of a sentence or phrase to suggest pain. Mounce calls “woe” an “onomatopoeic” word where a sound of the word often reveals its meaning. A well-known use of “woe” in the NT is in Matthew 23 where Jesus gives “Seven woes” against his lived-in opponents.
There are also a few references where “woe” is used figuratively. Paul uses the term “woe” in 1 Cor. 9:16 to describe how he’d feel if he did not preach the gospel.
Woe is not a word that we use much anymore. We’ve probably subbed it out for related terms. I find it comforting that the Bible gives us room to feel raw emotion. It might even be sacred to have such a raw expression.