Is “Tyrant” Missing From The KJV?

From time to time I hear a claim that King James I interfered with the translation of the Bible he sponsored by demanding words or phrases not be used. There is no evidence of this ever occurring. The only directions we are aware of are fifteen guidelines for the translation process.

Today, I came across a claim on Twitter (original video above) that James did not want the word tyrant used in his translation. That video claims, “But King James didn’t like this word, so he took it out and replaced it with something different.” James was an advocate of the divine right of monarchy to rule (and wrote about it), and so it is claimed that he would be sensitive to criticism of a such a monarchy as “tyranny”.

Translation Comparison

The primary comparison used is KJV with the Geneva Bible, with some attention paid to other earlier translations like the Bishop’s Bible or the Coverdale Bible. Using BibleHub and BibleGateway, here are the relevant verses compared:

  • Job 3:17
    • Hebrew – Strong’s H7267
    • Geneva Bible – “The wicked have there ceased from their tyranny, and there they that labored valiantly, are at rest.”
      • Also in Bishops and Coverdale.
    • KJV – “There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary be at rest.”
    • Other translations use words like “trouble” or “raging”
  • Job 6:23
    • Hebrew – Strong’s H6184
    • Geneva Bible – “And deliver me from the enemy’s hand, or ransom me out of the hand of tyrants?”
      • In Bishops but not Coverdale
    • KJV – “Or, Deliver me from the enemy’s hand? or, Redeem me from the hand of the mighty?”
    • Other translations use “ruthless, except the NASB which does use tyrant”.
  • Job 15:20
    • Hebrew – Strong’s H6184
    • Geneva Bible – “The wicked man is continually as one that travaileth of child, and the number of years is hid from the tyrant.”
      • Also in Bishops and Coverdale
    • KJV – “The wicked man travaileth with pain all his days, and the number of years is hidden to the oppressor.”
    • Other translations are mainly “ruthless”
  • Job 27:13
    • Hebrew – Strong’s H6184
    • Geneva Bible – “This is the portion of a wicked man with God, and the heritage of tyrants, which they shall receive of the Almighty.”
      • Also in Bishops and Coverdale
    • KJV – “This is the portion of a wicked man with God, and the heritage of oppressors, which they shall receive of the Almighty.”
    • Other translations: NASB has “tyrants” while others vary.
  • Psalm 54:3
    • Hebrew – Strong’s H6184
    • Geneva Bible – “For strangers are risen up against me, and tyrants seek my soul: they have not set God before them. Selah.”
      • In Bishops but not Coverdale.
    • KJV – “For strangers are risen up against me, and oppressors seek after my soul: they have not set God before them. Selah.”
    • Other translations mainly have “ruthless” or “violent men”
  • Isaiah 13:11
    • Hebrew – Strong’s H6184
    • Geneva Bible – “And I will visit the wickedness upon the world, and their iniquity upon the wicked, and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will cast down the pride of tyrants.”
      • Also in Bishops and Coverdale
    • KJV – “And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.”
    • Other translations have a mix of words like “tyrant” or “ruthless”
  • Isaiah 49:25
    • Hebrew – Strong’s H6184
    • Geneva Bible – “But thus saith the Lord, Even the captivity of the mighty shall be taken away: and the prey of the tyrant shall be delivered: for I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children,”
      • Not in Bishops or Coverdale
    • KJV – “But thus saith the LORD, Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered: for I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children.”
    • Most other translations have “tyrant”.
  • Jeremiah 15:21
    • Hebrew – Strong’s H6184
    • Geneva Bible – “And I will deliver thee out of the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem thee out of the hand of the tyrants.”
      • Also in Bishops and Coverdale
    • KJV – “And I will deliver thee out of the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem thee out of the hand of the terrible.”
    • Other translations mostly have “cruel”, “ruthless” or “violent”, but a few do have “tyrant”.
  • James 2:6
    • Not found in Greek.
    • Geneva Bible – “But ye have despised the poor. Do not the rich oppress you by tyranny, and do they not draw you before the judgment seats?”
      • Also in Bishops, but not Coverdale or Tyndale.
    • KJV – “But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?”
    • Most other translations do not have a parallel, a few have “exploit”

Regarding the Geneva Bible

The Geneva Bible was a tremendous achievement. It is essentially the world’s first “study Bible”, with notes, maps, and other features found in most Bible printed today. It did a great job of translation and was the primary Bible of English Protestantism for almost a century.

However, the downfall of the Geneva Bible is likely attributed to the added notes, in which are found many strong political statements. Remember that the Reformation was not just religious, it was political. For example of political commentary is found in a note in Daniel 11:36 states “So long the tyrants shall prevail as God hath appointed to punish his people: but he showeth that it is but for a time.” Simply put, the Geneva Bible was a politically disruptive force.

Historical Language Analysis

Today word tyrant might mean “an absolute ruler unrestrained by law or constitution” or “a ruler who exercises absolute power oppressively or brutally”.

In the ancient world it was a little different. The word tyrant comes from Greek, where it described opportunists that seized power with little or no right to do so. Originally it did have any connotation, good or bad, but developed a bad one over time.

As Western society progressed into the Enlightenment, tyranny became something to be despised. John Locke described it as “the exercise of power beyond right, which nobody can have a right to; and this is making use of the power any one has in his hands, not for the good of those who are under it, but for his own private, separate advantage.”

Old Testament Language Analysis

Because of the Greek heritage of the word and idea behind a tyrant, there really is not clear equivalent in ancient Hebrew.

Hebrew – Strong’s H7267

The Geneva Bible translated this word as “tyrant” only in Job 3:17.

Strong’s defines as “commotion, restlessness (of a horse), crash (of thunder), disquiet, anger — fear, noise, rage, trouble(-ing), wrath.”

Conclusion – Tyranny is probably not the best word here. It is describing the actions of the wicked as being turbulent, nothing inherently tyrannical here.

Hebrew – Strong’s H6184

This word is translated 7x in the Geneva Bible as “tyrant”. It occurs 20x overall

Strong’s defines as “fearful, i.e. Powerful or tyrannical — mighty, oppressor, in great power, strong, terrible, violent.”

Conclusion – Tyrant is not a bad translation of this word, but it is one application of a broader idea, which is “something to be feared that is mighty and oppressive”. Some appearances like Proverbs 11:16 or Jeremiah 20:11 do not contain the idea of being a tyrant. Again, “tyrant” is not an inaccurate translation in some cases but it is definitely not an equivalent for the Hebrew word.

New Testament Language Analysis

As we saw above, the only appearance of “tyrant” in the Geneva Bible’s New Testament in James 2:6 does not appear to have a textual basis. I’ll leave figuring that out to someone else, but I will show you the one time “tyrant” appears in the Greek New Testament: Acts 19:9. Yes, the name Tyrannus (Strong’s G5181) literally means “tyrant”.

Conclusion

So, according to the argument presented in the beginning, King James I did not like the word tyrant because it could be thought of as critical of his monarchy. He then supposedly directed the translators of the KJV to not use the word “tyrant”. We cited the references in the Geneva Bible (and others) that use the word tyrant where the KJV does not.

Case closed, right?

No, because the presented argument is critically flawed.

All we must do to utterly destroy the argument is show that the KJV does include the word tyrant. This completely undermines the foundation for the argument.

But didn’t we admit that the KJV does not contain the word tyrant? Yes and no.

What we proved above is that tyrant is not found in the Old or New Testaments of the KJV.

Here is the fatal flaw: no one that presents this argument bothered to look in the Apocrypha of the original KJV. If anyone had bothered to do so, you will quickly find that the word tyrant appears 3x in the KJV Apocrypha:

  • Wisdom of Solomon 12:14 – “Neither shall king or tyrant be able to set his face against thee for any whom thou hast punished.”
  • II Maccabees 4:25 – “So he came with the king’s mandate, bringing nothing worthy the high priesthood, but having the fury of a cruel tyrant, and the rage of a savage beast.”
  • II Maccabees 7:27 – “But she bowing herself toward him, laughing the cruel tyrant to scorn, spake in her country language on this manner; O my son, have pity upon me that bare thee nine months in my womb, and gave thee such three years, and nourished thee, and brought thee up unto this age, and endured the troubles of education.”

It should not be a surprise that Wisdom of Solomon and II Maccabees were originally written in Greek. The original writes used the Greek term for tyrant and the English translators used the English equivalent.

So, to counter the original argument:

  • King James could not have forbidden the use of the word tyrant because it does appear in the work of the translators within the Apocrypha.
  • The Greek etymology and heritage of tyrant makes it anachronistic to use in ancient Hebrew, meaning there is not equivalent that must be translated as such.

Oh, and I guess since the word “pudding” isn’t used in the KJV that James must have directed the translators to not talk about British desserts.

Acts 9:31 – “Church” or “Churches”?

Why do some Bible translations use “church” and others “churches in Acts 9:31? Which is the correct reading?

Photo by Dan Mall on Unsplash

I recently came across a difference between Bible translations that I feel greatly affects what the Bible teaches about the nature of the church. I found very little information regarding this, so I thought I would share what I have found so far in studying it.

Background Context

The first 3/4s of Acts chapter 9 is the record of Saul’s conversion. Saul of Tarsus had menaced the church at Jerusalem after Stephen’s death, causing many believers to flee from Jerusalem to surrounding areas. But God had greater plans for Saul, and through a divine encounter on the road to Damascus Saul was wondrously converted.

Saul proved to be a controversial convert. Many Christians feared him because he had so recently persecuted them. He also proved zealous to the extreme, preaching so boldly that twice his enemies sought to kill him. He is sent back to his home in Tarsus to escape these threats.

This brings us to verse 31, which tells that state of the believers. The believers that had been centered in Jerusalem are now found throughout the regions of Judea, Samaria, and Galilee. Their faith and numbers continued to grow through the blessings of the Lord.

Singular or Plural?

When comparing different English translations of the New Testament, there is a marked difference in the opening words of Acts 9:31.

VersionText
King James VersionThen had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria…
New International VersionThen the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria…
New Living TranslationThe church then had peace throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria…
English Standard VersionSo the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria…
New American Standard BibleSo the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria…
Legacy Standard BibleSo the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria…
Christian Standard BibleSo the church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria…
American Standard VersionSo the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria…
New Revised Standard VersionMeanwhile the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria…
Geneva Bible (1587)Then had the Churches rest through all Iudea, and Galile, and Samaria…
Coverdale Bible (1535)So the congregacions had rest thorow out all Iewry, and Galile, and Samaria…
Tyndale Bible (1526)Then had ye congregacios rest thorowoute all Iewry and galile and Samary…
Douay-Rheims BibleNow the church had peace throughout all Judea, and Galilee, and Samaria…
Source – BibleHub

While the King James Version and other older translations have a plurality of churches/congregations, almost all recent translations have a singular church.

The issue also appears when comparing the various Greek texts.

Greek TextGreek WordSingular/Plural
Beza (1598)ἐκκλησίαSingular
Stephanus Textus Receptus (1550)ἐκκλησίαιPlural
Scrivener’s Textus Receptus (1894)ἐκκλησίαιPlural
Tischendorf (1872)ἐκκλησίαSingular
Greek Orthodox (1904)ἐκκλησίαιPlural
Westcott and Hort (1881)ἐκκλησίαSingular
Nestle (1904)ἐκκλησίαSingular
Source – BibleHub

Commentaries

In my opinion, most commentaries that touch the subject do very poorly, as seen in this roundup of those found on BibleHub:

  • Ellicott’s Commentary – “The better MSS. have ‘the Church’ in the singular.”
  • Meyer’s NT Commentary – “Observe, moreover, with the correct reading ἡ μὲν οὖν ἐκκλησία κ.τ.λ. the aspect of unity, under which Luke, surveying the whole domain of Christendom, comprehends the churches which had been already formed (Galatians 1:22), and were in course of formation (comp. Acts 16:5).”
  • Expositor’s Greek Testament – “αἱ ἐκκλησίαι—if we read the singular ἡ ἐκκλ. with the great MS. the word shows us that the Church, though manifestly assuming a wider range, is still one: Hort, Ecclesia, p. 55, thinks that here the term in the singular corresponds by the three modern representative districts named, viz., Judæa, Galilee, Samaria, to the ancient Ecclesia, which had its home in the whole land of Israel; but however this may be, the term is used here markedly of the unified Church, and in accordance with St. Paul’s own later usage of the word; see especially Ramsay, St. Paul, pp. 126, 127, and also p. 124.”
  • Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges – “In the best texts the noun and all the verbs agreeing with it are in the singular number, and what is meant is the whole Christian body, not the various congregations.”
  • Vincent’s Word Studies – “The best texts read the church; embracing all the different churches throughout the three provinces of Palestine.”
  • Jamieson-Fausset-Brown – “Then had all the churches rest—rather, ‘the Church,’ according to the best manuscripts and versions.”
  • Gill’s Exposition – “The Alexandrian copy, and some others, the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Ethiopic versions, read in the singular number, ‘the church’: but the several countries hereafter mentioned shows that more are designed…”

Lange’s Commentary has this footnote (note – the bracketed sections are in the original, not added by me):

  • “Acts 9:31. H—ἐκκλησία—ἐπληθύνετο; this is the reading of A. B. C., and. as it has recently appeared, also of Cod. Sin. as well as of many manuscripts of the second rank, of the majority of the Oriental versions, and also of the Vulgate, and of Dionysius of Alex. On the other hand, the plural [text. rec.], (αἱ—ἐκκλησίαι (πᾶσαι E.) ει̇͂χον .. ἐπληθύνοντο) is found in E. G. H. and some other manuscripts. As the latter generally belong to a later period, and as most of the ancient versions exhibit the singular, this is far better attested than the plural, and has been preferred by Griesbach, Lachmann, Tischendorf and Bornemann [Stier and Theile, and Alford, with whom de Wette concurs. Meyer had, in earlier editions, espoused the opposite view, but in the last edition of his Commentary (3d, 1861) unhesitatingly adopts the singular as the original reading, and as ‘expressive of the apostolical conception of the unity of the Church.’—TR.]. The plural is to be regarded as an explanation. [The word ἐκκλῃσία, in the singular, used for the whole body of Christians, or the Church universal, occurs, e. g., in Matth. 16:18; Acts 20:28; 1 Cor. 10:32; 12:28; Eph. 1:22.—TR.]”

William Kelly has this footnote:

  • “The singular is read by ABC Vulg. Syr. Pst., Sah. Cop. Arm. Æthiop, Erp Arab., et al., as against the plural of the Text. Rec. HLP Syr. Hcl (and E, ἐκκλησίαι πᾶσαι).”

Better/Best Manuscripts?

As you can see, many of the commentaries above support the singular church in Acts 9:31 on the basis of it being in the “better” or “best” manuscripts. This level of hubris is common after the rise of Higher Criticism in the 18th and 19th centuries. It assumes that the Bible texts used by Protestant and other non-Catholic groups (basically the Majority Text) since the earliest days of Christendom was seriously flawed with various corruptions and errors. It assumes that variant readings are superior to the historically accepted ones if their source document is (a) older or (b) deemed more trustworthy through various factors. Thus new Critical/Eclectic Greek texts are produced incorporating the textual changes.

Certain problems arise. First: there is a general assumption of doubt as to the reliability of the word of the traditional textual readings. Second: much of the criteria for determining alternative readings has openings for error. For example, the rule of “older is better” assumes the older document is less corrupt based on age, with little regard to any possibility that it could be more corrupt and less trustworthy. Three: the final authority shifted from the text itself to the opinions of scholars. Four: the temptation to achieve notoriety and prestige pushes scholars to seek corrections even when not warranted instead of supporting an established text.

The support for a singular church in Acts 9:31 comes primarily from accepting the “older is better” argument. It is argued that older manuscripts like the Vaticanus (4th century) or older translations like the Vulgate (4th century) contain the singular church. It further ignores other “old” manuscripts that support a plural churches, as in the Laudianus (6th century):

Source (see fol. 78)

Since there are both “old” manuscripts that attest to a plural churches and a centuries-long tradition of interpreting the verse as such, it is disingenuous to ignore that there is a case to be made for its acceptability.

If the textual evidence is inconclusive, then let us look at the theology.

Usage of Ecclesia in Acts

Luke is an astute and careful chronicler of history. Time after time the language he uses has been tested and proven correct. I would contend that the same goes for his uses of the church or churches.

The chart below shows every use of ecclesia in the Book of Acts according the the Textus Receptus. I am including notes to show that each singular use of ecclesia refers to singular church, while each plural use of ecclesia refers to a plurality of churches. I also am including the references for ecclesia that do nor refer to the Christian church.

ReferencesGreekSingular/PluralNote
Acts 2:47εκκλησιαSingularThe singular church at Jerusalem.
Acts 5:11εκκλησιανSingularThe singular church at Jerusalem.
Acts 7:38εκκλησιαSingularThe singular nation of Israel.
Acts 8:1εκκλησιανSingularThe singular church at Jerusalem.
Acts 8:3εκκλησιανSingularThe singular church at Jerusalem.
Acts 9:31εκκλησιαιPluralThe plural churches of Judea, Galilee, and Samaria
Acts 11:22εκκλησιαςSingularThe singular church at Jerusalem.
Acts 11:26εκκλησιαSingularThe singular church at Antioch.
Acts 12:1εκκλησιαςSingularThe singular church at Jerusalem.
Acts 12:5εκκλησιαςSingularThe singular church at Jerusalem.
Acts 13:1εκκλησιανSingularThe singular church at Antioch.
Acts 14:23εκκλησιανSingular“each church” – churches of Lystra, Iconium, and Derbe
Acts 14:27εκκλησιανSingularThe singular church at Antioch.
Acts 15:3εκκλησιαςSingularThe singular church at Antioch.
Acts 15:4εκκλησιαςSingularThe singular church at Jerusalem.
Acts 15:22εκκλησιαSingularThe singular church at Jerusalem.
Acts 15:41εκκλησιαςPluralThe plural churches of Syria and Cilicia
Acts 16:5εκκλησιαιPluralThe plural churches of Lystra, Iconium, and Asia Minor
Acts 18:22εκκλησιανSingularThe singular church at Caesarea.
Acts 19:32εκκλησιαSingularThe singular political assembly at Ephesus.
Acts 19:39εκκλησιαSingularThe singular political assembly at Ephesus.
Acts 19:41εκκλησιανSingularThe singular political assembly at Ephesus.
Acts 20:17εκκλησιαςSingularThe singular church at Ephesus.
Acts 20:28εκκλησιανSingularThe singular church at Ephesus.

I contend that Luke’s use of the singular or plural ecclesia is instructive. When he refers to a singular church there is a singular local church to be the object. When he refers to plural churches there is a region or multiple cities containing many churches.

Excluding Acts 9:31, there is not a single other reference where a singular church refers to a anything but a singular local church. Acts 15:41 and 16:5 prove that a plural usage is acceptable and appropriate, and there appears to be no debate as to whether or no those be plural.

Acts 15 clearly shows that the singular ecclesia should refer to a local church and not a universal church. The church at Antioch is upset by the teaching of some visitors from the church at Jerusalem. In vs. 3, Paul and Barnabas are sent by the church at Antioch to the church at Jerusalem and stop and visit with other believers along the way. This shows at least two distinct churches, with other churches or gatherings along the way. In vs. 4, the church at Jerusalem welcomes Paul and Barnabas. In vs. 22, the church at Jerusalem decides to send men back to the church at Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. In vs. 41, Paul and Silas visit multiple churches in the regions of Syria and Cilicia.

So then, when the Book of Acts is examined as a whole it is clear that Luke purposefully and appropriately uses the singular and plural forms of ecclesia. When referring to a singular church in a singular city, he uses the singular. When referring to a plurality of churches in a region or groups of cities, he uses the plural.

Why then would he break from this consistency to use a singular church in Acts 9:31 to refer to many assemblies of believers in a region? Because he does not. Our survey shows that the plural churches must be the correct word based on how Luke uses it.

Theological Implications

The traditional Baptist interpretation of the Scriptures holds that there a many local assemblies of believers that a called churches. It holds that each is autonomous in government. It rejects the ideas of a “universal” or “invisible” church as being incompatible with how the Bible describes the local assemblies.

If Acts 9:31 does indeed have a singular church, then it would stand against the idea of local congregations being individual churches. It would go against how Paul writes about to and about churches. It would go against how Christ deals with the Seven Churches in Revelation. It would open the door to ecclesiastical hierarchy. It would stand against autonomous governance of local assemblies.

If you are unfamiliar with the idea of ecclesia and church referring to local congregations and not a larger conglomeration of congregations, then I would challenge you to study how the Bible describes churches. If there are plural churches, there cannot be one universal church.

Final Thoughts

We are left to assume that an error has crept into Biblical texts. Where it came from we do not know but surely it came very early.

The question is whether church or churches is the mistake in Acts 9:31. The two are incompatible so one must be correct and the other false.

Yes, a case can be made from extent Biblical manuscripts that church is correct. Yet, that case is not as sure as it is presented. If there is logically an error that has been introduced, why not conclude that these manuscripts contain error? Can you conclusively prove otherwise?

I realize much will come down to opinion. Someone will read this and mock me as being foolish and ignorant regarding textual criticism and its intricacies. Yet, the nature of that field of study at its highest levels assumes that everything must be continually questioned. Why not question which word is appropriate in Acts 9:31?

My basis for accepting the plural churches in Acts 9:31 are as follows:

  • There is a reasonable case to be made that it is the correct word based on textual history.
  • It has been the standard interpretation for much of Christianity for much of the time.
  • It is the correct word based on Luke’s consistent usage of it.
  • It is consistent with the usage in the rest of the New Testament.
  • There is more to gain by purposefully altering the word from plural to singular than vice versa.

A Sermon by Vincent van Gogh

I hope in the future to put together some information on Vincent van Gogh and his Christian experience. So many books downplay any of this religious experiences or undertakings as expressions of his insanity, but it is clear so many of those authors have little or no understanding of Christianity themselves. I was surprised to learn while listening to the audio book of Van Gogh: The Life by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith about Vincent’s experience with Evangelical Christianity in the late 1870’s. I recently purchased and read At Eternity’s Gate: The Spiritual Vision of Vincent van Gogh by Kathleen Powers Erickson which shows the profound and lasting impact of Vincent’s faith throughout his life.

While reading At Eternity’s Gate, I was amazed to learn that Vincent included a copy of a sermon he delivered in English as part of a letter to his brother Theo. The letter is available online thanks to the Van Gogh Museum‘s VanGoghLetters.org. It was sent to Theo van Gogh and dated November 3, 1876 and can be read in full here.


Vincent’s Sermon (1876)

Psalm 119:19 I am a stranger in the earth, hide not Thy commandments from me.

It is an old faith and it is a good faith that our life is a pilgrims progress ─ that we are strangers in the earth, but that though this be so, yet we are not alone for our Father is with us. We are pilgrims, our life is a long walk, a journey from earth to heaven.─

The beginning of this life is this. There is one who remembereth no more Her sorrow and Her anguish for joy that a man is born into the world. She is our Mother. The end of our pilgrimage is the entering in Our Fathers house where are many mansions, where He has gone before us to prepare a place for us.─ The end of this life is what we call death ─ it is an hour in which words are spoken, things are seen and felt that are kept in the secret chambers of the hearts of those who stand by, ─ it is so that all of us have such things in our hearts or forebodings of such things.─ There is sorrow in the hour when a man is born into the world, but also joy ─ deep and unspeakable ─ thankfulness so great that it reacheth the highest Heavens. Yes the Angels of God, they smile, they hope and they rejoice when a man is born in the world.─ There is sorrow in the hour of death ─ but there too is joy unspeakable when it is the hour of death of one who has fought a good fight. There is One who has said, I am the resurrection and the life, if any man believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.─ There was an Apostle who heard a voice from heaven, saying: Blessed are they that die in the Lord for they rest from their labour and their works follow them. There is joy when a man is born in the world but there is greater joy when a Spirit has passed through great tribulation, when an Angel is born in Heaven. Sorrow is better than joy ─ and even in mirth the heart is sad ─ and it is better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasts, for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. Our nature is sorrowful but for those who have learnt and are learning to look at Jesus Christ there is always reason to rejoice.─ It is a good word, that of St Paul: As being sorrowful yet always rejoicing. For those who believe in Jesus Christ there is no death and no sorrow that is not mixed with hope ─ no despair ─ there is only a constantly being born again, a constantly going from darkness into light.─ They do not mourn as those who have no hope ─ Christian Faith makes life to evergreen life.

We are pilgrims in the earth and strangers ─ we come from afar and we are going far.─ The journey of our life goes from the loving breast of our Mother on earth to the arms of our Father in heaven. Everything on earth changes ─ we have no abiding city here ─ it is the experience of everybody: That it is Gods will that we should part with what we dearest have on earth ─ we ourselves, we change in many respects, we are not what we once were, we shall not remain what we are now.─ From infancy we grow up to boys and girls ─ young men and young women ─ and if God spares us and helps us ─ to husbands and wives, Fathers and Mothers in our turn, and then, slowly but surely the face that once had the “early dew of morning” gets its wrinkles, the eyes that once beamed with youth and gladness speak of a sincere deep and earnest sadness ─ though they may keep the fire of Faith, Hope and Charity ─ though they may beam with Gods spirit. The hair turns grey or we loose it ─ ah ─ indeed we only pass through the earth, we only pass through life ─ we are strangers and pilgrims in the earth. The world passes and all its glory.─ Let our later days be nearer to Thee and therefore better than these.─ 

Yet we may not live on just anyhow ─ no, we have a strife to strive and a fight to fight. What is it we must do: We must love God with all our strength, with all our might, with all our heart, with all our soul, we must love our neighbour as ourselves. These two commandments we must keep and if we follow after these, if we are devoted to this, we are not alone for our Father in Heaven is with us, helps us and guides us, gives us strength day by day, hour by hour. and so we can do all things through Christ who gives us might. We are strangers in the earth, hide not Thy commandments from us. Open Thou our eyes, that we may behold wondrous things out of Thy law. Teach us to do Thy will and influence our hearts that the love of Christ may constrain us and that we may be brought to do what we must do to be saved.

On the road from earth to Heaven
Do Thou guide us with Thine eye.

We are weak but Thou art mighty
Hold us with Thy powerful hand.

Our life, we might compare it to a journey, we go from the place where we were born to a far off haven. Our earlier life might be compared to sailing on a river, but very soon the waves become higher, the wind more violent, we are at sea almost before we are aware of it ─ and the prayer from the heart ariseth to God: Protect me o God, for my bark is so small and Thy sea is so great.─ The heart of man is very much like the sea, it has its storms, it has its tides and in its depths it has its pearls too. The heart that seeks for God and for a Godly life has more storms than any other. Let us see how the Psalmist describes a storm at sea, He must have felt the storm in his heart to describe it so. We read in the 107th Psalm, They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters, these see the works of the Lord and His wonders in the deep. For He commandeth and raiseth up a stormy wind which lifteth up the waves thereof.─ They mount up to Heaven, they go down again to the depth, their soul melteth in them because of their trouble. Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble and He bringeth them out of their distresses, He bringeth them unto their desired haven.─

Do we not feel this sometimes on the sea of our lives. Does not everyone of you feel with me the storms of life or their forebodings or their recollections?

And now let us read a description of another storm at sea in the New Testament, as we find it in the VIth Chapter of the Gospel according to St John in the 17th to the 21st verse. And the disciples entered into a ship and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew.─ So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea and drawing nigh unto the ship and they were afraid.─ Then they willingly received Him into the ship and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went. You who have experienced the great storms of life, you over whom all the waves and all the billows of the Lord have gone ─ have you not heard, when your heart failed for fear, the beloved well known voice ─ with something in its tone that reminded you of the voices that charmed your childhood ─ the voice of Him whose name is Saviour and Prince of peace, saying as it were to you personally ─ mind to you personally “It is I, be not afraid”. Fear not.─ Let not your heart be troubled. And we whose lives have been calm up to now, calm in comparison of what others have felt ─ let us not fear the storms of life, amidst the high waves of the sea and under the grey clouds of the sky we shall see Him approaching for Whom we have so often longed and watched, Him we need so ─ and we shall hear His voice, It is I, be not afraid.─ And if after an hour or season of anguish or distress or great difficulty or pain or sorrow we hear Him ask us “Dost Thou love me” then let us say, Lord Thou knowest all things, Thou knowest that I love Thee. And let us keep that heart full of the love of Christ and may from thence issue a life which the love of Christ constraineth.─ Lord Thou knowest all things, Thou knowest that I love Thee, when we look back on our past we feel sometimes as if we did love Thee, for whatsoever we have loved, we loved in Thy name. Have we not often felt as a widow and an orphan ─ in joy and prosperity as well, and more even than under grief ─ because of the thought of Thee.─

Truly our soul waiteth for Thee more than they that watch for the morning ─ our eyes are up unto Thee, o Thou who dwellest in Heavens.─ In our days too there can be such a thing as seeking the Lord.─

What is it we ask of God ─ is it a great thing? Yes it is a great thing, peace for the ground of our heart, rest for our soul ─ give us that one thing and then we want not much more, then we can do without many things, then can we suffer great things for Thy names sake.─ We want to know that we are Thine and that Thou art ours, we want to be thine ─ to be Christians.─ We want a Father, a Fathers love and a Fathers approval. May the experience of life make our eye single and fix it on Thee. May we grow better as we go on in life.

We have spoken of the storms on the journey of life, but now let us speak of the calms and joys of Christian life.─ And yet, my dear friends, let us rather cling to the seasons of difficulty and work and sorrow, even for the calms are treacherous often.

The heart has its storms, has its seasons of drooping but also its calms and even its times of exaltation.─ There is a time of sighing and of praying but there is also a time of answer to prayer. Weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning.

The heart that is fainting
May grow full to o’erflowing
And they that behold it
Shall wonder and know not
That God at its fountains
Far off has been raining.

My peace I leave with you ─ we saw how there is peace even in the storm. Thanks be to God who has given us to be born and to live in a Christian country. Has any of us forgotten the golden hours of our early days at home, and since we left that home ─ for many of us have had to leave that home and to earn their living and to make their way in the world.─ Has He not brought us thus far, have we lacked anything. We believe Lord, help Thou our unbelief. I still feel the rapture, the thrill of joy I felt when for the first time I cast a deep look in the lives of my Parents, when I felt by instinct how much they were Christians. And I still feel that feeling of eternal youth and enthusiasm wherewith I went to God, saying “I will be a Christian too”.─

Are we what we dreamt we should be? No ─ but still ─ the sorrows of life, the multitude of things of daily life and of daily duties, so much more numerous than we expected ─ the tossing to and fro in the world, they have covered it over ─ but it is not dead, it sleepeth.─ The old eternal faith and love of Christ, it may sleep in us but it is not dead and God can revive it in us. But though to be born again to eternal life, to the life of Faith, Hope and Charity ─ and to an evergreen life ─ to the life of a Christian and of a Christian workman be a gift of God, a work of God ─ and of God alone ─ yet let us put the hand to the plough on the field of our heart, let us cast out our net once more ─ let us try once more ─ God knows the intention of the spirit, God knows us better than we know ourselves for He made us and not we ourselves. He knows of what things we have need, He knows what is good for us. May He give His blessing on the seed of His word that has been sown in our hearts.

God helping us, we shall get through life.─ With every temptation He will give a way to escape.─

Father we pray Thee not that Thou shouldest take us out of the world but we pray Thee to keep us from evil. Give us neither poverty nor riches, feed us with bread convenient for us. And let Thy songs be our delight in the houses of our pilgrimage. God of our Fathers be our God: may their people be our people, their Faith our faith.─ We are strangers in the earth, hide not Thy commandments from us but may the love of Christ constrain us. Entreat us not to leave Thee or to refrain from following after Thee. Thy people shall be our people, Thou shalt be our God.─

Our life is a pilgrims progress. I once saw a very beautiful picture, it was a landscape at evening. In the distance on the right hand side a row of hills appearing blue in the evening mist. Above those hills the splendour of the sunset, the grey clouds with their linings of silver and gold and purple. The landscape is a plain or heath covered with grass and heather, here and there the white stem of a birch tree and its yellow leaves, for it was in Autumn. Through the landscape a road leads to a high mountain far far away, on the top of that mountain a city whereon the setting sun casts a glory. On the road walks a pilgrim, staff in hand. He has been walking for a good long while already and he is very tired. And now he meets a woman, a figure in black that makes one think of St Pauls word “As being sorrowful yet always rejoicing”. That Angel of God has been placed there to encourage the pilgrims and to answer their questions:

And the pilgrim asks her: Does the road go uphill then all the way?

and the answer is “Yes to the very end”─

and he asks again: And will the journey take all day long?

and the answer is: “From morn till night my friend”.

And the pilgrim goes on sorrowful yet always rejoicing ─ sorrowful because it is so far off and the road so long.─ Hopeful as he looks up to the eternal city far away, resplendent in the evening glow, and he thinks of two old sayings he has heard long ago ─ the one is:

“There must much strife be striven
There must much suffering be suffered
There must much prayer be prayed
And then the end will be peace.”

and the other:

The water comes up to the lips
But higher comes it not.

And he says, I shall be more and more tired but also nearer and nearer to Thee. Has not man a strife on earth? But there is a consolation from God in this life. An angel of God, comforting men ─ that is the Angel of Charity. Let us not forget Her.─ And when everyone of us goes back to daily things and daily duties, let us not forget ─ that things are not what they seem, that God by the things of daily life teacheth us higher things, ─ that our life is a pilgrims progress and that we are strangers in the earth ─ but that we have a God and Father who preserveth strangers, ─ and that we are all bretheren.─

Amen.

And now the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, our Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with us for evermore.

Amen.

(Reading Scripture Psalm XCI)

Tossed with rough winds and faint with fear,
Above the tempest soft and clear
What still small accents greet mine ear
“’t Is I, be not afraid.”

’t Is I, who washed thy spirit white;
’t Is I, who gave thy blind eyes sight,
’t Is I, thy Lord, thy life, thy light,
’t Is I, be not afraid.

These raging winds, this surging sea
Have spent their deadly force on me
They bear no breath of wrath to Thee
’t Is I, be not afraid.

This bitter cup, I drank it first
To Thee it is no draught accurst
The hand that gives it thee is pierced
“’t Is I, be not afraid.”

When on the other side thy feet,
Shall rest, mid thousand welcomes sweet;
One well known voice thy heart shall greet ─
’t Is I, be not afraid.

Mine eyes are watching by thy bed
Mine arms are underneath thy head
My blessing is around Thee shed
“’t Is I, be not afraid.”

Brass or Bronze?

Compare Bible translations or references and you may notice a difference in how the Hebrew word nechosheth (Strong’s H5178) is treated. There are three possible translations that are asserted: copper, brass, or bronze. Which is accurate?

The KJV translates nechosheth as “brass” or “brazen” 131x. It can also be translated as other things, such as “fetters” or “chains” based on context. It has a very broad application. Strong’s defines it as “copper; hence, something made of that metal, that is, coin, a fetter; figuratively base (as compared with gold or silver): – brasen, brass, chain, copper, fetter (of brass), filthiness, steel”.

Is brass a proper and acceptable translation of nechosheth? Some claim it cannot be, by asserting:

  • “In ancient Israel there was no such metal known as brass.” [source]
  • “The word translated ‘brass’ in the King James Version would be more correctly translated bronze, since the alloy used was copper and tin (Ex 27:4).” [source]
  • “[Brass,] which is an alloy of copper and zinc, was not known till the thirteenth century. What is designated by this word in Scripture is properly copper (Deuteronomy 8:9).” [source]
  • “The word nechosheth is improperly translated by ‘brass.’ In most places of the Old Testament the correct translation would be copper, although it may sometimes possibly mean bronze a compound of copper and tin.” [source]

We may simplify these claims into two arguments: (1) the term brass is anachronistic and inaccurate, and (2) brass did not exist in the ancient world.

Is brass an inaccurate term?

In modern English, the word brass refers to a specific alloy of copper, but until the 1700’s is would be a more general term for any copper alloy.

The Online Etymological Dictionary states that brass was “originally any alloy of copper, in England usually with tin (this is now called bronze), later and in modern use an alloy of roughly two parts copper to one part zinc.” The same source also states: “In Middle English, the distinction between bronze (copper-tin alloy) and brass (copper-zinc alloy) was not clear, and both were called bras”.

So, etymologically and historically speaking, brass has been a much broader term to refer to any copper alloy. This changed in the 1700’s when advances in science made it easier to discern different elements and alloys, which also brought a need for more technical terminology. Wikipedia states of brass: “…its true nature as a copper-zinc alloy was not understood until the post-medieval period because the zinc vapor which reacted with copper to make brass was not recognised as a metal.” As part of this new knowledge of metals, the term bronze was first used around 1721 (see Online Etymological Dictionary and Merriam-Webster).

Therefore, we see that brass is historically as broad of a term as nechosheth. In the English of the KJV, it is the best and most accurate term.

But, with what we know today about the differences between brass and bronze, is brass still an accurate translation for today’s world? This can only be answered if we are absolutely sure that nechosheth refers exclusively to bronze and that brass is an impossibility.

Did brass exist in the ancient world?

It is clear that the alloy we today call brass was present in the ancient world. Conclusive evidence and scholarly opinion establish this fact. A few examples:

  • The Roman dupondius coin used in the early Roman Empire was often struck in a type of brass called orichalcum [source]
  • “Calamine brass” was being made in Asia Minor as far back as the 1st millennium B.C. [source]
  • “…numerous copper-zinc alloys (e.g. brass, gunmetal) that have been found in prehistoric contexts from the Aegean to India in the 3rd to the 1st millennium BC.” [source]
  • Brass artifacts have been discovered from 5th millennium B.C. in China [source]

Since (1) brass existed in the ancient world, (2) since nechosheth is vague at best about the precise alloy of the metal, we can therefore safely say it is plausible that the metals described could be actual brass.

Do we know what the metals were?

Since the term nechosheth, and even the Greek word chalkos (Strong’s G5475), are vague terms for copper or its alloys, we simply cannot say for certain the precise metal they are speaking of. The terminology is too vague and the ancient metallurgists themselves almost certainly did not have the sophisticated understanding of metal composition we have today.

It must be state that according to history and archeology that bronze was in far greater use than brass. It was far cheaper and easier to produce, and it would appear that ancient brass was considered to be more valuable. We might assume that because bronze was more common that it is more likely that bronze and not brass is being referred to. But this is purely supposition and we cannot rule out that at least some appearances of nechosheth could be referring to brass. We simply do not know since we cannot examine every object made of nechosheth.

Conclusion

The truest definition of nechosheth would need to be vague and inclusive, so “a copper alloy” is probably the best definition. In modern English, there just is not a simple, concise word to use that has that same meaning and “copper alloy” fails to be an workable translation. To try to force nechosheth to be simply bronze is inaccurate: an interpretation rather than a translation. We cannot honestly say what the metals used were by modern classification. It is like trying to take the English word snow and determine which of the dozens of terms of snow used by Eskimos it should be.

The word brass in its classic, KJV English definition is the best equivalent term to be found. It is the same broad term for any copper alloy that we see in nechosheth.

The Mysterious Tabernacle of David

Recently, I have made a few posts concerning elements of Charismatic/Pentecostal theology. This has been brought on by my recent studies of the theology behind Praise & Worship music. In this post, I have another element that I feel needs to be addressed: the so-called Tabernacle of David.

Historical Account

When reading the Scriptures and arriving at II Samuel chapter 6, you will find King David’s desire to bring the Ark of the Covenant to his new capital at Jerusalem. To understand how this came to be, we need to examine the history of the Ark and the Tabernacle of Moses leading up to this point:

  • c. 1150 B.C. – The Tabernacle of Moses and Ark are together at Shiloh, where they had been for over three centuries. – Joshua 18:1, Judges 18:31, I Samuel 1:3, 2:3
  • 1122 B.C. – The Ark is removed from the Tabernacle of Moses and brought to the war camp of the Israelites at Ebenezer, maybe 18-20 miles west of Shiloh. This First Battle at Ebenezer was a terrible defeat of the Jews by the Philistines. The Ark was captured in the battle and in the rout that followed it is believed by some that Shiloh was sacked or destroyed. – I Samuel 4:1-11, Jeremiah 7:12
  • 1121 B.C – The Ark spends seven months in the hands of the Philistines. It is was moved among their capitals of Ashdod, Gath, and Ekron. In each of these locations God cursed the inhabitants while they possessed the Ark. – I Samuel 5:1-6:1
  • 1121 B.C. – The Philistines send the Ark back to Israel by placing it on a cart pulled by two untamed milk cows. It arrives in Bethshemesh, where the Israelites there do not respect the Ark by opening it and God punishes their lack of reverence. – I Samuel 6:2-20
  • 1121 B.C. – The Ark is taken to Kirjathhearim, where it stays in the house of Abinidab. – I Samuel 6:21-7:2
  • 1065 B.C. – David flees from Saul’s court and arrives at Nob. He is given shewbread by Ahimelech, implying that at least some of the Tabernacle furniture and setup is present there. The large number of priests and the high priest himself also suggest something special about this site. Based on the evidence, we assume that some form of the Tabernacle of Moses (minus the Ark) existed at Nob when David visited there. When and how it came to be here from its last appearance at Shiloh is unknown. – I Samuel 21:1-9
  • 1046 B.C. – David attempts to bring the Ark to Jerusalem by placing it on a cart. Uzzah is killed when he attempts to steady the Ark on the cart. The Ark is placed in the house of Obededom, where it stays for the next three months. – II Samuel 6:1-11, I Chronicles 13:1-14
  • 1046 B.C. – David brings the Ark to Jerusalem, amid sacrifices and singing. It is placed in a specially constructed tent/tabernacle, the Tabernacle of David. – II Samuel 6:12-19, I Chronicles 15:1-16:37
  • 1046 B.C. – David organizes the service of the Levites to serve in two locations: before the Ark in Jerusalem and at the Tabernacle of Moses which was now in Gibeon. It is assumed that the Tabernacle of Moses moved to Gibeon after the slaughter of the priests at Nob by Doeg in I Samuel 22:6-23 This separation remained until the completion of the Temple by Solomon in 1004 B.C. – I Chronicles 16:37-43, 21:29; II Chronicles 1:3

There are a few great questions that come to mind:

First, why were the Ark and Tabernacle of Moses not reunited? Some speculate that the Tabernacle of Moses was worn out, damaged, or incomplete and thus unable to be moved or possibly even to properly function. It has even been suggested that this was a move by David to force the other tribes to submit to his rule. Some even think that this was David’s self-will not part of God’s design. One person suggests that David kept the Ark like a petulant toddler because he was unable to go in the Tabernacle of Moses himself.

Sometimes, God chooses not to reveal His plans to us and we simply must trust in Him (Deuteronomy 29:29). That could very well be the case here, if it were not for a passage in Psalms that appears to explain God’s purpose.

In Psalm 78 is a rehearsal of God’s dealings with Israel as means of instruction of spiritual truths. I think A.C. Gaebelein summarizes it well:

“This historical retrospect needs no further comment. It is God speaking to the hearts of His people through their own history from Egypt to David. How graciously He dealt with them all the way! The crowning fact is His sovereign grace in choosing Judah, Mount Zion which he loved, building there His sanctuary, and choosing David His servant to feed Jacob His people and Israel His inheritance. Here we may well think of the Son of David, God’s Anointed in whom God’s sovereign grace is made known and who will yet feed Jacob and Israel His inheritance.”

Let’s examine Psalm 78:56-72:

  • 78:56-58 – The Israelites had turned their back on God. Even a casual Bible study of the events of Judges into I Samuel will show how the Jews continually turned away from God.
  • 78:59-61 – God turned away from His rebellious people and sent judgment in the capture of the Ark by the Philistines and the fall of Shiloh.
  • 78:62-64 – The judgment that fell on Israel is described.
  • 78:65-66 – The judgment that fell on the Philistines is described.
  • 78:67-68 – God rejected the Tabernacle and the powerful tribe of Ephraim that held it, instead choosing to lead through the tribe of Judah from mount Zion in Jerusalem.
  • 78:69 – The temple at Jerusalem is described.
  • 78:70-72 – The reign of David is described.

What does Psalm 78 teach us about the separation of the Ark and the Tabernacle of Moses? That it was a result of God’s judgment on Israel’s sin and that God was reforming their worship by establishing its new center in Jerusalem and the Temple.

Second, why did David place the Ark in its own new tent/tabernacle? Why not build something grander for it?

It appears that David saw this new tabernacle for the Ark (I am calling it the “Tabernacle of David” to differentiate it from the “Tabernacle of Moses”) as only a temporary dwelling. We see in II Samuel 7 that David had every intention of building a grand Temple. Even though God did not allow him to build it, we see his concern and preparation for its construction (I Chronicles 22). David was anxious for the day when God’s presence returned to Israel in a complete Tabernacle/Temple.

But David also realized that day had not arrived yet. The Tabernacle of David was a temporary structure that awaited something grander to replace it. Though they possessed the Ark and some blessing from their respectful keeping of it, God’s presence was not upon it like the days in the wilderness. This is emphasized in the fact that God’s presence fell in such a mighty way at the dedication of the Temple (II Chronicles 5:13-14) but no mention is made of any similar event for the Tabernacle of David.

Third, what actually happened at the Tabernacle of David?

Let’s do a rundown of actions we see there:

  • Sacrifices – II Samuel 6:17-18, I Kings 3:15
  • Gathering of the people – II Samuel 6:19
  • Corporate praise – I Chronicles 16:36
  • Personal Worship – II Samuel 12:20
    • NOTE – I’m honestly not 100% sure “house of the LORD” refers to the Tabernacle of David instead of the Tabernacle of Moses. It makes sense that he would go to the former rather than the latter since it was closer, but the use of the phrase “house of the LORD” generally refers to the Tabernacle of Moses or the Temple.
  • Music – I Chronicles 15:16-22, 16:42

Now, let’s look at the roles of the priests that served there:

  • Asaph and his family took care of day-to-day affairs – I Chronicles 16:37
  • Obededom and family were porters/doorkeepers – I Chronicles 16:38

Note that the names and positions that follow in I Chronicles 16:39-42 appear to be associated with the Tabernacle of Moses at Gibeon and not the Tabernacle of David at Jerusalem. It is interesting to find that this is the first reference to incorporating music in to the services at the Tabernacle of Moses.

The position of Asaph is interesting. If this is the same Asaph as in I Chronicles 6:39, 15:17, etc. (and there is little doubt that is the same person) then it is assumed that he must be exercising his musical abilities in this service. But Asaph could be acting in his position as a Gershonite. The Gershonites were the division of Levites charged mainly with carrying and caring for the decorative materials of the Tabernacle of Moses (Numbers 4:24-28). It is also interesting to note that Obededom was a Kohathite (I Chronicles 26:1-5), the division charged with carrying the “most holy things” of the Tabernacle of Moses (Numbers 4:4-14). Regardless, the presence of Asaph suggests but does not prove a musical program.

Historical Inaccuracies

The information above is the most concrete information we have on the Tabernacle of David. I have been quite surprised to see other claims with no basis in Scripture or history. Let’s examine a few:

1. The Tabernacle of David had only one compartment that corresponded with the Most Holy Place [source]

There is nothing mentioned in Scripture of the design or layout. This is pure conjecture.

2. There was unrestricted access for many/all into the presence of the Ark. [source]

Again, no basis for this claim. It actually goes against the way the Jews revered the Ark, even covering it when it was moved (Numbers 4:5-6).

3. There was constant, 24/7 praise, worship, and music before the Ark. [source]

The only basis for this claim is two assumptions. First, that Asaph and those under him were operating in a musical role. We simply have no concrete evidence of if or how music played a part in what they were doing. Second, that their ministry “continually, as every day’s work required” was 24/7/365. This can also be understood that they regularly did the requirements of each day. The similar language found in passages such as II Chronicles 8:14 and Ezra 3:4 supports this as a better interpretation.

4. David dwelt in his Tabernacle. [source]

The references cited for this claim are Psalms 23:6 and 27:4. However, in both of these David is speaking longingly of something he desired but did not possess.

5. God’s presence was in the Tabernacle of David. [source]

As we looked at before, there is no evidence for this claim. It is an assumption that God was present because the Ark was there. But God is not bound to one place or one piece of furniture. The strictest interpretation of Scripture would support the presence of God departing when the Philistines took the Ark (see I Samuel 4:21) and its return when Solomon dedicated the Temple.

6. The worship was marked by spontaneity. [source]

No evidence for this whatsoever.

7. The worship was marked by dancing. [source]

The only dancing that could be referred to was David’s dancing for joy before the Ark as it was carried to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6:16). First, this is in connection with bringing the Ark and not with it resting in its new home. Second, David’s joyful expressions are wonderful in themselves but not a prescriptive command for others. Third, there is no reference to others emulating David’s action in that day.

8. The Tabernacle of David was open so all could see the Ark. [source]

No evidence for this. The sacred nature of the Ark would have most likely inspired them to keep it covered.

9. David initiated a new form of worship marked by singing, physical expression, etc. [source]

This assumption is based on many other assumptions about the sort of worship that went on in the Tabernacle of David. David did in fact do much to reorganize the priesthood and prepare for an expansion of the services of the Temple. Part of this does appear to be the introduction of music in to the Tabernacle/Temple services. But to insinuate that dancing, spontaneous singing, etc. were integrated into worship at this time and place is without sound Biblical basis.

The Prophetic Element

Having examined the historical background of the Tabernacle of David, let us move on the prophecy that some claim is related to it.

The first reference we will look at is in Isaiah chapter 16. This chapter and the previous one are together one prophecy against the nation of Moab. In the midst of this message to Moab, we find a striking prophecy in 16:5: “And in mercy shall the throne be established: and he shall sit upon it in truth in the tabernacle of David, judging, and seeking judgment, and hasting righteousness.”

The second reference is in Amos 9. This chapter deals with the fall of the kingdom of Israel into captivity with a promise that they will later be restored. We see in 9:11-12: “In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old: That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith the LORD that doeth this.”

The third reference is in Acts 15. The Apostles and the church at Jerusalem debated whether or not Gentile Christians were subject to the ordinances of the Law of Moses. There is much debate with testimonies from Peter, Paul, and Barnabas with no resolution. James the delivers a speech, declaring that the God had declared that He would save the Gentiles and not just the Jews. James quotes the prophecy from Amos 9 as proof of God’s plan of bringing salvation to the Gentiles. Let’s read his speech in full from Acts 15:13-21:

“And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: (14) Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. (15)  And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, (16)  After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: (17) That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. (18) Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. (19) Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: (20) But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. (21) For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.”

A few observations:

First, it was assumed by some interpreters that this prophetic tabernacle must be the physical Tabernacle of David that held the Ark. However, on closer examination there is no relation between these prophesies and Tabernacle of David.

Someone will surely object at this: “But it says the ‘tabernacle of David’! What other tabernacle did David have?” I’ll answer that in the next point.

Second, the use of the ‘tabernacle’ here is figurative for the kingdom and household of the royal line of David. That’s why Isaiah said it had a throne, which the physical Tabernacle of David did not have. That’s why Amos speaks of it possessing or ruling over foreign people and lands. It is speaking of a kingdom and its authority.

Third, note that the three prophetic verses (Isaiah 16:5, Amos 9:11, Acts 15:16) that speak of the “tabernacle of David” are the only verses in the Bible that use that exact phrase. That term is never actually applied to the tent that house the Ark. To be honest, it is somewhat anachronistic and indeed inappropriate to apply the term to the tent David used since this name appears here in a very different context. [Please recall that I have only used term “Tabernacle of David” to describe David’s tent for the Ark in order to differentiate it from the Tabernacle of Moses and because that is what others have called it.]

Fourth, someone, I believe in the past century or so, conflated the prophetic “tabernacle of David” with the physical “tabernacle that David had pitched for [the Ark]” (II Samuel 6:17). I can understand how it could be easily done, but any contextual analysis should show that two very different meanings are found between the physical and the prophetic. This is essentially the same as confusing Noah’s Ark and the Ark of the Covenant. Two very different things that are called the same name (in English, at least).

Fifth, these prophesies do not apply directly to the church at all. When James references Amos he is not saying, “The prophecy of Amos is fulfilled!” Instead, he is saying, “This is like a greater truth I see in the prophecy of Amos.” He is saying that Christ intends to bring the Gentiles into His Kingdom, so who were they to deny their entrance?

Sixth, the prophecies are clearly pointing to Christ’s future kingdom. He will reign upon the restored house/throne/kingdom/tabernacle of David. See Psalm 132:11-12, Isaiah 9:7, Jeremiah 17:25, etc.

The Source of the Confusion

The fountainhead for the confusion about the Tabernacle of David is most certainly in Pentecostal/Charismatic theology from the mid-20th century. Yes, there are those that did relate the prophetic and physical Tabernacles of David previous to them, as seen in the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown commentary on Amos 9:11. But the propagation and proliferation of studies on the Tabernacle of David we see today come directly from Pentecostal/Charismatic sources and influences.

The claim that is made is that the Tabernacle of David is a true model for worship that was lost/forgotten/neglected for centuries upon centuries. That model of worship is said to have been loud, animated, spontaneous, and musical. This model is further proposed as the only true way of worshipping God.

The next claim is that the prophecies, seen especially in Amos and Acts, are of a restoration of this lost form of worship that will appear in the “latter days”. It is proclaimed that through this restoration of true worship and royal authority that will reach the nations and ready the Bride of Christ.

Yes, if you have never been exposed to these teachings (and there are many variations) some people out here are literally teaching that God withheld the method for true and powerful worship for over 3,000 years and just recently decided to give it back to His people. The first group to start making these connections was likely the Latter Rain movement (See p. 46-47 of A History of Contemporary Praise and Worship). Now these teachings are infiltrating mainline denominations.

How did this happen? I think largely because it began with such an obscure reference in Biblical history that there was not a good counter to their claims. There was not (and is still not as far as I can tell) a well developed understanding of what exactly happened at that tent that David that can be used as a defense. From my study I find only miniscule references to the Tabernacle of David in older commentaries, dictionaries, and such. Even Jewish resources seem to gloss over it.

So they begin from obscurity, then start connecting dots to other re-interpretations of commands for terminology for worshipping and praising God. Through the use of typology or application of definitions (mostly redefinitions), these lines between the dots weave a facade of doctrine that appears formidable but is empty when examined. Before long it is difficult to tell if the Tabernacle of David is the legitimate basis for their beliefs or something that was reinterpreted based on other positions. Likely there as so many individuals with differing methodologies that we may never discern the actual roots.

A Final Word

I am amazed at how widespread these teachings are and how little material has been produced to counter them or to inoculate against them. But I think this is how so much of the Charismatic influence has taken root in orthodox institutions. On the surface it appears they are using Scripture to back their positions, but all the proof texts and Biblical imagery belie the fact that their arguments constantly fail to stand up to careful scrutiny. Sadly, too many undiscerning believers are falling prey to their charlatanism.

Hebrew Words For Praise

Image by Robert C from Pixabay

While studying the history and philosophy of Praise & Worship music, I encountered a particular study that is commonly used by its proponents. As noted in Ruth and Hong’s A History of Contemporary Praise & Worship, much of the basis for Praise & Worship has been found in the book of Psalms. This is found even in its earliest days (1940-50’s):

“Part of [James] Beall’s presentation of this restored divine order was a use of proof texts from Psalms to justify specific practices: Psalm 150 to ground the use of a variety of musical instruments, Palm 134 or the lifting of hands, and Psalm 47 for clapping hands. In the surge of teaching materials in the next historical periods such us of proof texts – especially from Psalms – would become a standard teaching device.”

A History of Contemporary Praise & Worship, p. 41 [Emphasis added]

“The use of psalm proof texts to develop a liturgical schema points to the fourth core theological conviction: Praise & Worship was approached as a biblically derived, God-given pattern for worship. Convinced that this was the way of worship God had given in the Bible, its practitioners taught it with the confidence they had in the Scriptures themselves. Their tone was neither experimental nor cautious since Praise & Worship was not human-created, according to this theology. Rather, it was God’s gift to renew the church. Consequently; the Bible as God’s Word outlined its underlying promise (God desires to dwell with his people and does so through their praise) and its specific methods.

“Not surprisingly, this conviction about the biblical basis for Praise & Worship generated a method for theologizing. It had three regular features: The first was a predilection for undertaking studies of biblical words and then using key words to compile a group of passages from which to form a synthesis. For example, what Reg Layzell did in 1946 (see chap. 1), Judith McAllister did forty years later when the criticalness of praise first hooked her: she immersed herself for days in Bible study tools like concordances, skipping nearly a week of college classes. Her goal was to see when and how the Bible used the word “praise.” The second regular feature was an attraction to typology drawn from Bible stories, especially from the Old Testament and especially from narratives about David. (The book of Revelation was a favorite of some too.) Praise & Worship teachers used these stories to develop types instructive for how and why Christians should worship. The third regular feature of the theological method was, as mentioned above, a predilection for using the Psalms to provide the details about the specific dimensions of Praise & Worship, especially those involving physical expression. Therefore, the biblically derived theology of Praise & Worship was a very embodied theology, because the Psalms drew a picture of worshipers fully engaged with their whole persons.

A History of Contemporary Praise & Worship, p. 127 [Emphasis added]

The same process of using the Psalms, its imagery and its vocabulary, is alive and well today. A quick search on Amazon will reveal works like Worship Actions & Attitudes: Understanding 10 Hebrew Words For Praise and Worship by Rob Stiles, Holy Roar: 7 Words That Will Change the Way You Worship by Chris Tomlin and Darren Whitehead, and The Power of Praise: The 7 Hebrew Words for Praise by David Chapman. There is not shortage of online resources on the subject either: such as here, here, or here.

Before we move on, let me say that just because a person uses Scripture or language studies to back their beliefs it does not guarantee that they are correct. Verses can be taken out of context (looking at you, Jeremiah 29:11) and words can be redefined. You can also use faulty scholarship or logic. Too often I see people, even those I agree with, defend their positions through eisegesis and not exegesis. As a side note, let me say as someone that is pro-KJV that I get nervous when I see someone who generally doesn’t use the KJV quote from it (see uses of Proverbs 29:18 for an example). It is a sign of cherry picking verses with just the right wording in order to support an argument, which is an application of eisegeses.

As far as I can tell, no one across the multiple millennia of the history of worshipping the God of the Bible ever used the Hebrew language (including Psalms) to discover or defend charismatic-style ecstatic worship practices until the mid-twentieth century. Centuries of rabbinical thought and debate did not uncover it. Centuries of Bible scholarship did not discover it. Millions of believers who earnestly sought how to properly express their worship and praise through diligent study of Scripture did not discover it. Who did discover this? According to the afore mentioned A History of Contemporary Praise & Worship it was likely the Latter Rain branch of the Pentecostal movement that developed and propagated it as they believed God had “restored” through them the lost and forgotten truths of how He wanted to be praised.

But I am not putting this together to talk about history (please, just go and read A History of Contemporary Praise & Worship already). I want to present a more balanced exegetical study of the Hebrew word studies they promote. I do not claim to be any sort of expert on the Hebrew language, but most of the pro-P&W writers who have also written on this subject are clearly not either. The entire presentation is obviously built around looking up words in a Strong’s Concordance.


Alphabetical List of Words


Halal

  • Hebrew: הָלַל
  • Verb
  • Strong’s: H1984 – BibleHubSudyLightBlueLetterBible
  • Uses: 165x total, 94x in Psalms
  • KJV translations: praise (117x), glory (14x), boast (10x), mad (8x), shine (3x), foolish (3x), fools (2x), commended (2x), rage (2x), celebrate (1x), give (1x), marriage (1x), renowned (1x).
  • Strong’s definition: A primitive root; to be clear (orig. Of sound, but usually of color); to shine; hence, to make a show, to boast; and thus to be (clamorously) foolish; to rave; causatively, to celebrate; also to stultify — (make) boast (self), celebrate, commend, (deal, make), fool(- ish, -ly), glory, give (light), be (make, feign self) mad (against), give in marriage, (sing, be worthy of) praise, rage, renowned, shine.

The common P&W definition is “to praise, to make a show or rave about, to glory in or boast upon, to be clamorously foolish about you adoration of God”. I that find exact definition copied and pasted across multiple websites without acknowledging its original source.

I find a much truer emphasis should be placed on the ideas of “shining”, “focusing”, or “revealing”. It used to describe light sources emanating their light (Job 29:3, 31:25), revealing through action an inner madness or insanity (I Samuel 21:13, Jeremiah 50:38), boastful claims from a prideful heart (Psalm 10:3, Proverbs 27:1), and revealing outwardly an inner foolishness (Job, 12:17, Psalm 75:4)

There is no hint of “raving” or being “clamorously foolish” in the proper use of halal. Those that claim so misapply the connection with madness to the broader application of the word.

The best way I can describe the true meaning of halal is the idea of a spotlight. When we praise God, we are not focusing on ourselves but spotlighting His worthiness and greatness. When we boast, we are spotlighting our prideful self. When someone is foolish or insane, their actions are spotlighting their inward condition.

So when we praise God, we are putting all the attention and glory and honor onto Him. When halal is applied to praising God it has little or no focus on the one praising. When we praise Him we step into the shadows and so that He can shine.

For further reading, see this post by Daniel Rodriguez.

Barak

  • Hebrew: בָרַךְ
  • Verb
  • Strong’s: H1288 – BibleHubSudyLightBlueLetterBible
  • Uses: 330x total, 75x in Psalms
  • KJV translations: bless (302x), salute (5x), curse (4x), blaspheme (2x), blessing (2x), praised (2x), kneel down (2x), congratulate (1x), kneel (1x), make to kneel (1x), miscellaneous (8x).
  • Strong’s definition: A primitive root; to kneel; by implication to bless God (as an act of adoration), and (vice-versa) man (as a benefit); also (by euphemism) to curse (God or the king, as treason) — X abundantly, X altogether, X at all, blaspheme, bless, congratulate, curse, X greatly, X indeed, kneel (down), praise, salute, X still, thank.

The common P&W definition is “to kneel or bow, to give reverence to God as an act of adoration, implies a continual conscious giving place to God, to be attuned to him and his presence”. This definition is also copied and pasted around the internet, including many with attuned misspelled as atuned.

This word carries the ideas of kneeling before someone as in homage or reverence (II Chronicles 6:13, Psalm 95:6), to acknowledge through salutation (I Samuel 13:10, II Kings 4:29), to pronounce a desire of goodwill and bountifulness upon (Genesis 12:2-3, 49:28), or to be specially granted goodness and favor (Psalm 5:12, Proverbs 3:33). In a negative sense, it can mean to denounce or wish evil upon (Job 2:9, I Kings 21:10).

When applied to our worship of God, we see the ideas of humility (kneeling down), acknowledgement, honor, and reverence. The primary targets of our blessing is either God Himself (Psalm 103:1-2) or His name (Psalm 113:2). This is a heartfelt reaction to God’s glory (Psalm 104:1) and His great works (Psalm 28:6). I want to press the point of humility here: when we bless God, we are acknowledging His greatness in part by bowing (literally or figuratively) before Him. The focus is on God and not the worshipper.

Where the aforementioned P&W definition errs is in its application toward God’s presence and in “giving place”. There is no consistent connection with blessing God and being in His presence. The teaching of God’s omnipresence (Psalm 139:7-18, Isaiah 57:15, etc.) greatly undermines any need to acknowledge His appearance. As to the idea of “giving place” or yielding, I see no connection at all to this word.

See also this post.

Shabach

  • Hebrew: שָׁבַח
  • Verb
  • Strong’s: H7623 – BibleHubSudyLightBlueLetterBible
  • Uses: 11x total, 7x in Psalms
  • KJV translations: praise (5x), still (2x), keep it in (1x), glory (1x), triumph (1x), commend (1x).
  • Strong’s definition: A primitive root; properly, to address in a loud tone, i.e. (specifically) loud; figuratively, to pacify (as if by words) — commend, glory, keep in, praise, still, triumph.
  • Note – an Aramaic form of the word (Strong’s H2624) is used 5x in Daniel and translated as “praise”.

A P&W definition found here is “to address in a loud tone, a loud adoration, a shout, proclaiming with a loud voice (unashamed), to glory, triumph, power, a testimony of praise”. This word does not make it onto all the word study lists, probably because of the scarcity of its usage, but it is the source for the title of Chris Tomlin and Darren Whitehead’s popular book Holy Roar.

The primary emphasis the that P&W supporters focus on is “loud” as expression of boldness in sound volume. This is interesting because not all dictionaries, lexicons, etc. agree on that emphasis. Strong’s definition shown above uses it, but the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon, New American Standard Concordance, Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon, and Ancient Hebrew Lexicon do not mention anything about loudness. Another Hebrew word study I stumbled across mentions shabach while discussing Shavuot and describes it as “praise, happy praise, but also: calm down, appease”. So far, Strong’s is the only language resource I have found that mentions loudness. The idea of loud volume actually contradicts the context of all but the uses in I Chronicles and Psalms.

The consensus on the root definition appears to be “to soothe or stroke”. A much safer application to praise would be “praising in/through peace”, which is the complete opposite of the P&W materials I have examined.

Since I mentioned Holy Roar earlier, let me say that that book is a terrible book (you just don’t have to take my word for it). It is extremely faulty and misleading in its presentation. When it presents shabach in chapter 7, it states with no reference or foundation: “Quite literally, it means to raise a holy roar.” (p. 99) It does recognize that word only appears 11x, “but each time, it has powerful effect.” (p. 99). It then goes on to only reference 3 of the 11. What about the other 8? Is there not enough “powerful effect” in them? The reason why other references are not used is because doing so destroys the presented definition and argument.

Here are the verses that are referenced:

  • Psalm 63:3 – “Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise [shabach] thee.”
    • NOTE – They wrongly identify the appearance of shabach on p. 99. They place it in verse 4, which is actually: “Thus will I bless [barak] thee while I live…”
  • Psalm 117:1 – “O praise the LORD, all ye nations: praise [shabach] him, all ye people.”
  • Psalm 145:4 – “One generation shall praise [shabach] thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts.”

Below are the verses that the “powerful effect” wasn’t enough to include:

  • I Chronicles 16:35 – “And say ye, Save us, O God of our salvation, and gather us together, and deliver us from the heathen, that we may give thanks to thy holy name, and glory [shabach] in thy praise.”
  • Psalm 65:7 – “Which stilleth [shabach] the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves, and the tumult of the people.” 
  • Psalm 89:9 – “Thou rulest the raging of the sea: when the waves thereof arise, thou stillest [shabach] them.”
  • Psalm 106:47 – “Save us, O LORD our God, and gather us from among the heathen, to give thanks unto thy holy name, and to triumph [shabach] in thy praise.”
  • Psalm 147:12 – “Praise [shabach] the LORD, O Jerusalem; praise thy God, O Zion.”
  • Proverbs 29:11 – “A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth [shabach] it in till afterwards.”
  • Ecclesiastes 4:2 – “Wherefore I praised [shabach] the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive.”
  • Ecclesiastes 8:15 – “Then I commended [shabach] mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: for that shall abide with him of his labour the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun.”

So, maybe three more might could have been used to support their argument (I Chronicles 16:35, Psalm 106:47, Psalm 147:1). But where is the “powerful effect” of raising a “holy roar” in stilling/calming (Psalm 65:7, 89:9), keeping/holding (Proverbs 29:11), praising the dead (Ecclesiastes 4:2), or commending mirth/pleasure (Ecclesiastes 8:15)? You cannot claim the word means “holy roar” or has a “powerful effect” each time it appears when in half of it uses it cannot mean what you claim. If you do some digging it appears obvious that there is no basis for equating shabach with a “holy roar” other than taking Darren Whitehead’s word for it.

Yadah

  • Hebrew: יָדָה
  • Verb
  • Strong’s: H3034 – BibleHubSudyLightBlueLetterBible
  • Uses: 114x total, 67x in Psalms
  • KJV translations: praise (53x), give thanks (32x), confess (16x), thank (5x), make confession (2x), thanksgiving (2x), cast (1x), cast out (1x), shoot (1x), thankful (1x).
  • Strong’s definition: A primitive root; used only as denominative from yad; literally, to use (i.e. Hold out) the hand; physically, to throw (a stone, an arrow) at or away; especially to revere or worship (with extended hands); intensively, to bemoan (by wringing the hands) — cast (out), (make) confess(-ion), praise, shoot, (give) thank(-ful, -s, -sgiving).

A thorough P&W definition is “to use, hold out the hand, to throw (a stone or arrow) at or away, to revere or worship (with extended hands, praise thankful, thanksgiving)” and a concise definition is “to worship with extended hands.”

The primary root is “to cast with the hand”. That can be applied to shooting arrows (Jeremiah 50:14), throwing a rock (Lamentations 3:53), or expelling someone (Zechariah 1:21). However, the overwhelming majority of uses of this word have nothing to do with literally throwing anything. Instead, we find this word translated as “confess”, or “give thanks”, or “praise”. The connection seems to be in acknowledging one’s guilt by raising hands in identification or surrender (Leviticus 5:5, Numbers 5:7), in expressing thankfulness by pointing toward or marking its object (II Samuel 22:50, Psalm 92:1), or in raised hands to God in giving Him honor (Genesis 29:35, Psalm 33:2).

The issue we have in interpreting the correct meaning of the yadah is determining if the “casting with the hand” root is applied literally/physically, figuratively, or if it is even relevant at all. A similar case I came across a while back is qavah (Strong’s H6960), which implies twisting or binding (as in the strands of a rope), yet is generally translated as “waiting” in Isaiah 40:31. Many Hebrew words have “actions” in them that may be illustrative of the word’s meaning but not always applied in its definition. Sometimes there just isn’t a logical connection to be made.

Another question with yadah is whether the emphasis is on the hand or what the hand casts. Perhaps the emphasis is not on the raised hand in praising God but on the praises that are cast out to Him. An illustration of this is Psalm 33:2, where we find praising (yadah) God with an instrument. Is there literal hand-raising to God, a literal hand extended to the harp, or are the praises being figuratively thrown out towards God? I think this could also make sense in regards to confessing sins in that you are casting your guilt out before others.

I did find reference to Psalm 134:2 in regards to this word (“Lift up your hands in the sanctuary”), but the actual word yadah is not used here. Two other words are: nasa (Strong’s H5375) meaning “to lift” and yad (Strong’s H3027) meaning “hand”. On closer examination, this particular reference in Psalm 134 does not support the ideas of P&W . This is an exhortation to the priests serving at night time in the Temple, not to the congregation of Israel (vs. 1). Any study of nightly activities in the Temple will not show any times of exuberant praise. It must be also noted that in the language of Psalmody that nighttime is a time of darkness and despair, not joy and happiness. The general understanding of the lifting of hands here and in general is that of prayer and not praise (see commentaries here and here).

A deeper look at many of the proof texts of raising hands in joyous worship are actually in context speaking of something quite different (see here for a further discussion of this). We actually see the lifting of hands as a sign of lamentation or desperation in places such as Psalm 28:2, 63:4, 141:2, and Lamentations 2:19, 3:41. A few other references like Genesis 14:22 and Deuteronomy 32:40 have the lifting of hands as part of taking a oath. While these references may not be the focus of our present study, it is important to note they fail to show the lifting of hands in exuberant praise.

For further reference, here is someone that goes a bit deeper in the Hebrew.

Tehillah

  • Hebrew: תְּהִלָּה
  • Noun
  • Strong’s: H8416 – BibleHubSudyLightBlueLetterBible
  • Uses: 57x total, 30x in Psalms
  • KJV translations: praise (57x).
  • Strong’s definition: From halal; laudation; specifically (concretely) a hymn — praise.

One P&W definition is “to sing hallal, a new song, a hymn of spontaneous praise glorifying God in song”. Another (also seen here) includes: “Singing scripture to instruct and encourage”.

Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (p. 185) highlights four applications of the word. First, it may denote praiseworthiness (Deuteronomy 10:21, Isaiah 62:7). Second, the words or song used to express praise (Psalm 22:22,25). Third, a term for a song (see heading of Psalm 145). Fourth, deeds that are worthy of praise (Exodus 15:11).

I think this definition is clear if you have the definition settled for halal, which we covered before. This is basically the noun form of that verb. It is almost disingenuous to make it a separate word.

What is interesting to me are the two very different additions to the core definition of a song of praise we see in the P&W definitions. One says it is a “spontaneous” song and the other a “scripture” song. Honestly, I think the definition is broad enough to include both cases. I would take exception to the “spontaneous” song if I knew for sure it was used as an expression of prophetic worship (and I assume it is), but that is a whole other subject for another time.

An important appearance of this word is in one of earliest and most frequently used verses as a foundation for P&W theology: Psalm 22:3. I hope to deal with that verse more fully in the future, but I can say that if you see that verse applied to Christian worship I can practically guarantee you are dealing with some Charismatic theology or influence.

Zamar

  • Hebrew: זמר
  • Verb
  • Strong’s: H2167 – BibleHubSudyLightBlueLetterBible
  • Uses: 45x total, 41x in Psalms
  • KJV translations: praise (26x), sing (16x), sing psalms (2x), sing forth (1x).
  • Strong’s definition: A primitive root (perhaps ident. With zamar through the idea of striking with the fingers); properly, to touch the strings or parts of a musical instrument, i.e. Play upon it; to make music, accompanied by the voice; hence to celebrate in song and music — give praise, sing forth praises, psalms.

P&W definition #1: “Make music by striking the fingers on strings or parts of a musical instrument. When we play instrumentally to facilitate a holy atmosphere, it’s not just church cocktail music, it’s zamar.”

P&W definition #2: “‘Zamar’ means to pluck the strings of an instrument…. Zamar speaks of rejoicing. It is involved with the joyful expression of music. Zamar means to sing praises or to touch the strings. It speaks of involving every available instrument to make music and harmony before the Lord. It is God’s will that we be joyful. Use Zamar when you are rejoicing after God has done something great for you.”

By itself, zamar means to play a musical instrument (Psalm 33:2, 144:9), but it appears to be a more inclusive word including instrumental and vocal music, probably together. It is interesting to note that zamar occurs in the same (and sometimes adjacent) verses with other praise or musical terms in 39 of its 45 appearances:

  • 12x in the same verse with sir (Strong’s H7891, “to sing”) – Judges 5:3, I Chronicles 16:9, Psalm 21:13, 27:6, 57:7, 68:4, 68:32, 101:1, 104:33, 105:2, 108:1, 144:9
  • 11x in the same verse with yadah (Strong’s H3034, “to praise”) – II Samuel 22:50, Psalm 7:17, 18:49, 30:4, 30:12. 33:2, 57:9, 71:22, 92:1, 108:3, 138:1
    • 1x in close proximity to yadah – Psalm 9:2 (see vs. 1)
  • 4x in the same verse with halal (Strong’s H1984, “to praise”) – Psalm 135:3, 146:2, 147:1, 149:3
  • 2x in the same verse with nagad (Strong’s H5046, “to declare”) – Psalm 9:11, 75:9
  • 2x in the same verse with ranan (Strong’s H7442, “to rejoice”) – Psalm 9:11, 75:9
    • 2x in close proximity to ranan – Psalm 59:17 (see vs. 16), Isaiah 12:5 (see vs. 6)
  • 2x in the same verse with shachah (Strong’s H7812, “to worship”) – Psalm 66:4 (2x)
  • 1x in the same verse with anah (Strong’s H6030, “to answer”) – Psalm 147:7
  • 2x in close proximity to rua (Strong’s H7321, “to noise”) – Psalm 66:2 (see vs. 1)

This leaves only the 5x it appears in Psalm 47:6-7 and 1x in Psalm 61:8.

Since the preponderance of uses seem to combine instrumental and vocal terms, I think it is safest to assume it will generally mean a combination of the two. I think the fact that so many other terms appear around it means it is a very generic word.

Examining the P&W definitions, once again the core is close: we are certainly talking about instrumental and vocal music. This is certainly not creating an “atmosphere”: the worshippers here are active and not passive. It is also by no means glorifying “every available instrument”: only specific ones that were acceptable to the Jews are mentioned. I realize this again touches on larger topics that are outside the scope of this study. But that is part of why I am doing this study, because these P&W studies are putting ideas and thoughts into the text (eisegesis) that are simply not there.

Oh, and seriously… “cocktail” music”??? That reference is so absurd. I did need that laugh though.

See also this post.

Taqa

  • Hebrew: תָּקַע
  • Verb
  • Strong’s: 8628 – BibleHubSudyLightBlueLetterBible
  • Uses: 69x total, 2x in Psalms
  • KJV translations: blow (46x), fasten (5x), strike (4x), pitch (3x), thrust (2x), clap (2x), sounded (2x), cast (1x), miscellaneous (4x).
  • Strong’s definition: A primitive root; to clatter, i.e. Slap (the hands together), clang (an instrument); by analogy, to drive (a nail or tent-pin, a dart, etc.); by implication, to become bondsman by handclasping) — blow ((a trumpet)), cast, clap, fasten, pitch (tent), smite, sound, strike, X suretiship, thrust.

This one is not found on many of the P&W lists I referenced, but the definition here is “Clap, applaud. Expresses joy and victory.”

Of course the reason why it is not on many lists is because it barely even occurs in context with worship. It is used to “blow a trumpet” 50x, but this is not musical. These trumpet blasts were signals and calls and far more primitive than more modern bugle calls used in the military. There is nothing about making music in these references.

Basically, this verb means to “hit or strike”. Look at its objects when it is used: nails, daggers, tents, darts. When using blowing a trumpet they are just sounding it, or “hitting a note” if I could be pardoned to apply that stretch here.

We have only one true reference to clapping (“striking hands together”) in Psalm 47:1. In Nahum 3:19 someone claps their hand over their mouth but that is quite a different thing. There are two additional references to clapping that use different words: II Kings 11:12, Isaiah 55:12 (see macha). We can see in those that there is a connection between clapping hands and joyous celebration.

Karar

  • Hebrew: כָּרַר
  • Verb
  • Strong’s: 3769 – BibleHubSudyLightBlueLetterBible
  • Uses: 2x total, 0x in Psalms
  • KJV translations: dance (2x).
  • Strong’s definition: A primitive root; to dance (i.e. Whirl) — dance(-ing).

Defined simply here for P&W as “Dance. ‘David danced before the Lord with all his might.’ Expresses joy and celebration.

This word only appears in the account of David celebrating the return of the Ark of the Covenant in II Samuel 6. This is a singular act by a singular person at a singular time. To extrapolate this into a command to dance in worship is unsound at best. There are other words used for dance that we will get to, but since I find this word on a few lists I feel the need to cover it although it is essentially worthless in arguing for charismatic worship.

(I would recommend you reference Scott Aniol’s Changed from Glory into Glory: The Liturgical Story of the Christian Faith, p. 43-45, for better analysis of this. It’s too long for me to post here.)

Tephillah

  • Hebrew: תְּפִלָּה
  • Noun
  • Strong’s: 8605 – BibleHubSudyLightBlueLetterBible
  • Uses: 77x total, 32x in Psalms
  • KJV translations: prayer (77x).
  • Strong’s definition: From palal; intercession, supplication; by implication, a hymn — prayer.

A very straightforward definition found here: “Prayer, often sung as intercession and petition.”

Okay, this the first word that we have looked at that I really don’t have any problem with. It means prayer, spoken (I Kings 8:28) or sung (Psalm 17 heading). Perhaps some P&W teachings go beyond this simple definition but the places I am referencing seem to have this one right if they mention it at all.

Todah

  • Hebrew: תּוֹדָה
  • Noun
  • Strong’s: 8426 – BibleHubSudyLightBlueLetterBible
  • Uses: 32x total, 12x in Psalms
  • KJV translations: thanksgiving (18x), praise (6x), thanks (3x), thank offerings (3x), confession (2x).
  • Strong’s definition: From yadah; properly, an extension of the hand, i.e. (by implication) avowal, or (usually) adoration; specifically, a choir of worshippers — confession, (sacrifice of) praise, thanks(-giving, offering).

A P&W definition found here: “an extension of the hand, avowal, adoration, a choir of worshipers, confession, sacrifice of praise, thanksgiving”

Basically we have here the noun form of yadah. I will refer you to the previous examination of that word.

(Honestly, you can tell some of the foundation for these lists of “Hebrew words for worship” just got the words from a Strong’s concordance without really digging into them at all. Otherwise, words like todah and yadah would be classified together. See this article which couples todah, not with yadah as would be logically and grammatically correct, but with shabach.)

See also this post.

Shachah

  • Hebrew: שָׁחָה
  • Verb
  • Strong’s: 7812 – BibleHubSudyLightBlueLetterBible
  • Uses: 172x total, 17x in Psalms
  • KJV translations: worship (99x), bow (31x), bow down (18x), obeisance (9x), reverence (5x), fall down (3x), themselves (2x), stoop (1x), crouch (1x), miscellaneous (3x).
  • Strong’s definition: A primitive root; to depress, i.e. Prostrate (especially reflexive, in homage to royalty or God) — bow (self) down, crouch, fall down (flat), humbly beseech, do (make) obeisance, do reverence, make to stoop, worship.

Your P&W definition, found here and here: “to depress or prostrate in homage or loyalty to God, bow down, fall down flat”

When we discuss worship I believe this is the key word. In a secular sense (which is about half of its uses), it means to “bow down”, as one would do in reverence to a ruler (Genesis 42:6, Esther 3:2). It is is sign of humility on the one bowing down and a sign of honor to the one bowed down to. It also implies service to something (Exodus 20:5).

This is not loud or ecstatic. It is quiet. It is not celebratory. It is reverential. It is not proud. It is humble. It is not accidental. It is intentional.

I like the image of bowing down. It puts all the glory and honor on the one being worshipped and not on the worshipper. We bow ourselves out of the picture and let all the attention and glory go to God. We worship according to His commands and expectations, not our own. That is true worship.

It does not require a band. It does not require being worked up into frenzy. It does not require a precursory time of praise. It does not require being at a church or even gathered with other believers. We simply acknowledge our ever-present God and His ceaseless majesty.

(Can you tell I preached a sermon on this not too long ago?)

Shir

  • Hebrew: שִׁיר
  • Verb
  • Strong’s: 7891 – BibleHubSudyLightBlueLetterBible
  • Uses: 87x total, 27x in Psalms
  • KJV translations: sing (41x), singer (37x), singing men (4x), singing women (4x), behold (1x).
  • Strong’s definition: Or (the original form) shuwr (1 Sam. 18:6) {shoor}; a primitive root (identical with shuwr through the idea of strolling minstrelsy); to sing — behold (by mistake for shuwr), sing(-er, -ing man, – ing woman).

A rather simple P&W definition found here: “strolling minstrelsy, to sing, singer (man or woman)”

This one is another very direct and basic word that essentially means “to sing”. The only real headscratcher to me is Strong’s addition of “strolling minstrelsy”, which appears to come from a similar root shur (Strong’s H7788) which means to journey or travel. I am not so certain this word means anything about being minstrel but may rather be a description of singing (changing tones and moving rhythms), perhaps related to the term shiggaion (Strong’s 7692). Again, I am no expert here, but I am not seeing anything similar to “strolling minstrelsy” in other reference works.

Alats

  • Hebrew: עָלַץ
  • Verb
  • Strong’s: 5970 – BibleHubSudyLightBlueLetterBible
  • Uses: 8x total, 4x in Psalms
  • KJV translations: rejoice (6x), joyful (1x), triumph (1x).
  • Strong’s definition: A primitive root; to jump for joy, i.e. Exult — be joyful, rejoice, triumph.

This is another case where the action part of the word may be more figurative than literal. For instance, Hannah said: “My heart rejoiceth [alats] in the LORD” (I Samuel 2:1) We have a similar expression today in saying “our hearts leap for joy” which is figurative.

Alaz

  • Hebrew: עָלַז
  • Verb
  • Strong’s: 5937 – BibleHubSudyLightBlueLetterBible
  • Uses: 16x total, 7x in Psalms
  • KJV translations: rejoice (12x), triumph (2x), joyful (2x).
  • Strong’s definition: A primitive root; to jump for joy, i.e. Exult — be joyful, rejoice, triumph.

A similar word and case to alats.

Anah

  • Hebrew: עָנָה
  • Verb
  • Strong’s: 6030 – BibleHubSudyLightBlueLetterBible
  • Uses: 329x total, 39x in Psalms
  • KJV translations: answer (242x), hear (42x), testify (12x), speak (8x), sing (4x), bear (3x), cry (2x), witness (2x), give (1x), miscellaneous (13x).
  • Strong’s definition: A primitive root; properly, to eye or (generally) to heed, i.e. Pay attention; by implication, to respond; by extens. To begin to speak; specifically to sing, shout, testify, announce — give account, afflict (by mistake for anah), (cause to, give) answer, bring low (by mistake for anah), cry, hear, Leannoth, lift up, say, X scholar, (give a) shout, sing (together by course), speak, testify, utter, (bear) witness. See also Beyth ‘AnowthBeyth ‘Anath.

Nothing crazy here. Basically means “to give attention to or answer”.

Chagag

  • Hebrew: חָגַג
  • Verb
  • Strong’s: 2287 – BibleHubSudyLightBlueLetterBible
  • Uses: 16x total, 2x in Psalms
  • KJV translations: keep (8x), …feast (3x), celebrate (1x), keep a solemn feast (1x), dancing (1x), holyday (1x), reel to and fro (1x).
  • Strong’s definition: A primitive root (compare chagra’chuwg); properly, to move in a circle, i.e. (specifically) to march in a sacred procession, to observe a festival; by implication, to be giddy — celebrate, dance, (keep, hold) a (solemn) feast (holiday), reel to and fro.

This means “to keep a religious festival or ritual”. The first reference in Psalms means to participate in or observe a Jewish festival (Psalm 42:4). The second means to dance or move as a drunk person (Psalm 107:27). Wide variety in those two.

Chuwl

  • Hebrew: חוּל
  • Verb
  • Strong’s: 2342 – BibleHubSudyLightBlueLetterBible
  • Uses: 62x total, 12x in Psalms
  • KJV translations: pain (6x), formed (5x), bring forth (4x), pained (4x), tremble (4x), travail (4x), dance (2x), calve (2x), grieved (2x), grievous (2x), wounded (2x), shake (2x), miscellaneous (23x).
  • Strong’s definition: Or chiyl {kheel}; a primitive root; properly, to twist or whirl (in a circular or spiral manner), i.e. (specifically) to dance, to writhe in pain (especially of parturition) or fear; figuratively, to wait, to pervert — bear, (make to) bring forth, (make to) calve, dance, drive away, fall grievously (with pain), fear, form, great, grieve, (be) grievous, hope, look, make, be in pain, be much (sore) pained, rest, shake, shapen, (be) sorrow(-ful), stay, tarry, travail (with pain), tremble, trust, wait carefully (patiently), be wounded.

Used for “dance” in Judges 21 and nowhere else. Has the idea of “writhing” or “shaking”. The uses in Psalms are not noteworthy in our present study as they do not refer to worship.

Qol

  • Hebrew: קֹל
  • Noun
  • Strong’s: 6963 – BibleHubSudyLightBlueLetterBible
  • Uses: 506x total, 57x in Psalms
  • KJV translations: voice (383x), noise (49x), sound (39x), thunder (10x), proclamation (with H5674) (4x), send out (with H5414) (2x), thunderings (2x), fame (1x), miscellaneous (16x).
  • Strong’s definition: Or qol {kole}; from an unused root meaning to call aloud; a voice or sound — + aloud, bleating, crackling, cry (+ out), fame, lightness, lowing, noise, + hold peace, (pro-)claim, proclamation, + sing, sound, + spark, thunder(-ing), voice, + yell.

Basically means the sound something makes. Could be an animal (I Samuel 15:14), thunder (I Samuel 12:18), or water (Psalm 42:7). It does not necessarily mean something is loud, but doesn’t rule it out either. In many uses it means the human voice (Genesis 3:7, Psalm 3:4) or even God’s voice (Genesis 3:8, Psalm 103:20).

Kabad

  • Hebrew: כָּבַד
  • Verb
  • Strong’s: 3513 – BibleHubSudyLightBlueLetterBible
  • Uses: 116x total, 11x in Psalms
  • KJV translations: clap (3x).
  • Strong’s definition: A primitive root; to rub or strike the hands together (in exultation) — clap.

“To be heavy”. Can be in the sense of honor (Exodus 20:12, Daniel 11:38) or glory (Leviticus 10:3, Psalm 22:23). Can be negative in these sense of hardening a heart (Exodus 8:15, I Samuel 6:6) or something extreme (Genesis 18:20, Isaiah 9:1). The most common use in Psalms is to denote glory (Psalm 86:9,12).

Macha

  • Hebrew: מָחָא
  • Verb
  • Strong’s: 4222 – BibleHubSudyLightBlueLetterBible
  • Uses: 3x total, 1x in Psalms
  • KJV translations: honour (34x), glorify (14x), honourable (14x), heavy (13x), harden (7x), glorious (5x), sore (3x), made heavy (3x), chargeable (2x), great (2x), many (2x), heavier (2x), promote (2x), miscellaneous (10x).
  • Strong’s definition: A primitive root; to rub or strike the hands together (in exultation) — clap.

Used twice for anthropomorphic clapping (Psalm 98:8, Isaiah 55:12). I suppose someone may say those set some sort of precedent for clapping in worship since the rivers and trees are seen doing it, but there are better verses to build that case with. I would like to point out that both also appear to picture the earth celebrating the arrival of the Millennial Kingdom.

Used once for Ammon celebrating the Jew’s despair (Ezekiel 24:6).

Machowl

  • Hebrew: מָחוֹל
  • Noun
  • Strong’s: 4234 – BibleHubSudyLightBlueLetterBible
  • Uses: 6x total, 3x in Psalms
  • KJV translations: dance (5x), dancing (1x).
  • Strong’s definition: From chuwl; a (round) dance — dance(-cing).

The noun form of chuwl. Scott Aniol in Changed from Glory into Glory (p. 43-44) states that is is the only Old Testament term that corresponds to what we call dancing today. He describes it as a joyful folk dance of celebration. It is used to convey the idea of utter joy (Psalm 30:11, Jeremiah 31:13, Lamentations 5:15)

I also want to go ahead and note that the plural form of the word, mechowlah (Strong’s H4246) is used to describe the celebratory dancing after crossing the Red Sea (Exodus 15:20), Japhthah’s victory over Ammon (Judges 11:34), David’s victory over Goliath, (I Samuel 18:6, 21:11, 29:5) and in a more negative context in the worship of the golden calf (Exodus 32:19). Scott Aniol does not differentiate between the singular and plural forms in his discussion. That isn’t a problem at all, but someone not paying attention and cross-referencing with a concordance may be confused since there will be multiple Strong’s numbers in play.

In discussing the uses of machowl and mecholah in Psalm 149:3 and 150:4, Aniol points out that the emphasis is not necessarily on corporate worship but rather on praising God at all time. In Psalm 149 for example, we see the times of praise including while the congregation is assembled (vs. 1), while the saints are resting in their beds (vs. 5), and while the nation is at war (vs. 6-9). In Psalm 150 we see praising God in His sanctuary (vs. 1) but also a command that every living thing should praise the Lord (vs. 6) which is a much broader application.

Mechowlah

  • Hebrew: מְחֹלָה
  • Noun
  • Strong’s: 4246 – BibleHubSudyLightBlueLetterBible
  • Uses: 8x total, 0x in Psalms
  • KJV translations: dance (5x), dancing (2x), company (1x).
  • Strong’s definition: Feminine of machashabah; a dance — company, dances(-cing).

See previous notes on machowl. This is the the plural form of that word and is referenced in that discussion.

Nasa

  • Hebrew: נָסָה
  • Verb
  • Strong’s: 5375 – BibleHubSudyLightBlueLetterBible
  • Uses: 654x total, 48x in Psalms
  • KJV translations: (bare, lift, etc…) up (219x), bear (115x), take (58x), bare (34x), carry (30x), (take, carry)..away (22x), borne (22x), armourbearer (18x), forgive (16x), accept (12x), exalt (8x), regard (5x), obtained (4x), respect (3x), miscellaneous (74x).
  • Strong’s definition: Or nacah (Psalm ‘eb‘abad (‘abad)) {naw-saw’}; a primitive root; to lift, in a great variety of applications, literal and figurative, absol. And rel. (as follows) — accept, advance, arise, (able to, (armor), suffer to) bear(-er, up), bring (forth), burn, carry (away), cast, contain, desire, ease, exact, exalt (self), extol, fetch, forgive, furnish, further, give, go on, help, high, hold up, honorable (+ man), lade, lay, lift (self) up, lofty, marry, magnify, X needs, obtain, pardon, raise (up), receive, regard, respect, set (up), spare, stir up, + swear, take (away, up), X utterly, wear, yield.

A general verb meaning “to bear or carry”. In Psalms it used in many ways, including to lift up heads (Psalm 24:7), lift up hands (Psalm 28:2), bearing reproach (Psalm 69:7) taking or bringing (Psalm 72:3, 81:2), lifting up soul (Psalm 86:4), forgiving (Psalm 99:8), and lifting up eyes (Psalm 121:1). I think there usage is too varied to draw any concrete conclusions about worship solely from this word.

Nagan

  • Hebrew: נָגַן
  • Verb
  • Strong’s: 5059 – BibleHubSudyLightBlueLetterBible
  • Uses: 15x total, 2x in Psalms
  • KJV translations: play (8x), instrument (3x), minstrel (2x), melody (1x), player (1x).
  • Strong’s definition: A primitive root; properly, to thrum, i.e. Beat a tune with the fingers; expec. To play on a stringed instrument; hence (generally), to make music — player on instruments, sing to the stringed instruments, melody, ministrel, play(-er, -ing).

Means “to play an instrument” and by extension “those that play instruments.” Nothing earthshattering here.

Neginah

  • Hebrew: נְגִינָה
  • Noun
  • Strong’s: 5058 – BibleHubSudyLightBlueLetterBible
  • Uses: 14x total, 9x in Psalms
  • KJV translations: Neginoth (6x), song (5x), stringed instruments (1x), musick (1x), Neginah (1x).
  • Strong’s definition: Or ngiynath (Psa. ‘abal:title) {neg-ee-nath’}; from nagan; properly, instrumental music; by implication, a stringed instrument; by extension, a poem set to music; specifically, an epigram — stringed instrument, musick, Neginoth (plural), song.

Means “music of stringed instruments.” Found in the headings of multiple Psalms (4, 6, 54, 55, 61, 67, 76) to note that those songs had musical accompaniment. The idea of musical accompaniment is also seen in Isaiah 38:20. There are a few cases that in their context show their music to be satirical or mocking in nature (Job 30:9, Psalm 69:12, Lamentations 3:14), but these applications shouldn’t define the other uses.

Patsach

  • Hebrew: פָּצַח
  • Verb
  • Strong’s: 6476 – BibleHubSudyLightBlueLetterBible
  • Uses: 8x total, 1x in Psalms
  • KJV translations: break forth (6x), break (1x), make a loud noise (1x).
  • Strong’s definition: A primitive root; to break out (in joyful sound) — break (forth, forth into joy), make a loud noise.

This is a case where the Strong’s definition is taking into account the object or effects of the verb and ignoring the words actual meaning. Patsach means “to break or to burst”, as in the breaking of bones in Micah 3:3. It can then have an object that says what is breaking out. Five of the uses involve the anthropomorphic descriptions of the earth or nature “breaking out” and singing coming forth (Psalm 98:4, Isaiah 14:7, 44:23, 49:13, 52:9, 55:12). The lone use where it is people breaking out in song is Israel in Isaiah 54:1. It would be hard to apply this to our worship.

Pazaz

  • Hebrew: פָּזַז
  • Verb
  • Strong’s: 6339 – BibleHubSudyLightBlueLetterBible
  • Uses: 2x total, 0x in Psalms
  • KJV translations: made strong (1x), leaping (1x).
  • Strong’s definition: A primitive root (identical with pazaz); to solidify (as if by refining); also to spring (as if separating the limbs) — leap, be made strong.

Strong’s definition is almost longer than the verses this word appears in. The NAS Exhaustive Concordance make it far more concise: “to be supple or agile”.

There are only two uses of this word in Hebrew Scripture. The first is in Genesis 49:24 in Jacob’s blessing of Joseph speaking figuratively about Joseph’s strength as being enhanced by God using the imagery of pulling back a bow string.

The second is when David was “leaping” as he danced before the arriving Ark of the Covenant in II Samuel 6:16. That lone appearance is why this word may appear on some of the more exhaustive P&W lists. For a deeper look at David’s dancing, see notes on karar.

Raqad

  • Hebrew: רָקַד
  • Verb
  • Strong’s: 7540 – BibleHubSudyLightBlueLetterBible
  • Uses: 9x total, 3x in Psalms
  • KJV translations: dance (4x), skip (3x), leap (1x), jump (1x).
  • Strong’s definition: A primitive root; properly, to stamp, i.e. To spring about (wildly or for joy) — dance, jump, leap, skip.

The best idea of this word is “skipping, jumping, or leaping”. We see chariots bouncing at high speed (Nahum 3:2, Joel 2:5), the children of the wicked dancing or jumping around (Job 21:11), animals leaping about (Isaiah 13:21), and anthropomorphized mountains and trees skipping like animals (Psalm 114:4, 114:6, Psalm 29:6).

I want to examine the two remaining cases where it means “dancing”. The first I want to note is in Ecclesiastes 3:4 where joyful dancing is the opposite of mourning. This is not prescriptive but descriptive.

The second case is, of course, David dancing before the Ark in I Chronicles 15:29. For a deeper look at David’s dancing, see notes on karar. (Spoiler: its not a command or example we are called to follow.)

Renanah

  • Hebrew: רְנָנָה
  • Noun
  • Strong’s: 7445 – BibleHubSudyLightBlueLetterBible
  • Uses: 4x total, 2x in Psalms
  • KJV translations: joyful voice (1x), joyful (1x), triumphing (1x), singing (1x).
  • Strong’s definition: From ranan; a shout (for joy) — joyful (voice), singing, triumphing.

The connotation of this word adds the idea of “rejoicing or joyfulness”. The two occurrences in Job 3:7 and 20:5 are not instructive in a study on worship. The two references in Psalm 63:5 and 100:2 are instructive that we should joyfully praise or God.

Rinnah

  • Hebrew: רִנָּה
  • Noun
  • Strong’s: 7440 – BibleHubSudyLightBlueLetterBible
  • Uses: 33x total, 15x in Psalms
  • KJV translations: cry (12x), singing (9x), rejoicing (3x), joy (3x), gladness (1x), proclamation (1x), shouting (1x), sing (1x), songs (1x), triumph (1x).
  • Strong’s definition: From ranan; properly, a creaking (or shrill sound), i.e. Shout (of joy or grief) — cry, gladness, joy, proclamation, rejoicing, shouting, sing(-ing), triumph.

This word can be an expression of grief (Psalm 106:44, 142:6) or joy (Psalm 30:5, 126:5). Roughly 1/3 of the uses are expressing grief or desperation.

Rua

  • Hebrew: רוּעַ
  • Noun
  • Strong’s: 7321 – BibleHubSudyLightBlueLetterBible
  • Uses: 46x total, 12x in Psalms
  • KJV translations: shout (23x), noise (7x), ..alarm (4x), cry (4x), triumph (3x), smart (1x), miscellaneous (4x).
  • Strong’s definition: A primitive root; to mar (especially by breaking); figuratively, to split the ears (with sound), i.e. Shout (for alarm or joy) — blow an alarm, cry (alarm, aloud, out), destroy, make a joyful noise, smart, shout (for joy), sound an alarm, triumph.

Rua essentially means “to shout” but is applied in varied ways. It is the shout of Israel when the circled Jericho in Joshua 6. It can be a cry of alarm (Numbers 10:7, Joel 2:1). It can mean shouting in triumph (Psalm 41:11, 108:9), which can also mean defeat (Proverbs 13:20).

As far as the uses in Psalms, we see shouting for victory and joy (Psalm 47:1, 65:13), the aforementioned triumphs (Psalm 41:11, 108:9), or the “joyful noise” (Psalm 66:1, 81:1, 95:1, 95:2, 98:4, 98:6, 100:1). To read more about the “joyful noise”, here is an GotQuestions.org article. I may need to revisit that in a future study.

Samach

  • Hebrew: שָׂמַח
  • Verb
  • Strong’s: 8055 – BibleHubSudyLightBlueLetterBible
  • Uses: 152x total, 52x in Psalms
  • KJV translations: shout (23x), noise (7x), ..alarm (4x), cry (4x), triumph (3x), smart (1x), miscellaneous (4x).
  • Strong’s definition: A primitive root; probably to brighten up, i.e. (figuratively) be (causatively, make) blithe or gleesome — cheer up, be (make) glad, (have, make) joy(-ful), be (make) merry, (cause to, make to) rejoice, X very.

This word means to “to rejoice” or “be glad or happy”. Not any controversy here that I see.

Sason

  • Hebrew: שָׂשׂן
  • Noun
  • Strong’s: 8342 – BibleHubSudyLightBlueLetterBible
  • Uses: 22x total, 5x in Psalms
  • KJV translations: joy (15x), gladness (3x), mirth (3x), rejoicing (1x).
  • Strong’s definition: Or sason {saw-sone’}; from suws; cheerfulness; specifically, welcome — gladness, joy, mirth, rejoicing.

Pretty clear. No comments needed.

Raam

  • Hebrew: רָעַם
  • Verb
  • Strong’s: 7481 – BibleHubSudyLightBlueLetterBible
  • Uses: 13x total, 4x in Psalms
  • KJV translations: thunder (8x), roar (3x), trouble (1x), fret (1x).
  • Strong’s definition: A primitive root; to tumble, i.e. Be violently agitated; specifically, to crash (of thunder); figuratively, to irritate (with anger) — make to fret, roar, thunder, trouble.

I’ll be honest and I say that I don’t recall which list I saw this word on. I thought it was maybe here but its not. It must have ended on my list for a reason so I will go ahead and look at it.

This word means “to roar or thunder” or by extension “to tremble”. We see the roar of the sea (I Chronicles 16:32, Psalm 96:11, 98:7), literal thunder from the sky (I Samuel 2:10, 7:10), and God’s voice associated with thunder (Job 37:4-5, 40:9, II Samuel 22:14, Psalm 18:13, 29:3). The two references to being troubled or trembling are in I Samuel 1:6 and Ezekiel 27:35.

That’s all. Not sure why this would appear in a P&W Hebrew word list but I guess it did somewhere to make it on my list.

Shaon

  • Hebrew: שָאוֹן
  • Noun
  • Strong’s: 7588 – BibleHubSudyLightBlueLetterBible
  • Uses: 17x total, 4x in Psalms
  • KJV translations: noise (8x), tumult (3x), tumultuous (2x), rushing (2x), horrible (1x), pomp (1x).
  • Strong’s definition: From sha’ah; uproar (as of rushing); by implication, destruction — X horrible, noise, pomp, rushing, tumult (X -uous).

Picture a “tumultuous uproar” and that fits practically every appearance. This is never applied to praise to God and never used in a positive sense.

Though it appears on a list here, the listed references do not even contain the word (they appear to be for rua). Not sure why it would be listed unless they are pushing an idea of tumultuous or uproarious worship but the word is never used in a way to support that idea.

Shiyr

  • Hebrew: שִׁירָה
  • Noun
  • Strong’s: 7892 – BibleHubSudyLightBlueLetterBible
  • Uses: 89x total, 43x in Psalms
  • KJV translations: song (74x), musick (7x), singing (4x), musical (2x), sing (1x), singers (1x), song (with H1697) (1x).
  • Strong’s definition: Or feminine shiyrah {shee-raw’}; from shiyr; a song; abstractly, singing — musical(-ick), X sing(-er, -ing), song.

A generic word for “song, singing, or music”. I’ve got nothing to add. Moving on…

Sus

  • Hebrew: שׂוּשׂ
  • Verb
  • Strong’s: 7797 – BibleHubSudyLightBlueLetterBible
  • Uses: 27x total, 9x in Psalms
  • KJV translations: rejoice (20x), glad (4x), greatly (1x), joy (1x), mirth (1x).
  • Strong’s definition: Or siys {sece}; a primitive root; to be bright, i.e. Cheerful — be glad, X greatly, joy, make mirth, rejoice.

Another straightforward definition. I’ve got nothing to add.

Teruah

  • Hebrew: תְּרוּעָה
  • Noun
  • Strong’s: 8643 – BibleHubSudyLightBlueLetterBible
  • Uses: 36x total, 5x in Psalms
  • KJV translations: shout (11x), shouting (8x), alarm (6x), sound (3x), blowing (2x), joy (2x), miscellaneous (4x).
  • Strong’s definition: From ruwa’; clamor, i.e. Acclamation of joy or a battle-cry; especially clangor of trumpets, as an alarum — alarm, blow(- ing) (of, the) (trumpets), joy, jubile, loud noise, rejoicing, shout(-ing), (high, joyful) sound(-ing).

Noun form of rua. I will refer you to that previous study for the meaning here.

Zimrah

  • Hebrew: תְּרוּעָה
  • Noun
  • Strong’s: 2172 – BibleHubSudyLightBlueLetterBible
  • Uses: 4x total, 2x in Psalms
  • KJV translations: melody (2x), psalm (2x).
  • Strong’s definition: From zamar; a musical piece or song to be accompanied by an instrument — melody, psalm.

Noun form of zamar. I will refer you to that previous study for the meaning here.

Book Review: A History of Contemporary Praise & Worship

As I have been preparing to teach a course on church music in the near future, I have been assembling a small library of books old and new. Some are practical, some philosophical, some historical. When I found out about the recently published (December 2021) book A History of Contemporary Praise & Worship I was intrigued, and when Scott Aniol recommended it, I knew I had to buy it.

I will be clear in the start that I am no fan or supporter of either contemporary or praise & worship music in church worship. I do not even enjoy either privately. I don’t think I am the target audience of this book at all, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The reason I can enjoy this book along with those that do love these modern worship trends is because it is all dealt with fairly and at “face value”. The authors do a fantastic job of letting the people and events speak for themselves without providing commentary. It is honest, straightforward history, which is a rare thing in Christianity today. I personally could not write something like this, as I would want to point out along the way all of the fallacies and flaws I found in the movements.

The authors trace the origins of modern church music to two sources that they describe as “rivers”. The first is Praise & Worship (I am keeping the ampersand since they purposely use it), which traces back the Latter Rain movement, a controversial offshoot of Pentecostalism in the 1940’s that has been widely influential in more recent Charismatic movements. The second is Contemporary Worship which has many tributaries, like the Jesus People and the Church Growth movement, which all attempted to make religion more accessible or relatable to modern culture. By the late 1990’s these essentially merged into the approach used in so many churches today.

I would label the two sources as “Pentecostal” and “Pragmatic”. The first focuses on praising to the point God shows up and then intimately worshipping Him. It is founded primarily on a novel interpretation of Psalm 22:3 and some unfounded typological conclusions regarding the Tabernacle(s). It is based on human experience, emotion, and expression. The second focuses on relevance to the world outside the church. It is founded on a misconception that the church must continually adapt to culture and a rather extreme application of I Corinthians 9:22. It is based on comfort, camouflage, and compromise. (See why I just can’t be impartial?)

There is hardly a page in my copy that I did not underline a name or note some statement in the text or footnotes. There is truly a wealth of information here, most of which I believe would surprise or shock conservative Christians.

Well-written, well-researched, and well-received, this book is a great read for anyone interested in the origins of, not just the music, but of the landscape of modern American Christianity.

On Typology

I’ll be honest and say that when it comes to Bible study I have generally avoided the area of Typology. But recently I have been studying, teaching, and encountering this system of Bible interpretation more than before. I had a few thoughts that I wanted to share on the subject.

Lewis Sperry Chafer defines it well in his Systematic Theology (Vol. III, p. 116-117):

A type is a divinely purposed anticipation which illustrates its antitype. These two parts of one theme are related to each other by the fact that the same truth or principle is embodied in each. It is not the prerogative of the type to establish the truth of a doctrine; it rather enhances the force of the truth as set forth in the antitype. On the other hand, the antitype serves to lift its type out of the commonplace into that which is inexhaustible and to invest it with riches and treasures hitherto unrevealed.

For example, so many wonderful types are found in the Tabernacle and its services that point to Christ. Indeed, this is almost certainly the primary application of Typology that you will find today. We could go on to speak endlessly on how the Passover lamb pictured Christ’s sacrifice. The books of Romans and Hebrews are full of types that use Old Testament references to highlight New Testament truths. Typology is a cornerstone of New Testament theology and Biblical interpretation.

But it is not without its limits or problems. This system of study has been greatly abused over the millennia. Quoting Chafer again (Systematic Theology, Vol. III, p. 116):

Typology, like prophecy, has often suffered more from its friends than its foes. The fact that extremists have failed to distinguish between that which is typical and that which is merely allegorical, analogous, parallel, happy illustration, or resemblance may have driven conservative theologians from the field. When truth is tortured by faddists and extremists, an added obligation is thereby imposed upon conservative scholarship to declare it in its right proportions. It is obvious that to neglect truth is a greater error than to overemphasize it or to misstate it; and typology, though abused by some, is, nevertheless, conspicuous by its absence from works Systematic Theology. That typology is neglected is evident from the fact that of upwards of twenty works of Systematic Theology examined, but one lists this subject in its index and this author has made but one slight reference to it in a footnote.

The safest interpretation of types and antitypes is to only claim as Old Testament types that which is explicitly states to have an antitype in the New Testament. For instance, Paul uses the first man Adam as a type of Christ (I Corinthians 15:21-22 and Romans 15:14-17). Another is Melchizedek (Genesis 14) who in Hebrews 7 is used as a type to reinforce Christ’s priestly role.

Yet, there are New Testament verses that apply typology very broadly. In Hebrews 9:8-12, we find that entire system of Tabernacle worship with its systems of sacrifices and varied ordinances points to the antitype of Christ’s redemptive work. The details are not given of how this applies to every aspect of the Tabernacle’s construction or the multitude of commandments in the Mosaic Law. It is clear that the Paschal lamb represents Christ, but what about the shewbread or the regulations concerning the differing types of sacrifices? We certainly know that the Bible is HIS story (Psalm 40:7, Hebrews 10:7). So then we are evidently left to discern these ourselves by the guidance of the Spirit.

But not every allusion to the Old Testament in the New Testament refers to a type. There are also illustrations, allegories, and analogies, to name a few. We must carefully discern among these.

So, let us develop of working theory of Typology.

  • First, it must be a connection of type and antitype, generally found in the Old and New Testaments respectively.
  • Second, the foundation for interpreting the relations of type and antitype must come from an emphasis on the antitype. We do not judge any truth about Adam on his typological parallels to Christ, but we do perform the opposite reaction.
  • Third, any supposition or hypothesis regarding the interpretation of a type and antitype must harmonize with the preponderance of clear Scriptural teaching. Just because a connection can be logically construed between two subjects does not give it the power to trump doctrine that is definitively and inarguably taught in Scripture.

Which brings me finally to the reason for this post. There are an error I encountered in the application of Typology that I wanted to mention. I doubt that I will be able to conclusively disprove it here, perhaps at a future time I will further develop my arguments to that level.

I encountered this problem while reading A History of Contemporary Praise & Worship by Lester Ruth and Lim Swee Hong. While discussing the development of Praise & Worship music in the Latter Rain movement, the authors highlight that one of the theological bases was Typology, specifically concerning Tabernacle.

  • “The linchpin of theological development within the Latter Rian movement of this period was a liturgical theology based on a typology.” (p. 46)
  • “Because the theology behind Praise & Worship was a typologically based theology, the identification of the key Scriptures and their interpretation as types was critical.” (p. 46)

The basis for their worship theology was a typological interpretation of the “tabernacle of David”. This not the Tabernacle of Moses, but the temporary dwelling place of the Ark of the Covenant from its arrival in Jerusalem in II Samuel 6 and the construction of the Temple by Solomon. There are verses that speak of the “tabernacle of David” being restored in Amos 9:11-12 and the quotation of Amos by James in Acts 15:15-17. How was this justified? Another quote (p. 47-48)

The result was a more highly developed theology featuring praise as the key to God’s presence in the church. or example, an instructor at Bible Temple’s Portland Bible College, Kevin Conner, wrote an influential textbook, The Tabernacle of David, that provided the most detailed hermeneutic to this theology. The core tabernacle of David passages mentioned above – both Old Testament and New Testament – along with a handful of other passages led to an emphasis on divine presence at the place of worship. The identification of this place as Zion reinforced the connection to praise and liturgical activity through a range of scriptural associations. The centerpiece of the original tabernacle, the ark of the covenant, was likewise central in the interpretation by being a type of Jesus Christ himself, who is present among his people, especially in their praise. The lack of reference to bloody animal sacrifices in the liturgical activity of the tabernacle of David, apart from the initial arrival of the ark, highlighted the centrality of perpetual praise as sacrifice, especially by an arrangement of priests whose work was now musical. The connection of the tabernacle and its way of worship to David reinforced the propriety of fully engaged, physically expressive, and musically offered Praise & Worship. In other words, a theology based on the restoration of the tabernacle of David took the earlier emphasis on the sacrifice of praise as the key to experiencing God’s presence and raised it to the level of a highly developed liturgical ecclesiology in which the church is a corporate priesthood that is praise-oriented and fulfills its priestly ministry in a musical manner.

There are, of course, problems with the system of Typology they are using, including.

  • There is no antitype, violating the primary rule of Typology. All emphasis is on examining the type but here is no clear antitype in the New Testament.
  • It assumes the “tabernacle of David” refers to the place the Ark was kept. In context, I believe (and so do most commentaries I have referenced) that this instead refers to the house or kingdom of David.
  • It assumes that restoration was occurring through them. This is part and parcel with their Restorationism, that is their belief that God was bring back true Christianity that had been lost for since the days of the Apostles through special revelation through their movement.
  • It conjectures that the worship at the “tabernacle of David” was all about praise and not about sacrifice or rituals. We simply do not have sound information on the approximately 40 years the Ark dwelt there until placed in the Temple. Much of details we see of David organizing the priesthood during this time was likely preparing for the construction of the Temple.

Similar errors are made in this same movement using Typology and the Tabernacle of Moses as a basis for a worship theology. They are not the only ones to do so. I have encountered in my recent studies on the Tabernacle many differing takes on the Typology of the Tabernacle, not all being soundly based with its antitype, Christ.

I close by echoing the words of Chafer quoted above. Typology can be a field of study that bears rich harvests to the believer today. But we must be careful and consistent it its application, and above all not let its abuse cause us to neglect its study. I certainly have been guilty of doing so.

The Pseudo-Fundamentalism of Today’s Reformed Movement

As we look back over the centuries, we can discern movements and counter-movements in the history of Christianity. One that easily discernable today is the resurgence in America of Reformed theology and tradition. I believe this is largely a reaction to the theological drift of American Christianity toward liberalism, “wokeism”, and (dare I say it?) apostacy.

So many Christians today are seeking more from Christianity than what a modern seeker-focused megachurches are teaching. They want deeper theology and richness in their Christian walk. Just hop on any social media platform and see these modern day Puritans denounce men, movements, and messages they deem as heretical and unscriptural.

What are these people turning to? In turning from the modern they seek the ancient. In turning from the emotional they turn to the logical. In turning from the shallow they turn to the profound. They are turning more and more to the the tenets of Calvinism and Reformed theology.

The influence of Charles Spurgeon in this is tremendous. Spurgeon himself reacted to the theological drift of his day by embracing the past preachers and theologians. He promoted the writings of the Puritans like no one else.

I see a parallel to this modern Reformed movement in the Fundamentalism of the early 20th century. I am certain they will crucify me for even suggesting that if they ever read this. But at that time so many across a broad spectrum of denominations were rejecting modernism and liberalism while embracing the “old time religion”. Fundamentalism was and is a reactionary movement to the theological drift towards liberalism. It was a movement towards conservative theology and historical practice.

The same things are are driving the modern Reformed movement. They are embracing and promoting practices such as singing of traditional hymns (even resurrecting some long forgotten ones) and the use of the liturgical calendar. I like to joke that Fundamentalism wants to keep things like they were in the 1950’s, but the Reformed movement honestly tries to keep their faith and practice in the 1700’s if not the 1500’s.

The modern Reformed movement and historic Fundamentalism are born of the same desires, reacting to similar concerns of theological drift, embracing traditionalist forms of worship, and rejecting unorthodox teachings and practice. Both promote the basis of Sola Scriptura in defining faith and practice. Both embrace their heritage, some of which overlaps as in the case of Charles Spurgeon. Today both can be seen taking similar stands on issues such as the use church music or their stances on abortion. You can watch these new and upcoming Reformed leaders come to the same realizations that Fundamentalism did a century before.

While they are similar, there can still be quite a bit of difference depending on what group you are examining. I, for one, reject the liturgical calendar as an unnecessary and extra-Biblical tradition. I reject the practice of infant baptism as unscriptural though classic Reformed theology promotes it. I reject the entire Calvinist-Arminian scale for measuring theology as outdated, unnecessary, and impractical. I reject much of the ecclesiology (I find the Baptist positions more in line with Scripture) and eschatology. I would not define the doctrines of election, predestination, or atonement the same as any Reformed theologian though thankfully I believe we are in agreement in “salvation by grace through faith”.

As a side note, the one area that I am surprised that the modern Reformed movement has not taken is the promotion and use of an historic translation of the Bible such as the KJV or the Geneva Bible. They have no problem reading authors or singing songs that read more like Shakespeare than any modern literature. I find it odd that in so many ways they embrace the theology, writings, and songs from the past yet use a Bible that does not reflect the same traditions.

To conclude, I believe what we are seeing in American Christianity is another repeat of a reaction to theological drift. Just as the Fundamentalists took at stand in the early 20th century against liberalism we are seeing Reformed leaders take a stand against apostacy in the church. These two are not the same but the similarities are striking.

II Samuel 15:7 – Forty Years or Four Years?

“And it came to pass after forty years, that Absalom said unto the king, I pray thee, let me go and pay my vow, which I have vowed unto the LORD, in Hebron.”
II Samuel 15:7 (KJV)

“At the end of four years, Absalom said to the king, ‘Let me go to Hebron and fulfill a vow I made to the LORD.'”

II Samuel 15:7 (NIV)

On Biblehub.com you will find 38 different translations of the Bible that can easily be compared to one another. 22 of these have forty years. This is not just a KJV issue as some portray it.

The division boils down to whether or not the Hebrew text stands on it own. I would not count myself an expert in ancient texts and languages by any stretch, but from those that give an honest take on this verse it appears the ancient Hebrew supports the reading of forty years. When referring to textual evidence supporting the reading of four years, much of the emphasis is placed on the writings of Josephus (late first century A.D.) or the Peshitta translation (maybe second century A.D.). Even the most studious critics seem to be unable to find textual evidence or variance in the ancient Hebrew manuscripts or text. One could argue that the error that has been passed down is not textual but interpretational.

The common argument made for four years is that it must have been an early copyist’s mistake. After all, they will argue, there is little difference between four and forty in Hebrew (compare Strong’s H702 and H705. The evidence they give is other scholars or translations that follow their own reasoning.

Let me say that I feel it is a dangerous precedent to simply assume the text must contain an error because it does not appear to make sense. It is purely subjective and places the authority not on God’s Word but in the mind of its human interpreter.

Since the entire argument for four years is based on the supposition that forty years does not make sense, I would like to propose that a reasonable argument made in the defense of forty has more weight since it has the authority of the Hebrew text behind it.

How Can Forty Years Be Explained?

There are a few different arguments that can be found in support of forty years. Let me list some that I have seen:

  • Absalom was forty years old. This is unlikely since he was born at Hebron after David was made king of Judah (II Samuel 3:3). Even it true, it would then place his rebellion in the final days of David’s forty-year reign (II Samuel 5:4), which does not fit in the scope of the Biblical account of that time.
  • It was the fortieth year of David’s reign. Again, this would place the revolt in a different time than the text places it and making it fit the chronology of David’s last years is practically impossible.
  • It was forty years since David had been anointed king by Samuel. This one is plausible according to the timeline in Reese’s Chronological Bible. The problem with it is tying the significance of David’s anointed in I Samuel 16:13 and Absalom’s rebellion.
  • It was forty years since David fought the Geshurites. This one is interesting and requires some imagination into Absalom’s motives. David’s attack on the Geshurites is briefly mentioned in I Samuel 27:8-9. Absalom’s mother Maacah was a Geshurite (II Samuel 3:3). So the theory goes that Absalom’s rebellion was a retaliation against David’s earlier attack against his mother’s people. However, we see little or no evidence in Absalom’s actions to suggest this to be the case. I don’t see it holding up chronologically since that attack would have come shortly before he was made king over Judah and thus falling into the same time issues as previous suggestions.
  • It was forty years since Israel requested a king. Since Saul reigned for forty years (Acts 13:21) that does not allow for enough time for this to be true.
  • It was just an “era of reckoning”. John Gill records this suggestion, basically that forty years just means a vague epoch. It would be odd to find such a singular occurrence here.
  • It was forty years since Saul slew the priests at Nob. Another suggestion recorded by John Gill. The chronology might work but once again there is no clear connection between this event and Absalom’s rebellion.
  • It is forty days and not forty years. The changing of the Hebrew words in this case seems to be less plausible than a change from forty to four as the the words for day and year are not closely related.

A More Reasonable Interpretation

I think context is the key most often neglected in situations like this, and I believe it provides a very plausible reason for forty years being correct.

In II Samuel 15:1-6, we see Absalom playing the part of a politician in winning over the people of Israel. He was visible with an entourage of chariots and men, he poured out superfluous compliments, he planted the suggestion that he should be in charge. What was the end result?

“…so Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.” – II Samuel 15:6

Israel’s heart had turned from their present king (David) to a popular young rival (Absalom).

Let me point out that the phrase above directly precedes the verse we have been focusing on. Absalom had worked until he had Israel’s heart (vs. 6) then he puts his plan for a coup into action (vs. 7).

Here is my reasonable explanation for forty years being correct: Absalom had stolen the hearts of Israel which David had possessed for forty years. This is the bookend to David’s popular beginning as seen in I Samuel 18:16 – “But all Israel and Judah loved David… “

This holds up chronologically. Reese’s Chronological Bible (which has a footnote preferring four years) gives evidence for this alternative. He assigns Absalom’s actions in II Samuel 15 to 1026 B.C. He assigns David’s popularity after slaying Goliath (as seen in I Samuel 18:16) to 1067 B.C. That is a difference of forty-one years – well within a scope of reasonable probablity.

It fits thematically. Israel’s heart had once turned from their current king (Saul) to a popular young rival (David). That parallels what happens in II Samuel 15. In a sense we have Absalom as the anti-David. David did not seek the throne but Absalom greedily campaigned for it. David would not raise his hand against Saul, but Absalom will stop at nothing to reach his goal.

I also think there is a connection to the judgment against him after his sin with Bathsheba (II Samuel 12:1-14). David’s family and kingdom were never the same after that sin. Losing the hearts of the people may have been part of that judgment.

Concluding Thoughts

I like simplicity and I prefer simple solutions over complex ones. I do not think the theory holds up that some scribe wrote the wrong word down, that it was not caught, and that is came to dominate the Hebrew manuscripts available today. I prefer to assume that the words presented are the words God wants us to have. To me that is a matter of simple faith. When we come across an oddity, such as the one we have examined here, I think we would do well to trust in the Scriptures themselves. Men are fallible, God is not. Scholars may fail and even our own interpretations may fail, but God never fails.