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Hebrew Thoughts

nâsagh - נָשׂןמפַג (Strong's #5381)

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The word נָשׂןמפַג nâsagh (Strong's #5381, x50) only occurs in what is known as the Hiphil or causative stem of the Hebrew verb. It seems to mean, therefore, "to cause to reach, attain". However, Job 24:2 is translated "Some remove landmarks" which is closer in meaning to the similar sounding verbs נָסַג nâçagh (Strong's #5253) "to remove, displace, takeaway" and נָסַע nâça‘ (Strong's #5265) "to remove, pluck, break camp".

The translation "overtake" is found in about half of its uses in English versions. This is clearly the meaning, although perhaps "catch up to" would be equally valid, with Laban and Jacob (Genesis 31:25); the steward that Joseph sent after his brothers (44:4,6). In Genesis 47:9 Joseph described to Pharaoh how he had not "reached" or "attained to" the age of his forefathers.

In Exodus (14:9) the word is used to describe the "pursuing" רָדַף râdhaph (Strong's #7291) Egyptian army catching up with the Israelites at the Red Sea. A chapter later in the Song of Moses the same two verbs are used almost synonymously "I will pursue, I will overtake" (Exodus 15:9). Similarly Deuteronomy 19:6 uses the verbs for the avenger "catching up" with the manslayer and the resultant need for cities of refuge. The paralellism of these two verbs continues elsewhere in the historical books, the Psalms (e.g., 7:5; 18:37), and in Jeremiah's description of pursuing Chaldean armies (39:5; 52:8).

In Levitical law we find the verb used for the poor man's circumstances not "attaining to" or reaching to a necessary level for a sin offering (5:11), trespass offering (14:21-22), or for a leper's cleansing (14:30-32). In Leviticus 25:47 the word describes a stranger's status "overtaking" that of a poorer man who then sells himself to the richer man. Leviticus 26:5 uses the term for a period of agricultural time that reaches or "lasts" until the next chronological stage, such as threshing "lasting" until grape harvest.

Perhaps the most beautiful imagined promise in the Pentateuch is the idea that God's blessings "shall come upon you and overtake you", because you obey his voice (Deuteronomy 28:2). The obverse to this is that the curses may likewise "overtake" one through disobedience (28:15,45 [where they are also coupled with "pursue" again]).

Another comforting thought is contained in the Isaianic promise of being "overtaken" by joy, translated as joy "taking possession of" them in the Greek Septuagint; "And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, And come to Zion with singing, With everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, And sorrow and sighing shall flee away." (Isaiah 35:10; 51:11).


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KJ Went has taught biblical Hebrew, hermeneutics and Jewish background to early Christianity. Their "Biblical Hebrew made easy" course can be found at

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