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Hebrew Thoughts

‘êtsâh - עצה (Strong's #6098)
Counsel

"The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect.
The counsel of the LORD stands forever,
The plans of His heart to all generations." (Psalm 33:10-11 , x88) means counsel or advice from a root meaning to consult, advise, command or deliberate יעץ yâ‘ats (Strong's #3289). The first use of the verb is in Exodus 18:19 when Moses receives his non-Jewish father-in-law Jethro's advice on organising God's people so as not to burn himself out. So wise advice need not come directly from God or a believer. In 1 Kings 12:8,13,14 Rehoboam rejects the counsel of the elders in favour of that of his young friends.

עצה ‘êtsâh is also used frequently in the account of Ahithophel, a man renowned for his wise advice (2 Samuel 16:23). At the time of Absalom’s revolt he deserted David and promoted Absalom. David responded by turning to Hushai to counteract Ahithophel's plans (2 Samuel 17:14). Upon realising that he had adopted the wrong side and that his advice was no longer being heeded Ahithophel returned home and hanged himself (2 Samuel 17:23).

Hebrew has many words translated as counsel apart from the noun and root above, for instance פּה peh "mouth" (Strong's #6310, e.g., Joshua 9:14), דּבר dâbhâr "speech" (Strong's #1697, e.g., Numbers 31:16), סוד çôwdh "secret" (Strong's #5475, e.g., Job 15:8), יסד yâçadh "recline" (Strong's #3245, e.g., Psalm 2:2), תּחבּלה tach'bûlah "direction" (Proverbs 1:5), but especially in Job and the Psalms it is with סוד çôwdh and יסד yâçadh that עצה ‘êtsâh is most commonly paralleled.

Traditionally, instruction and law came from the priest, vision and word from the prophet and counsel from the wise and elders with understanding (Jeremiah 18:18; 49:7, Ezekiel 7:26). Counsel and counselling, therefore, did not mean comfort but wisdom; nor did understanding mean an empathetic, "I know how you feel" but the ability to discern and debate drawn from the twin disciplines of life and learning, experience and education. Counsel without knowledge is described as a darkening or concealing of counsel in Job (38:2; 42:3).

Counsel is often paralleled with a Hebrew word for planning (e.g., Psalm 33:10-11, Proverbs 19:21, Jeremiah 49:30) and so involves discussion, deliberation and thought, not a "call a friend" or "ask the public" lottery or opinion poll. The paralleled words סוד çôwdh and יסד yâçadh denote trust and intimacy [see Hebrew Thoughts column on סוד] though Proverbs 11:14 does recommend a "multitude of counsellors" for safety. It is this loss of trust and intimacy that perhaps offends God most when people take counsel but not of him (Isaiah 30:1).

   
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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 www.biblicalhebrew.com.

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