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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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TEMPTATION . The English words ‘tempt’ and ‘temptation’ are in the OT with the exception of Malachi 3:15 , where a synonym bâchan is used, the tr. [Note: translate or translation.] of various forms of the root nissâh , which is most frequently rendered ‘prove.’ In Genesis 22:1 RV [Note: Revised Version.] tr. [Note: translate or translation.] ‘God did prove Abraham.’ But RV [Note: Revised Version.] retains ‘temptation’ for ( a ) God’s testing of Pharaoh’s character and disposition ( Deuteronomy 4:34 , RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ‘ trials ’ or ‘evidences’; cf. Deuteronomy 7:19; Deuteronomy 29:3 ); ( b ) Israel’s distrustful putting of God Himself to the proof ( Deuteronomy 6:16; cf. Exodus 17:2; Exodus 17:7 , Numbers 14:22 , Psalms 78:18; Psalms 78:41; Psalms 78:56 ). In Psalms 95:8 RV [Note: Revised Version.] rightly keeps ‘ Massah ’ as a proper name, the reference being to the historic murmuring at Rephidim ( Exodus 17:1 ff.; cf. Deuteronomy 33:8 , Psalms 81:7 ).

Driver ( ICC [Note: CC International Critical Commentary.] , on Deuteronomy 6:15 ) points out, in a valuable note, that ‘nissâh is a neutral word, and means to test or prove a person, to see whether he will act in a particular way ( Exodus 16:4 , Judges 2:22; Judges 3:4 ), or whether the character he bears is well established ( 1 Kings 10:1 ). God thus proves a person, or puts him to the test , to see if his fidelity of affection is sincere ( Genesis 22:1 , Exodus 20:20 , Deuteronomy 8:2; Deuteronomy 13:3; cf. Psalms 26:2 ); and men test , or prove Jehovah when they act as if doubting whether His promise be true, or whether He is faithful to His revealed character ( Exodus 17:2; Exodus 17:7 , Numbers 14:22 , Psalms 106:14; cf. Isaiah 7:12 ).’

2. The Gr. word peirasmos is the usual LXX [Note: Septuagint.] rendering of massâh . It is also ‘a neutral word,’ though in the NT it sometimes means enticement to sin ( Mat 4:1 , 1 Corinthians 7:5 , Revelation 2:10 etc.; cf. ‘the tempter,’ Matthew 4:3 , 1 Thessalonians 3:5 ). In the RV [Note: Revised Version.] it is almost always tr. [Note: translate or translation.] ‘temptation,’ with the occasional marginal alternative ‘trial’ ( James 1:2 ), 1 Peter 1:6 ); the exceptions are Acts 20:19 , Revelation 3:10 , where ‘trial’ is found in the text. The Amer. RV [Note: Revised Version.] substitutes ‘try’ or ‘make trial of’ (‘trial’) for ‘tempt’ (‘temptation’) ‘wherever enticement to what is wrong is not evidently spoken of’ (see Appendix to RV [Note: Revised Version.] , note vi.); but ‘temptation’ is retained in Matthew 6:13 = Luke 11:4 , where the range of the petition cannot be thus limited; cf. James 1:2 .

3 . In expounding the prayer ‘Bring us not into temptation,’ and other passages in which the word has a wider meaning than enticement to sin, the difficulty is partially, but only partially, to be ascribed to the narrowing of the significance of the English word since 1611. If, as Driver thinks, ‘to tempt has, in modern English, acquired the sense of provoking or enticing a person in order that he may act in a particular way (= Heb. hissîth ),’ there is no doubt that ‘tempt’ is often ‘a misleading rendering.’ Into such temptation the heavenly Father cannot bring His children; our knowledge of His character prevents us from tracing to Him any allurement to evil. The profound argument of St. James ( James 1:13 ) is that God is ‘Himself absolutely unsusceptible to evil,’ and therefore He is ‘incapable of tempting others to evil’ (Mayor, Com., in loc. ). But the difficulty is not removed when the petition is regarded as meaning ‘bring us not into trial.’ Can a Christian pray to he exempted from the testing without which sheltered innocence cannot become approved virtue? Can he ask that he may never be exposed to those trials upon the endurance of which his blessedness depends ( James 1:12 )? The sufficient answer is that He who was ‘in all points tempted like as we are’ ( Hebrews 4:15 ) has taught us to pray ‘after this manner.’ His own prayer in Gethsemane ( Matthew 26:42 ), and His exhortation to His disciples ( Matthew 26:41 ), prove, by example and by precept, that when offered in subjection to the central, all-dominating desire ‘Thy will be done,’ the petition ‘Bring us not into temptation’ is always fitting on the lips of those who know that ‘the flesh is weak.’ Having thus prayed, those who find themselves ringed round ( James 1:2 , peri ) by temptations will be strengthened to endure joyfully. Their experience is not joyous, but grievous; nevertheless, Divine wisdom enables them to ‘count it all joy’ as being a part of the discipline which is designed to make them ‘perfect and entire, lacking in nothing.’

On the Temptation of our Lord see Jesus Christ, P. 447 a .

J. G. Tasker.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Temptation'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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