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Bible Dictionaries

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words

Former

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Ri'shôn (רִאשֹׁן, Strong's #7223), “former; chief; first.” This word comes from a common Semitic root that also yields ro’sh (“head”) and ri'shit (“beginning”). Ri'shôn, which appears 182 times (first in Gen. 8:13), is well represented throughout the entire Old Testament, with the exception of the poetic books and the minor prophets. The basic meaning of ri'shôn is “first” in a series. The word is the antonym of ’acharon (“last”). On the one hand, ri'shôn may refer to the “first month” (Exod. 40:2), the “first day” (Exod. 12:15), the “former temple” (Ezra 3:12)or the “firstborn” (Gen. 25:25ff.).

On the other hand, the word may denote the “most prominent” in a series. Thus God is “the first” as well as “the last”: “Who hath wrought and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? I the Lord, the first, and with the last; I am he” (Isa. 41:4). The most prominent people at a banquet sat in the “first place” (Esth. 1:14). The use of ri'shôn with “father” in “Thy first father hath sinned, and thy teachers have transgressed against me” (Isa. 43:27) expresses how Israel’s beginnings started with sin and rebellion. A

s a reference to time, ri'shôn signifies what has been—i.e., the “former.” This usage appears in phrases meaning a “former position” (Gen. 40:13) and a “deceased husband” (Hos. 2:7). The “prophets of the past” (Zech. 1:4) and “ancestors” (Lev. 26:45) are both best understood as expressions referring to the past. The prophetic phrase “former days” (unlike “latter days”) expresses Israel’s past sin and God’s judgment on Israel: “Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them” (Isa. 42:9).

The Septuagint translations are: proteros (“earlier; former; superior”), protos (“first; earlier; earliest”), emprosthen (“ahead; in front”), arche (“beginning; first cause; ruler; rule”). The KJV gives these translations: “first; former; before; beginning.”

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Bibliography Information
Vines, W. E., M. A. Entry for 'Former'. Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/vot/f/former.html. 1940.

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