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Bible Dictionaries

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words

Gather

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Qâbats (קָבַץ, Strong's #6908), “to collect, gather, assemble.” This verb also appears in Ugaritic, Arabic, Aramaic, and post-biblical Hebrew; a similar word (having the same radicals but a different meaning) occurs in Ethiopic. Qâbats appears in all periods of Hebrew and about 130 times in the Bible. The verb ‘acaph is a near synonym to qâbats, differing from it only by having a more extensive range of meanings. ‘Acap duplicates, however, all the meanings of qâbats.

First, qâbats means “to gather” things together into a single location. The word may focus on the process of “gathering,” as in Gen. 41:35 (the first occurrence): Joseph advised Pharaoh to appoint overseers to “gather all the food of those good years that come, and lay up corn under the hand of Pharaoh.…”  The verb may also focus on the result of the process, as in Gen. 41:48: “And he gathered up all the food of the seven years, which were in the land of Egypt.…” Only in one passage does qâbats mean “to harvest” (Isa. 62:9): “But they that have gathered [harvested] it [grain] shall eat it and praise the Lord; and they that have brought it [wine] together shall drink it in the courts of my holiness.”

This verb is used metaphorically of things that can be “gathered” only in a figurative sense. So in Ps. 41:6, the enemy’s “heart gathereth iniquity to itself” while visiting—i.e., the enemy considers how he can use everything he hears and sees against his host.

Qâbats is often used of “gathering” people or “assembling” them. This “gathering” is usually a response to a summons, but not always. In 1 Kings 11:24, David “gathered men unto him, and became captain over a [marauding] band.” This action was not the result of a summons David issued, but resulted from reports that circulated about him. The entire story makes it quite clear that David was not seeking to set up a force rivaling Saul’s. But when men came to him, he marshalled them.

Quite often this verb is used of “summoning” people to a central location. When Jacob blessed his sons, for example, he “summoned” them to him and then told them to gather around closer (Gen. 49:2). This same word is used of “summoning” the militia. All able-bodied men in Israel between the ages of 20 and 40 were members of the militia. In times of peace they were farmers and tradesmen; but when danger threatened, a leader would “assemble” them or “summon” them to a common location and organize them into an army (cf. Judg. 12:4). All Israel could be “summoned” or “gathered” for battle (as a militia); thus “… Saul gathered all Israel together, and they pitched in Gilboa” (1 Sam. 28:4). This military use may also signify “marshalling” a standing army in the sense of “setting them up” for battle. The men of Gibeon said: “All the kings of the Amorites that dwell in the mountains are gathered together against us” (Josh. 10:6). In 1 Kings 20:1, qâbats carries this sense in addition to overtones of “concentrating” an entire army against a particular point: “And Ben-hadad the king of Syria gathered all his host together: and there were thirty and two kings with him, and horses, and chariots: and he went up and besieged Samaria, and warred against it.”

Ordered assemblies may include assemblies for covenant-making: “And Abner said unto David, I will arise and go, and will gather all Israel unto my lord the king, that they may make a league with thee …” (2 Sam. 3:21). In several instances, assemblies are “convened” for public worship activities: “Samuel said, Gather all Israel to Mizpeh.… And they gathered together to Mizpeh, and drew water, and poured it out before the Lord, and fasted on that day …” (1 Sam. 7:5-6; cf. Joel 2:16).

When qâbats appears in the intensive stem, God is often the subject. This usage connotes that something will result that would not result if things were left to themselves. The verb is used in this sense to refer to “divine judgment”: “As they gathered silver, and brass … into the midst of the furnace, to blow the fire upon it, to melt it; so will I gather you in mine anger and in my fury (Ezek. 22:20). Qâbats is also applied to “divine deliverance”: “… The Lord thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the Lord thy God hath scattered thee” (Deut. 30:3).

A special use of the verb qâbats appears in Joel 2:6, namely “to glow” or “glow with excitement” or “become pale [white]”: “Before their face the people shall be much pained: all faces shall gather blackness.”

'Âsaph (אָסַף, Strong's #622), “to gather, gather in, take away.” This verb also occurs in Akkadian, Ugaritic, Phoenician, and Aramaic. It is attested at all periods of biblical literature, and it appears about 200 times.

Basically, 'âsaph refers to “bringing objects to a common point.” This may mean to “gather” or “collect” something such as food. The first occurrence is when God told Noah to “gather” food to himself (Gen. 6:21). Eventually, the food was to go into the ark. This verb can also refer to “gathering” food at harvest time, or “harvesting”: “And six years thou shalt sow thy land, and shalt gather in the fruits thereof” (Exod. 23:10). Second Kings 22:4 refers not to a process of going out and getting something together, but to standing still as someone brings money to one. Also notice Gen. 29:22: “And Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast”; this verse similarly focuses on the end product of gathering. But here the “gatherer” does not physically handle what is “gathered.” He is simply the impetus or active cause for a congregating of all those men. God may “gather” a man to his fathers—i.e., cause him to die (2 Kings 22:20). Here the emphasis is on the end product, and God as the agent who “gathers.”

'Âsaph may represent not only the process of bringing things to a common location; the word may also represent “bringing” things to oneself. After the harvest is brought (“gathered”) in from the threshing floor and wine vat, the Feast of Booths is to be celebrated (Deut. 16:13). In Deut. 22:2, a man is to “gather” into his home (bring home and care for) a lost animal whose owner cannot be found. In this manner, God “gathers” to Himself those abandoned by their family (Ps. 27:10). A special application of this nuance is to “receive hospitality”: “… When he went in he sat him down in a street of the city: for there was no man that took them into his house to lodging” (Judg. 19:15). “To gather in” also may mean “to be consumed by”—God promises that His people “shall be no more consumed with hunger” (Ezek. 34:29). Finally, used in this way the verb can mean “to bring into,” as when Jacob “gathered up his feet into the bed” (Gen. 49:33).

The third emphasis is the “withdrawal” or “removal” of something; the action is viewed from the perspective of one who loses something because someone has taken it (“gathered it in”). In Ps. 85:3, the “gathering” represents this sort of “withdrawal away from” the speaker. Thus, anger “disappears”: “Thou hast taken away all thy wrath.” Compare also Rachel’s statement at the birth of Joseph: “God hath taken away my reproach” (Gen. 30:23). In this case, Sarah speaks of the “destruction” of her reproach. “To gather one’s soul” is “to lose” one’s life (Judg. 18:25). God can also be the agent who “gathers” or “takes away” a soul: “Gather not my soul with sinners …” (Ps. 26:9). In this sense, 'âsaph can mean “being cured” of a disease; “Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy” (2 Kings 5:3).

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

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