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Bible Dictionaries

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words

Go Down

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Yârad (יָרַד, Strong's #3381), “to descend, go down, come down.” This verb occurs in most Semitic languages (including post-biblical Hebrew) and in all periods. In biblical Hebrew, the word appears about 380 times and in all periods.

Basically, this verb connotes “movement” from a higher to a lower location. In Gen. 28:12, Jacob saw a “ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.” In such a use, the speaker or observer speaks from the point of destination, and the movement is “downward” toward him. Thus one may “go down” below or under the ground’s surface (Gen. 24:16). The speaker may also speak as though he stands at the point of departure and the movement is away from him and “downward.”

Interestingly, one may “go down” to a lower spot in order to reach a city’s gates (Judg. 5:11) or to get to a city located on a lower level than the access road (1 Sam. 10:8)—usually one goes up to a city and “goes down” to leave a city (1 Sam. 9:27). The journey from Palestine to Egypt is referred to as “going down” (Gen. 12:10). This reference is not to a movement in space from a higher to a lower spot; it is a more technical use of the verb.

Yârad is used frequently of “dying.” One “goes down” to his grave. Here the idea of spatial movement is present, but in the background. This “going down” is much more of a removal from the world of conscious existence: For the grave cannot praise thee, death cannot celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth. The living, the living, he shall praise thee …” (Isa. 38:18-19). On the other hand, “going down to the dust” implies a return to the soil—i.e., a return of the body to the soil from which it came (Gen. 3:19). “All they that go down to the dust shall bow before him …” (Ps. 22:29). There is also the idea of the “descent” of the human soul into the realm of the dead. When Jacob mourned over Joseph whom he thought to be dead, he said: “For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning” (Gen. 37:35). Since one can “descend” into Sheol alive as a form of punishment (Num. 16:30), this phrase means more than the end of human life. This meaning is further established because Enoch was rewarded by being taken off the earth: “And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him” (Gen. 5:24); he was rewarded by not having “to descend” into Sheol

. Yârad may also be used of “coming down,” when the emphasis is on “moving downward” toward the speaker: “And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower” of Babel (Gen. 11:5—the first biblical occurrence). This verb may also be used to express coming down from the top of a mountain, as Moses did when he “descended” from Sinai (Exod. 19:14). The word may be used of “dismounting” from a donkey: “And when Abigail saw David, she hasted, and lighted off the ass …” (1 Sam. 25:23). Abigail’s entire body was not necessarily lower than before, so movement from a higher to a lower location is not indicated. However, she was no longer on the animal’s back. So the verb here indicates “getting off” rather than getting down or descending. In a somewhat related nuance, one may “get out” of bed. Elijah told Ahaziah: “Thou shalt not come down from that bed on which thou art gone up …” (2 Kings 1:4). Again, the idea is not of descending from something. When one comes down from a bed, he stands up; he is higher than he was while yet in the bed. Therefore, the meaning here is “get out of” rather than “descend.” This verb is used also to describe what a beard does—it “hangs down” (Ps. 133:2). Yârad is used to indicate “coming away from” the altar: “And Aaron lifted up his hand toward the people, and blessed them, and came down from offering of the sin offering …” (Lev. 9:22). This special use is best seen as the opposite of “ascending to” the altar, which is not just a physical movement from a lower to a higher plane but a spiritual ascent to a higher realm of reality. For example, to “ascend” before a king is to go into the presence of someone who is on a higher social level. “To ascend” before God (represented by the altar) is to go before Someone on a higher spiritual plane. To stand before God is to stand in His presencebefore His throne, on a higher spiritual plane. Yârad may thus be used of the humbled approach before God. God tells Moses that all the Egyptians shall “come down” to Him and bow themselves before Him (Exod. 11:8). Equally interesting is the occasional use of the verb to represent “descending” to a known sanctuary (cf. 2 Kings 2:2).

Figuratively, the verb has many uses. The “going down” of a city is its destruction (Deut. 20:20). When a day “descends,” it comes to an end (Judg. 19:11). The “descent” of a shadow is its lengthening (2 Kings 20:11). Tears “flow down” the cheeks when one weeps bitterly (Jer. 13:17). Yârad is also used figuratively of a “descent in social position”: “The stranger that is within thee shall get up above thee very high; and thou shalt come down very low” (Deut. 28:43).

At least once the word means “to go up.” Jephthah’s daughter said: “Let me alone two months, that I may go up and down upon the mountains, and bewail my virginity …” (Judg. 11:37).

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

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