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Bible Dictionaries

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words

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Gracious, to Be; Show Favor
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A. Adjective.

Ṭôb (טוֹב, Strong's #2896), “good; favorable; festive; pleasing,;pleasant; well; better; right; best.” This word appears in Akkadian, Aramaic, Arabic, Ugaritic, and Old South Arabic. Occurring in all periods of biblical Hebrew, it appears about 559 times.

This adjective denotes “good” in every sense of that word. For example, ṭôb is used in the sense “pleasant” or “delightful”: “And he saw that [a resting place] was good, and the land that it was pleasant; and bowed his shoulder to bear [burdens] …” (Gen. 49:15). An extension of this sense appears in Gen. 40:16, where ṭôb means “favorable” or “in one’s favor”: “When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was good, he said unto Joseph.…” In 1 Sam. 25:8, the emphasis is on the nuance “delightful” or “festal”: “… Let the young men find favor in thine eyes: for we come in a good day.…” God is described as One who is “good,” or One who gives “delight” and “pleasure”: “But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all thy works” (Ps. 73:28).

In 1 Sam. 29:6, this word describes human activities: “… As the Lord liveth, thou hast been upright, and thy going out and thy coming in with me in the [army] is good in my sight.…” Ṭôb can be applied to scenic beauty, as in 2 Kings 2:19: “Behold, I pray thee, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord seeth: but the water is naught, and the ground barren.” Second Chron. 12:12 employs a related nuance when it applies the word to the conditions in Judah under King Rehoboam, after he humbled himself before God: “… Things went well.”

Ṭôb often qualifies a common object or activity. When the word is used in this sense, no ethical overtones are intended. In 1 Sam. 19:4, ṭôb describes the way Jonathan spoke about David: “And Jonathan spake good of David unto Saul his father, and said unto him, Let not the king sin against his servant, against David; because he hath not sinned against thee, and because his works have been [toward thee] very good.” First Samuel 25:15 characterizes a people as “friendly” or “useful”: “But the men were very good unto us, and we were not hurt, neither missed we any thing, as long as we were conversant with them, when we were in the fields.…” Often this word bears an even stronger emphasis, as in 1 Kings 12:7, where the “good word” is not only friendly but eases the life of one’s servants. God’s “good word” promises life in the face of oppression and uncertainty: “… There hath not failed one word of all his good promise, which he promised by the hand of Moses his servant” (1 Kings 8:56). Ṭôb often characterizes a statement as an important assertion for salvation and prosperity (real or imagined): “Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness” (Exod. 14:12). God judged that man’s circumstance without a wife or helpmeet was not “good” (Gen. 2:18). Elsewhere ṭôb is applied to an evaluation of one’s well-being or of the wellbeing of a situation or thing: “And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness” (Gen. 1:4—the first occurrence).

Ṭôb is used to describe land and agriculture: “And I am come down to deliver them out of the [power] of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good [fertile] land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey …” (Exod. 3:8). This suggests its potential of supporting life (Deut. 11:17). Thus the expression “the good land” is a comment about not only its existing, but its potential, productivity. In such contexts the land is viewed as one aspect of the blessings of salvation promised by God; thus the Lord did not permit Moses to cross the Jordan and enter the land which His people were to inherit (Deut. 3:26-28). This aspect of the “good land” includes overtones of its fruitfulness and “pleasantness”: “And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them …” (1 Sam. 8:14). Ṭôb is used to describe men or women. Sometimes it is used of an “elite corps” of people: “And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses …” (1 Sam. 8:16). In 2 Sam. 18:27, Ahimaaz is described as a “good” man because he comes with “good” military news. In 1 Sam. 15:28, the word has ethical overtones: “The Lord hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbor of thine, that is better than thou” (cf. 1 Kings 2:32). In other passages, ṭôb describes physical appearance: “And the damsel was very fair to look upon [literally, “good of appearance”] …” (Gen. 24:16). When applied to one’s heart, the word describes “well-being” rather than ethical status. Therefore, the parallel idea is “joyous and happy”: “… And they … went unto their tents joyful and glad of heart for all the goodness that the Lord had done for David …” (1 Kings 8:66). Dying “at a good old age” describes “advanced age,” rather than moral accomplishment, but a time when due to divine blessings one is fulfilled and satisfied (Gen. 15:15).

Ṭôb indicates that a given word, act, or circumstance contributes positively to the condition of a situation. Often this judgment does not mean that the thing is actually “good,” only that it is so evaluated: “When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was good …” (Gen. 40:16). The judgment may be ethical: “It is not good that ye do: ought ye not to walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the heathen …?” (Neh. 5:9). The word may also represent “agreement” or “concurrence”: “The thing proceedeth from the Lord: we cannot speak unto thee bad or good” (Gen. 24:50).

Ṭôb is often used in conjunction with the Hebrew word ra’ah (“bad; evil”). Sometimes this is intended as a contrast; but in other contexts it may mean “everything from good [friendly] to bad [unfriendly],” which is a way of saying “nothing at all.” In other contexts, more contrast is suggested: “And what the land is that they dwell in, whether it be good or bad …” (Num. 13:19). In this case, the evaluation would determine whether the land could support the people well or not.

In Gen. 2:9, ṭôb contrasted with evil has moral overtones: “… the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” The fruit of this tree, if consumed, would reveal the difference between moral evil and moral “good.” This reference also suggests that, by eating this fruit, man attempted to determine for himself what “good” and evil are.

B. Verbs.

Yâṭab (יָטַב, Strong's #3190), “to go well, be pleasing, be delighted, be happy.” This verb appears 117 times in the Old Testament. The meaning of the word, as expressed in Neh. 2:6, is “pleased.”

Ṭôb (טוֹב, Strong's #2895), “to be joyful, glad, pleasant, lovely, appropriate, becoming, good, precious.” Ṭôb has cognates in Akkadian and Arabic. The verb occurs 21 times in the Old Testament. Job 13:9 is one example of the word’s meaning, “to be good”: “Is it good that he should search you out?”

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