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Bible Dictionaries
Great, to Be; Heavy

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words

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A. Verbs.

Kâbêd (כָּבֵד, Strong's #3515), “to be heavy, weighty, burdensome, dull, honored, glorious.” This word is a common Semitic term, one that is found frequently in ancient Akkadian and Ugaritic, as well as in Hebrew of all periods. Kâbêd occurs more than 150 times in the Hebrew Bible. The verb’s first occurrence is in Gen. 13:2 in the sense of “being rich”: “And Abram was very rich.…” This usage vividly illustrates the basic implications of the word. Whenever kâbêd is used, it reflects the idea of “weightiness,” or that which is added to something else. Thus, to be “very rich” means that Abram was heavily “weighted down” with wealth. This idea also explains how the word can be used to indicate the state of “being honored” or “glorious,” for honor and glory are additional qualities that are added to a person or thing.

“To be heavy” includes negative as well as positive aspects. Thus, calamity is “heavier than the sand of the sea” (Job 6:3), and the hand of God is “very heavy” in punishing the Philistines (1 Sam. 5:11). Bondage and heavy work are “heavy” on the people (Exod. 5:9; Neh. 5:18). Eyes (Gen. 48:10) and ears (Isa. 59:1) that have become insensitive, or “dull,” have had debilitating conditions added to them, whether through age or other causes. The heart of a man may become excessively “weighted” with stubbornness and thus become “hardened” (Exod. 9:7).

“To honor” or “glorify” anything is to add something which it does not have in itself, or that which others can give. Children are commanded to “honor” their parents (Exod. 20:12; Deut. 5:16); Balak promised “honor” to Balaam (Num. 22:17); Jerusalem (Lam. 1:8) and the Sabbath (Isa. 58:13) are “honored” or “made glorious.” Above all, “honor” and “glory” are due to God, as repeatedly commanded in the biblical text: “Honor the Lord with thy substance” (Prov. 3:9); “Let the Lord be glorified” (Isa. 66:5); “Glorify ye the Lord” (Isa. 24:15).

Kâbêd is also the Hebrew word for “liver,” apparently reflecting the sense that the liver is the heaviest of the organs of the body.

Râbab (רָבַב, 7231), “to be numerous, great, large, powerful.” This verb, which occurs 24 times in biblical Hebrew, appears in most other Semitic languages as well. The first occurrence means “to be (or become) numerous” (Gen. 6:1). Râbab can also mean “to be great” in size, prestige, or power (cf. Gen. 18:20; Job 33:12; Ps. 49:16). With a subject indicating time, this verb implies “lengthening” (Gen. 38:12), and with special subjects the word may imply “extension of space” (Deut. 14:24).

B. Nouns.

Rôb (רֹב, Strong's #7230), “multitude; abundance.” This noun occurs about 150 times in biblical Hebrew. The word basically means “multitude” or “abundance”; it has numerical implications apparent in its first biblical appearance: “I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude” (Gen. 16:10).

When applied to time or distance, rôb indicates a “large amount” or “long”: “And these bottles of wine, which we filled, were new; and, behold, they be rent: and these our garments and our shoes are become old by reason of the very long journey” (Josh. 9:13). In several passages, the word is applied to abstract ideas or qualities. In such cases, rôb means “great” or “greatness”: “… This that is glorious in his apparel, traveling in the greatness of his strength” (Isa. 63:1).

The preposition le when prefixed to the noun rôb sometimes forms an adverbial phrase meaning “abundantly”: “For it was little which thou hadst before I came, and it is now increased unto a multitude …” (Gen. 30:30). The same phrase bears a different sense in 1 Kings 10:10, where it seems to be almost a substantive: “There came no more such abundance of spices as these which the queen of Sheba gave to king Solomon.” The phrase literally appears to mean “great” with respect to “multitude.” This phrase is applied to Uzziah’s building activities: “… And on the wall of Ophel he built much” (2 Chron. 27:3), where it means “much.” This phrase is extended by the addition of ’ad. Thus we have ’ad lerob, meaning “exceeding much”: “Since the people began to bring the offerings into the house of the Lord, we have had enough to eat, and have left plenty [literally, “the remainder is exceeding much”] …” (2 Chron. 31:10).

Rab (רַב, Strong's #7227), “chief.” This word is a transliteration of the Akkadian rab, an indication of “military rank” similar to our word generalThe first appearance: “And it came to pass, that at midnight [literally, “the middle of the officers| of his house].…” One should especially note the titles in Jeremiah: “And all the princes [officials] of the king of Babylon came in, and sat in the middle gate, even Nergal-shar-ezer, Samgarnebo, Sarsechim, Rab-saris, Nergal-sharezer, Rab-mag, with all the residue of the princes of the king of Babylon” (39:3). Verses 9, 10, 11, and 13 of Jeremiah 39 mention Nebuzaradan as the “captain” of the bodyguard.

C. Adjective.

Rab (רַב, Strong's #7227), “many; great; large; prestigious; powerful.” This adjective has a cognate in biblical Aramaic. The Hebrew word appears about 474 times in the Old Testament and in all periods.

First, this word represents plurality in number or amount, whether applied to people or to things. Rab is applied to people in Gen. 26:14: “For he [Isaac] had possession of flocks, and possession of herds, and great store of servants.…” In Gen. 13:6, the word is applied to things: “And the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together: for their substance was great, so that they could not dwell together.” This word is sometimes used of “large groups of people” (Exod. 5:5). This basic idea of “numerical multiplicity” is also applied to amounts of liquids or masses of non-liquids: “And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly …” (Num. 20:11); a “great” amount of water came forth. Rebekah told Abraham’s servant that her father had “straw and provender enough, and room to lodge in” (Gen. 24:25).

The phrase “many waters” is a fixed phrase meaning the “sea”: “… Thou whom the merchants of Zidon, that pass over the sea, have replenished. And by great waters the seed of Sihor, the harvest of the river, is her revenue …” (Isa. 23:2-3). “And the channels of the sea appeared, the foundations of the world were discovered, at the rebuking of the Lord, at the blast of the breath of his nostrils. He sent from above, he took me; he drew me out of many waters …” (2 Sam. 22:16-17). This imagery is used in several Old Testament poetical passages; it would be wrong to conclude that this view of the world was true or actual. On the other hand, Gen. 7:11 uses a related phrase as a figure of the “sources of all water”: “… The same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up.…”

Used in conjunction with “days” or “years,” rab means “long,” and the resulting phrase means “a long time”: “And Abraham sojourned in the Philistines’ land many days” (Gen. 21:34).

The word can be used metaphorically, describing an abstract concept: “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5—the first biblical occurrence). This use of rab does not describe the relative value of the thing modified, but its numerical recurrence. The statement implies, however, that man’s constant sinning was more reprehensible than the more occasional sinning previously committed.

When rab is applied to land areas, it means “large” (1 Sam. 26:13). This usage is related to the usual meaning of the Semitic cognates, which represent “size” rather than numerical multiplicity (also cf. gadal): “And the Lord delivered them into the hand of Israel, who smote them, and chased them unto great Zidon …” (Josh. 11:8). When God is called the “great King” (Ps. 48:2), the adjective refers to His superior power and sovereignty over all kings (vv. 4ff.). This meaning emerges in Job 32:9: “The great may not be wise, nor may elders understand justice” (cf. Job 35:9). Uses such as these in Job emphasize “greatness in prestige,” whereas passages such as 2 Chron. 14:11 emphasize “strength and might”: “Lord, there is none like thee to help [in battle], between the mighty and the weak” (RSV).

Bibliography Information
Vines, W. E., M. A. Entry for 'Great, to Be; Heavy'. Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​vot/​g/great-to-be-heavy.html. 1940.
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