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Labor

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words

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A. Noun.

‛Âmâl (עָמָל, Strong's #5999), “labor; toil; anguish; troublesome work; trouble; misery.” Cognates of this noun and the verb from which it is derived occur in Aramaic, Arabic, and Akkadian. The 55 occurrences of the noun are mostly in later poetic and prophetic literature (Gen. 41:51; Deut. 26:7; Judg. 10:16).

First, the word means “labor” in the sense of toil: “… The Lord heard our voice, and looked on our affliction, and our labor, and our oppression” (Deut. 26:7). In Isa. 53:11 ‛âmâl is used of the toilsome “labor” of the Messiah’s soul: “He shall see of the travail of his soul.…”

Second, something gained by toil or labor is ‛âmâl: "[He] gave them the lands of the heathen: and they inherited the labor of the people [i.e., of the land of Palestine]” (Ps. 105:44).

Third, ‛âmâl means “troublesome work”; the emphasis is on the difficulty involved in a task or work as troublesome and burdensome: “What profit hath a man of all his labor [troublesome labor] which he taketh under the sun?” (Eccl. 1:3). All 17 appearances of the word in Ecclesiastes bear this meaning.

Fourth, sometimes the emphasis shifts to the area of trouble so that an enterprise or situation is exclusively troublesome or unfortunate: “… For God, said he, hath made me forget all my toil, and all my father’s house” (Gen. 41:51—the first occurrence). In Judg. 10:16 we read that God “was grieved for the misery of Israel.”

Fifth, ‛âmâl can have an ethical connotation and is used as a word for sin. The wicked man “travaileth with iniquity, and hath conceived mischief, and brought forth falsehood” (Ps. 7:14; cf. Job 4:8).

Another noun ‛âmel means “laborer, sufferer.” This word appears infrequently in biblical Hebrew. In Prov. 16:26 the word refers to “laborer”: “He that laboreth, laboreth for himself; for his mouth craveth it of him.” In Job 3:20 ‛âmel refers to a “sufferer”: “Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery.…”

B. Verbs.

‛Âmal (עָמַל, Strong's #5998), “to labor.” This verb occurs 11 times in biblical Hebrew and only in poetry. ‛Âmal appears several times in Ecclesiastes (2:11, 19, 21; 5:16. The verb is also found in Ps. 127:1: “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.…”

‛Âmal means “toiling.” This verb occurs only in a few instances in Ecclesiastes. One occurrence is in Eccl. 3:9: “What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboreth?”

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