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Bible Dictionaries

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words

Teach

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A. Verbs.

Lâmad (לָמַד, Strong's #3925), “to teach, learn, cause to learn.” This common Semitic term is found throughout the history of the Hebrew language and in ancient Akkadian and Ugaritic. Lâmad is found approximately 85 times in the text of the Hebrew Old Testament. In its simple, active form, this verb has the meaning “to learn,” but it is also found in a form giving the causative sense, “to teach.” This word is first used in the Hebrew Old Testament in Deut. 4:1: “… Hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you.…”

In Deut. 5:1 lâmad is used of learning God’s laws: “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and keep, and do them.” A similar meaning occurs in Ps. 119:7. The word may be used of learning other things: works of the heathen (Ps. 106:35); wisdom (Prov. 30:3); and war (Mic. 4:3).

About half the occurrences of lâmad are found in the books of Deuteronomy and Psalms, underlining the teaching emphasis found in these books. Judaism’s traditional emphasis on teaching and thus preserving its faith clearly has its basis in the stress on teaching the faith found in the Old Testament, specifically Deut. 6:4-9. Following the Shema’, the “watchword of Judaism” that declares that Yahweh is One (Deut. 6:4), is the “first great commandment” (Deut. 6:5; Mark 12:28-29). When Moses delivered the Law to his people, he said, “… The Lord commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments …” (Deut. 4:14).

The later Jewish term talmud, “instruction,” is derived from this verb.

Yârâh (יָרָא, Strong's #3384), throw, teach, shoot, point out.” Found in all periods of the Hebrew language, this root is also found in ancient Ugaritic with the sense of “to shoot”; modern Hebrew uses the word to express the firing of a gun. Yârâh occurs approximately 80 times in the Hebrew Old Testament.

The first use of this verb in the Old Testament is in Gen. 31:51: “… Behold this pillar, which I have cast betwixt me and thee.” This basic meaning, “to throw or cast,” is expressed in “casting” lots (Josh. 18:6) and by Pharaoh’s army “being cast” into the sea (Exod. 15:4).

The idea of “to throw” is easily extended to mean the shooting of arrows (1 Sam. 20:36- 37). “To throw” seems to be further extended to mean “to point,” by which fingers are thrown in a certain direction (Gen. 46:28; Prov. 6:13).

From this meaning it is only a short step to the concept of teaching as the “pointing out” of fact and truth. Thus, Bezaleel was inspired by God “to teach” others his craftsmanship (Exod. 35:34); the false prophets “teach” lies (Isa. 9:15); and the father “taught” his son (Prov. 4:4). It was the responsibility of the priests to interpret and “to teach” those things that had to do with ceremonial requirements and God’s judgments: “They shall teach Jacob thy judgments, and Israel thy law …” (Deut. 33:10; cf. Deut. 17:10-11). Interestingly, priests at a later time were said “to teach” for hire, presumably “to teach” what was wanted rather than true interpretation of God’s word (Mic. 3:11).

B. Noun.

Tôrâh (תֹּרָה, Strong's #8451), “direction; instruction; guideline.” From yârâh is derived tôrâh, one of the most important words in the Old Testament. Seen against the background of the verb tôrâh, it becomes clear that tôrâh is much more than law or a set of rules. Tôrâh is not restriction or hindrance, but instead the means whereby one can reach a goal or ideal. In the truest sense, tôrâh was given to Israel to enable her to truly become and remain God’s special people. One might say that in keeping tôrâh, Israel was kept. Unfortunately, Israel fell into the trap of keeping tôrâh as something imposed, and for itself, rather than as a means of becoming what God intended for her. The means became the end. Instead of seeing tôrâh as a guideline, it became an external body of rules, and thus a weight rather than a freeing and guiding power. This burden, plus the legalism of Roman law, forms the background of the New Testament tradition of law, especially as Paul struggles with it in his Letter to the church at Rome.

C. Adjective.

Limmud means “taught.” This adjective forms an exact equivalent to the New Testament idea of “disciple, one who is taught.” This is well expressed in Isa. 8:16: “… Seal the law among my disciples.” The word also occurs in Isa. 54:13: “And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord.…”

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Bibliography Information
Vines, W. E., M. A. Entry for 'Teach'. Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/vot/t/teach.html. 1940.

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