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Language Studies

Hebrew Thoughts


Hâlakh - הלך (Strong's #1980)
Walk, go

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"I am God Almighty; walk before Me, and be thou wholehearted." (Genesis 17:1, JPS)

Occurring frequently הלך hâlak (Strong's #1980) means simply "to walk" as in Genesis 3:8 where the sound of the Lord God is "walking" in Eden is heard by Adam and Eve. After their sin they had become afraid of God's footsteps and no longer "walked with God". In contrast, Enoch is positively described as "walking with God" (Genesis 5:22,24) before being taken to be with God. Noah, also, is similarly noted as being righteous and perfect and one who "walked with God" (Genesis 6:9). In Genesis 17:1 God commands Abraham also to "walk" with him and be perfect. So, whilst the word is basically a practical term it has idiomatic overtones, in this case, of fellowship and a right relationship with God.

הלך hâlak is similar in sound and meaning to ילך yâlak (Strong's #3212) "to go" which according to some lexicons is first used of the Serpent in Eden being forced "to go" on its belly without its legs but also of Abram's great commision (Genesis 12:1) to leave Ur and go to a new land, clearly using his legs not slithering like a snake. The difficulty here is that certain forms of the Hebrew verb will lose a weak first letter such as "h" or "y" leaving one with just lak which could indicate the original presence of either verb. Indeed, Gesenius and others regards these as one and the same verb occurring some 1562 times although others apportion 500+ to הלך hâlak and 1000+ to ילך yâlak.

הלך hâlak, when used more metaphorically, can mean "to go along with" implying intercourse, agreement and acceptance. One does not walk with another except by agreement or command is the idea and Job 34:8 and Psalm 1:1 both speak of walking in negative company. Conversely "to walk before God" means to live righteously and obey (Psalm 15:2, 1 Kings 9:4). Psalm 81:13[Heb.v14] has walking in God's ways paralleled with listening (שמע shâma‘ Strong's #8085) to him:

"Oh that My people would hearken unto Me,
that Israel would walk in My ways"

הלך hâlak does not have to mean literally walking. It is possible to travel by camel and still be described as walking, so the verb has the more general sense of moving or going.

הלך hâlak could be used as an intensifying verb to add duration, continuation or weight to another verb. For example, in Jonah 1:11 the sea "grew more and more tempestuous" whilst in Genesis 8:3,5 the waters of the Flood receded "more and more" or "continually". This may come from the verb's idea of walking continually rather than walking just the once, to "go on going".

Curiously, the ultimate walk in Hebrew is death. הלך hâlak can express the idea of "walking away" in the sense of passing on in death (Genesis 15:2; 25:32; Psalm 39:13[Heb.v14]). Perhaps this holds a hint of a belief in the hereafter that one goes to God and continues one's walk with him after death but this may be reading far too much into the passages from the mere verb.

הלך hâlak can mean to "flow" as in the hills "walk" or "flow with" milk (Isaiah 8:7; Joel 4:18). For instance, the very first use of הלך hâlak in the Bible is Genesis 2:14 describing the eastward flow of the Tigris river out of Eden. In a rather bizarre idiom "knees walking-flowing with water" can mean to urinate (Ezekiel 7:17; 21:12).

In the main, though, הלך hâlak is a general term for going and a specific term for walking regularly in relationship or companionship with another or with a set of ideas. From it we derive מהלך mahalâk "journey" (Strong's #4109, e.g., Jonah 3:3,4) and הלכה halâkâh, the term used for the Jewish Oral Law, as detailed in the Mishnah, which expounds upon legal interpretations of the Torah for your daily "walk" in life.

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Saturday, December 5th, 2020
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KJ Went has taught biblical Hebrew, hermeneutics and Jewish background to early Christianity. The "Biblical Hebrew made easy" course can be found at

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