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Bible Lexicons

Girdlestone's Synonyms of the Old Testament


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The great difficulty which has to be dealt with in translating the word erets is to determine where it is used with reference only to a special territory, suc has Canaan, and where it signifies the whole world. When the earThis spoken of in connection with heaven (as in Genesis 1:1; Isaiah 49:13; Isaiah 65:17), it must have the larger meaning; the same will usually be the case when we read of the ends of the earth (Isaiah 52:10), or the whole earth (Micah 4:13); but in a great number of passages there is nothing but the context or the general analogy of Scripture to guide the translator or interpreter. The distinction between the narrower and wider meaning of the term is important in considering the account of the Deluge, also in the interpretation of many prophetical passages. Thus in Psalms 37:11 we read, 'The meek shall inherit the earth;' but in verse 29, where erets is also used, the A. V. renders, 'The righteous shall inherit the land.' See also verses 22 and 34 in Isaiah 11:9 we read, 'The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord ;' yet the earlier part of the verse only speaks of God's 'holy mountain' in Jeremiah 22:29 ('O earth, earth, earth') is the prophet appealing to the wide world, or to the l and of Canaan? in Isaiah 24:1 we read, 'Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty;' verse 3, 'The l and shall be utterly emptied;' verse 4, 'The earth mourneth;' verse 13, 'When it shall be thus in the midst of the land,' &c Erets is used throughout the chapter; but to what does it refer? Ought it not to be rendered uniformly? The twenty-first verse seems to imply that it is used in the more extensive sense in Amos 8:8 we read, 'Shall not the l and tremble for this?' and in verse 9, 'I will darken the earth in the clear day.' in Zechariah 14:9, 'The Lord shall be king over all the earth;' and in verse 10, 'All the l and shall be turned as a plain.' Our translators seem almost to have indulged in variety in these passages for the sake of variety, but it is to the confusion of the English reader.

The Greek rendering for adamah is always γη̂. The same word is the most general rendering for erets, but we also find χώρα, territory, in about fifty passages, and οἰκουμένη, a habitable world, in nine passages. There are other occasional renderings, but none which call for special notice.

The word for 'earth,' in the sense of earthen vessels, potsherds, or potter's clay, is always Cher as (חרשׂ ), except in 2 Samuel 17:28, where Yatsar (יצר ) is used, referring to the vessels being moulded in Daniel 2:10, 'There is not a man up on the earth,' &c., the word used (יבשׁת ) signifies dry land; whilst Aphar (עפר ), dust, is found in Genesis 26:15; Isaiah 2:19; Daniel 12:2; Job 8:19; Job 28:2; Job 30:6; Job 41:33 - in most of which passages holes or cavities in the upper surface of the earth are referred to.

In the N.T., it is to be remembered, as in the O.T., that where the Greek representative of erets is found in contrast or juxtaposition with heaven, we know that it must signify the eart has a whole. this would apply to such passages as the following: -

'Heaven and earth shall pass away' (Matthew 5:18).

'Thy will be done on eart has it is in heaven' (Matthew 6:10).

'Whatsoever ye bind in earth shall be bound in heaven' (Matthew 18:18).

In some passages the interpretation admits of a doubt. Thus Matthew 5:5, 'Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.' Here our Lord is making use of the LXX rendering of Psalms 37:11, in which passage it is natural to suppose that the l and of Canaan would be primarily referred to. Here, however, the Hebrew word is erets, as was noticed above, and thus the larger sense of the word is admissible in Ephesians 6:3, 'That thou mayest live long in the earth,' the Hebrew (Exodus 20:12) is adamah, and the l and of Canaan is primarily meant.

The context in these and other cases is the only means whereby the reader can decide whether by γη̂ is signified the soil, the territory, or the world.

Public Domain
Girdlestone, Robert Baker. Entry for 'Earth'. Synonyms of the Old Testament.
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