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Girdlestone's Synonyms of the Old Testament


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It was observed by the late Dr. McCaul [See his Essay on 'Prophecy' in Aids to Faith.] that 'whether we take the Hebrew Scriptures as true or not, it is an incontrovertible fact that the fundamental idea of the Hebrew religion is that Jehovah is a God who reveals Himself to his creatures; that He has not left the human race to grope their way to the regions of religion or morality as they best can, but that from the beginning He has taken his children by the hand, cared for their welfare, made known to them his will, and marked out for them the way to happiness.' in accordance with this undeniable fact, the Divine Being is represented as speaking by word of mouth with his creatures.

Under the general title 'the Word of the Lord' in the O.T. we find not only the law of the ten commandments (literally, the ten words) uttered by the Divine Voice on Mount Sinai, but also all the promises, warnings, precepts, prophecies, revelations of the Divine character, and messages of mercy, which proceeded from God through the medium of 'holy men of old.' in the Psalms and prophetical books the whole body of revealed truth, including all historical manifestations of God's righteous and merciful rule, appears to be referred to as the Word of the Lord. Occasionally the utterance of speech on God's part is taken as identical with the exertion of his power, as when we read that ' by the word of the Lord were the heavens made' (Psalms 33:6); and again, 'Man doth not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God' (Deuteronomy 8:3); and again, 'He sent his word and healed them' (Psalms 107:20). Throughout Scripture a distinction is drawn between the Will of God and the expression of that will or the Word of God. He was not content with willing that there should be light, but He said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light; thus without the Word was not anything made that was made (see John 1:3).

The mode of transmitting the message from God to man was by no means uniform. God said to Moses, 'Who hath made man's mouth? or who maketh the dumb or deaf or the seeing or the blind? have not I, the Lord? now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say' (Exodus 4:11-12). A little further we learn that Moses was to transmit the Divine message to his brother Aaron, and that he was to pass it on to the people; thus Moses was to be to Aar on in the place of God. this would imply the suggestion of the substance of what was to be said, though not necessarily the dictation of the words in the remarkable instance of Jeremiah's prophecy (Jeremiah 36:1-32.) God spoke the words to Jeremiah, and he dictated them to Baruch, who wrote them down in the vision in which Ezekiel received his special appointment as a messenger from God to Israel, he is directed to eat the roll on which the woes to be inflicted up on the people were recorded. Having thus made the message his own, he was to go forth with the words 'Thus saith the Lord.'

The most ordinary Hebrew terms setting forth the Divine utterances are amar (אמר ), to say, and davar [Whence devir (דביר ) oracle, is derived. See 1 Kings 6:5, and later passages.] (דבר ), to speak. The former refers rather to the mode of revelation, and the latter to the substance. Hence davar is frequently rendered thing, as in Genesis 15:1; Genesis 19:8; compare Luke 1:37. Milah (מלה ) has also been rendered word in thirty passages, nineteen of which are in Job and seven in Daniel. It is used in 2 Samuel 23:2, 'The spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue;' Psalms 19:4, 'Their words unto the end of the world.' in the LXX the verb amar is generally rendered ἔπω and λέγω and the noun ῥη̂μα and λόγιον; davar is generally rendered λαλέω, and the noun generally λόγος, sometimes ῥη̂μα, and in thirty-five passages πρα̂γμα. Milah is rendered λόγος and ῥη̂μα; and Nam (נאם ), to utter or assert, which is rare in the earlier books and frequent in the later, is rendered λέγω. Peh (פה ), mouth, is rendered word in Genesis 41:40 and fourteen other passages.

In the N.T. 'the word of God' frequently stands for the truths contained in the O.T.; but it often stands for 'the Gospel,' i.e. the story of the life, teaching, death, resurrection, ascension, and second coming of Christ, together with their bearing on human life and destiny.

Christ Himself is called 'the Word,' both at the beginning of St. John's Gospel and elsewhere; and though it is usually supposed that this title was given to Him by the Evangelist with especial reference to the philosophical theology current in his time, the usage of the O.T. is quite enough to justify and to suggest it.

The LXX usage of ῥη̂μα and λόγος does not justify a profound distinction between these words in the N.T. The first, perhaps, stands for the utterance, and the second for the drift and re as on of what is uttered. See 1 Peter 1:23; 1 Peter 1:25, where they are combined.

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Bibliography Information
Girdlestone, Robert Baker. Entry for 'Word'. Synonyms of the Old Testament.

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Tuesday, October 27th, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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