WHY IS THERE SO MUCH
CONFUSING LANGUAGE IN THE BIBLE?
There is much confusing language in the Bible. Yet, there is much confusing language on the internet, on television. Our language is evolving and the language of the Bible has become outdated in our understanding, and requires a bit of research sometimes to comprehend what is truly being said.
Some of this confusing language is called ‘Hebraisms’. These are certain expressions and terms peculiar to the Hebrew language. The Bible was originally written in Hebrew and Greek. Those writing in the Greek were of Hebrew background, so even in the Greek, Hebrew idioms and the like are found. Idioms and similar peculiarities of language abound in every language, but to the Hebrew people, there is confusion in interpreting the Bible due to certain Hebraisms, with which many are not familiar.
We have such in our own language.
‘if I told you once, I told you a million times...’,
‘its raining cats and dogs’,
‘I’m going to hit the sack’,
‘let’s paint the town red’,
‘everyone in town was there’,
and ‘let’s hit the road’
are confusing to someone foreign, who was reading in their language the translation of such.
Phrases peculiar to the Hebrews...
"Son of ....."
It is the custom to call a person a ‘son’ of a thing which characterizes him. For instance:
‘son of peace’ (meaning the person was peaceful, good, kind)...
‘Son of light’ (meaning the person was illuminated, learned)...
‘son of disobedience (meaning the person was disobedient, wayward)...
[Eph. 5:6, 2:2]
"Son", "father", "brother", "daughter"
"Son’ is used in nearly all languages to designate a remote descendant. The priests in the Bible were often called ‘sons of Levi’. Mephibosheth was called the ‘son of Saul’, and yet he was a grandson. ‘Father’ is used to denote any ancestor. ‘Brother’ is used to denote any kin, likewise with ‘daughter’. Lot was called the ‘brother of Abraham’, but was only a nephew. (Genesis 14:12-16)
Athaliah was called a ‘daughter of Omri’, but was, in reality, a granddaughter, and a daughter of Ahab. (See II Kings 8:26, 8:18)
Sometimes, comparisons are shown by negations.
‘whosoever shall receive Me, receiveth not Me, but Him that sent Me." (Mark 9:37)
"I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father Who hath sent Me." (John 5:30)
"Labor not (only) for the meat that perishes, but for the meat that endureth unto everlasting life." (John 6:27)
"thou hast not lied to men (only) but to God" (Acts 5:4)
"we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against..." (Eph. 6:12)
To express preference, sometimes opposites are shown.
"Jacob have I loved, Esau have I hated..."
See also Deuteronomy 21:15, Romans 9:13, John 12:25, Luke 14:26, and Matthew 10:37...
Several for one
Sometimes, when only one is meant, several are referred to...
‘ark rested on the mountains of Ararat...’ (Genesis 8:4, it rested on only one of them)
In Matthew 27:18, soldiers came to Jesus and presented Him with vinegar and gall. Actually, only one presented it to Him.
Stronger than intended
Sometimes, a stronger word or phrase, than obviously meant, is used to show contrast.
"If any one come to me, and hate not his father and mother... he cannot be My disciple..." (Luke 14:26, this shows that one is ‘love less’)
Words denoting something else
Sometimes, one word in a language, denotes something else, and all of that culture, who hear it, actually understand the real meaning of the word. For instance, for decades, the word ‘cool’ in the English language, is used many ways, often having nothing to do with the temperature of anything. The person is ‘cool’, the experience was ‘cool’, the music was ‘cool’.
Zecharias says of Jesus, that God ‘raised up for us a horn of salvation in the house of David." (Luke 1:69, ‘horn’ denotes force of power, and ‘house’ denotes family or posterity.
Not actually doing or ordering,
but allowing, acknowledging, or giving permission
Sometimes, it is said that one does or orders something, when in reality, all that is truly being conveyed, is that permission, allowing, or acknowledging it done.
Leviticus 13:13 says that the priest cleanses the leper, when actually he is simply declaring him to be clean. (See also Matt. 10:8)
II Corinthians 3:6 says ‘the letter (of the law) killeth’, when really it declares the transgressor ought to die.
John 4:12 says that Jesus baptized more disciples than John, yet, ‘though Jesus Himself baptized not but His disciples.’
Judas ‘purchased a field with the reward of iniquity’ but the money was thrown down to the priests who really bought the field. (Acts 1:16-19, Matthew 27:4,10)
The Bible says that the "Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh". Really, Pharaoh hardened his own heart. God gave opportunities to repent, and Pharaoh chose to harden his heart. (Exodus 8:15, 9:12, Romans 9:17)
Ezekiel 20:39 shows the Lord saying: "Go ye, serve ye every one his idols... and yet, the Lord did not predetermine that they do so, but this is a hebraism meaning He was allowing that choice.
Jesus said to Judas ‘that thou doest, do quickly...’ (John 13:27).
DIFFERENT PERSONS CAN BE DESIGNATED THE SAME NAME...
The name Pharaoh means ‘regent’, and it is a common name to rulers of Egypt. From Abraham’s time, to the invasion of the Persians, they called the ruler of Egypt, "Pharaoh". Following that, for a time, they were called ‘Ptolemy’. The name ‘Abimelech’ means ‘my father, the king’, and it was a common name of the kings of the Philistines. "Agag" was a common name used for some of the kings of the Amalekites. Benhadad was a name given to a number of the kings of Damascus.
The Augustus Caesar mentioned in Luke 2:1 was the second onne who bore that name (Tiberius was his real name). Later, the emperor that Paul appealed to was called ‘Augustus Caesar’ also, but really was Nero (Acts 25:21).
NAME OF THE PARENTS CAN BE USED TO DENOTE DESCENDANTS...
Genesis 9:25 says: "cursed be Canaan" means ‘descendants of Canaan.’
‘Jacob’ or ‘Israel’ is used often to denote descendants of such (I Kings 18:17-18).
A NUMBER OF PERSONS NAMED ‘HEROD’...
In the New Testament, several were named ‘Herod’. Herod the Great killed the children of Bethlehem. His son, Archelaus, then took over. His son, Herod the tetrarch, is the one who decapitated John the Baptist [Lukw 3:1, Matt. 2:22]. Another of the same period, was Philip Herod was the one whose wife left him, and lived with Herod the tetrarch. Shortly thereafter, another King Herod killed the apostle James, and then soon died (Acts 12:1-3, 21-23). His son, Herod Agrippa, was the one before whom Paul appeared [Acts 26:19].
Some in the New Testament period had multiple names. "Levi" and "Matthew" were the same person (Matthew 2:14). "Thaddaeus, Lebbaeus, Judas (not Ischariot, and not Jude, the half brother of Jesus),... are all the same person. ‘Nathanael’ and ‘Bartholomew’ are the same person.
SAME NAME CAN REFER TO A PERSON AND A PLACE
The name "Magog" refers to a son of Japheth, and a place where his descendants settled. (Ezekiel 38, Rev. 20:8)
SAME PLACE CAN HAVE DIFFERENT NAMES
Lake of Gennesaret is the same lake as the Sea of Chinnereth (Lk 5:1, Numbers 34:11, Joshua 12:3)...
Sea of Galilee is the same lake as the Sea of Tiberius (Matt. 4:18, John 21:1).
Abyssinia, Ethiopia, and Cush are the same (Gen. 2:13).
Greece and Javan are the same place (Isa. 66:19, Dan. 8:21, Zechariah 9:13).
Egypt, Ham, Rahab all refer to the same place (Ps. 78:51, Isaiah 51:9).
The Dead Sea is also called ‘Sea of the Plain, Sea of the East, and the Salt Sea (II Kings 14:25, Genesis 14:3, Joshua 12:3).
The Nile is called Sihor or the River (Joshua 24:14).
The Mediterranean is called the Sea of Philistines, Hinder Sea, and Great Sea (Ex. 23:31, Deut. 11:24, Numbers 34:6-7)
The Holy Land is called Canaan, Israel, land of Judah, Palestine, Land of the Shepherd, and the Promised Land (Gen, 12:5, I Sam. 13:19, Deut. 34:2, Ex. 15:14, Isa. 14:29, Heb. 11:9)
CERTAIN NUMBERS USED TO EXPRESS INDEFINITE QUANTITIES...
Certain numbers are used to express indefinite quantities.
‘Ten’ can mean ‘ten’ or ‘several’ (Genesis 31:7, Dan. 1:20).
‘Forty’ can mean ‘many’. Persepolis is called the city of 40 towers, but really there are more towers than that. In II Kings 8:9, forty probably means ‘many’, for Hazael gave 40 camel loads of goods to Elisha. Seven, seventy, are used to express important or complete number, but really indeterminate (Prov. 26:16-25, Ps. 119:164, Lev. 26:24).
EXTREME NUMBERS CAN INDICATE UNCOUNTABLE
OR INDEFINITE NUMBERS
We are commanded to forgive 70 times 7... and this means we should continually forgive (Matt. 18:21-22).
Besides hebraisms, there are expressions in translations, like the KJV, that have peculiar meaning to that age. For instance, when translated ‘let’ meant ‘hinder’, and now it means ‘allow’. ‘Thou’, ‘ye’, ‘thine’ etc.. Have meaning to that age, but are confusing to this.
In various parts of our own country, it would be hard for each of us to understand the jargon, though all may be English. Texans visiting Boston, Georgians visiting Los Angeles, would find words and phrases used that are confusing. If we visited England in the 1600's, our language of the 21st century would be confusing to them.
The Bible tells us to ‘study to show thyself approved’, and sometimes, we also need to ‘study’ to even understand. Yet, it is worth the effort.