Bible Study, Biblical Greek, Biblical Hebrew, Christ in Me, Definitions, Evil, Holy Spirit, Indwelling Spirit, Meaning, Wicked
Hello and welcome to Renaissance Woman where, this week, I am exploring another side path I encountered but steadfastly ignored during my study of Isaiah 45:7.
This side path presented itself during my study of the Hebrew word translated as “evil” in the King James Version but “calamity” in the New King James Version. That Hebrew word is ra spelled Resh (ר) Ayin (ע) and does not necessarily mean “evil” in the way we think of “evil”. In the word ra, we see the Resh which is a picture of bowing or a bent head, and the Ayin which is a picture of the eyes. The head is bent to the eyes so those things that are “evil” in a Biblical sense are those things we do because they seem right in our own eyes. In their study on Psalm 2:11, Chaim Bentorah and Laura Bertone have this to say about ra: “In Hebrew, there are about ten different words with a Semitic root of ra (ר), which is the basic word for “evil”. However, ra (ר) does not necessarily have to signify something bad. The Semitic concept of this word is an outside influence that causes us to react in a certain way in which we have little or no control over our actions.”1
As time passes, I am persuaded of the necessity of knowing what the original language behind our English words truly meant. One such word is “evil”. The Septuagint translated the Hebrew ra in Isaiah 45:7 as kakos but then translated “evil” (ra) in “The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” as poneros. These words do not mean the same thing in the Greek although at first glance the difference does appear slight. George Ricker Berry says “These words may be used with very little distinction of meaning but often the difference is marked. (G2556) kakos frequently means evil rather negatively, referring to the absence of the qualities which constitute a person or thing what it should be or what it claims to be. It is also used meaning evil in a moral sense. It is a general antithesis to agathos. Poneros is a word at once stronger and more active, it means mischief-making, delighting in injury, doing evil to others, dangerous, destructive. Kakos describes the quality according to its nature, poneros, according to its effects.”2 (Agathos [G18]: good, benefit, well)
I cannot repeat everything I learned about “evil” during my Isaiah 45:7 study but I will repeat how aware I am that everything I learned in this study only scratched the surface. There is so much more to be gleaned from scripture regarding the meaning of “evil”. This is true for so many other words as well. One such I came across while studying ra and I was astonished as I began to look into its meaning. That word is rasha (רשע) often translated by the English word “wicked”.
I was looking up ra in Benjamin Blech’s The Secrets of Hebrew Words and found this entry: “רע (ra) means evil. What does the wicked person do in order to gain acceptance? He makes central to his very being the appearance of ש (shin), the letter appearing on every mezuzah as the acronym for שדי (ShaDaY), the name of God. The reprobate will claim that holiness is central to his being. All of his actions are hypocritically assigned to “holy causes”…the only way to unmask the רשע (RaShA) is to remove his ש (shin), the letter of piety that he uses to disguise his wickedness.”3
I have no doubt that we all have a person or two who readily springs to mind as someone who is rasha or wicked. Before we start pointing fingers and leveling accusations, I want to share one other entry from Benjamin Blech. His very next entry on rasha asks the question “how does one explain why someone is wicked” and then quotes the second half of Numbers 15:39: “And that you go not about after your heart and your own eyes, after which you use to go astray”.4 Benjamin Blech then writes:
“The eyes ought not to be our rulers. Samson followed his eyes to lust after Philistine women. His punishment, measure for measure, was that he became blind. Look in retrospect at the רשע (RaShA) and see that backwards we are told the story behind his aberrant behavior: ע (ayin) the eye, became his שר (SaR), ruler. A ישראל (YiSRaEL) is one who remembers ראש לי (LiY RoSh): I possess a head, a mind, and an intellect that must control the desires stemming from sight. ראש (RoSh) also has the consonants שר (SaR), ruler. But central to rule as expressed by the word is the letter א (alef), the One of the universe Who dictates the difference between right and wrong, between what my eyes see and desire, and what my head determines is suitable or off limits.”5
These two entries riveted me because I realized that whenever I read the word “wicked” in the Bible, I was picturing something different in my head than what was meant by the original language. And, while I can think of one or two people who would fit the Biblical definition of “wicked” I cannot resort to finger pointing. The roots of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil have penetrated deep into the soil of my heart. I have both eaten its fruit and produced its fruit in my life. Even after I knew Jesus and had determined to follow Him I still nibbled the fruit from time to time. My early following of Him consisted in trying to do right, believe the right things, keep the right rules, and present myself to Him as a good Believer with an absolutely stuffed resume He could be proud of. I did not know then that even the good I tried to do was evil because I was either doing what seemed right in my own eyes or, at times, doing what another person told me was right. That person of course knew more than I did so following his/her dictates meant I was safe, right?
No. The wicked person is one who covers his evil deeds with holiness and piety. It may be that contained within the word rasha is the idea that this covering of one’s deeds with holiness and piety is deliberate. This is a word I need to spend some more time with. Whether it is or not, wickedness can be hard to recognize because, while “evil deeds” are those things done because they seem right in a person’s eyes, they oftentimes do appear to be good. Knowing for certain I have turned from wickedness to righteousness can be quite a dilemma but one which has a both remarkably simple and intensely difficult solution.
“Let the peace of God rule in your hearts…Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom…and whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” I am quoting bits of Colossians 3 verses 15-17 here and the Greek word for “name”, as in “the name of the Lord Jesus” is onoma (G3686). It means “name” but also “authority, character”. The Strong’s also has “surname” as a definition. The word “in” is en (G1722) and it means “fixed position…a relation of rest”.
That’s it. Rest in Jesus Christ. Eat of the fruit of the Tree of Life which is Jesus Christ. Let His life live in and through us. It is at once utterly simple and the most difficult thing in to do. There’s a scripture in the Book of Revelation which has often been quoted as something reserved for after this body dies. The passage is: “Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Write: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” ‘‘Yes, says the Spirit, ‘that they may now rest from their labors, and their works follow them’” (Revelation 14:13). I don’t think this scripture is describing a rest that happens after physical death. I think it’s describing what it means to live the Christian life here on earth while still in this body. Jonathan Mitchell’s translation of the New Testament seems to say as much. Listen to the tenses: “Write: “From the present moment (from this time; from now; henceforth) the dead ones [are] blessed (happy) folks-those continuously dying within the Lord!” “Yes, indeed” the Spirit continues saying, “to the end that they may rest themselves from out of their wearisome labor (travail; toilsome exhaustion), for their works (actions; deeds) are continually following together with them.”6
“I die daily,” Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:31. We have died in Jesus Christ, were buried with Him, rose with Him, and are now seated with Him in heavenly places. Even so, there is a law in our members that seeks to draw us away from His life in us and then to lead us onto a path where we declare we are the gods of our lives and can determine for ourselves what is good and evil. This path is almost impossible to stay off of except we have the Holy Spirit living within us. He teaches us who Jesus Christ is and teaches us who we are in Him. By His opening of my eyes I see Jesus Christ, the Tree of Life. By His working within me, I can recognize the fruit of the tree that led to death. By His wisdom and the revelation He gives, I know I am dead to sin and alive to God in Jesus Christ. By His power, I do refuse to let sin reign in my mortal body and can present myself to God as being alive from the dead (Romans 6:10-13).
2 Corinthians 4:10 says, “always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” This is one of those living in the New Covenant paradoxes: living in union with Jesus is wondrous beyond words and each one of us would declare there is no other life worth living, and yet it also intensely painful. There are times the finger is pointed at me accusing me of wickedness. It cuts the deepest when that finger belongs to someone close. I have no defense to offer. I know His Life is in me and I am joined to Him through His Spirit. Because His peace is alive in me and ruling in my heart I can say, “my conscience is clear but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord Himself who will examine me and decide” (1 Corinthians 4:4, NLT).
Amen. So be it. Come, Lord Jesus.
Unless noted otherwise, all Scriptures are quoted from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1982
- Bentorah, Chaim with Laura Bertone, Hebrew Word Study: Exploring the Mind of God, Whitaker House, New Kensington, Pennsylvania, 2019, Page 246
- Walker, G. Allen, New Koine Greek Textbook Series Supplements, Berry’s Synonyms, Page 66
- Blech, Benjamin, The Secrets of Hebrew Words, Jason Aronson Inc., Northvale, New Jersey, 1991, Page 76
- Ibid., Page 77
- Ibid., Page 77
- Mitchell, Jonathan Paul, MA, The New Testament, Harper Brown Publishing, 2009, 2013, 2015, 2019, Page 629
Danker, Frederick William, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Third Edition (BDAG), University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois, 1957-2000
Strong, James, LL.D., S.T.D., The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville Tennessee, 1990
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