Word study posts and other more grammatical things.

Words, Words, Words!

I enjoy digging into language in ways some people don’t. I’ll lay it on the doorstep of my English, Education, or Interpreting degrees. Truthfully, the Interpreting degree is probably the easiest logical target, but there was that Etymology class….

I’ve been taking a look at God’s incredible grace through the perspective of Old Testament sacrifice. That’s caused a bit of a paradigm shift in my world simply because the practice is not easily grasped in my mind or my olfactory center. My lifestyle and culture is far removed from it, my sense of smell can’t seem to unravel it, and my faith is not dependent upon the practice as it’s described in the Pentateuch. Yet, the establishment of sacrifice was clearly intentional and very detailed. A look at grace doesn’t omit this foundational piece—at least for me. So, bear with me if you’re one who isn’t as keen on words as I am. This doesn’t happen all the time. I promise.

nichowach — /nē·khō’·akh/ *

Bible translations use several word choices to represent this word. Which one is it? Well, it’s the word used in the Scriptures I looked at with the two lambs (Exodus 29:41) and Noah’s sacrifice (Genesis 8:20-22). It precedes the word aroma, and BlueLetterBible.org offers the Strong’s Concordance entry with some of the following information:

Outline of Biblical Usage

1. soothing, quieting, tranquillising

Authorized Version (KJV) Translation Count — Total: 43

AV — sweet 42, sweet odours 1 *

This doesn’t make for a pretty blog post, but it’s right from the source. (See the link below.) Forty-three times this word is used, and it has a connotation of sweet in every usage, and specifies odors in just one. The reason the other 42 don’t specify odor is simply because the Hebrew word paired with it (Strong’s H7381) takes care of that. I want to explore the context of these 42 “sweet” usages. (No, not individually!)

The aroma from these sacrifices was “sweet” or “soothing, quieting, tranquillising.” Notice the contrast necessary for this word. The presence of a sweet aroma to soothe, quiet, or tranquilize implies a condition or state that is not any of those things either naturally or at the time. I’m not sure why the various English translations make the word selections they do; that’s getting into the minds of the ones making the translation and includes both understanding and experiences.

The aroma wafting from the altar was sweet, calming, quieting, and beautiful to the One who smelled it.

Sacrifice was in response to sin, to mark a significant event, and to specifically honor the LORD.

We know the LORD was pleased with it…most of the time. (But, that “most of the time” is for another entry on another day.)

What are your thoughts on sacrifice as you understand it? Many choose to sacrifice something for a period of time (often during Lent). How do you perceive these sacrifices in a way that honors God?

The idea of a “sweet” smell is somewhat lost on my olfactory. What do you think an odor that is sweet, soothing, quieting, or tranquilizing might be?

Thanks for reading and sharing!


* Strong’s H5207 at BlueLetterBible.org  

Grace Economy (Part 3)

In my last Grace Economy post, I nutshelled one aspect of grace in simple terms:

The Grace Economy.

Love, kindness, and mercy leads to excruciating sacrifice—for the enemy.

And the enemy is loved and given an invaluable gift…at no cost…because it can’t be bought.

“We have met the enemy and he is us.” ~ Pogo, Walt Kelly

Maybe a bit simplistic, this quote was one of the first things that came to mind. Is it overly simplistic? Maybe…or maybe not. Removed from the original 1970 comic context, it’s not entirely honest in its presentation here. Truth is, when I start looking, the words fit more than I want to admit.

Back to Romans I go.

There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, together they have become useless; there is no one who does good, there is not even one. Romans 3:10b-12

Pardon me while I get a little personal. I’m not perfect. You’re not perfect, either. Every one of us may be just a bit too comfortable doing things our own way, doing selfish things, or even downright wrong things. Maybe the truth is sugarcoated when we feel the need to exonerate our choices, or our failures plop us right in the middle of the hog’s wallow of despair for a while. If I’m honest, saying I don’t make the grade of perfection is a bit euphemistic. (This is not the most encouraging or uplifting part of the whole thing, but I know it has great value.)

But, does it really matter?

We’ve been over some poignant verses already, including:

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 HSC

If you’ve been reading along, you know this single verse is like one of those over-sized, heavy, creaking antique iron hinges—a lot of weight hangs and turns on just this. The tension sits in the fulcrum of that comma. One side of the comma, there is sin and death; the other side, there is eternal life.

The Greek word “death” is thanatos (Strong’s G2288) and translates, according to Blue Letter Bible:

1) the death of the body

     a) that separation (whether natural or violent) of the soul and the body by which the life on earth is ended

     b) with the implied idea of future misery in hell

          1) the power of death

     c) since the nether world, the abode of the dead, was conceived as being very dark, it is equivalent to the region of thickest darkness i.e. figuratively, a region enveloped in the darkness of ignorance and sin

2) metaph., the loss of that life which alone is worthy of the name,

     a) the misery of the soul arising from sin, which begins on earth but lasts and increases after the death of the body in hell

3) the miserable state of the wicked dead in hell

4) in the widest sense, death comprising all the miseries arising from sin, as well physical death as the loss of a life consecrated to God and blessed in him on earth, to be followed by wretchedness in hell

I feel bookish including Greek or Hebrew Lexicon information, but it’s like eating veggies for me. It’s good for me, and it strengthens me in surprising ways. Feel free to “talk amongst yourselves,” if it’s not as interesting or helpful to you, but I like challenging my understanding of a word, even the basic ones.

No sane person argues that the body dies. The relationship of births to deaths is a strong 1:1 correlation. The separation of soul and body and life on this earth ending adds some additional insight. When I get to the “implied idea of future misery,” I’m stopped cold. When I read the definitions, it takes a mere nanosecond to see how many variations of “misery” show up. The putrid crop of sin yields misery and death (and not just bodily death).

There is huge contrast on the other side of that comma, and I want to go there, but I can’t today. I need time and space to sit with the fruit of the crop of sin that just reeks (now there’s a fragrance reference I sort of understand under certain conditions). There’s something about knowing where the road leads that I want to deeply understand. All of us, but especially me, miss perfection by a hundred country miles.

Plain and simple. The starting point is death. Did anyone else feel the agony of that misery at some point? Did pain get your attention like it got mine?

The end of the story for us doesn’t have to be death. That’s nothing short of awesome, and I need to set my heart and mind toward that good news in light of the death I’ve written about today. It’s pretty depressing, if I don’t.

For now, I’ll wrap up with prayer thoughts:

Dear God, let me be one who does understand, who does seek you! I desperately want to turn toward you—to be useful—to do good. When circumstances tempt me to invent my own understanding or choose my own next move apart from your wisdom made available to me, let me stop (dead, as it were) in my tracks!

The other side of the comma is coming…

Thanks for reading along; I hope this wasn’t too hard to read.