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