Israel institude of Bible Study

One of the biggest questions facing religious people in every age is the relationship between heaven and earth. How exactly does a spiritual God come into contact with physical beings? What does it mean for the pure and incorporeal to encounter the impure and corporeal? The Hebrew Bible has a very distinctive word for God’s coming into the world. But you can only appreciate it, when you read it in Hebrew.

One word sums it all up

The original language of the Bible, Hebrew, is a very succinct language. Sometimes one Hebrew word can have a dozen different meanings in translation. One of the richest words in the Hebrew language is the word pakad פקד. In its most basic sense, this means “to appoint”. For example, King Cyrus declares “the Lord, the God of heaven…has charged (pakad) me to build him a house at Jerusalem in Judah” (Ezra 1:2).

Divine Visitation

But Pakad has deeper divine meanings. For example, prior to the Isaac’s birth, “the Lord visited Sarah as He had said” (Gen. 21:1). This is not a physical visit, but rather God keeping his promise to Sarah. Conversely, when God punishes evildoers, the same word is used, “the Lord will punish the arrogant boasting of the king of Assyria” (Isa. 10:12). Here the Hebrew word pakad, is used for “punish” because the Lord will cause his wrath to be visited upon the Assyrians.

Hebrew: Learn to read between the lines

These three verses illustrate three different ways in which the God of Israel has a relationship with human beings: appointing, visiting and punishing. Only when read in the original Hebrew can you see that these are all one word – pakad – which is the essence of God’s identity in the world.