Law and Punishment or Loving Guidance
As I’ve studied the Bible over the years I’ve come to love the teachings of our Heavenly Father. They are so wise and good. It is with great puzzlement when I hear many christians get defensive or prickly when the subject of obedience to God’s law is mentioned. Perhaps it is because the idea of law and punishment have been misconstrued through our modern understanding of these words.
Recently I stumbled on this lovely and fascinating word study of the Hebrew word Torah, usually translated into the English word Law. It is written by Jeff Benner, scholar of ancient Hebrew. May it expand your understanding of our wise, patient and loving Heavenly Father.
What is Torah?
by Jeff A. Benner
The Hebrew word תורה (torah, Strong’s #8451) is usually translated into the English word “Law”. Because of this translation there is a great misunderstanding of what “Torah” truly is. “TORAH IS NOT LAW”. When we use the word “law” we assume a certain meaning and concept of the word that is not present in the Hebrew Scriptures.
Let us start by looking at the Etymology of the Hebrew word Torah so that we may better understand its true definition. The word Torah comes from the Hebrew root word תורה (Y.R.H, Strong’s #8451), a verb which means “to flow or throw something”.
This can be a flowing of an arrow from an archer’s bow, or the flowing of a finger to point out a direction. Nouns are derived from the verb by making one or two changes to the verb root. For instance, when the י (the letter yud) is replaced by n ו (the letter vav) and a מ (the letter mem) is added to the front of the word, the noun מורה (moreh, Strong’s #4175) is formed and means “one who does the flowing”.
See the word Torah in the Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible. This can be an archer who flows an arrow, or a teacher who flows his finger to point out the way the student is to go in the walk of life. Another noun is formed the same way except that a ת (the letter tav) is placed at the front of the word instead of a מ (the letter mem) and we have the word Torah. Torah is “what is flowed by the Moreh”. This can be the arrow from the archer or the teachings and instructions from the teacher.
A hebraic definition of Torah is “a set of Instructions, from a father to his children, violation of these instructions are disciplined in order to foster obedience and train his children”. Notice how the word Torah is translated in the New International Version translation in the following passages.
“Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching [Torah].” (Proverbs 1:8)
“My son, do not forget my teaching [Torah], but keep my commands in your heart”. (Proverbs 3:1)
The purpose of a parents Torah is to teach and bring the children to maturity. If the Torah is violated out of disrespect or defiant disobedience, the child is punished. If the child desires to follow the instructions out of a loving obedience but falls short of the expectations, the child is commended for the effort and counseled on how to perform the instructions better the next time.
Unlike Torah, law is a set of rules from a government and binding on a community. Violation of the rules require punishment. With this type of law, there is no room for teaching, either the law was broken with the penalty of punishment or it was not broken. God, as our heavenly Father, gives his children his Torah in the same manner as parents give their Torah to their children, not in the manner as a government does to its citizens.
“Blessed is the man you discipline, O LORD, the man you teach from your Torah” (Psalms 94:12)
Leading Us Home
We are so blessed that our Heavenly Father patiently and lovingly teaches us and guides on the paths of righteousness. This is why David and Solomon could say,
” O how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day.” Psalm 119:97
“For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life.” Proverbs 6:23
The book of Revelation speaks of those who keep God’s commandments three times. The last of these is so fitting as an example of the Father leading us to our Heavenly home. Notice where these “teachings” or “commandments lead to.
“Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.”
I want to enter in through those pearly gates into my Heavenly home! Don’t you?
The above teaching from Jeff Benner and more about ancient Hebrew words can be found at ancient-hebrew.org.
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