For The Love of God
By Thomas Thorne
Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Then Jesus also went on to explain throughout his ministry, Matthew 5 is a prime example, that to love God involves our thoughts and actions.
When the Hebrew language is explored two verses explain the way we love beautifully: Exodus 20:7- actions, and Psalm 19:14 – thoughts. The Hebrew text shows a deeper meaning than what has been translated into English and these two verses complement the teachings of Jesus regarding thought and action.
Exodus 20:7: “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain” (Exod. 20:7 ESV).
My initial thought when reading this verse is not to swear using God’s name, although I maintain that the Hebrew language goes much farther than this. The first point to mention is that there is more than one “negative particle” in Hebrew. A “negative particle” is a word that makes part of a sentence or an entire sentence negative. Throughout the ten commandments there is one negative particle used, the word lo, which refers to a “permanent prohibition.” Never to use “the LORD’s name in vain.”
In my opinion, the Hebrew text here contains three keywords. These three words translated into English are.
The first word above, “take,” comes from the Hebrew tisa, which comes from the root verb nasa. This verb means, “to lift, lift up, raise high, carry, bear, support, take (A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the O.T., William Holladay used throughout for definitions).
The second keyword is “name.” This comes from the Hebrew shame, which is a noun meaning “name, reputation, authority, standing, renown.”
And the third keyword in Exodus 20:7 is vain. This noun comes from the Hebrew LaShav. The Hebrew root word here is shav, which refers to being “worthless, vain” or “emptiness.” The la prefix provides the word “in” (in vain).
Now, before we proceed let me say that “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain” is a great translation. I am not saying it is wrong.
But what I would like us to do is to think of a couple of possible alternate translations for these three “keywords” to see if this adds to our understanding. Please don’t feel that I am adding to or taking away from scripture, I am just helping in our understanding of the scripture.
First, let’s consider alternate meanings (as defined above) for the Hebrew la shav – translated as “in vain:”
- You shall not take the name of YHVH-the LORD your God as worthless
- You shall not take the name of YHVH-the LORD your God as empty
Now let’s add alternate meanings for the Hebrew noun shame – translated as “name:”
- You shall not take the reputation of YHVH-the LORD your God as worthless
- You shall not take the reputation of YHVH-the LORD your God as emptiness
- You shall not take the authority of YHVH-the-LORD your God as worthless
- You shall not take the authority of YHVH-the LORD your God as emptiness
Now think of alternate definitions for the Hebrew verb tisa – translated as “take:”
- You shall not lift up the name of YHVH-the LORD your God as worthless or emptiness
- You shall not lift up the reputation of YHVH-the LORD your God as worthless or emptiness
- You shall not lift up the authority of YHVH-the LORD your God as worthless or emptiness
- You shall not carry/bear the name of YHVH-the LORD your God as worthless or emptiness
By taking into consideration the additional meanings of the Hebrew definitions for the three words ti-sa (to take, lift-up, carry, bear), la-shav (in vain, emptiness, worthless), and shame (name, reputation, authority), much broader applications to the third commandment can be appreciated than is commonly thought of.
This speaks of action – being sure that what we do is with complete respect for God as our Supreme Creator and not treating Him or carrying His name or His word as vain, empty, or worthless.
The third commandment, “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain” is rich in meaning. I feel that any of these definitions discussed can apply. In our next lesson, we will examine Psalm 19:14 and show how the Hebrew text adds additional dimensions to our thought process.
Tom Thorne and his wife (Amy) moved to Marion from Denver, NC almost a year and a half ago. Thomas and Amy are fellowship leaders of a small congregation of Believers called “Servants of the Most High God.” Tom can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Read more Christian news here.