Abstract vs. Concrete – Part 12 min read

And I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in mine heart and in my mind: and I will build him a sure house; and he shall walk before mine anointed for ever.

1 Samuel 2:35 (KJV)

Faithful – Hebrew is a language rooted in concrete meanings. Ancient Hebrew was written in ways that were tangible and touched the five senses. Greek and the Greek worldview are more familiar with abstract meanings. We see this in English translations all the time.

Take the word “faithful” above; it’s an abstract word. The meaning is something intangible. It’s something you understand, but not in a concrete or physical sense. So how did it get there if the text was originally in Hebrew?

Well the word in Hebrew is the verb ‘aman and means “secure.” Each Hebrew verb can have several forms. The Niphil form is passive and means to “be secure” and can be translated as “firm.” The Hiphil form is causative and means “to make secure” and can be translated as “support.”

The phrase here in Hebrew is kohen ne’eman which is in the Niphil form and means a “firm priest.” The idea of being firm is a concrete, Hebraic concept.

This same Niphil form of ‘aman is also repeated in this same verse as “sure house.”

To confirm the concreteness of this, one can see this concept in Isaiah.

And I fasten him as a peg in a firm place.

Isaiah 22:23

The word firm above is also in the Niphil form as ne’eman.

We can literally translate this verse from 1 Samuel like this instead:

And I will raise me up a firm priest, that shall do according to that which is in mine heart and in my mind: and I will build him a firm house; and he shall walk before mine anointed for ever.

1 Samuel 2:35

I know we’re getting into the weeds here, but to understand the difference between the Hebrew and Greek mind is important. When you come across abstract concepts in the Bible, try to find out what their concrete equivalent is. It might help add to what you’re reading and reveal something in a new light. We’ll see this in the next post.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.