Word of the Week

Ohr haOlam
Hebrew

Today we will consider the Hebrew phrase “Light of the World.” It looks like this:

איר העולם

One of my favorite songs is “Here I Am to Worship” which begins like this:

Light of the World, You stepped down into darkness,

Opened my eyes, let me see…

Perhaps you’ve sung it in church; you’ve definitely read the scripture from which we get the phrase.

“Therefore Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. The one following Me shall not walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life (John 8:12).”
Then He transfered that Light to us so that we would be a light to the nations.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16 NIV).”
But what does the word “light” mean in Hebrew, and how would the people of God have understood it?

The word translated light is the Hebrew word ohr, and it looks like this:

אור

The Hebrew Bible defines the word “darkness” by using the word choshek.  It includes not only the dark, but misery, destruction, death, ignorance, sorrow, and wickedness. 

In opposition to the choshek, stands the ohr. The same word translated darkness in Genesis 1:2 relates that the darkness was a state that was unlighted and against which God would not place His crown of creation, man. Instead, He divided the darkness and inserted the light (ohr). The word means “light of day,” but it is deeper than that, for it also means “light of instruction” and “light of God.”

Genesis tells us that the Holy Spirit was m’rachpet, moving or brooding (like a mother bird), over the face of the waters (mayim), which in Hebrew has not only the plain meaning of waters, but figuratively means distress and violence.

So into the choshek God shines His ohr.

The lamp promised to David’s house

The word translated “light” in 2 Kings 2:19 is a different word, ner, meaning lamp. It is the word that is used in prayer for the lighting of the Sabbath candles. Yet it is quite obvious that the scripture there is not talking about a candle or a lamp, but the Messiah who is to come. The Amplified Bible gives a better translation.
Yet for the sake of His servant David the Lord was not willing to destroy Judah, since He had promised to give him a lamp (enthroned descendant) through his sons always (2 Kings 8:19 AMP).”
Proverbs 6:23 further illuminates the Jewish understanding and use of both ner and ohr when it says:
For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life: (Proverbs 6:23 KJV).”

Since the newborn church was a Jewish church, their understanding of light was the same as that of their unbelieving brothers with the exception of one crucial point.

Matthew (who wrote to Jews) said that Yeshua was the light of the world, the ohr ha-olam. Yeshua Himself said that we are now the light of the world, set on a hillside to draw the nations to Him, so that God may be glorified.

So now, that is our calling, individually and as a church. We are to set our light so evidently before men that they will lift up their hands in holiness and bless the Lord.

A current cultural note

Before our Shabbat meal on Friday nights just before the sun sets, we pray the prayer over the lighting of the Sabbath candles as a part of our celebration of the beginning of the Sabbath. Jews who do not see the true Light, Yeshua HaMashiach, pray the prayer this way (remember that Hebrew is read right-to-left):
But Messianic Jews, knowing that there is actually nowhere in the scriptures where God does, indeed, command us to light Sabbath candles, instead pray according to their knowledge of what Light we are  commanded to light, thusly:
 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good deeds and moral excellence, and [recognize and honor and] glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16 AMP).”

Hebrew words in this post

Hebrew

transliteration

translation

איר

ohr

light

חושׁך

choshek

darkness

נר

ner

lamp

מרחפת

m’rachpet

hovering

מים

mayim

waters

A final question: If you were taken to court for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

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