By Jeff A. Benner, excerpted from his book The Living Words
Return to Index
An English definition of a command or commandment is "to direct with authority" or "to give orders" as a general does to his troops.
|And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments (mitsvah) before the LORD our God, as he hath commanded us. Deuteronomy 6:25 (KJV)|
Is the meaning of the Hebrew word מצוה mitsvah [H:4687], as found in the passage above, a command? Is God our general giving us an order to obey? Or is the Ancient Hebrew understanding of this word something different?
|And we departed from Horeb and walked through all that great and fearful wilderness which you saw by the path of the mountain of Amorites just as Yahweh our God directed (tsavah) us and we came unto Qadesh Barnea. Deuteronomy 1:19|
The word "directed" above is the verb צוה tsavah [H:6680], the root of the word mitsvah. While translators usually translate this word as "command," an abstract word, the more Hebraic definition is "to direct," a concrete concept meaning "to show or point out a path." God is not a general barking orders but a guide. He is our guide and his mitsvah is his direction to us to lead us on his path as can be seen in several passages from Psalm 119.
|With all my heart I will seek after you, you will cause me to not stray from your directions (mitsvah). Verse 10|
|I will run the path of your directions (mitsvah) because you have widened my heart. Verse 32|
|Lead me in the pathway of your directions (mitsvah) for in it is my delight. Verse 35|
|I have gone astray like a lost sheep, seek your servant so that I don't forget your directions (mitsvah). Verse 176|
The Biblical Greek word used to translate the Hebrew word mitsvah is entole [G:1785] and is a combination of the word en [G:1722], meaning "in" or "with," and telos [G:5056] meaning "end" or "goal." Entole literally means "with a goal" and is very similar to our Hebraic understanding of the mitsvah as a direction.
Yeshua was asked a question in regards to the mitsvah.
|Rabbi, tell us, what is the great direction (entole/mitsvah) which is in the teachings (torah)? He said to him, "'And you shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart.' This is the first, the second is like it, 'And you shall love your neighbor as yourself,' and upon these two directions (entole/mitsvah) all the teachings hang, and the prophets." Matthew 22:36 (This translation is from the Shem Tov Hebrew Matthew)|