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Plowing through History from the Aleph to the Tav

Topics Definition of Hebrew Words

By Jeff A. Benner
שׁחה shahhah

Webster’s Dictionary defines "worship" as;

  1. The reverent love and devotion accorded a deity, an idol, or a sacred object.
  2. The ceremonies, prayers, or other religious forms by which this love is expressed.

As I have stated many times, but is worth repeating, when we read the Bible we must define our words from a Hebraic perspective and not from an English one. Unfortunately, when we see the word "worship" in the Bible we automatically assume the above definition causing miss-interpretation of the Biblical text.

If I asked the average believer, "Is it okay to worship a man?" The answer would be, "Absolutely not, we are only to worship God." Below are a few verses that use the word "worship" and support this view.

Genesis 24:26 And the man bowed down his head, and worshipped the LORD.

1 Samuel 15:31 So Samuel turned again after Saul; and Saul worshipped the LORD.

Psalm 29:2 Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.

The first question we must ask is, "What is the Hebrew word behind the English word ‘worship’ and what does it mean?" In each of the verses above the Hebrew word behind the English word "worship" is שחה (Sh.Hh.H, Strong's #7812) . This Hebrew word appears 172 times in the Biblical text, but is only translated as "worship" 99 times in the KJV. Below are some other translations of this same Hebrew word.

Gen 27:29 Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee

In this passage other nations will bow down to the descendants of Jacob.

Exo 18:7 And Moses went out to meet his father in law, and did obeisance, and kissed him; and they asked each other of [their] welfare; and they came into the tent.

In this passage Moses bowed down to his father-in-law.

1 Kings 1:53 So king Solomon sent, and they brought [Adonijah] down from the altar. And he came and bowed himself to king Solomon: and Solomon said unto him, Go to thine house.

In this passage Adonijah was found righteous when he bowed down to Solomon.

Whenever the Hebrew word שחה (Sh.Hh.H, Strong's #7812) is used as an action toward God, the translators translate this word as "worship". However, when this same Hebrew word is used as an action toward another man, the translators translate this word as "obeisance," "bowed" or "bow down". As you can see, the translators are preventing the reader from viewing the text in its proper Hebraic context.

The concept of "worship," as defined by Webster’s dictionary is not Hebraic in any way and is not found in the Bible. While there is nothing wrong with "worship," in the sense that we normally understand this word, we should recognize that it is not a Biblical concept. If the Hebraic meaning of "worship" is to bow down before another, whether God or man, as we have seen from the texts, then the answer to our question above is, "Yes, it is acceptable to worship other men." While this sentence may sound blasphemous due to our doctrinal view of "worship," we can do one of two things. We can remove the word worship from our vocabulary and replace it with "bow down" or we can use the word worship, but recognize that it does not mean what we have always assumed it to mean.

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