Hebrew is a nuanced and complex language. Far more than English.
Each Hebrew word has a root, or “shoresh”, which can be added to suffixes and prefixes to convey complex ideas very quickly. This is why you will often see three or four Hebrew words translated into whole English sentences.
Unfortunately sometimes translators try and reduce Hebrew ideas into single English words and much of the meaning is lost.
Yirah - “Fear” of the Lord?
“The fear (yirah) of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10)
It always struck me “fear” of God is a strange thing to endorse. One fears a venomous snake or a bully. Why would God call it the beginning of all Wisdom?
The reason why the translation “fear” feels strange is it only captures a fraction of the original Hebrew term’s meaning.
“Yirah” means fear, yes. But it also means respect, reverence, awe. Yirah reminds us our God is an Awesome God!
It is a one word encapsulation of Rich Mullins’ song. It reminds us that the awe we feel at a sunset, the reverence we have for Godly leaders and the respect we have for a loving parent. All the ways God wants us to see Him.
This spirit of Yirah focuses us on God. His punishing power yes, but also His love, His majesty, and the scripture He gives us. This complete package is the “beginning of all wisdom”.
Nefesh: The “breath” of life
“And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” (Genesis 2:7)
The word “Nefesh” means soul.
When God breathed the breath of life into Adam it was God giving Adam a soul. Giving all who came after him a soul as well.
It’s important we keep this word in mind when we interact with others. God loves us for our Nefesh so much that He gave His only begotten Son for us. That is how much we mean to God.
Remember that no matter what others say about us, God has deemed us worthy, and whenever we feel negative attitudes to others, let’s remember that other person has a Nefesh given to them by God.
Teshuva: Returning to God
“Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to Me with all your heart …” (Joel 2:12)
God doesn’t just require repentance from us. He isn’t as interested in guilt or apology as He is in our returning to righteousness and a love of holiness.
“Teshuva” means to return, in this context to return to God. When we return to His righteous instructions for our lives, we will prosper as the Bible states,
“Blessings are on the head of the righteous … The memory of the righteous is blessed … The mouth of the righteous is a well of life … But the righteous has an everlasting foundation.” Proverbs 10:6-7,11,25.
And one more.... Leket
‘When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings (leket) of your harvest. And you shall not glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather every grape of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19:9-10 NKJV
“Leket” is a Hebrew word that refers to the practice of leaving some produce in the fields after harvest for the poor and the alien to collect.
Leket encourages believers to be generous and to care for those who are less fortunate. It aligns with the teachings of Jesus about caring for the poor, loving our neighbors as ourselves, and living out our faith through our actions.