Hebrew Idioms for the Torah
I remember the day I first heard a teaching on the Hebrew idioms for the Torah. I was immediately overwhelmed by a flood of revelation concerning my Messiah Yeshua. I already knew many Scriptures, Old and New Testament, that contained these idioms. To suddenly see them as all connected, all speaking of one and the same thing, was as if someone had flung open a door into heaven and I could see so much more clearly the King of the Universe.
The sensation was amazing. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry! I was filled with an array of emotion. First was a great joy and overwhelming awe at the spectacular vastness of Yahweh and His love for me. Then I was grieved by the realization that I had been a follower of Jesus and student of Bible for 40 years (not to mention a minister and missionary for 30 years) and had never seen or been taught this important instruction before. My grief was soon flooded over by a very deep sense of gratitude to His Spirit for letting me grab on to and begin to use this key to understanding His Kingdom when He did. Because I trust Him to know the best timing in my life for His revelations, I know that I saw and understood this at exactly the right time in His plan for my life!
Hebrew idioms for the Torah are found all over the pages of the Bible, both Old and New Testament. An idiom is a culture-based use of a word or expression that holds a specific meaning understood by those who know the culture and its language. In America we have a huge number of idioms that we use every day. We know what they mean, but to foreigners new to American English they are completely confusing.
For instance, when we are very angry we might say we “hit the ceiling” or “I’m madder than a wet hen”. We know what we mean, but not the fellow from Mozambique. Or maybe someone has died and in conversation at the water cooler at work a colleague asks, “Did you hear that Harry kicked the bucket?” You know that your co-worker is saying that Harry died, but not the gal from Thailand. She thinks this guy, Harry, likes to go around kicking buckets. How about those boots on your feet? In England a “boot” is the trunk of a car, not footwear. It is the same word, same spelling, and both English – but because of the cultures, but with two very different meanings.
A Jewish rabbi and those who sit under his or her teaching also adhere to a cultural and language-based understanding that makes grasping the use of Hebrew idioms in Scripture all the more important. They understand that Yahweh has woven what they call “Crimson Threads” throughout the Tanakh (Old Testament). The idioms used for Torah are one of those crimson threads…and this thread of idioms constantly pulls the reader and student back to Torah. For this reason Torah is understood as the foundation or rock upon which all other Scripture is built. If you do not know Torah you will not be able to understand what is being referred to in the writings, teachings, and prophecies in the rest of the Bible.
These crimson threads weave their way into the New Testament as well. Yeshua used Hebrew idioms constantly in His teachings. So did Paul, Peter, James (Jacob), and all of the other New Testament writers. In fact, when you begin to grab onto and follow the crimson threads that run through Genesis to Revelation you find yourself wanting to do something others would think crazy. Here’s your warning: You will experience a growing desire to tear out that page in your Bible that separates “old” and “new”. That page, dear friend, is man-made, not God ordained.
With all this being said, let’s move on to the Hebrew idioms for Torah that are found from Genesis to Revelation. I promise you that this will change the way you read your Bible forever. This will also begin to make you rethink your concepts concerning the identity of Yeshua and the role He plays in your day to day life.
Hebrew Idioms for Torah:
- Word of God
- The Word
- The Way of Life
- Good News of God
- Living Water/Water of Life
- Statutes/ Precepts
- Bread of Life
- Mirror or Looking Glass
- The Book of Life
- Law (1st used by Hellenistic Greek-minded Jews)
- Song of Moses
- Clouds without water – meaning “without Torah”
- Well without water – meaning “without Torah”
- Lawlessness: without Torah
- Tree of Life
“Tree of Life” is a very significant Hebrew idiom for a Torah scroll. To this very day, every synagogue has a Torah scroll. It is the most precious possession of a synagogue community. Notice the characteristics and Hebrew idioms that describe the components of an ancient Torah scroll.
- Each Torah scroll is wound on two dowels – one is called “the Rod” and the other is called “the Staff”.
- In ancient times the Torah (5 Books of Moses called “the Song of Moses”) was written upon carefully prepared lamb skin that had been softened by being beaten and bruised.
- There were 39 portions of lamb skin to each ancient scroll – just are there are 39 lashes to a whipping that interestingly coincide with the 39 categories of diseases in our world.
- These 39 skins are called “the leaves of the Tree of Life”.
- The lines of Scripture on a leaf of a Torah scroll are called “stripes”.
Are you ready to follow the crimson thread of the Torah? With the above Hebrew idioms in mind, now re-read the following verses.
Psalm 23:4 “Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
Proverbs 3:13 “Happy is the man who finds wisdom…”
Isaiah 53:5 “By his stripes we are healed.”
Jeremiah 31:33 “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.” Hebrews 8:10 “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.”
Ephesians 6:17 “And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
Revelation 14:12“Here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.”
Revelation 15:3 “They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb…”
Revelation 22: 2 “Between the main street and the river was the Tree of Life…and the leaves of the tree were for healing the nations.”
Revelation 22:17 “…let anyone who wishes, take the water of life free of charge.”
Let’s also look specifically at the identity of Yeshua. To our Greek-mindset and English understanding, many of the statements of Yeshua in which he identifies himself as truth, bread, water and life are seen as lovely pictorial analogies. However, having the understanding of Hebrew idioms for the Torah, the Jewish ear knows exactly what and who Yeshua is claiming to be to them.
John 1: 1-14 “In the beginning was the Word … and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.”
Matthew 11:29 “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
John 14:15 “If you love me, keep my commandments.”
John 14:6 “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”
John 4:10 “…you would have asked of him, and he would have given you living water.”
John 6:51 “I am the Bread of Life.”
Considering the Hebrew idioms he used, allow me to paraphrase and summarize the teachings of Yeshua for you: “I AM the Torah, the Living Word of Yahweh made flesh and living with you. I existed with God at the beginning and am God. I was at Mt Sinai and spoke to Moses. I have come to write my Ways on your mind and heart. My Spirit will teach you my Principles and Instructions in their purest intent and cause you to walk in them. They are not heavy or burdensome, as the religious have made them to be. Rather you will find them to be a delight, giving nourishing food and refreshing water to your whole being. By living out my Good News you will soon find that you are able to have life and have it abundantly. If you will receive me, then I will begin to restore my Kingdom on earth in you and through you. If you truly love me, you will keep (follow, maintain, celebrate, guard) my Torah. For if you do not believe (confidence that creates action) Moses or his writings, how will you believe what I say? (John 5:46)”
Taking the time and effort to learn the Hebrew roots of the faith, teachings, and earthly life of Yeshua sets before us a rich and wonderful banquet of greater and clearer understanding in all of the writings contained in the Bible. The books and letters of the Bible – both Old and New Testament – were written by Hebrews to a predominantly Hebrew audience. The expectation was that if you were not Hebrew in background and understanding then you, as a new follower of Rabbi Yeshua HaMashiach, would certainly be instructed in such at the local synagogue. Weekly synagogue Torah teaching would be the best way that you would be able to learn of and adapt to the faith of Yeshua and not fall into false teachings. (Acts 15:19 -21)
Friends, let me be very clear. Are we saved by keeping the Principles and Instructions of Yahweh? No. We are saved from our sin – rescued from its clutches and reconciled to Yahweh – only by the blood of a Perfect Sacrifice without spot or blemish…the Lamb of Passover and Goat of Atonement on Yom Kippur. This Perfect Sacrifice is Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah). His very name, Yeshua, means “God Saves”. He is the only door or gate by which we can enter the Kingdom of Heaven, and no man can appear before Yahweh in that Kingdom without passing through Him. Only Yeshua, the Perfect and Final Sin and Guilt Offering, is our salvation. Our sin is completely done away with and forgotten by Him.
May I ask a very important question? Do you even know what sin is? The Hebrew word is chatah meaning “missing the mark”. The Torah is God’s spoken Word, recorded on stone by His own Finger and fully revealed in the writings of Moses. This Torah is “mark” or target for Kingdom living on earth and in heaven. Our life’s thoughts and actions are the arrows. When our thoughts and actions (our arrows) miss the mark (a Torah instruction, statute, or principle) – it is identified by YHVH as sin.
In the truest sense, sin is about dishonor. Sin dishonors our King, ourselves, and others. It is this dishonor that brings grief to all impacted by our sin, especially to our Father. Only His grace saves a person from the penalties of sin (which is death) and restores us back to the goodness and blessings of His Path. We are saved/delivered from the penalty and the attached curses of living outside or in opposition to the Torah. This has been true since Genesis!
Once we are restored by His grace and set back on His Path of Life (living in the Torah instead of against it) we rejoin His present Kingdom purpose of bringing redemption to all of His Creation. Redemption means to repair, reform, restore, fulfill original intent. This has been Father’s goal since the fall of Adam and the loss of the Kingdom wholeness of the Earth and its creatures in their original form.
To the saved (delivered), the Torah is God’s guide to a blessed and prosperous life. Embracing the Living Torah and His Word (the written Torah’s instruction, principles and statutes) brings life and peace back into their lives. The Torah condemns only those who refuse to live by God’s design for mankind on the earth. It becomes a law of death and condemnation to those who blatantly live in rebellion to the Creator King by ignoring His Torah.
Thus, the function of the Torah in a person’s life is a choice. In Messiah and taught by His Spirit, the Torah is living water and the bread of life that is the source of abundant living. Outside of Messiah and perverted into lifeless religious law, the Torah is seen as graceless. It points out one’s failures and rebellious nature. (How would we know what our sin is if it didn’t?) The Torah makes us uncomfortable and filled with a sense of guilt and condemnation. Rightly so. Left unaddressed, sin becomes a source of great burden and death. Rejecting the Living Torah, filled with grace, and His Word has deadly consequences. Choose wisely! (Deuteronomy 28 & 29)
Before I close, here is one last perspective challenge. In a Kingdom mindset, we can grasp that Yahweh’s Kingdom has a framework – a Constitution. That Constitution is the Torah. The Torah not only instructs us in His will for us as our King, but also establishes a system of justice for those who are wronged by the “unlawful” actions of others and provides and guarantees to us the rights and privileges (blessings) of being “law-abiding” citizens. When we grasp this Kingdom understanding of the Torah, we begin to love our King all the more. He cares enough for us to insure by His Word that we are protected, treated justly, and enjoy life in His Kingdom. Who wouldn’t want that?!
As believers in Yeshua HaMashiach, we can live with much more intent and purpose than we often grasp. By His Spirit empowering us, we truly can live as he did on earth and still does in heaven. His thoughts and actions (the mind of Christ) are fully revealed to us in His Torah. As ones who have been saved/delivered from our own failures and from the way the world does things, the Torah becomes a God-ordained journey that was spoken to us by His own voice and written with His own finger. Torah reveals the plans and purposes Yahweh has assigned for the citizens of His Kingdom. Torah also establishes and protects our rights and privileges as citizens in His Kingdom. His goodness is all there for us to read, understand and put into action every day.
This is why YHVH tells His people Israel through the prophet Jeremiah, “I know the plans I have in mind for you, plans for well-being, not for bad things; so that you can have a hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11-14) The heart of our Father is for good and wholeness to always grace our lives. He is simply waiting for us to seek Him and walk in His Ways wholeheartedly. Amazing!
The Torah – the Living Torah who is Yeshua – brings an order to our lives that flourishes in honor toward Him and toward other human beings. Torah teaches us how we are to function as His children, His priests and kings, His chosen from the nations, and His Bride. We adapt to His Ways in preparation for our fully restored reign with Him over the earth. It is through Torah (the song of Moses) and the sacrifice of Yeshua (the Song of the Lamb) that Yahweh restores His Kingdom to us and in us now in in the future. He enables us to fully regain the honor of living in His Presence. That was the precious treasure lost by Adam in the Garden of Eden. Through the Messiah’s deliverance and choosing to live by His Word, His Presence and His Kingdom have been restored to us!
Yahweh has never changed. His ways have never changed. His Word has not and never will be done away with. If the Torah is to be called “law” then it is most certainly, as James writes, our “perfect law of liberty”! To His children, the Torah is “the Law of Life and Blessings” and in this abundant life there is no condemnation. If living as Yeshua did, in this lifestyle of light and blessing, is “bondage” to some then, sincerely, my heart breaks for them. They have yet to truly and fully encounter the Living Torah. My prayer is that they soon will. May His Kingdom be restored in them quickly!