If you love to read the book of Psalms, then you are aware how often it mentions God’s law. When reading Psalms in English, people do not realize what Hebrew words lay behind the English translations.  Consequently, the depth of their meaning often evades people. Take this verse for example…

דֶּרֶךְ־שֶׁקֶר הָסֵר מִמֶּנִּי וְתוֹרָתְךָ חָנֵּנִי׃
“Keep me from deceitful ways; be gracious to me and teach me your law.”
(Psalm 119:29, NIV)

In English, the Psalmist says “be gracious to me and teach me your law” – וְתוֹרָתְךָ חָנֵּנִי (vetoratcha chaneni). In Hebrew, the text does not say anything about “teaching” specifically. It literally says “grace/favor me with your Torah”. The Hebrew חָנֵּנִי (chaneni) is a verb – חָנַן (chanan) meaning, “to be gracious, kind or compassionate.” It is tied directly to a very well-known noun, חֵן (chen), which means “liking,” “grace,” or “favorable disposition.”

Further, the word תּוֹרָה (torah) does not mean “law” as in a list of rules. The word actually means “instruction,” “teaching,” and “direction.” It originates from the verb יָרָה (yarah) meaning “to shoot,” “throw,” or “cast” something in a particular direction. Now the idea becomes clear. Just as a road sign points you in a proper direction to travel, so too does תּוֹרָה (torah) point you in the proper direction for life. The etymology suggests that תּוֹרָה (torah) has the same function of providing direction as a compass or a map would. A list of rules (i.e. Law) does not really do that, so translating תּוֹרָה (torah) as “law” is somewhat misleading. It projects the wrong idea.

Now we can paraphrase the translation to reflect the meaning of the original Hebrew  – “turn me away from the deceitful way and be favorable to me with your instruction.” The Psalmist asks God to lead him in life by instructing him and by pointing him in the right direction. And at the same time, he asks that God would not allow him to follow the wrong path.  See how, “teach me your law” means so much more in Hebrew!

BEGIN YOUR JOURNEY OF DISCOVERY

14 COMMENTS

  1. One of my most cherished insights from the Israelites is that yes I didn’t get it right, but neither my commitment (Ex 19:8) nor my conversation (Christian doctrine) ruined, changed, replaced, or influenced God’s grace. Nothing I believed or did not believe made grace too unusable to save me. Jesus is always stronger than my best at getting it right.
  2. A lovely and more personal translation! Law so often implies Legalism; creates division, but to kindly, and compassionately (chaneni) instruct and direct , teach me ( yarah), is personal and implies a trusting deeply personal relationship with G-d. The language is trusting and fosters relationship , not a set of do and don'ts but a journey ongoing in the ways of G-d. Under the overarching guidance of the Most High. In all our ways Know Him.
  3. So next we need to be recommended a translation of all the scriptures that we may read to gain this insight every time we can pick it up. :)
    • There is no perfect translation, John! :) There is no such thing a direct equivalence when transferring meaning from one language to another. Studying the source language is the only way to gain a clearer perspective.
    • Israel Bible Center equips you with the tools you need to enter into the Jewish world of Scripture. We provide first-rate teaching, and the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top scholars. As a student, you will be able to interact personally with our teaching faculty, and gain access to hundreds of hours of Bible courses, including The Stories of Jewish Christ: Among the Rabbis and . Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!
  4. I know that the ultimate temple is in the person Christ and His followers in Him. But when I visited Israel, I saw the preparation that's going on in the Temple Institute for the third Temple. When will the Dome of the Rock be broken down? When will this 3rd Temple be built? Will they bring back the old system of sacrifice into the Temple? If so, how can we justify the purpose of that one perfect sacrifice that Jesus offered on the Cross?
    • Dear Adam, this article is on a different topic, but I will try to answer your questions very briefly. There two opinions among Jews... First, the Messiah will come and he will be the one to establish the temple. Second, we restore the Temple and then the Messiah will appear. As far as restoration goes, the prophets foretell this. As far as sacrifices go.... most people do not understand the sacrifices sufficiently and thus make many errant assumptions. Jesus's sacrifice is not in competition with other offerings. It is a different matter altogether.
  5. Laila Tov, 613 Mitzvot must go hand and hand with Torah, to Include Y'Shuas commandments. Please elaborate. Shalom
    • Hi Roberto, Well, I confess that would be a bit of a challenge to do here! But I think we can safely say that Jesus' commandments clarified, amplified and expanded the 613 commandments found in the Torah.
  6. Shalom. Thank you for this insight. The Torah is a gracious gift from God that teaches us the right way to live. I feel sorry for the people who say they do not need the Old Testament. To the first followers of Yeshua the word scriptures meant the Torah and the Prophets and other Jewish writings. They did not have the New Testament.
  7. My family members keep saying that learning or focusing on the Instructions in Torah is putting bondage upon them. How can that be when Love fulfills all the Torah/Prophets. Many times they act hatefully since they refuse to try to learn. Only heart actions can reveal truth. I tried !!
    • You cannot teach people who do not want to learn. People who do not love God or his word, even religious people will reject God and his truth in preference to their personal interpretations that support their current religious views. Some are simply not seekers. Don't push it, just shine the light and live for God.

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