Before Joshua enters Canaan, God tells him, “This book of the Torah (ספר התורה; sefer ha’torah) shall not depart (לא ימושׁ; lo yamush) from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night” (Josh 1:8). The Hebrew for “not depart” in this verse is uncommon; before its appearance in Joshua, it appears only three times in the entire Torah. In these previous instances, the phrase conveys the unwillingness of God and the people to depart from one another. Therefore, in telling Joshua not to allow the Torah to “depart” from his lips, God says that for the person who meditates on the words of Scripture, the Lord is continually close; to read God’s words is to experience God’s presence.

The first appearance of “not depart” comes in Exodus, as the Israelites wander in the wilderness and God goes with them amidst cloud and fire: “The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart (לא ימישׁ; lo yamish) from before the people” (13:22). In this case, God remains in relationship with Israel as they negotiate the uncertainty of their desert journey. Next, Exodus narrates the nearness of God to Moses and Joshua: “The Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his neighbor. And [Moses] returned to the camp, but Joshua… did not depart (לא ימישׁ; lo yamish) from the midst of the tent” (33:11). On two occasions, Exodus uses “not depart” to highlight the reciprocal relationship between God and people.

Finally, the phrase appears in the context of continued communion between God and Moses. When, against a divine warning, the Israelites choose to leave the camp and charge into battle, the Torah notes that “the ark of the covenant and Moses did not depart (לא משׁו; lo mashu) out of the camp” (Num 14:44). Once again, the Torah describes the proximity of divine presence; God and Moses’ refusal to depart from the camp—or from one another—underscores the closeness of their relationship. Since an unwillingness to “depart” highlights the union between people and God, the divine decree for Joshua to not “depart” from the “book of the Torah” infers that to meditate on Scripture is to maintain relationship with God.

BEGIN YOUR JOURNEY OF DISCOVERY

27 COMMENTS

  1. Excellent thought!!! I’ve been reading through Proverbs… today in chap 25.. vs 4 really spoke to me..be ready for the silversmith to use me… meditating on the word is how I will recognize the Dross in my life … again thanks for this word.. Judy Gillis

  2. Thank you very much, Dr. Schaser, for drawing our attention to these profound connections! After reading your article, I searched and was surprised that the verb מושׁ only occurs 20 times in the entire Hebrew Bible, including in some very significant passages (e.g., Isa 54:10; Zech 14:4; Job 23:12).

    • Thanks for reading, John. Yes, מוש is relatively rare. Isa 54:10 would be another verse that affirms the thesis of the article, and Job 23:12 seems to be drawing on (and repurposing) Joshua 1:8.

    • 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 Jewish Gospel of Matthew and The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!

  3. You got my attention when you said “to read God’s word is to experience his presence” that is such a wonderful truth and reminder! Thank you thank you thank you! May the Lord God of Israel bless you 1000x’s – Deuteronomy 1:11

  4. Very powerful insight. Reminds me of the truth that we can experience the goodness of His presence. We can taste His goodness (Ps. 34:8).
    His Word is sweet to our spirits (Ex. 16:31) and draws His presence to us (Num. 11:8). It’s amazing that the Bible describes mana as having the taste of honey and oil.

  5. Wow! Dr Schaser, what an awesome article, I have no words, except to say thank you. It pierced the understanding to utmost comprehension, it reminded me of what I felt in my heart when I read Elijah and the ‘still small voice’.

  6. The use of negations puzzle me. Why not interpret “stays” vs “not leave”. Some European lanuages have fun with this, nicht wahr?

    • 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 Jewish Gospel of Matthew and The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!

      • Hello; could you explain what the difference are between these spellings: “lo yamish” (as in the Exodus examples), “lo mashu” (as in the Numbers example), and now “lo yamush” (as in your reply above)? Thank you kindly.

        • Thanks for this question, Kat. The verbal form above is from Joshua 1:8, which has the qal imperfect form of מוש (mush); in Exodus, ימיש (yamish) is the hiphil imperfect form (which usually makes the verb causative, i.e., “caused to depart”), and משו (mashu in Num 14:44) is the third person plural qal perfect, meaning, “they departed.” The לא (lo) in each case means “not,” so it negates the verb: “not depart” or “they did not depart” in Num 14:44.

  7. I just taught this lesson the my 4-6th grade Sunday School class. When we review this coming Sunday I will tell them that to read and study God’s word will keep Him continually close. Thanks for this insight into “not depart.”

  8. Ah, I see, said the blind man. “Since an unwillingness to “depart” highlights the union between people and God, the divine decree for Joshua(Yahusha) to not “depart” from the “book(words, directions) of the Torah” infers that to mediate(meditate?) on Scripture is to maintain relationship with God.”

  9. Soo, Col. 1:27(“the Anointed-One in you”), the mystery of baptism(“burning/fiery baptism,” Mat. 3:11). We will depart from him, but He will not depart from us. He remains faithful bringing us to the Father. Isaiah 55:11 John 6:44-53, 63-65

  10. O how love I thy Torah! it is my meditation all the day (Psalm 119:97). When the Torah does not depart from our mouths but remains incessantly on our lips as our constant meditation, the Lord stays close to His Word (and to us) to faithfully fulfill the purposes…

  11. for which He intended His Word to fulfill on earth (Matthew 6:10) as His Word will not return unto Him void (Isaiah 55:11). For He is not a man that He should lie neither is He a son of man that He should repent (Numbers 23:19).

  12. He uses His Word to sanctify us through and through, so our whole spirit, soul and body are kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, as The G-d of peace who has called us is faithful and will do it. (1 Thessalonians 5:24-25)

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