WORD STUDY – COOING DOVE – הגה
Psalms 90:9: “For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told.”
“For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.’” John Greenleaf Whittier
This sounds almost like God is so angry with us that he has shorten our life span to 70 years as we see in the next verse. Indeed, it seems most commentators tend to agree with this. I find this rendering troubling because the word used for wrath is be’eberatheka and comes from the root word ‘avar which means to pass over, overwhelm, overflow, transgress. In its Semitic root it had the idea of going beyond established limits. Yet, almost without exception every translation renders this as wrath or fury. One even says raging fury. The only exception is the Aramaic Bible which takes the word ‘avar back to its Semitic root and renders this as passion. In other words our days are consumed away in thy passion.
Translators go with the idea of wrath as wrath is a picture of exceeding one’s limits. Like Popeye would say: “That’s all I can stand cause I can’t stands no more.” We just put our fallen nature on God and figure He is just like us, He has his limits and you push his buttons too far and He is going to lose it and man look out when you face the wrath of God. But why do we have to call it wrath? Why not just follow the Aramaic Bible and the Jewish rendering and call it passion? That is its original meaning. Note how the word ‘avar has the preposition Beth which could mean in or on at the beginning and a pronoun your at the end. So this word really becomes a prepositional phrase: “in the passing of your passions.” Thus we would render this as “For all our days are passed away in the passing of your passions.” Wait a minute, His passion has passed away? That word passed away is amazingly pani which is the word used for the presence of God. We could read this as “For all our days are in the presence of God are consumed by His passion.”
Christian evangelicals would throw rocks at me for a rendering it like that. The context is after all talking of our sins and transgression and so surely God would vent His wrath upon us. I mean no matter how much you love someone, they can push you far enough to bring your wrath out of you. So obviously God too has His limits. The English word wrath and fury suggest intense anger. For centuries the church has kept people in line, attending weekly church services and throwing in their tithes and offerings with that little under current, “Watch out, you push God too far and you will face His wrath.” So many Christians are paying tithes, going to church because they fear the wrath, fury or anger of God. Yet, does not the Word of God teach that perfect love cast out all fear? I John 4:18. The verse goes on to say that fear has to do with punishment. If we live in fear of God punishing us, then He just wasted His time sending His Son to die on a cross. If we live in fear of punishment from God then the death of His Son is meaningless. No, it is an insult. Jesus suffered, bleed, was tortured, tormented and died for us. He took our punishment and after He went through all that, we stand in fear of being punished? Doesn’t make sense to me.
I am sorry, I just don’t see how a Christian can be punished by God, it contradicts the whole plan of God. But, if we say that He is this loving God who will not punish us, then what is to keep us from sinning all we want and then just confessing it. It is like a license to sin. We can live it up.
Well suppose I give an alternative rendering, using the alternative renderings for ‘avar and rather than wrath say passion and for pani rather than say pass away read it as His presence. Then our rendering would be “For all our days are in the presence of God are consumed by His passion.” The idea of God having an emotional response to our sins is still there only by not using that highly negative word wrath which is really a narrow rendering of ‘avar, we are using the broader definition of passion. Passion does not have to be negative in the sense of anger. My earthly father never punished me, never raised his voice, never threatened me. I did not fear my father in the slightest. Well, there was one thing I feared more than anything, I feared it so much that I never came near drugs, alcohol, rebellion or any of the other vices. I feared I would disappoint him, cause him some sort of distress or sadness. The knowledge that I could make him sad kept me out of a lot of trouble.
God doesn’t have to threaten me with wrath, fury or punishment. The mere thought that I could do something to break His heart, that I would be unfaithful to his loving kindness strikes absolute terror in my heart.
Look at what this verse says next: “We spend our years as a tale that is told.” The word used for tale is hagah which means a story. However, when you trace this word to its Semitic origins it is used for the cooing of a dove, more specifically a mourning dove. A mourning dove gets its name from its cooing which sound like it is in mourning. Hence this tale is a sad story.
I don’t know about you but this rendering makes more sense to me: “For all our days in the presence of God are consumed by His passion and we spend our years telling a sad story.” That sad story is how God has blessed us with forgiveness of our sins, filled us with His presence and consumed us with His passion and yet we still sin and break His heart. As I ponder my six score and six years I cannot help but be filled with sadness hagah over the many times I have broken God’s heart. What might have been had I been more faithful to His love? I don’t fear His wrath, His anger or His punishment, I fear not having lived my life to His fullest expectations. I fear not hearing Him say: “Well done thou good and faithful servant.”