Word Study: Plague



Psalms 91:7: “A thousand shall fall by your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; it shall not come near your.”

Come on, are some you still fretting over our new President? Let’s jump back in time a little here and find out where we are to really put our trust. Israel was threatened with invasion by the Assyrians. They were demanding payment of heavy tribute, particularly the gold and silver that the Israelites used in their worship. King David refused to let anything sacred fall into the hands of the enemy. This did not set well with many in the kingdom. They felt they should give the enemy what they wanted to insure some measure of safety. You see the Assyrian army was invincible. They were on the cutting edge of warfare.

They had chariots that could only be pulled by horses that took 20 years to breed and train. A horse would live only 30 years so they spent 20 years preparing these horse for battle. Chariots were nothing like you see in these phony movies you see. These where weapons that were nothing to shake a stick at. They did not have the advantage of a modern suspension system, yet they had to traverse rocks and uneven ground. The chariots had to hold two riders. The chariots and charioteers were the mightiest weapons in nations arsenal. They had to travel at least 25 mph pulled by two horses that had to work together with primitive harness and tack. There were two passengers in a war chariot, one to hold the reins and guide the horses while the other is a skilled archer shooting arrows. No other nation, including Israel had chariots, horses and skilled warriors to man the chariots like the Assyrian army, not even the Egyptians although their chariots were a close second. Even if Israel did have such chariots it would take 20 years to breed and train the horses to pull them. The people of Israel were nervous and they looked to their king whom they put their trust in to protect them. What was their king’s response? Psalms 20:7: “Some trust in chariots, but WE will trust in the Lord.” Like, you know, who is this “we” business? “Ok, for you David to trust in the Lord, but if I am about to get my head loped off, I would like something a little more tangible to trust in.”

In Psalm 91:6 David explains the reason behind his fanaticism. He speaks of a plague that walks in darkness. The word plague is midevar which simply means to speak. If you ever take a trip to Israel you may find the phrase “Midevar ‘aggelith” very helpful (do you speak English). This plague is a plague of words. It could be criticism, or fearful words, words of doomsayers etc. In its Semitic root it is the word devar which means words that will pierce your heart. We hear the news on the economy, the threats of terrorism, or some epidemic and we seek tangible safety nets.

David, however, declares in Psalms 91:7 that a thousand will fall at your side. The word thousand is Aleph. That, of course is the name of the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. As a noun it means a friend. It is someone who you are familiar with. When the threats or bad news comes or a plague hits or layoffs are threatened, and a thousand, or those with whom you are familiar are speaking words of fear, their words will fall by your side. The word side is sadad. It is where the Arabic word Saddam comes from meaning adversary. The Mem in front of the word is the preposition from. From your side or from you will flow words in opposition to those coming at you and the threats, words, or plagues will fall. Fall is napel which is in a Hipil form. They will be caused to fall, terminated, or drop.

“Ten thousand at your right hand.” The word for ten thousand is revavah which simply means numerous, The word also has the concept of leadership. The Resh and double Beth indicates those in power or leadership who strike at your heart. This is even a greater threat than negative words from friends or those you are familiar with. For these are negative words coming from someone in leadership or who can exercise power over you, like a boss or governmental official or (forgive me) even a pastor. If they are words which threaten our peace, or our security in God, then these words will not come near us.

There are two people who have the ability to hurt us the most, our friends and our leaders. They have to power to hurt us because we trust in them and since they are human, as David so painfully learned, they can let us down and that is the ultimate hurt. But if we let our friends be friends, our leaders be leaders, and we put our ultimate trust where it belongs, in God, then if our friends or leaders fail, it won’t hurt us.