Word Study: Twinkling of an Eye רגע

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WORD STUDY – TWINKING OF AN EYE  רגע

Isaiah 51:4: “I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people.”

Yehudah ha-Levi, a medieval Jewish poet, displayed his emotion in a little rhyme: “ein rega beli nega.” “There is no rest without a wound in it.” The word rest in Hebrew is rega’ which is a very curious word in the Hebrew. It means to be both at rest and to set in motion.

The first is more prevalent in Modern Hebrew as the expression bet margo’a which could mean a rest home. Also in Modern Hebrew you have vulkan reghe’a which would mean an anti-anxiety medication. A dormant volcano is a rak rega. There is a simple exclamation in Modern Hebrew tiraago or relax.

Perhaps in Isaiah 51:4 we could best use the word moment rather than rest. “I will make my judgment as a moment for a light of the people” Linguist point out that the English word moment is derived from the word movement. It origins find itself in the hands of a clock, which help to define a short period of time. In other words, this will take just a moment or the time it takes for the hand of a clock to move. So too is the Hebrew word for motion or rega. The Hebrew word is pictured as the twinkling of an eye. The Septuagint uses the Greek word atomos for rega,’ which is the same Greek word that Paul used in I Corinthians 15:52 when referring to the coming of the Lord. Obviously that is where we get our English word atom referring to something extremely small. To the Hebrews rega is a motion so fast that you hardly notice the movement.

I read something interesting in the The Talmud this morning. It asked the question: “How long indeed is a rega’? They answer rega ke-memreh – as long as it takes to say rega’.

In modern Israeli culture, so I am told, rega is referred to as a silent gesture that involves bringing together the five fingertips of one hand and raising them – back of hand facing the listener – to eye level. The listener understands that this gesture means rega’ – wait a minute. Such a gesture has been known to stop traffic in Israel. The rabbi who shared that with me does not recommend we, as gentiles or tourist, use it for this purpose.

So now we come back to Isaiah 54:4 where God says that he will make his judgment to rega’ for a light to His people. In the Hebrew it is literally expressed “My judgments as a light to my people will I make a rest.” The word light is ‘or which is spelled Aleph, Vav and Resh. The spiritual reference to these letters are God, man and the Holy Spirit. The sages teach that the prime meaning of light ‘or is God’s connection of man to His Spirit. The ancient teaching is that as we join or unite with God, God’s light shines brighter. The closer we join ourselves with God the brighter His light becomes. Unlike the new agers who will say that we strengthen God and thus become little Gods ourselves, the sages are teaching that our joining with God is not increasing His power but increasing His joy and thus His joy becomes our strength. Hence Nehemiah 8:10, ”The joy of the Lord is our strength.”.

So God’s judgments upon us are meant as a tool of correction, a chastisement (Hebrews 12) a demonstration of his love to strip us of the sins that keep us from uniting with Him so that His light or joy may fill us and thus increase our strength. But soft or rega’ (wait a moment), He is also promising that such judgment will on be rega’ – for a moment, a twinkling of the eye or in the words of another Jewish expression: “This too will pass.”