Aramaic Word Study: To Take Charge


Mark 4:39: :And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.”
I grew up in a very fundamentalist Baptist church where the KJV was king. So I grew up on the KJV and the KJV used the word “Peace be still” in Mark 4:39. When never made sense to me.
Now maybe it is just because I am an Aspie that I tend to focus on things people think are unimportant but even as a small child I wondered why Jesus had to speak to the winds. I mean I was smart enough to know the winds and storm had no ears. When I asked my Sunday School teachers they told me I worried too much about unimportant things. Later I heard some preacher say that Jesus spoke those words for the benefit of the disciples. Well that was about as good an explanation as any I guess.
Then I wondered why Jesus said: “Peace be still.” Why not storm by still, peace was already still and where was the peace in the first place, they were in the midst of a storm. Then new Bible translations were introduced and they said things like: “Be quiet, or be silent and still.” When I was taking Greek in Bible college I looked it up and found the word peace was siopa which means hush, be quiet, be silent. Latin poets used the word metaphorically for a calm sea. I suspect as a result of the use of this word in the Bible. The word for still is pephimoso from the root word phimos which means to put on a muzzle to be silent. It also means to be silent. Both words mean to be quiet. Why did Jesus have to use two different words to tell the storm to be quiet?
Of course Jesus spoke this in Aramaic and the Aramaic Bible uses the word shela which means to cease or subside. The following word was zegar which means basically calm down. In other words he said to the storm: “Cease, calm down.” That doesn’t sound like a rebuke to me. I often wonder that. Peace be still does not sound like a rebuke and the Bible says he rebuked the storm. To me when you rebuke something, you tell it off. In the Greek the word rebuke is epetimesen from the root word epitimao which means to admonish and warn. That makes less sense. What was Jesus warning the storm about. “Obey me or I will shut off your lightning bolts?” It sounds like He was calling the storm a bad storm, that it ought to be ashamed of itself scaring people the way it does. Jesus was really telling that old storm off He was really rebuking it.
In the Aramaic, however, we get a different picture. The word used is rebuke is kea which means to take charge, to overrule. Jesus didn’t rebuke the storm, tell it off, call it a bad storm. He took charge over the storm. Therein lies an important lesson. That old storm was there, it was threatening the very lives of the disciples and they went to Jesus and declared they were about to die. Jesus replied; “Oh you of little faith.”
You know, I think what the disciples heard Jesus say when he said: “Oh you of little faith” was: “Come on guys who do you think is in charge here? Storm, shut up already. – Ok, can I go back to sleep, its been a long day.”
I recall many years ago when I was a camp director for teenage boys who were in trouble with the law. I had a counselor who was a relatively new Christian and should have known better than to pray for a miracle. I mean I believed God did miracles, but He just never did them when I prayed. But this young counselor did believe. He spent practically the whole camping period praying for the guys in his cottage, telling of Jesus but none would accept the Lord so he decided God had to send a miracle to wake them up.
The last day of the camping session we took the whole camp out to an area three miles from camp to sleep under the stars, no tents. As I stood up that evening to give the evening devotions suddenly a wind blew in, clouds covered the stars and we were in for a really bad storm and no shelter. As everyone started to panic this young counselor calmly walked up to me put his hand on my shoulder and said: “Let’s rebuke it.” I replied: “Yeah, I mean, what?” Next thing I knew he had me on my knees as well as the rest of my staff praying to God to calm the storm. Yeah, you know what happened, instantly the clouds rolled away, the wind died down and I did not feel like giving the devotions that night so I turned it over to the young counselor who preached a nice salvation message and had a very receptive audience. Meanwhile I on the radio to the Park Ranger who is telling me he was sending out tarps and gear. I told him it was not raining. His reply was classic: “Are you sure?” I may have been a dumb graduate student but I would know if it was raining or not. The Park Ranger did some checking and called back: “Are you sure it is not raining? I checked with all the other Park Rangers and they say they are in the worst storm of the year.”
God didn’t rebuke that storm. We did, but God simply kea, took charge. Maybe sometimes our prayers should not: “Oh, God, do this or do that” when they should simply be: “God, take charge.” I think he spoke the words for the benefit of the disciples to realize Who was in charge. Then again if you are one of those quantum physics people you might say the vibrations and energy of Jesus’s voice and his words interacted with the energy and vibrations of the storm causing them to calm down. Perhaps but one thing I do know, the disciple were pretty certain as to Who was in charge.