Word Study: Circling The Mountain



Deuteronomy 2:3: “Enough of your circling this mountain, turn yourself north.”

Years ago I saw a book in a Christian bookstore which was titled: “One More Lap Around The Mountain.” That title sure can strike home to many of us.

The word mountain in the Hebrew is har. The numerical value for the word har is 205. The Talmud teaches that the numerical value for the word Medea, Greece, Babylon and Rome (the four exiles) are also 205. The exiles were a mountain to the Hebrews. Rabbi Yisroel Tzvi, just before he died in a Nazi concentration camp, read this Deuteronomy 2:3 and said: “It has certainly been a long time that we have been going around and around in exile.” What is your mountain, we all have them and many of us never get rid of our mountains because we spend too much time running around the mountain rather than climbing the mountain.

A mountain was the highest you could go to reach heaven, thus a mountain came to symbolize the presence of God and the climbing of a mountain is the journey to draw closer to the presence of God.

Thus, what Rabbi Tzvi was teaching was that their exile would end when they stopped circling the mountain in exile and started to climb the mountain to His holy Shekinah. The word Shekinah denotes the divine presence. It is in a feminine form to express the nurturing, tenderness, and loving nature of God.

Ever feel like you are in exile and you wake up each morning thinking: “Well, another day, another lap around the mountain.” You feel like you are just not getting anywhere, just not accomplishing anything. Maybe this morning you will hear the Lord say: “Enough of circling this mountain, turn yourself North.” The word north is sepanah. This word also means hidden treasure. Turn toward the hidden treasures of God. Every day you go through the same routine, you take another lap around that mountain and every day there is a treasure waiting for you at the top of that mountain. Perhaps it is time to start climbing that mountain and finding the treasure of his Shekinah that awaits you at the top.

The word for circle is quite interesting. It is the word sabab in Hebrew. To encircle is one use of this word. Its root mean is to rotate, circle about, to turn about or change. It comes from an Akkadian word for twisting rope or braiding hair. The more you twist it the tighter it becomes and the harder it is to unbraid it. The more you put off running around your mountain the longer before you find that treasure that God has laid up for you on the mountain top and the harder it will become to climb the mountain especially after using up all your strength taking laps around the mountain.

The main reason God had the children of Israel take the long route from Egypt to the Promised Land was that He wanted them to learn faith. When they finally arrived at the land they were frightened off by giants, so they had to spend forty more years in the wilderness to learn faith. God is constantly taking us to the school of faith and often we must climb a mountain to discover the strength of our faith. If we just keep running around that mountain we will never learn the strength of our faith nor reach that treasure at the top.

If you are tempted to take one more lap around that mountain in your life rather than climbing it, God may just resort to some serious tactics to get you moving. Look at Exodus 19:17: “And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount.” What is the nether part of a mountain? Most our translations say beside the mountain, at the foot of the mountain, the base of the mountain, the bottom of the mountain or the lower part of the mountain. But that is not what the ancient rabbis in the Talmud say the word bethchethith means. The Talmud teaches that it comes from the root word tavach which means beneath or underneath. The Talmud further teaches that God raised the mountain in the air and the children of Israel stood underneath this mountain. They had to speak to this mountain and command it to move away from them before it fell back to earth to crush them. Quit a test and a lesson in faith and how powerful their faith was, even if it was still in its infancy. Did this actually happen or can we just translate bethchethith as at the base of or beside?

I don’t know but I do know that Jesus said in Mark 11:23: “For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.” Perhaps Jesus was alluding to a story that was very familiar to the disciples, a bedtime story that their mothers used to tell them of that day in the wilderness when their ancestors found themselves bethchethith or underneath a mountain and had to exercise their faith to move that mountain. Maybe it actually did happen and the children of Israel in their childish faith actually moved a mountain.

My point is, if you don’t listen to God’s command to stopped taking laps around that mountain He brought into your life, He may just put you under that mountain where you will have no choice but to exercise your faith, stop taking laps around that mountain and move that mountain.

One thought on “Word Study: Circling The Mountain

  1. In the devotional “Your faith made you whole,” you commented on not speaking for others on whether or not they knew salvation through Christ Jesus. Two of my friends, one whose son died unexpectedly, and another whose sister passed away, were upset because their loved ones weren’t saved. I asked them, “How do you know that they didn’t encounter Jesus prior to drawing their last breath? Christ has the power to do anything, even connect with those who are dying. Don’t limit Him by human standards.” Those words gave them comfort. Christ Jesus can do anything – we are the ones who limit Him.
    To your comment about fearing God – I’m with you. The thought of breaking God’s heart breaks mine; oh, if we could truly, fully comprehend how much He loves us!

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