WORD STUDY – IF ONLY
Leviticus 26:3: “If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them; (4) Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.
We have in Leviticus 26:3 what is known as a conditional clause. A conditional clause indicates circumstances under which a clause is true or occurs. For instance you have in this verse, “if you walk in my statutes” this is known as the protasis, the circumstance. This is then followed by the apodosis “then I will give you rain” which is what will occur.
In Hebrew we can have two types of conditional clauses, the real conditional clause and the unreal conditional clause. The real conditional clause is one that has been or could be fulfilled. Most real conditional clauses presents a condition that can be or has been fulfilled. For instance: “Since you kept my commandments, you have rain” or “If you keep my commandments then you will have rain.” You have a similar grammatical situation in the Aramaic. When the enemy stated to Jesus, “If you be the Son of God turn these rocks into bread” he was literally giving a real condition as one that had been fulfilled. So it should be read as: “Since you are the Son of God turn these rocks into bread.” In other words, it was not a challenge to prove Jesus was the Son of God. The enemy knew that and Jesus knew it, He didn’t have to prove anything, it was a given. Thus, the condition wasn’t to prove anything but was a suggestion. “You’ve haven’t eaten for forty days, since you are the Son of God you can eat right now by turning these rocks into bread. Be human, put the flesh before the Spirit and feed the body not the Spirit.”
In Classical Hebrew you also have what are known as unreal conditional clauses. You have negative unreal conditional clauses “if you had not kept my commandments you would not gotten rain.” There are also what is known as unreal concessive clauses that begin with the Hebrew word im (if) or kal (because) which is more of a plea; “if only you would keep my commandments, then I could give you rain.”
This is one of those little points of grammar that would drive my Hebrew students in Bible college to the point of mutiny. Even I, as a Hebrew teacher, would often overlook this point. But the Jewish sages do not. This morning I was reading the Talmud in Avodah Zarah 5a that Leviticus 26:3 is an unreal concessive conditional clause and should read as a plea: “If only you would follow My statutes then I could give you rain in due season.”
I have not found one English translation that would translate it that way. They all translate it as: “If you follow or walk in my commandments, then I will give you rain.” To render the passage this way gives the impression of “better keep my commandments or else.” “I’m God, I can squash you so you had better keep my commandments.” In this translation we put God on the same level as all the other gods. “Obey me or else, I control the rain so keep my laws or I shut off the tap.” In other words God is threatening us. He is using strong armed tactics just like any other god.
But to rendering this as the Jewish sages as a plea we see God in a more loving position. “I set the order in this universe. There are consequences for not following that order. If only you would just follow that order I establish you will have plenty of rain.” In other words He is not a God sitting up there in heaven with His angels watching every move we make and as soon as we violate one of His laws, “Hey God, Old Chaim just blew it again.” God rubs His hands together in glee and says; “Oh good, watch how I punish him this time. I think the transmission in his car going out would be a good one, don’t you , let’s try that.” He is rather than loving parent pleading with her child: “Eat your kosher broccoli, try it, you’ll like it and you won’t grow up get cancer and die.”
We are so afraid to associate any tenderness with God because then we might take advantage of His good nature, go out and sin up a storm knowing He will be loving and forgiving. No he has to be that harsh disciplinarian who threatens to poddy train us with lightning bolts to keep us in line.
Yet, if you have really, really felt that loving hug from the Heavenly Father and you dearly love Him with all your heart, soul and might, then you would know that He does not need to resort to the whip and chain to keep us in line. The mere fact that the Loving Father is pleading with us to follow His law knowing it is only for our benefit and good and that if we break any of those laws resulting in our suffering, it would break His heart, then that would be a stronger deterrent than a daily trip to the woodshed.