And they cast lots for their duties, all alike, the small as well as the great, the teacher as well as the pupil. 1 Chronicles 25:8
Pupil – What does it mean to learn the Scriptures? Just stop a minute and think about your definition of learning. What characteristics describe a learner – a pupil? Did you include attentive study, memorization, understanding and apprehension? Is the focus of your idea of learning cognitive or experiential? Most of us in this Greek-based worldview think of learning in cognitive terms. We think about gathering facts, understanding problems, drawing conclusions and developing a storehouse of information. In other words, in our world it’s possible to learn without ever actually doing anything with the information.
But this is impossible in Hebrew. The word “pupil” is talmiyd (singular). You will recognize the similarity with the word Talmud, the collection of oral instruction in Judaism. The word for pupil comes from the verb lamad. This verb appears sixteen times in Deuteronomy, usually translated at “teach” or “learn.” Are the instructions in Deuteronomy intended to be cognitive collections of facts? Are we supposed to learn God’s commandments (Torah) so that we can recite them during a scholarship contest? The same verb shows up in Proverbs 5:13, a verse that gives us a very good picture of the opposite of lamad. You’ll notice that the emphasis of the verse is about obedience, not information. In fact, the etymological background of lamad is to chastise, to discipline even with the rod. Believe me, this is not about beating the facts into you.
A pupil of Scripture is one who bends his will toward God’s instruction. Without obedience, nothing is learned. No matter how many times I tell my horse to move to the left when I pull on the reins, if the horse does not obey, no instruction has occurred. This is why it isn’t possible to deepen my relationship with God until I learn – and obey – the lesson He has for me today.
One more Scripture example cements the concept (a mental activity). Jeremiah 12:16 says, “And it shall come to pass, if they will diligently learn the ways of my people.” The phrase “diligently learn” is really the verb lamad repeated twice (eemlamod yilmedoo). It is to “learn learn.” The Hebrew motto for learning is “Just do it!”
Are you a talmiyd? Yeshua called twelve men to be his talmiydim. They could not be pupils without being disciples and they could not be disciples without copying his life. “By this they will know that you are my disciples; that you love one another as I have loved you.” Making it real, that’s what it means to learn.
Topical Index: learn, pupil, talmiyd, disciple, 1 Chronicles 25:8, Jeremiah 12:16, Proverbs 5:13