Archive for September 8th, 2011
“For the poor are with you at all times, but I am not with you at all times.” Matthew 26:11 Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels
Poor – Did Yeshua speak the truth? We will always have the poor. If you answer “Yes,” then why work to eliminate poverty? If you answer “No,” then is Yeshua a liar? The solution to this apparent dilemma is knowing which Hebrew word is translated “poor.” There are four different words and they are not the same. Not knowing the difference can lead to some pretty drastic personal and social mistakes.
Star Parker, a Black syndicated female columnist, points out what we all know is true but are loath to mention. When the government gets involved in raising people out of poverty, the end result is personal slavery and a social nanny-state. You might be interested in her assessment of the great American bleeding heart disaster that began in the 1960’s. If politicians had understood Hebrew, they would never have voted for such crippling programs. But neither politicians nor most believers have any idea what Yeshua is really talking about, and so they act on utopian ideals producing predictable human devastation.
The four choices for Yeshua’s word for “poor” are anaw, dal, rash and ebyon. Anaw is primarily associated with the idea of affliction through oppression. The verbal form (ana) is used more than two hundred times. It describes the action of an enemy, pain inflicted by bondage, suffering through war and the distress of slavery. Theologically, the word is used to describe pain and suffering as the vehicle that leads to repentance. As an adjective, anaw “stresses the moral and spiritual condition of the godly as the goal of affliction implying that this state is joined with a suffering life rather than with one of worldly happiness and abundance.” Anaw is intended to produce humility.
Dal emphasizes the lack of material worth. It is used to describe those who are socially weak and materially deprived. God protects these people and promises them justice. Dal is rarely used to describe spiritual poverty. Coppes provides the following distinctions: “Unlike ani, dal does not emphasize pain or oppression; unlike ‘ebyon, it does not primarily emphasize need and unlike rash, it represents those who lack rather than the destitute.”
Rash (or rush) is used only thirty-two times in Scripture. It describes the common plight of the lower classes – to be without resources or social standing. It is used metaphorically to describe unworthiness. Psalm 82:3 tells us that God will answer the needs of this group and provide them with justice.
Finally, ebyon places significance on need as opposed to affliction or weakness. While there may be a wide variety of reasons for the poverty of these people, their social status is always a concern with God. The Mosaic code protected these people. They are even called God’s favored ones (Isaiah 25:4). The majority of the occurrences of this word are in the Psalms where the word expresses the sense of those whose only remaining help must come from God. Psalm 72:4 tells us that those who are needy in this way are God’s true spiritual people. Their cry is the basis of God’s action (Psalm 12:5 and 70:5).
The Delitzsch Hebrew gospel uses the plural of anaw in this verse, and rightly so for the emphasis of Yeshua’s remark is not about those who lack material resources or who are in the lower social class or who are in need. Anayim is about the oppressed! In the inhuman world of human society, there will always be someone who is oppressed. Why? Because men are evil and men with power are particularly susceptible to evil. Yeshua Himself experienced what it means to be anaw. The persistent poor are apayim because of the lack of personal justice, not compassion. Wars on poverty will do nothing to relieve their oppression until the God of justice brings judgment upon those who abuse and misuse what God has granted to the powerful. And God will bring judgment. You can count on it.
Now the question is much clearer. You and I have power. No matter what our present status, there are others who are being abused, who are being denied justice. The question before us is this: Are we contributing? Are we allowing? Are we tolerating? Providing a material solution to problems of human dignity and identity is not the solution. Give if compassion moves you. Give even if it doesn’t. But do not miss the point of Yeshua’s remark. Oppression is the result of the misuse of power and the only interim solution while we wait for the God of final justice is to be sure that we are stewards, not masters. We don’t need a War on Poverty. We need a war on egomania. The problem, of course, is that the powerful would have to vote for it, and that they will never do.
Topical Index: poor, anaw, dal, ebyon, rash, oppressed, power, Matthew 26:11