All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. - 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Through the Eyes of the Ancients

Have you ever puzzled over a biblical expression? Somehow it sounds a little strange to “taste and see” that God is good, doesn’t it? And why did Abel’s blood “cry out” to God from the ground? Most of us are used to these phrases and don’t notice them; however, a secular, Western thinker will almost certainly find them very odd.

I remember wondering why my thinking and language seemed so different from the ancients. As a young seminary student, I studied advanced Hebrew, but was never taught anything about their way of thinking. Over the years I developed a great personal interest in their lives, customs, and expressions, and as a result, my eyes have been opened to the rich, layered treasures in the Holy Scriptures.

Using Their Senses

First I was led to understand that we use rational, or Greek, thinking today—and the ancient Hebrew writers did not. We reason things out, and don’t always use our senses to interpret and describe our relationships. On the other hand, their way of understanding was through their senses—what they saw, heard, touched, smelled, and tasted. They experienced what they knew. Consider the emphasized words in the following texts:

“Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off.” Genesis 22:4.

“Now when Moses went into the tabernacle of meeting to speak with Him, he heard the voice of One speaking to him from above the mercy seat that was on the ark of the Testimony, from between the two cherubim….” Numbers 7:89.

“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good….” Psalm 34:8.

The Bible abounds in other colorful (and concrete) descriptions like “stiff necked” (stubborn, like a mule—see 2 Chronicles 30:8); “hard hearted” (lacking passion—see 1 Samuel 6:6); “setting one’s face” (determined to go—see Jeremiah 1:17); and “girding one’s loins” (getting ready—also in Jeremiah 1:17).

A Long Nose?

Even noses are used in the Hebrew language to describe God in an unusual way! In Exodus 34:6 the Lord describes Himself as, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth.” The word “longsuffering” means patient, or slow to anger. But the Hebrew words for this are literally “long” and “nose.”

God has a long nose?

This one puzzled me! As I studied the Hebrew word, af (ףאַ), or “anger,” I discovered that it literally means “nose”! When a bull is angry, it’s nostrils flare, it breathes hard, and snorts. With this in mind, to the ancients’ way of thinking, the longer the nose, the longer it would take to expel the breath—and the slower one would be to anger.

But what about the New Testament books? Weren’t they written in Greek?

Yes—but although the writers used that global language, they were most definitely Jews, and therefore, Hebrew thinkers. Consider how John speaks of Jesus: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life.” 1 John 1:1 (emphasis supplied). It is obvious that he thought in terms of his senses.


The ancients were also fond of using symbols, and while we may puzzle over them, every Jewish child was taught their meaning from a very early age. Just as the children of old, we must understand them, too, or be hopelessly lost in books like Daniel and Revelation. Worse yet, if we try using our logical (or Greek) thinking on them, we are sure to distort the Scriptures, twisting the verses around to explain what we believe, instead of what the authors intended.

In the months ahead, we’ll discover many more aspects of Hebrew thinking. They will shed new and wonderful light on our study of the Bible as we look at it through the eyes of the ancients.

Was I spinning? It must have worked.

There are many options for animating modals, check out the Motion UI library to see them all