The great Jewish Rabbi, Moses Maimonides, points out that three Hebrew verbs raah, nabat, and chazah, denote “to perceive by seeing.” But he suggests that we know when they are used to imply ocular perception or intellectual conceptualization. Knowing the difference can be very helpful when determining if the thing being described was seen with the natural eye or the mind’s eye.  For instance, in Genesis 29:2 it says, “And he looked [raah], and behold a well in the field.” This clearly refers to seeing something with the natural eye. Then in Ecclesiastes 1:16 it says, “…yea, my heart had great sight [raah] of wisdom and knowledge.”  Wisdom and knowledge are abstract in essence; therefore, they can only be discerned with the mind. Then we see the same in Genesis 19:17 where we read, “…look [nabat] not behind you…” this was a warning to Lot and his wife not to use their eyes by glancing back at Sodom and Gomorrah. However, in Numbers 23:21 it says, “He (God) has not beheld [nabat] iniquity in Jacob, neither has He seen [raah] perverseness in Israel.”  Since God is not corporeal, His sight does not depend on the eye.  That’s why God can see what’s in our heart. Finally, in Micah 4:11 we find, “Let her be defiled, and let our eye look [chazah] upon Zion.” Clearly, this was an admonition for the people of Israel to envision looking toward Mt. Zion when their enemies came against them because they knew this was where God dwelled in their midst. So, it implies the use of the imagination.  Also, in Isaiah 1:1 it says, “The vision of Isaiah the son of Amos, which he saw [chazah] concerning Judah and Jerusalem…” relates to what God showed him through his spiritual eye. Maimonides warns that interpreting scripture requires more just reading the word on the page, but finding out how that word is used and in what context. This is something we should all take to heart.     – Dr. Robert R Seyda

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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