Trust: A Hebrew Word Study
Several Hebrew words are translated "trust" in the Old Testament. One in particular, "batach," stands out in terms of what it looks like to trust in God when viewed in its pictographic form.
The following is an example of the context usage of the specific Hebrew word we will study.
The LORD is my strength and my shield;
My heart trusted (batach) in Him, and I am helped;
Therefore my heart greatly rejoices,
And with my song I will praise Him.
— Psalm 28:7
Before we begin, it is valuable to understand that the Hebrew language is a pictographic one. In its most ancient form, the letters were once expressed by images that represented illustrative concepts. Pictographs, therefore, help in comprehending the foundational substance of the words that contain them. In terms of modern biblical studies, these images can help us form solid, unchangeable concepts that assist us in word comprehension and our application.
The natural biological and agricultural icons used to represent the word concepts are stable. For example; An ox will always do what an ox does and has always done. When language is not attached to these concrete ideas, it becomes very plastic and fluid. Word associations and their meanings ascribed to them can change dramatically over time without this type of system in place.
In relationship to this thought, the ancient near eastern languages, according to those who study them, are understood to be more geared toward function and purpose as it applies to life. This difference in thought could be why westerners struggle with trust as it concerns God's Word because we have separate compartments for knowledge and functional application. We can read things and be entirely disconnected from how that translates into purposeful action.
. . . be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves . . .
— James 1:22
May we, like the ancients of old, not just be interested in learning something new, like the Athenians (westerners) in Acts, but more deeply understand God's truth that we may better live out these beautiful revelations.
For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing.
— Acts 17:21
Definition of "Trust"
Gesenius' Hebrew Lexicon defines "trust" as; "to set one's hope and confidence upon," "to be secure fearing nothing," and it is many times translated as "confidence," "security," and "hope."
Let's next take a look at the pictograph of each letter that forms this word "trust" (batach) and see how it can help us to wrap, not only our thinking but our actions, around the valuable revelation of this Hebrew word.
The Hebrew letters in "betach" are "bet", "tet", and, a "chet".
"Bet" is the first letter of the Hebrew word "betach." It is a picture of a tent, home, or family. It speaks of being on the inside, abiding, and resting. When the word "trust" is used in Scripture, the term "in" frequently follows.
. . . we have trusted in His holy name.
— Psalm 33:21
Being in a home and or family are places that can, and ideally should, be associated with safety, security, trust, and rest.
The entire Word of God begins with a "bet," indicating that everything starts with God's desire to create a home and family. The creation account is about preparing a place to do just that, and it ends with an event of rest and abiding.
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.
And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.
— Genesis 2:1-3
Sin separated us from that original plan and left us orphans outside of the household of the Heavenly Father. But God restored us through the death and resurrection of His only Begotten Son on our behalf.
. . . ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ . . .
or through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God.
— Ephesians 2:12-13, 19
Being "in" covenant with God through His Son Jesus is about being in His family.
. . . according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence (trust) through faith in Him...For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.
— Ephesians 3:11-15
He chose us in Him . . . In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins . . . In Him also we have obtained an inheritance . . . in Him you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise . . . In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.
— Ephesians 1:4-13
The Gospel of John and the Epistle of I John contains more references to the phrase "in Him" than any other gospels and epistles. John is often referred to as the disciple whom Jesus loved in his Gospel and considered to be of the "inner circle" of most frequently mentioned disciples.
According to Steven Coxhead on his website Berith Road, The Gospel of John records that rebirth in the Spirit is necessary.
"Rebirth by the Spirit is necessary for entering "into" the kingdom family of God (John 3:5), and for experiencing eternal life and immortality (John 3:6). In the new covenant age."
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.
— I John 4:15
There is no security or trust outside of Him. In Him, there is nothing to fear.
And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.
— I John 5:20
The second letter of the Hebrew word for trust, "betach," is a "tet." It is a picture of something wrapped or coiled like a snake, or I have also read it can be like a basket in terms of its weave. The wrapping concept can be related to a baby's love to be swaddled and wound tightly in a blanket. It seems to be soothing for babies to be bundled in this way. To be unswaddled, Biblically, was a likened to abandonment.
As for your nativity, on the day you were born your navel cord was not cut, nor were you washed in water to cleanse you; you were not rubbed with salt nor wrapped in swaddling cloths.
— Ezekiel 16:4
"Tet" can also represent distinguishing what is good through experience, as the reference to the snake would exhibit, in that a snake has a double forked tongue that it tastes and distinguishes the atmosphere around it. The letter "tet" is the first letter in the Hebrew word for good.
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!
— Psalm 34:8
Trust has to do with distinguishing that God is good. To be wrapped and swaddled in the goodness of His everlasting arms.
The eternal God is your refuge (place of trust), And underneath are the everlasting arms.
— Deuteronomy 33:27
"Chet" is depicted with a fence or a wall. It is attached to the concepts of surrounding protecting and embracing and includes the idea of exclusivity.
In terms of exclusivity, "chet" is highly connected with concepts of the covenant. Much like "bet," it is only in relationship with the God of all creation through His one and only Son who covenanted on the cross on behalf of us, that we can abide and trust in Him. Christ secured for us that indescribable gift and privilege.
This pictograph differs in thought from "bet" in that it speaks more of boundaries. Our part of trusting God as it concerns this letter is for us to stay within the limits of God's purposed and determined ways. God is not obligated to protect us when we step outside of those fences He has built for our protection. The promise of these protections is for the faithful, believing, and obedient.
Thus says the Lord:
“Keep justice, and do righteousness,
For My salvation is about to come,
And My righteousness to be revealed.
Blessed is the man who does this,
And the son of man who lays hold on it;
Who keeps from defiling the Sabbath,
And keeps his hand from doing any evil.”
Do not let the son of the foreigner
Who has joined himself to the Lord
“The Lord has utterly separated me from His people”;
Nor let the eunuch say,
“Here I am, a dry tree.”
For thus says the Lord:
“To the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths,
And choose what pleases Me,
And hold fast My covenant,
Even to them I will give in My house
And within My walls a place and a name
Better than that of sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
That shall not be cut off.
— Isaiah 56:1-5
The very first occurrence of "betach" in Scripture illustrates this in its negative form. God informs His children that to live in direct disobedience to Him through lack of trust will cause those walls of protection to come down.
They shall besiege you at all your gates until your high and fortified walls, in which you trust, come down throughout all your land; and they shall besiege you at all your gates throughout all your land which the LORD your God has given you.
— Deuteronomy 28:52
Some specific word examples that contain similar ideas that contain the letter "chet" can be considered things that surround such as compassion, mercy (God's faithful, loyal love), and favor.
Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; But he who trusts in the LORD, mercy (chesed) shall surround him.
— Psalm 32:10
Trust has to do with knowing and believing that we are surrounded and protected in His mercy.
Combining the Concepts
All three Hebrew letters come with the idea of being on the inside, being surrounded, and protected.
Combining the three-letter pictographs used to form the Hebrew word for "trust" into a unified concept, we could read this word to mean that trusting God is abiding and resting in Him by discerning His goodness and greatness and being protected, embraced, and surrounded by His covenant love compassion and favor.
For You, O LORD, will bless the righteous;
With favor You will surround him as with a shield.
— Psalm 5:12
The following is a video of how to say a much-quoted verse on trust, and the portion begins with the Hebrew word "betach."
Trust (betach) in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.
— Proverbs 3:3-5
© 2010 Tamarajo