Just Wait Until Your Father Gets Home…

There are some Hebrew words that really can’t be translated into English, and pakad is one of the most fascinating. It can be a wonderful word or a terrible word, depending on the context.

DoorHow can this be? Well, imagine that you’re twelve years old again. One afternoon, your Mom yells, “Just wait until your father gets home!”

What did she mean?

It depends on the context.

Maybe it’s your birthday and your Dad has gone to get the pizza, ice cream and balloons for the big party you’re going to have. Then you just can’t wait.

But, maybe your Mom has just discovered a report card full of F’s under a moldy pile of laundry in your filthy room. Then it has a very ominous overtone.

That’s kind of what the word “pakad” means. It can be wonderful or terrible, depending on where you find it.

The King James Version translates pakad as “visit,” but you can quickly tell that “visit” is not the word that we normally use. It never refers to knocking on a person’s door and saying hello. But you likely have heard it used in Psalm 8:4:

 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that thou visitest him?

Modern versions translate “visitest” here as “care for.” You’ll find it again in Ruth 1:6, where God “visited” his people by ending their famine. Here it means that God came to their aid, rescued them from their crisis. And then in 1 Samuel 2:21, God “visits” Hannah by answering her tearful prayers for a son.

It can be a wonderful thing when God “visits” you in the sense of answering your prayers and rescuing you from distress. And its simply amazing that God cares for us, and is mindful of us and our daily needs.

 

Visiting Sins

But now, consider how “pakad” is used in Exodus 32:34:

“In the day when I visit, I will visit their sins upon them.”

Here it has very negative implications. You dread this kind of “visit,” just like you dread your Dad coming home when you’re in big trouble with your Mom.

In each of these lines, both positive and negative, pakad refers to the idea of “paying attention to.” When God pays attention a person, he cares for them. When he pays attention to someone’s prayers, he answers them. But when he pays attention to someone’s sins, he punishes them.

The prophets were fully aware of the sharp double-edged blade of the word pakad, and they would drive home a point by using both meanings in the very same line. Just listen to how Jeremiah used it in a poetic, paradoxical way to denounce the corrupt leadership of Israel in Jeremiah 23:2.

Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: “Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,” declares the Lord.

Because they have not pakad-ed his sheep, he will pakad them for their sins!

JeremiahA few lines later, in Jeremiah 23:12, the prophet again employs this word to speaks of “the year of their visitation” (pekudah). Jeremiah was announcing that the time would soon arrive when God would focus his attention like a laser beam on the state of his nation. Would it be a time of great light or great destruction? Because of their sin, it would be a disaster beyond imagining.

 

Jesus Announced God’s Visitation Too

Like Jeremiah, Jesus also lived at a time of corruption, and also predicted that devastation would come upon Jerusalem. And just like Jeremiah, Jesus used pakad to make a powerful prophetic statement in Luke 19:42-44:

Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.

Jesus was not simply referring to how he “visited” by coming to earth. Rather, he was using the phrase, the “time of your visitation” to speak of an ominous time of God’s examination of his people’s deeds. It could be a time of God’s salvation, or, more likely, a time of punishment.

Indeed, the coming of Christ captured the strongest meaning of the word pakad in its Hebraic context. For those who repented and followed Christ, God had come to their rescue, to save them eternally. But for those who ignored him, it would be the source of their punishment, when God would “visit” their sins in the judgment to come.

~~~~~

(“Pakad” is one of the Hebrew word studies in my latest book, 5 Hebrew Words that Every Christian Should Know.)

Comments

16 Responses to “Just Wait Until Your Father Gets Home…”

  1. 1
    Mary|March 18, 2014

    Lois, this is excellent,thank you for bringing out this point.

  2. 2
    Rob Laskin|March 18, 2014

    Your article was about the Hebrew word, but Jesus would’ve been speaking in Aramaic. Is there a single, equivalent Greek or Aramaic word that also encompasses both meanings?

  3. 3
    Lois Tverberg|March 18, 2014

    The word pakad is found in all the cognate languages of Hebrew, including Aramaic. In the Greek of the NT, “visitation” is translated as episkope.

  4. 4
    paul wallace|March 19, 2014

    Just read the Luke 19 passage this morning and was meditating on the use of that word. Then I got your email and read this article. I call it a Godincidence.

  5. 5
    Lois Tverberg|March 19, 2014

    I like it! Great word. 🙂

  6. 6
    James Prather|March 19, 2014

    Rob: The word “paqad” is found in Aramaic (a cognate language) and it can mean “to visit” as Lois has described. However, its main meaning is “to command,” from which we get the Aramaic word “puqdānā” which means “commandment.” I think the Aramaic word actually makes this phrase a bit more playful because of the strong connotation of this word with a command or “the commandments.” So Jesus could be playfully using the word to say that they didn’t recognize the commandments. This would be very prophetic (and fit Luke’s passage nicely) to infer that they never recognized the commandments, either from Moses or the living commandments (the living word), Jesus.

    Lois: I’d add another verse to this nice article you’ve written. You mentioned Psalm 8:4, which humbly asks why God would care (visit) us. Check out Job 7:17-18: What are human beings, that you make so much of them, that you set your mind on them, visit them every morning, test them every moment? The Hebrew root “pkd” is there as “visit” in v18. Job seems to be turning this lovely Psalm on its head and asking: “God, what are human beings to you that you attack (visit) them? Why not just leave us alone?” Good stuff. Thanks for sharing. James

  7. 7
    Lois Tverberg|March 19, 2014

    That’s a fascinating insight on Job 7:17-18. It does sound like an ironic retelling of Psalm 8:4-5 that is based on the double-edged meaning of pakad. It can either be a good thing or a bad thing to have God “visit” you every day.

  8. 8
    Jeff|March 19, 2014

    Great article and James, a good tie-in to Job. Note however, Job was very likely written before Psalm 8, so it may well be the Psalmist is re-writing Job, not Job rewriting the Psalmist!

  9. 9
    James Prather|March 20, 2014

    Jeff,

    According to the most recent and best scholarship, Job was probably written in the Persian period. This can be determined via the number and usage of Persian loan words in the Hebrew text. The book of Job probably does not represent actual events, but it is rather a thought experiment (parable) by a scribe or priest in the wisdom tradition. I think we shouldn’t be troubled the fact that Job has a genre just like the other works in the Bible. For instance, no one would claim that Song of Solomon is a historical account of two lovers; it’s a poetic text that is trying to accomplish something other than historical retelling of events.

    Psalm 8, on the other hand, is based on a Canaanite song which we have found in Ugaritic. Multiple changes were made to the song to make it about YHWH, but it is a much more ancient hymn than the poetic text of Job. Certainly, it could have been emended later to turn the text of Job on its head, but the simpler explanation is preferred. Psalm 8 is probably older than Job 7. This is why I called the Job text an inversion of the Psalmist. For more on the ancient cultic (sacrificial/priestly) setting of Psalm 8, see the excellent Word Biblical Commentary by Peter C. Craigie. I hope this helps. Peace, James

  10. 10
    Bill Black|March 21, 2014

    What delightful insight to that hidden in the KJ translation and other translations.

  11. 11
    Nancy Johnsen|March 25, 2014

    I have found a use of the word “visit” in the King James version of the synoptic Gospel of Luke in Zechariah’s prophecy over his son John. I am doing a study of the Hebrew scripture references made by Zechariah in his “Benedictus” and wondered if this is one of those Hebraisms that is preserved in the synoptic Gospels? Zechariah says, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel for he hath visited and redeemed his people…” Could this be a use of “pakad” in the New Testament?

  12. 12
    Nancy Johnsen|March 25, 2014

    I forgot to give the reference: The song of Zechariah is in Luke 1:67-79 in my comment (#11 above).

  13. 13
    Jeff|March 26, 2014

    James,

    I’ll look up the scholarship regarding the loan words. This must be weighed against Ezekiel 14:13-15
    New International Version (NIV)
    13 “Son of man, if a country sins against me by being unfaithful and I stretch out my hand against it to cut off its food supply and send famine upon it and kill its people and their animals, 14 even if these three men—Noah, Daniel[a] and Job—were in it, they could save only themselves by their righteousness, declares the Sovereign Lord.

    Ezekiel, a contemporary of Daniel during the Babylonian captivity, speaks of Job as a historical figure. How does the Persian authorship theory explain that?

  14. 14
    James Prather|March 26, 2014

    Jeff,

    Good question! Ancient Near Eastern peoples had an oral culture. Sacred texts were not written down so much as passed down verbally and often performed. The fact that Ezekiel knew of the Job wisdom tradition does not mean that it had to have taken its final shape in written form by the time of Ezekiel. Naturally, when Job was finally written down, it made use of the vernacular of the time (in this case, Persian). Please let me know if you want to discuss this further by email – I’d be happy to go into all the details. Lois can provide me with your email address if you’re interested.

    Peace,

    James

  15. 15
    Jeff|March 26, 2014

    Hi James,

    I’d love to discuss this more off line.

    Lois, please give James my email.

    Thanks,

    Jeff

  16. 16
    Al Harris|April 12, 2014

    Fascinating word. Thanks, Lois, I hadn’t come across this subject before. Some interesting issues raised here. Many blessings.

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