Thursday, September 29, 2005

Mommy, What's An Anawim?

We invent words all the time. Every sub-culture has its own vocabulary that no one else understands. Some sub-culture words enter into the mainstream, such as “dis” or “dysfunctional” or “anti-disestablishmentarianism”, but most words remain obscure but to a small segment of the population. In English our language has the capacity of a million words, but we will typically only use 5,000-20,000. Why so many words? We do this because we have concepts that we use frequently, and so we invent new words (or import words from other languages) that communicate succinctly what we want to say. After all, why say “the study of the end times” every time that subject comes up, when you could just say “eschatology”?

In Hebrew there was an idea that was frequently used in Scripture, and supposedly in everyday life, so that a new vocabulary word had to be invented. The idea went something like this—“You see, there are these people, but they’re poor—or, well, most of them are economically poor, but not all of them. Well, actually, they are rejected by modern society, outcasts… well, not always outcast, but they aren’t in the mainstream, and they are looked down on. And sometimes they’re just sick. Or attacked. Anyway, it seems like nobody likes them. But they are righteous—um, well, righteous in a way, anyway. As a group they seem to sin a lot—but they repent! Of their sin, that is. I mean, they really regret it and they do what they can to stop the sin. But they pray a lot. Not to be holy, because these people aren’t holier-than-thou—uh uh, no way. No, they pray because they need to ask God some pretty big requests. Like for their basic survival. And to be delivered from their enemies. And for justice. And instead of scrambling around working on every plan to get them out of their troubles—like that would help, anyway—they depend on God. Yeah, that’s who they are.” Thanks, Sadie.

You see why we need to be succinct? So who are these folks, exactly? They are the poor or outcast who depend on God for their deliverance. “Deliverance” doesn’t mean some spiritual transformation, but it means that you’re in trouble and you need to get out of it. So the Hebrews had this idea, and because they didn’t like the option of “outcast who depend on the Lord for deliverance” every time they used the concept, they shortened it. The word is anawim. (This word will no longer be italicized for convenience’s sake. My convenience, that is.)

"Blessed are the anawim, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" Matthew 5:3
"Yet a little while and the wicked will be no more, but the anawim, they will inherit the land" Psalme 37:10-11

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