John T. Willis

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Imperative

Throughout the Bible, the hearer or reader inevitably encounters the "imperative." An imperative is a command or an entreaty or an exhortation. One must determine the exact meaning in each context. For serious students of the Bible, one must learn Greek and Hebrew or at a minimum consult good commentaries and scholarly articles on this matter.

One example will illustrate the issue and the importance.

I. The imperative can be singular or plural. The English hearer or reader cannot make the difference without reading the Greek or Hebrew or consult good commentaries and sometimes note carefully the context.

II. Micah 6:1-2 illustrates the flow of the context.

III. Micah 6:1a: "Hear now what Yahweh is saying." The word here is PLURAL. Thus, the prophet Micah is addressing a group of people, not an individual. Micah is telling that group what Yahweh is saying.

IV. Micah 6:1b-c: "Rise, plead your court case before the mountains
and let the hills hear your voice."
The imperatives "rise" and "plead" are singular [note also that "your" in the next line is a singular pronoun]. Thus, now Yahweh is speaking to Micah [one person], instructing the prophet Micah to plead Micah's court case before the mountains and the hills of Judah. Micah assumes the role of a lawyer supporting the plaintiff Yahweh. Here the mountains and hills are "witnesses" to the validity of Yahweh's accusation through the prophet Micah.

V. Micah 6:2: "Hear O mountains the court case of Yahweh
and enduring foundations of the earth;
for Yahweh has a court case with [agains] his people,
and with Israel he will contend."
"Hear" is the plural imperative. You probably see in the context here that "mountains" and "enduring foundations" is plural. NOW, the prophet Micah is obediently responding to Yahweh instructions to Micah in verse 1b-c. Micah addresses the "witnesses," the mountains and the enduring foundations. The reason is that Yahweh has a court case with his people Israel, and Yahweh has charged Micah to deliver Yahweh's court case here.

As one studies the Bible, watch for the imperative. In each verse, in each text, the imperative may be singular or plural. Learn Hebrew and Greek, or consult good commentaries. One misses important divine truths in the Bible when missing the imperative.

This is a "technical" blog. I apologize. But when we study the Bible, certain issues call for discussion. Give me YOUR insights. Study good commentaries and scholarly articles. This will greatly improve one's understanding of the Bible and inspire individuals to grow and mature.

John Willis


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