Biblical vocabulary: the word כָּבוֹד (God’s honor and glory) – part 1

Last updated on March 3, 2022


God’s honor and glory

In a different article, we discussed the Hebrew verb כבד ‘kabed’ which – starting from a basic meaning of ‘being heavy/weighty’ – has the meaning of: to honor, to deem respectful, to deem high. As a follow-up to this, we will further elaborate on the word כָּבוֹד ‘kabod’, which is derived from the aforementioned stem ‘kabed’ (to honor).

‘Kabod’ (pronunciation: kavod) is an important Hebrew word that occurs 199 times in the Old Testament. This word is especially found in the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel and in the books of Psalms and Proverbs. As a noun, ‘kabod’ has two aspects of meaning:

  1. First, ‘kabod’ can be translated as: weight, strength, power, ability.
  2. Second, ‘kabod’ means honor, glory, magnificence, dignity, splendor.

In this second aspect of meaning, ‘kabod’ occurs mainly with regard to the Lord God Himself, his Divinity, Word, his name, works, sanctuary, and city.

Therefore ‘kabod’/glory is an important theological concept. After all, this word occurs in connection with God’s Being, actions and many things that speak of Him and/or belong to Him.

It is certainly no exaggeration to say that we cannot treat the word ‘kabod’/glory properly in a short study. A few points are worth mentioning regarding this substantively rich and comprehensive word.

‘Kabod’/glory and God’s presence

The term ‘kabod’/glory is used in particular to describe the visible manifestation of God’s presence. After God led the people of Israel out of Egypt to Sinai, the ‘kabod’/glory of the LORD resided on the mountain as a consuming fire, including the covering cloud (Exodus 24:16-17). Only Moses had the great privilege of being there and speaking with the Lord face to face (Exodus 24:18; 33:9-11).

God’s ‘kabod’/splendor indicates his presence in the tabernacle and in sacrificial service and worship. Thus, the Lord promised to come to the Israelites during the sacrifice “… and it shall be sanctified by My ‘kabod’/glory” (Exodus 29:43). And when Moses had set up the tabernacle, God showed his presence in the midst of his people, for “… the ‘kabod’/glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle” (Exodus 40:34-35). See also Leviticus 9:6; 9:23.

‘Kabod’/glory is also the expression of God’s presence at the ark of the covenant. That is why Eli’s grandson got the sad name ‘Ikabod’ (= no ‘kabod’/glory), after the Philistines took the ark of God.

No honor of your own

In biblical prayers, God is often begged to save because of his ‘kabod’/honor. This is partly related to the honor of his name among the nations. Thus we hear the psalmist beg “Help us, O God of our salvation, for the ‘kabod’/glory of Your name […] Why should the nations say, Where is their God?” (Psalm 79:9-10).

We hear similar supplication again: “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Your name give ‘kabod’/glory, for the sake of Your steadfast love and your faithfulness! Why should the nations say …” (Psalm 115:1-2).

It is instructive to learn how this supplication determines us in the interest of seeking God’s honor and glory and not coveting our little human honor. Also begging for help aims at God’s honor! That makes us humble and small and can save us from ambition and working for our own honor. This seeking and nurturing one’s own honor often happens unconsciously or covered under a religious mantle, but the psalmist teaches us to put God’s ‘kabod’/dignity and power at the center. He prays “lo lanu YHWH’/not to us Lord, but to Your name give ‘kabod’/glory …” (Psalm 115:1).

The Lord Himself tells us that He does not share his ‘kabod’ and praise with anyone or anything else: “… My ‘kabod’/honor I give to no other, nor My praise to carved idols” (Isaiah 42:8).

Call for tribute to the Lord

We owe our deepest tribute to the Lord God. How sad it is when we hear Him ask, “A son ‘kabed’/honors his father […] I am a Father, where is My ‘kabod’/tribute?” (Malachi 1:6). That question from so many years ago also resonates now!

Tributes to the Lord include complete and unconditional recognition of his Divine greatness and the rich content of his Name. David sang about this: “Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord ‘kabod’/glory and strength! Ascribe to the Lord the ‘kabod’/glory due His name …” (1 Chronicles 16:28).

This means paying tribute to Him in our lives, recognizing Him as the God of glory Who holds us in his hand. To esteem his name and uphold it in the daily practice of our lives, that is to give his name ‘kabod’/tribute in the knowledge that He is inexpressibly exalted and glorious, but came to us in his beloved Son.

When we don’t stand up for his holy name and we don’t ardently love that name – the name of the Lord Jesus! (Acts 4:12) – that means that God’s name is not treated with the ‘kabod’/dignity that we owe Him.

This brings us to the practical question of whether, and if so, when, how and in which way we fall short in recognizing his ‘kabod’/glory.

Maybe when we don’t thank Him enough for his blessings? Or possibly when certain superficiality or volatility determines our relationship with Him? The call of the psalmist clearly states: “Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord ‘kabod’/glory and strength” (Psalm 29:1). Our homage is due to Him, for only He is the King of glory (Psalm 24:7-10)!

… sing the ‘kabod’/glory of His name; give to Him ‘kabod’/glorious praise! …” (Psalm 66:2).

© Copyright dr. Annechiena Sneller-Vrolijk

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