Biblical vocabulary: the word מְנוּחָה (rest)

Last updated on March 3, 2022

Resting by “waters of rest” …

Resting is a biblical concept. The Scriptures speak much about מְנוּחָה, “rest”. Concepts such as “to rest” and “rest” are used in the Old Testament with regard to spiritual, physical and social rest. Rest is important in each of these three areas. But what does this “to rest” actually mean for us?

To understand this, we first look at the Hebrew “rest words” that appear in the Old Testament. This group of words is quite extensive and includes verbs with various meanings such as: being silent, to stop, to cease, to recover, to relax; this includes related words such as: silence, peace, resting place, recovery, relief, etc.

Within this varied group of words we specifically mention the verb “núach”, which means: to rest, to relax, to take a rest, to catch one’s breath, to be still, to be calm, to lie down; in a certain verbal form also: to give rest, to bring peace, to cause to rest, to let rebreathe.

From this verb “núach”/to rest the word “menucha” is derived which means primarily: rest, silence, resting place, rest situation, rest stay, but also: enlightenment, relief, stop, peace. It is striking that these words often occur in connection with what the Lord God is, does and offers to man. The verb “to rest” and the noun “rest” are presented as Divine gifts and blessings that cannot be obtained outside of Him! That’s the way God intended it…

At creation

From the beginning God Himself has given the example of resting, and based on this, He proposes “resting” to man created by Him as a special blessing that He offers. After His six-day work of creation, “God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all His work that He had done in creation” (Genesis 2:2-3).

Compare Exodus 20:11. God determines that resting is the reward for labor done. He created the day-night cycle, so that one can rest in the night after daily tasks and worries.

God’s commandment to rest

God commands man to rest regularly (Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15; compare Exodus 23:12; 31:15). This command is not intended as a cold law, but as God’s loving care measure with a special purpose: remembering regularly what He did and who He is for us, to thereby be strengthened spiritually (and also physically). “You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there …

On the other hand, the Scriptures teach that God wants everyone to know their own responsibility and therefore offers animals, land and especially the employee the necessary “menucha”/rest/relief. Extremely concrete, practical and current! God wants people to treat their land and livestock, their animals, big or small, in this way. The land must be able to settle down at regular intervals, which is why the Lord commanded a “Sabbath year”.

For six years you shall sow your field but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the Lord…” (Leviticus 25:3-7). The field also needs to recover in order to be productive again.

Animals – like humans – should rest at regular intervals, the Lord commands. The commandment to keep the Sabbath rest, therefore, also concerns the animals that are owned (Exodus 20:10). God teaches that this should not be an obligation only. He wants us to take good care of them out of respect for the beautiful creation and out of love for our animals. “Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast…” (Proverbs 12:10).

Whoever owns an animal must know what this creature needs and must deal with it responsibly and lovingly. So you never leave your dog tied to a tree during the holidays?! Similarly, when you are looking for (holiday) entertainment, you would not cause damage to nature or animals.

If the Lord God points to responsibilities with regard to creation, how much more does this apply to other people! Whoever bears responsibilities regarding the rest of one’s fellow man should handle this with the utmost care (Exodus 20:10).

The Lord is the one who is soothing

We saw that “menucha”/rest is a Divine blessing.

In the Promised Land, God’s people would enjoy “menucha”/rest/silence (Deuteronomy 12:9). Jacob’s prophetic words about Issachar already associate “menucha”/rest /silence with a peaceful stay in the land of promise. Centuries later, Solomon prayed: “Blessed be the Lord who has given “menucha”/rest to His people Israel, according to all that He promised….” (1 Kings 8:56).

God’s blessed “menucha”/rest was to be experienced by Israel on the way to the Promised Land. During their desert journey, the Lord led the way: “to seek out a “menucha”/resting place for them...” (Numbers 10:33). God’s promises of salvation include “menucha”/rest /peace/enlightenment.

When the Lord has given you “menucha”/rest from your pain and turmoil ...” (Isaiah 14:3). The plural of the word for rest uses God in His promise: “My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet “menuchot”/resting places” (Isaiah 32:18).

God leads the way of His people in their pilgrimage. In this way He wants to give everyone His rest in the eternal Fatherland, at His home, through faith in Jesus’ cross sacrifice for sinful man. “Return, O my soul, to your “menuchot’/rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you” (Psalm 116:7).

He leads me beside waters of “menuchot”/rest …” (Psalm 23:2).

© Copyright dr. Annechiena Sneller-Vrolijk

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