A Look at the Beatitudes

Mattityahu (Matthew) 5:2-12

Beatitude (from Latin – beati: a state of utmost bliss, happy, fortunate, supreme blessedness, exalted happiness; and tudo: indicating a state or condition).

Since Yeshua taught in the Hebrew language, or the related Aramaic, but not in Greek, the background of the Beatitudes is Hebraic thought. That is, His words are grounded on the rock of the Hebrew language of Torah and the teachings therein.

So in a Hebraic understanding of the Beatitudes, first of all, there are no verbs in the initial phrase of each beatitude. In other words, to say, “Blessed are…” is actually grammatically incorrect, and is a translator’s addition. Also, each individual beatitude is NOT a conditional statement, but is rather a present reality, and should be read with exclamation marks. The Greek word translated “blessed” is mak-ar’-ee-os, which means, “supremely blest, fortunate, well off.” The Hebrew comparative word would be ash-ray, which means, “how happy!” Thus: “O, how happy, or O, the blessedness of the poor in spirit! O, how happy, or O, the blessedness of those who mourn! O, how happy, or O, the blessedness of the meek!” etc. The “O” indicates an expression of approval, consolation, or congratulations [from the Delitzsch translation terms glossary]. (portions of this paragraph are adapted from a post found on Hebrew4Christians.com)

Franz Delitzsch was a Messianic Jewish scholar of the nineteenth century. He translated the Greek of the Gospels into Hebrew, desiring to help his Jewish people in particular to gain an understanding that Yeshua was (and is) Jewish, the true Jewish Messiah, so Delitzsch’s translation is based on a Hebraic mindset. Vine of David, a publishing arm of First Fruits of Zion, translated Delitzsch’s Hebrew into English and released a very elegant version of the Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels. Delitzsch translated the beatitudes as, “O, the gladness of the poor in spirit!…O, the gladness of those who mourn!…” and so on.

Pride is a major downfall of humanity, and I have come to believe that pride is the god of this world that Paul speaks of in 2 Corinthians 4:4. Humility is the key thought in the beatitudes, being the opposite of pride. The beatitudes are not intended to be thought of as situations that occur in steps to a believer, nor are they to be thought of as a separate group of people in each blessing. In fact, a believer could experience each one at the same time.

I will therefore say that each beatitude is an experience that the spirit of anti-Messiah in the world scorns and mocks. The god of pride that man worships hates the thought of repentance, of mourning over evil, of seeming to appear weak (meek), and hungering and thirsting for more of God.

Now a phrase by phrase look:

5:3 – poor in spirit – opposite of prideful; Psalm 51:19(17), “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Proverbs 29:23, “One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.” Isaiah 57:15, “For thus says the High and Exalted One who inhabits eternity, whose Name is Holy: “I dwell in a high and holy place, yet also with a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and revive the heart of the contrite.” Contrite: “feeling or showing sorrow and remorse for a sin or shortcoming.” Isaiah 66:2b: “But on this one will I look, one humble and of a contrite spirit, who trembles at My word.”

The Kingdom of Heaven is what Yeshua calls His followers; in Hebrew, kingdom can mean “rule,” or, “those who are ruled”. Thus, when saying that “the Kingdom of Heaven (a synonym for God) is at hand,” the statement essentially says, “the Kingdom of Heaven is you and me. The Kingdom is made up of followers of Yeshua; the true and faithful believers around you are all citizens of the Kingdom.” “Theirs is the Kingdom” is an English mis-translation; the Greek should be translated as “of these,” or “of such as these.” In other words, we cannot “possess” the Kingdom; it does not belong to us. Rather, Yeshua is saying that His kingdom is made up “of these,” or “of such as these.”

So we can read this as, “O, the blessedness, or joy, of the poor in spirit! Of such is the Kingdom of Heaven. O, the blessedness of those who mourn! For they shall be comforted. Of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Try reading each beatitude for yourself, one at a time, inserting “O, the blessedness of…,” and add an exclamation mark! Then add, “Of such is the Kingdom of Heaven” after each one. It will give new depth, I believe, to your understanding of the beatitudes when you consider that each one includes you and me and those fellow believers around us. For, you see, the Kingdom is made up of those who have no righteousness of their own, of those who have reached the end of their rope, of those who no longer bow down to the god of pride. We get another brief example of a beatitude in Matthew 19:14, “But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven’” (NKJV, emphasis mine). (some portions in this paragraph are adapted from the book “Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus,” by David Bivin & Roy Blizzard Jr)

5:4 – those who mourn – over their own sin, and also the sin of the world. Psalm 126:5 says, “Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!” Messiah’s primary message was, “Repent! The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” The JFB (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown) Commentary notes that this beatitude is a complement, or makes complete, a pairing with the first beatitude. When one is poor in spirit, that is, when their spirit of pride has been broken, then they honestly mourn. The poor in spirit mourns, “I am undone,” then the continued mourning causes one to say, “Oy [Woe] to me! For I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I am dwelling among a people of unclean lips. For my eyes have seen the King, Adonai-Tzva’ot [Lord of Hosts]!” (Isaiah 6:5-7).

5:5 – the meek – the gentle, the unselfish. Pretty much a quote of Psalm 37:11, “But the meek will inherit the land, and delight in abundant shalom.” Psalm 25:12-13: “Who is this man who fears Adonai? He will instruct him in the way he should choose. His soul abides in goodness, and his offspring will inherit the land.” David Stern, translator of The Complete Jewish Bible, says that this verse, understood Hebraically and based on Psalm 37:11, states that the meek will inherit the Land, meaning Israel. Replacement theology claims that this means the meek will rule the earth; Stern believes that is incorrect. He also notes that Matthew has made this clear in 2:20-21, where Joseph was told to return to the land of Israel with Mary & the child. The meek will rule and reign from Jerusalem with Yeshua (cf Revelation 20:4 and 2 Timothy 2:12).

5:6 – those who hunger and thirst for righteousness – Psalm 63:2(1): “O God, You are my God, earnestly I seek You. My soul thirsts for You. My flesh longs for You in a dry and weary land, where there is no water.” Yeshua is the Bread of Life, and He is also the Living Water. “For He has satisfied the thirsty soul, and the hungry soul He has filled with what is good” (Psalm 107:9).

5:7 – the merciful – Those who have been broken, and aware of their need of Yeshua are the ones who are then capable of being great in mercy. Micah 6:8 says, “He has told you, humanity, what is good, and what Adonai is seeking from you: Only to practice justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Or as The Message puts the same verse: “But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what GOD is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love. And don’t take yourself too seriously– take God seriously.”

5:8 – the pure in heart – Psalm 24:3-4: “Who may go up to the mountain of Adonai? Who can stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.” Again from Isaiah 6:5-7, “Oy [Woe] to me! For I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I am dwelling among a people of unclean lips. For my eyes have seen the King, Adonai-Tzva’ot! Then one of the seraphim flew to me, with a glowing coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. He touched my mouth with it and said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips. Your iniquity is taken away, and your sins atoned for.’” In other words, you have been purified, you may now “see God”.

5:9 – the peacemakers – Psalm 34:13-15(12-14): “Who is the one who delights in life, and loves to see good days? Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking treachery. Depart from evil and do good. Seek shalom and pursue it.” Romans 5:1: “since we have come to be considered righteous by God because of our trust, let us continue to have shalom with God through our Lord, Yeshua the Messiah.”

5:10 – those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness– this one could be considered to be the next spiritual level, on a higher plane than all of the previous beatitudes. Psalm 2 is a rescuing scripture for these blessed ones. Some will even attain to the level of Revelation 6:9-11 – martydom. Personally, I don’t eagerly anticipate or pursue reaching the Revelation 6 level, but if it happens, I will make it only by the covering of the blood of the Lamb, and strength from the grace in which I stand (see Romans 5:2).

5:11-12 essentially amplify vs 10. I like how The Message words these verses: “Not only that–count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens–give a cheer, even!–for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.”

O, the blessedness of you, dear reader, and regardless of whatever circumstances you’re going through, remain steady in His grace! Of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.

2 thoughts on “A Look at the Beatitudes

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