Knowledge: da’at. noun. (Strong’s 1847)
To Know: ya’da. verb. (Strong’s 3045)
Sounds like: da’awt/yah-dah
I love the world of academia. Research and striving to obtain knowledge is my idea of a good day. As an academic library employee, I’ve devoted my career to helping others seek knowledge.
The pursuit of knowledge is all over the Bible. The first incident of the word knowledge in the Bible is found in one of the most recognizable passages:
Out of the ground YHWH God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge [w-ets ha-da’at] of good and evil.
And of course we know the story from there… God told Adam and Eve that they could eat from any fruit tree, with the exception of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Regardless of the warning, they ate from the tree anyway. Why? Because the Adversary convinced them, saying:
For God knows [yodea] that on the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will become like God, knowing [yod’eh] good and evil.
Becoming like God would be awfully tempting and how bad could that be? After all, they were made to be God’s image bearers! But they weren’t meant to be God HImself. And so they ate from the tree and when they did, Genesis 3:7a tells us that: the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew [wai-ye’da’u] that they were naked.
Knowledge itself is not a bad thing, on the contrary the Bible holds the pursuit of knowledge in high regard. But God did not want us to know evil and shame. There are mysteries in this world that we will never know, but YHWH knows it all. Adam and Eve saw more than they could bear; they saw their own failure and they were ashamed.
Idols: Knowledge Barriers
In the beginning Eve and Adam were naturally good, but after they ingested the forbidden fruit they would have to strive to know good. Knowledge is the antidote to ignorance. It helps you make right choices. We have the ability for evil, supported by shame and guilt, but knowing God puts you on a path of goodness.
Seeing God was knowing God, but those who hid from God did not know God at all:
Woe to those who deeply hide their plans from YHWH, And whose deeds are done in a dark place, And they say, “Who sees us?” [mi rowenu?] or “Who knows us?” [u-mi yowd’enu?]
These hiders had turned from YHWH and put their faith in idols:
Those who fashion an idol are all futile, and their treasured things are of no benefit; even their own witnesses fail to see or know [bal yir’u u-val yeh’d’u], so that they will be put to shame. Who has fashioned a god or cast an idol to no benefit? Behold, all his companions will be put to shame, for the craftsmen themselves are mere men.
In Daniel’s day it was the Babylonian king Belshazzar, who had turned away from YHWH and towards idols. Daniel called him on this behaviour:
Yet you, his [Nebuchadnezzar’s] son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, even though you knew [y’da’ta] all this, but you have risen up against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of His house before you, and you and your nobles, your wives, and your concubines have been drinking wine out of them; and you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see, nor hear, nor understand [know: yad’een]. But the God in whose hand are your life-breath and all your ways, you have not glorified.
Idols crafted from human hands couldn’t share knowledge, they couldn’t preform miracles to see and draw people into knowing them. Idols were blind-spots to any sort of truth or knowledge.
Seeing is Believing
In the beginning, when Eve and Adam ate of the fruit, their eyes were opened. They could have lived blissfully in the Garden, completely unaware of the potential for evil. But their choice changed their story. Now they had to consciously seek knowledge and rely on God to lead them to truth. And He did! God showed His people many things so that they would have knowledge because, as they say, seeing is believing (or perhaps it’s better expressed as experiencing is knowing):
[YHWH:] I will turn the desert into a pool of water, and the dry land into flowing springs. I will plant cedars in the wilderness, acacias, myrtles, and olive trees; I will set cypresses in the desert, elms and boxwood together, so that all may see and know [w-yeh’d’u], may consider and understand, that the hand of YHWH has done this and the Holy One of Israel has created it.”
There is a strong current throughout the Bible that associated knowledge and sight. Coincidentally, the centre letter of the Hebrew word knowledge, דַּ֣עַת [da’at] is ayin (עַ) which, spelt out phonetically, is also the Hebrew word for eye/ayin [עַיִן].
Seeing and knowing are closely connected. God does impossible things to highlight his divinity. When people saw the miracles of YHWH, they knew in their hearts that He was the YHWH, King of the Universe:
“For YHWH your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed, just as YHWH your God had done to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed; that all the peoples of the earth may know [da’at] that the hand of YHWH is mighty, so that you may fear YHWH your God forever.”
Why did YHWH part the Red Sea? He did it so that the Hebrew people could have knowledge of the mightiness of God and from this knowledge they would fear/respect/be-in-awe of Him. Abraham and the Hebrew people experienced, first, hand, God’s might… and once you saw it or experienced it, you knew it. It was much like working. If you have job experience, you have job knowledge:
1 Kings 7:13-14
Now King Solomon sent and brought Hiram from Tyre. He was a widow’s son from the tribe of Naphtali, and his father was a man of Tyre, a worker in bronze; and he was filled with wisdom and understanding and the knowledge [ha’da-at] for doing any work in bronze. So he came to King Solomon and performed all his work.
Why was Hiram given the job as bronze worker? Because he had wisdom, understanding, and the knowledge (experience) of working alongside his father, who was a bronze-smith.
Seeing and experiencing brings knowledge. There were no schools for the wandering Hebrew people… they learned through seeing and experiencing. This is a good lesson for us. The greatest knowledge does not come from sitting in a lecture hall at the most exclusive university. The best learning comes from seeing and hearing and feeling; immersing oneself in the task and learning with your entire body. You can’t completely learn to farm from reading a textbook, you have to get into the field!
It is the same for learning about God. Reading the Bible is a wonderful thing, but it needs to be more than just words on a page, you also have to live it! You need to live out the Scriptures. Follow through with God-given instructions. The Bible is a great gift, a living textbook for life and beyond.
In Ecclesiastes, Solomon understood the importance of experiential knowledge. He relished in the role of educator. He was a champion for education, and took on the role of teacher/preacher/compiler:
In addition to being wise, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge [da’at]; and he pondered, searched out, and arranged many proverbs. The Preacher sought to find delightful words and to write words of truth correctly.
Seeking knowledge is great, but we need to treat it with respect. We need to validate what we learn. We ought to check our sources, seek truth, and respectfully organize what we have learned.
Knowledge in a time of Exile
Sometimes life experience (good and bad) is the greatest education of all. For the Hebrew people the many exiles of the Bible brought on harsh teachable moments… from Eve and Adam’s self-inflicted exile out of Eden, the exile out of Egypt, the exile of dispersion by the Assyrians, and the crushing Babylonian exile.
Seeing God seemed scarce during these times of Biblical exile. The power of YHWH wasn’t as visible as it once was and knowledge was difficult to search for when you’re merely just trying to exist:
We do not see our signs; there is no longer any prophet, nor is there anyone among us who knows [yo’deya] how long [this will last].
Lack of knowledge was (and is) a scary thing. It’s hard to be directionless and in the dark. The Psalmist prayed to God that YHWH would turn His face towards them and be present and known on the earth:
For the music director; with stringed instruments. A Psalm. A Song.
God be gracious to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us— Selah
That Your way may be known[la-da’at] on the earth, Your salvation among all nations. May the peoples praise You, God; may all the peoples praise You.
May the nations be glad and sing for joy; for You will judge the peoples with fairness and guide the nations on the earth. Selah
Jeremiah who lived in the midst of the Babylonian threat, brought hope by the words of YHWH:
[YHWH:] For I will set My eyes on them for good, and I will bring them back to this land; and I will build them up and not overthrow them, and I will plant them and not uproot them. I will also give them a heart to know Me [la-da’at oti], for I am YHWH; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me wholeheartedly.
We might not see the awesome power of YHWH, but He sees us and He instills in our heart the desire to seek Him and know Him!
God Knowledge: Too Wonderful!
Gaining knowledge of God is a priceless gift and we should be in complete awe of it. David was thoroughly aware of the wonderfulness of God’s knowledge:
[David:] YHWH, You have searched me and known me [wa-teh’da’a].
You know when I sit down and when I get up; You understand my thought from far away.
You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, YHWH, You know it all [ya-da’ta].
You have encircled me behind and in front, and placed Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge [da’at] is too wonderful for me; it is too high, I cannot comprehend it.
God knows us inside and out. Can we know Him just the same? Job, who experienced pain and hardship, like few others in the Bible, answered this question:
Then Job answered YHWH and said,
“I know [ya-da’ti] that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.
‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge [da’at]?’
Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know [w-lo eh’da].
‘Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me.’
“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You.”
Job recognized that we need to see YHWH on a deeper level than just surface vision. What’s the point of hearing with our ear if it doesn’t sink in. We need to experience Him. We need to dive into the heart of YHWH and truly know Him.
Knowledge is Power
Ignorance is bliss, they say, but knowledge is power! Job’s “friends” tried to tell him what he was doing wrong and why he is suffering. But Job had the knowledge of God and he knew they had no right to judge him. They may have had “textbook” knowledge, but it was not experiential God knowledge!
[Job to his “friends”:] “Behold, my eye has seen all this, my ear has heard and understood it. What you know I also know [k-da’t’kem ya-da’ti]; I am not inferior to you.”
God loves us! We are inferior to no one! The knowledge of God will give us the confidence to proclaim it.
The Messiah Knows
YHWH’s Anointed One (Messiah) would certainly be our best teacher for seeking and knowing God, because He was one with God:
Jesus said to him [Thomas], “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.”
Yeshua (Jesus) reflected the Old Testament emphasis on knowing and seeing. The disciples saw and knew Yeshua, so they saw and knew YHWH.
The Tanakh (Old Testament) was filled with Messianic prophecy. Of the coming Messiah, Isaiah said this:
Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch from his roots will bear fruit. The Spirit of YHWH will rest on Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge [ruakh da’at] and the fear of YHWH.
And He will delight in the fear of YHWH, and He will not judge by what His eyes see, nor make decisions by what His ears hear; nut with righteousness He will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the humble of the earth; and He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked. Also righteousness will be the belt around His hips, and faithfulness the belt around His waist.
And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the young lion and the fattened steer will be together; and a little boy will lead them.
Also the cow and the bear will graze, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den. They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of YHWH [de’a et YHWH] as the waters cover the sea.
A child, from the line of Jesse, would conquer death (the sting of a snake) bring complete peace, and from this the entire world would fully know God.
Isaiah also expressed that by the Messiah would be a sacrifice, knowingly taking on our sins upon Himself:
But YHWH was pleased to crush Him [Messiah], putting Him to grief. If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of YHWH will prosper in His hand. As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied. By His knowledge [b-da’tow] the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities.
Knowledge sometimes comes at a price. Perhaps we should be grateful that we don’t know all that is to come. Jesus knew. He knew everything that would happen to him… and it was costly.
It was now just before the Passover Feast, and Jesus knew [Greek: eidos] that His hour had come to leave this world and return to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the very end.
Jesus (Yeshua), knew He had to leave the world behind. His career on this planet as a teacher in situ was finished. He had taught all He needed to… and, wonderfully, we have access to those teachings. One of those teachings focused in on the importance of knowledge. Quoting Isaiah 6:9-10 Yeshua explained why he talked in parables:
Then the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Why do You speak to the people in parables?”
He replied, “The knowledge [Greek: gnonai] of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. This is why I speak to them in parables:
‘Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.’
In them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled: ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
For this people’s heart has grown callous; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and return and be healed.’
But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”
Let us not be the person whom Yeshua was speaking of. Let us not be the person who hears a sermon but doesn’t draw it in, who sees the beauty of God’s handiwork but gives it no attention, who hardens their heart to the teachings of God and throws up walls to block God’s voice. Let us not be blind or deaf or imprisoned to the gifts we have been given.
Listen, Seek, Discover!
Here’s the thing… God wants us to listen for His voice, seek and discover Him. More than any gift we could give Him, He wants us to really know Him. It is what God delights in:
[YHWH:] For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God [w-da’at Elohim] rather than burnt offerings.
The Proverbs highlighted that our whole body should be focused on knowing God… our ear, our heart, our voice, our whole soul:
Make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding; for if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding.
If you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will discern the fear of YHWH and discover the knowledge of God [w-da’at Elohim].
For YHWH gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge [da’at] and understanding.
He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice, and He preserves the way of His godly ones.
Then you will discern righteousness and justice and equity and every good course. For wisdom will enter your heart and knowledge [w-da’at] will be pleasant to your soul.
Here is what Paul hoped for:
…that they may be encouraged in heart, knit together in love, and filled with the full riches of complete understanding, so that they may know [Greek: epi-gnosin] the mystery of God, namely the Messiah, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge [Greek: gnoseos].
This, also, is my hope for you!
Next week: Wisdom