CLING: davaq. Verb. (Strong’s 1692).
Sounds like: da-vawk or da-bawk.
My youngest daughter, Bridget, gives the best hugs. Although she’s slight, it feels like she’s as heavy as a rock as she throws her arms all the way around you and holds on tight. There’s no letting go, and nothing will break the hug apart, until she decides it’s over. That is davaq, meaning to cleave, or to cling to, or to keep close. The word arrived early in the Biblical text, showing up in the second chapter of the Bible:
YHWH God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.
The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman [eesh’ah],
Because she was taken out of Man [meh-eesh].”
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and cling [w’davaq] to his wife; and they shall become one flesh [l’basar echad].
Humans were meant to cling to each other… and stay connected. However, unlike becoming one flesh, davaq was not a sexual euphemism, but simply something like a universal hug… holding on for dear life and not letting go.
And this clinging was not just meant for male-female relationships. It was meant for all humanity. We are made to support and uphold each other. Human touch and reliance upon one another are necessary qualities for good health, both physically and mentally.
Holding on to Each Other
King David’s great grandmother, Ruth, understood that holding fast to those you love and care for was not just a human kindness but a human necessity. Her undying love and support of her mother-in-law was just one Biblical example of why davaq should be considered an admirable human trait:
But Naomi said, “Return, my daughters. Why should you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? Return, my daughters! Go, for I am too old to have a husband. If I said I have hope, if I should even have a husband tonight and also bear sons, would you therefore wait until they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters; for it is harder for me than for you, for the hand of YHWH has gone forth against me.”
And they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung [dav’qah] to her.
Then she said, “Behold, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may YHWH do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.” When she [Naomi] saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her. So they both went until they came to Bethlehem…
Later, when Ruth gleaned the wheat from the fields of her kinsman, Boaz, he saw her and confronted her. He told her to keep close to his servants in his field. The keeping close is the same root word (davaq) that Ruth used when she clung to Naomi:
Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Listen carefully, my daughter. Do not go to glean in another field; furthermore, do not go on from this one, but keep close [ti’dbaq’een] to my maids. Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them. Indeed, I have commanded the servants not to touch you. When you are thirsty, go to the water jars and drink from what the servants draw.”
Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground and said to him, “Why have I found favour in your sight that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” Boaz replied to her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law after the death of your husband has been fully reported to me, and how you left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and came to a people that you did not previously know. May YHWH reward your work, and your wages be full from YHWH, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge.”
By telling Ruth to cling to his servants and to share in his agricultural wealth, he was, in essence, telling her to cling to his household. This was the beginning of the deep love that Boaz and Ruth would have for each other. Eventually they would share life, clinging together, becoming the great grandparents of one of Israel’s greatest kings. YHWH had great plans for this once widowed, destitute, Moabite woman. But it was more than motherhood. Ruth’s incredible courage would be weaved into the history of the Jewish people so tightly that she became the symbol of Messianic hope for all the Jews, which is especially significant considering that she was not originally Jewish herself… rather she was Jewish by choice.
Kings Keeping Close
Although other mothers stood between Ruth and the remarkable King David, it is Ruth who stands as prototype of king-mother. It should not be surprising that holding on or clinging to YHWH, much as Ruth held on to Naomi’s people and faith, would be the top quality of kings in the early days of Jewish kingship. Davaq became a king descriptor: kings either clung to Sin (such as King Jehoram of Israel (2 Kings 3:3)) or they clung to YHWH:
2 Kings 18:1, 5-7a
Now it came about in the third year of Hoshea, the son of Elah king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah became king… He trusted in YHWH, the God of Israel; so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among those who were before him. For he clung [w’yidbaq] to YHWH; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which YHWH had commanded Moses. And YHWH was with him; wherever he went he prospered.
King Solomon, great great grandson of Ruth, was certainly considered to be one of the kings who clung to YHWH. At some point in his life, Solomon came to the understanding that although you can surround yourself with many “friends”, there is only one friend who holds on so tightly that it’s like they came from the same womb. YHWH is not only like a Father, or a creating Mother, He’s also like a sibling in His desire to hold on tightly to those He loves and who love Him in return:
A man of too many friends comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks [dabeq] closer than a brother.
YHWH is that friend, but Solomon lost sight of that. King Solomon, in many ways, clung to YHWH, but he also held fast onto something else. By clinging to women, he loosened his grip on God:
1 Kings 11:1-6
Now King Solomon loved many foreign women along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which YHWH had said to the sons of Israel, “You shall not associate with them, nor shall they associate with you, for they will surely turn your heart away after their gods.” Solomon held fast [davaq] to these in love. He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines, and his wives turned his heart away. For when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to YHWH his God, as the heart of David his father had been. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians and after Milcom the detestable idol of the Ammonites. Solomon did what was evil in the sight of YHWH, and did not follow YHWH fully, as David his father had done.
Regardless of YHWH’s earlier warnings, Solomon did not listen because in his lust he clung to women. Just as the warning predicted, Solomon held fast to these non-Israelite women and eventually adopted the same gods that the women, themselves, held on to. Interesting that Solomon, the man noted for his great wisdom and insight, failed himself due to the lack of integrity and clear-sightedness.
What it means to cling to YHWH
The warnings were very clear for King Solomon. They were ever present in the Torah, most notably in Deuteronomy, a book particularly keen on the word davaq:
“You shall follow YHWH your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling [tid’baqun] to Him.”
Clinging to YHWH means clinging to His principles… justice for the orphaned, the widowed, and the foreigner. As representatives of God’s kingdom on this planet, our arms, and our hearts, should be wide open to those in need:
“So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer. For YHWH your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe. He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. You shall fear YHWH your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him [tid’baq], and you shall swear by His name. He is your praise and He is your God, who has done these great and awesome things for you which your eyes have seen. Your fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons in all, and now YHWH your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven.”
By clinging onto YHWH we become one with everything He stands for… and that’s what true living is all about:
I have chosen the faithful way; I have placed Your ordinances before me.
I cling [davaq’ti] to Your testimonies; O YHWH, do not put me to shame!
I shall run the way of Your commandments, For You will enlarge my heart.
King Solomon, of course, was not the first o let go. The early Israelites were constantly tempted to stop holding on to YHWH and reaching out to foreign gods instead. Joshua was one of many who warned them of this great danger:
Joshua 23:6-8, 11-13
“Be very firm, then, to keep and do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, so that you may not turn aside from it to the right hand or to the left, so that you will not associate with these nations, these which remain among you, or mention the name of their gods, or make anyone swear by them, or serve them, or bow down to them. But you are to cling [tid’baqu] to YHWH your God, as you have done to this day… So take diligent heed to yourselves to love YHWH your God. For if you ever go back and cling [u-debaq’tem] to the rest of these nations, these which remain among you, and intermarry with them, so that you associate with them and they with you, know with certainty that YHWH your God will not continue to drive these nations out from before you; but they will be a snare and a trap to you, and a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good land which YHWH your God has given you.”
Of course we know that the early followers of YHWH, despite their greatest intentions, failed to keep close to God. Joshua’s warnings of what would happen if they let go of God came to pass:
‘For as the waistband clings [yid’baq] to the waist of a man, so I made the whole household of Israel and the whole household of Judah cling to Me [hid’baq’ti],’ declares YHWH, ‘that they might be for Me a people, for renown, for praise and for glory; but they did not listen.’
Although it was God’s own people who let go of Him, we are often quick to announce that God let go of humanity. Where was that enduring hug when the Babylonians came? Did God just lift his arms up and drop humanity like a stone?
Arouse Yourself, why do You sleep, O Lord? Awake, do not reject us forever.
Why do You hide Your face and forget our affliction and our oppression?
For our soul has sunk down into the dust; Our body cleaves [davaqah] to the earth.
Rise up, be our help, and redeem us for the sake of Your lovingkindness.
Unwilling to cling to God, instead they held onto the earth. In their desperation they called out to YHWH to save and redeem them. Humanity let go… but YHWH, repeatedly, invited humanity to grab hold once again.
“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving YHWH your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast [u’l’dabeqa] to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which YHWH swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”
But the pattern continued and the only way to end the seemingly endless cycle of holding on, letting go, and praying to be in reach of God again, was for YHWH to send a redeemer. We needed a tangible, relatable, human to hold onto… a human, but so much more than human… a perfect child of God, a Mashiach (Messiah).
Clinging to Yeshua
Physically holding or touching Yeshua (Jesus) played a pivotal role in the Gospel account of Yeshua’s life. There are many instances when Jesus touched someone… he touched the eyes of the blind, he held a dying girls hand, he held on to a leper, and he touched the ears and tongue of a deaf and almost-mute man. But in one instance someone came and purposefully touched Jesus:
And a woman who had a hemorrhage for twelve years, and could not be healed by anyone, came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped. And Jesus said, “Who is the one who touched Me?” And while they were all denying it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing in on You.” But Jesus said, “Someone did touch Me, for I was aware that power had gone out of Me.” When the woman saw that she had not escaped notice, she came trembling and fell down before Him, and declared in the presence of all the people the reason why she had touched Him, and how she had been immediately healed. And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”
The ministry of Jesus, at this time, was all about reaching out to people. Changing their world, changing their perspectives, giving them hope as they lived in a militaristic occupied territory. They were being held back by the Romans, but with a single touch they could be set free. Not free from Roman domination, but free from something much greater… the great metaphorical chains of sin and death. This woman understood that Jesus could free her, and her faith was rewarded. We can’t physically touch Jesus today, but we can cling to Him. We can hold on for dear life. And we can live as valiant representatives of YHWH. We need to be the social advocates for humanity. The hand to hold the orphaned, the fingers to feed the hungry, the arms to lift up the broken-spirited, the shoulder for the foreigner to lean on.
Yeshua’s body was here to die for humanity and in His mission He created disciples to become the body of Messiah on this planet. The story of Mary Magdalen’s grief in the garden drives this point home:
But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, [My] Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and that He had said these things to her.
Why was Mary so upset when she felt that they had taken the body of Yeshua away? It was because she didn’t know where his body was, and she felt that she needed it. Why? Because she was not ready to physically let Him go.
In the NASB translation, used here, Jesus tells Mary to stop clinging to Him, as if she already had her arms around him. Other translations have Jesus saying to Mary, “Do not cling to Me”… as if He has stopped her before she had the chance. Regardless of what happened, Mary wanted to continue to hold onto the Jesus that she knew… but Jesus had a bigger purpose for her. The human body he walked around in was just a shell… the Body of the Messiah was now to be a global mission and Mary was the one to start it. Going to the brethren to tell them that Jesus had ascended to his Father was not just for the ears of the twelve disciples that clung closely to Jesus. It was for all the nations of all generations.
Paul, most certainly, carried that mission forward. Love was ultimately the core of Yeshua’s message and Paul constantly reminded his readers of that:
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.
The Psalmist personalized it:
O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly;
My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory.
Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips will praise You.
So I will bless You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name.
My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth offers praises with joyful lips.
When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches,
For You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.
My soul clings [da’vaqa napshi] to You; Your right hand upholds me.
Hold on tight folks! If your faith is relationship based (which it should be), then that is what you are called to do. Do not let your faith be solely based on religion- rules and regulations- that is no way to live. Your faith should be hanging on to YHWH for dear life and extending your hand out as a life-line for others to do the same. Enjoy receiving and sharing the eternal hug… and whatever you do, don’t let go!
Next week: Look!