Revisiting NAKHAM (Comfort)

Today is Tisha B’Av… literally the 9th day in the Hebrew month of Av… and it’s a day where comfort is far from the minds of the Jewish people. The 9th day of Av, historically, is a day of sorrow and remembrance of great Jewish tragedies. Traditionally it is associated with the fall of the Temple to the Babylonians and then, 500 years later, the fall of the rebuilt Temple to the Romans. 

There is nothing comfortable about Tisha B’Av. But YHWH offers comfort even during the most devastating of tragedies. 

Although the Hebrew word nakham can be translated as sorry, pity, and relenting, the most classic rendering of nakham is comforting and consoling:

  • When Isaac’s mother, Sarah, died, he was comforted when he found his wife Rebekah (Genesis 24:67)
  • When Esau lost his birthright due to the trickery of his brother, he was comforted by the thoughts of murdering his brother (Genesis 27:42)
  • When Jacob thought that his son Joseph was dead, his remaining children tried to console him, but in his grief he could not be comforted (Genesis 37:35)
  • When Joseph found his brothers, who betrayed him, they were horrified in their guilt, but he comforted them saying:

Genesis 50:19-21 

“Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to keep many people alive. So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.”

So he comforted [wai-nakhem] them and spoke kindly to them.

Joseph comforted the very people who brought him sorrow. He was sorry for what they had done to him, but he comforted them nonetheless. That’s the kind of comfort that YHWH brings. We bring Him sorrow every day… yet He is continually kind to us and wanting to comfort us.

Way back at the beginning, humans made a terrible mistake that led to a lifetime of discomfort. But even though they disobeyed YHWH, He clothed them in their nakedness and He came up with a plan to save them.

YHWH would redeem us. He would take the sorrow we caused Him and bear it upon Himself, and show comfort to us regardless of what we’ve done to Him. In His role as Comforter, YHWH would have to wear our guilt on the cross.

God, the Creator of the universe, would die to save us. He expose Himself to unbearable physical pain and mental torment, so that we could live unburdened by shame and guilt. 

Mark 15:22-26, 33-39

Then they brought Him [Jesus] to the place Golgotha, which is translated, Place of a Skull. And they tried to give Him wine mixed with myrrh; but He did not take it. And they crucified Him, and divided up His garments among themselves, casting lots for them to decide what each man would take. Now it was the third hour when they crucified Him. The inscription of the charge against Him read, “THE KING OF THE JEWS.”

…When the sixth hour came, darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour. At the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “ELOI, ELOI, LEMA SABAKTANEI?” which is translated, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?” And when some of the bystanders heard Him, they began saying, Him, “Look! He is calling for Elijah!” And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink, saying, “Let us see if Elijah comes to take Him down.” But Jesus let out a loud cry, and died. And the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who was standing right in front of Him, saw that He died in this way, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

In His final, terrible, moments Yeshua quoted Psalm 22:1 (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?”, cried out in great pain, and died. The agony was so palpable that the curtain tore in the Temple and a Roman soldier bowed to the truth. It’s a startling depiction of the great sacrificial love YHWH has for His children. It ought to be a comfort to us that He loves us this much.

Image, without words, by conger design (Pixabay.com)

Idols of False Comfort

Today it seems like we rely on idols of false comfort. We look towards comfort food, finances that make us “comfortable”, comfortable living (which tends to mean living in excess), comfort in the arms of lovers, and the brief but fleeting comfort supplied by substances like drugs and alcohol and sugar.

We don’t rely on God for our comfort, we rely on the idols that we worship: food, sex, money and possessions. These things are deceptive.

Zechariah 10:2

For the household idols speak deception, and the diviners see an illusion and tell deceitful dreams; they comfort [y-nakhemun] in vain.

Therefore the people wander like sheep, they are wretched because there is no shepherd.

We wander around lost and confused because we are seeking comfort in all the wrong places. YHWH is our Shepherd and He wants to bring us home and give us true comfort, but He has some difficult questions to ask us:

Deuteronomy 32:36-39

“For YHWH will vindicate His people, and will have compassion on comfort [yi-t-nekham] His servants, when He sees that their strength is gone, and there is none remaining, bond or free.

And He will say, ‘Where are their gods, the rock in which they took refuge? Those who ate the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink offering? Let them rise up and help you, let them be your protection!

See now that I, I am He, and there is no god besides Me; it is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal, and there is no one who can save anyone from My hand.’”

Food and sex and consumerism will never rise up to help us, and they do not provide lasting comfort. They are short term drugs for a long term malady. Let us look to the One who gives us true comfort and peace. Only through a relationship with our Creator will find the satisfying comfort that we seek. 

For a more detailed study on the Hebrew word for comfort click below:

NAKHAM

Next week: CURTAIN

2 thoughts on “Revisiting NAKHAM (Comfort)”

  1. Hi ,can u try tell me how to pronouns this word,this is all new to me but I feel so drawn towards your beautiful history and words,bless you all,

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    1. Hi Jane! I’m thrilled you’re drawn towards Biblical Hebrew. As for how to pronounce nakham: Hebrew, more often than not, puts the emphasis on the second syllable, so the “nah” would be spoken quickly and the emphasis would be on the “kham”. KH (representing Hebrew letter chet) is the guttural sound similar to the German pronunciation of the “ch” in the name of the composer Bach. Hope that helps.

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