Yaqush, Mowqesh, Pakh: It’s a Trap!

Trap/Trapped: There are three primary (masculine) nouns that describe a trap or a snare: pakh (Strong’s 6341); mowqesh (Strong’s 4170); and yaqush Strong’s 3353). The verb to be trapped is yaqosh (Strong’s 3369).

Anytime the word trap was remotely mentioned in our household, my husband used to mimic General Ackbar from Star Wars perfectly: “It’s a Trap!” In the movie, the rebels (good guys) were on their way to destroy the Death Star (a colossal killing machine), but the enemies caught wind of their plans and they laid in wait, ready to attack and destroy.

Snared by evil

The Biblical concept of trap was much the same. Evil waited patiently to trap God’s people:

Jeremiah 5:26-29

[YHWH:] ‘For wicked people are found among My people, they watch like fowlers [y’qushim] lying in wait; they set a trap [mash’khit], they catch people.

Like a cage full of birds, so their houses are full of deceit; therefore they have become great and rich. They are fat, they are sleek, they also excel in deeds of wickedness; they do not plead the cause, the cause of the orphan, so that they may be successful; and they do not defend the rights of the poor.

Shall I not punish them for these things?’ declares YHWH, ‘Or shall I not avenge Myself on a nation such as this?’

The scroll of Ecclesiastes pointed out that we, as humans, are always susceptible to the traps of evil.  In duress, humans were treated like animals, like fish in a net or birds in a snare:

Ecclesiastes 9:11b-12

For time and chance happen to all. For indeed, a person does not know his time: like fish that are caught in a treacherous net and birds caught in a snare [ba-pakh], so the sons of mankind are ensnared [yuqashim] at an evil time when it suddenly falls on them.

Snared by other gods

For the most part, humans brought on their own ensnarement by turning to the gods of other nations… gods carved by human hands:

Deuteronomy 7:25-26

The carved images of their gods you are to burn with fire; you shall not covet the silver or the gold that is on them, nor take it for yourselves, or you will be trapped [ti-waqesh] by it; for it is an abomination to YHWH your God. And you shall not bring an abomination into your house and become designated for destruction, like it; you are to utterly detest it, and you are to utterly loathe it, for it is something designated for destruction.

When YHWH brought the Hebrew people into the promised land He made one thing very clear… they were not to align with the current inhabitants of the land and the gods they served:

Exodus 23:32-33  (see also Exodus 34:12 & Deut. 7:16)

[YHWH:] You shall make no covenant with them or with their gods. They shall not live in your land, otherwise they will make you sin against Me; for if you serve their gods, it is certain to be a snare [l-mowqesh] to you.”

Of course we all know what happened. The very thing God warned them not to do, they did:

Psalm 106:35-48

But they got involved with the nations and learned their practices, and served their idols, which became a snare [l-mowqesh] to them.

They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons, and shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and their daughters whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; and the land was defiled with the blood. So they became unclean in their practices, and were unfaithful in their deeds.

Therefore the anger of YHWH was kindled against His people, and He loathed His inheritance. So He handed them over to the nations, and those who hated them ruled over them. Their enemies also oppressed them, and they were subdued under their power.

Many times He would rescue them; they, however, were rebellious in their plan, and they sank down into their guilt.

Nevertheless He looked at their distress when He heard their cry; and He remembered His covenant for their sake, and relented according to the greatness of His mercy. He also made them objects of compassion in the presence of all their captors.

Save us, YHWH our God, and gather us from the nations, to give thanks to Your holy name and glory in Your praise. Blessed be YHWH, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting.

And all the people shall say, “Amen.” Praise YHWH!

What a disappointment God’s people were. They were rescued and then they rejected their rescuer:

Judges 2:1-5

Now the angel of YHWH came up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land which I have sworn to your fathers; and I said, ‘I will never break My covenant with you, and as for you, you shall not make a covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall tear down their altars.’ 

But you have not obeyed Me; what is this thing that you have done? Therefore I also said, ‘I will not drive them out from you; but they will become like thorns in your sides, and their gods will be a snare [l-mowqesh] to you.’” 

Now when the angel of YHWH spoke these words to all the sons of Israel, the people raised their voices and wept. So they named that place Bochim [weepers]; and there they sacrificed to YHWH.

Rescued from the Trap

The fear of falling into the trap was a repeated fear outlined in the Psalms. . There were many examples of people praying to be held back from traps waiting to spring upon them:

Psalm 140:4-5

Keep me, YHWH, from the hands of the wicked; protect me from violent men who intend to trip up my feet.

The proud have hidden a trap [pakh] for me, and cords; they have spread a net at the wayside; they have set snares [mowq’shim] for me. Selah

Psalm 141:8-10

For my eyes are toward You, YHWH, the Lord; in You I take refuge; do not leave me defenseless.

Keep me from the jaws of the trap [pakh] which they have set for me, and from the snares [u-moq’shoht] of those who do wrong.

May the wicked fall into their own nets, while I pass by safely.

It wasn’t just human traps that they feared. Psalm 91 was regarded as an exorcism song. The powers of darkness had no power over those sheltered by the Most High. The traps set by evil entities were no match for the awesome power of YHWH’s protection:

Psalm 91 

One who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will lodge in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say to YHWH, “My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!”

For it is He who rescues you from the snare [mi-pakh] of the fowler [yaqush] and from the deadly plague. He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may take refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and wall.

You will not be afraid of the terror by night, or of the arrow that flies by day; of the plague that stalks in darkness, or of the destruction that devastates at noon.

A thousand may fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand, but it shall not approach you.

You will only look on with your eyes and see the retaliation against the wicked. For you have made YHWH, my refuge, the Most High, your dwelling place. No evil will happen to you, nor will any plague come near your tent.

For He will give His angels orders concerning you, to protect you in all your ways. On their hands they will lift you up, so that you do not strike your foot against a stone.

You will walk upon the lion and cobra, you will trample the young lion and the serpent.

[YHWH:] Because he has loved Me, I will save him; I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name. He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honour him. I will satisfy him with a long life, and show him My salvation.

The exorcism aspects of this Psalm may not be completely apparent to us as we read this from our 21st perspective. But it was very clear to the contemporary readers. The Canaanite gods of death and destruction  were no match for YHWH, Most High. [Side note: some of the Hebrew words used in Psalm 91 match the names of Canaanite gods. Check out Dr. Michael Heiser’s podcast on Psalm 91].

The forces of darkness had no hold on YHWH’s people. They could escape the trap of death and destruction because YHWH was on their side and His plan of Salvation would save them:

Psalm 124:7-8

Our souls have escaped like a bird from the trapper’s snare [mi-pakkh yoq’shim]; the snare [ha-pakh] is broken and we have escaped.

Our help is in the name of YHWH who made heaven and earth.

YHWH will become the Trap

YHWH had this clever ability to give the enemies back the very thing they were doling out to others. They set traps for His people, so He would set traps for them.

To Moab:

Jeremiah 48:42-44

“Moab will be destroyed from being a people because he has become arrogant toward YHWH. Terror, pit, and snare [wa-fawkh] are coming upon you, inhabitant of Moab,” declares YHWH.

The one who flees from the terror will fall into the pit, and the one who climbs up out of the pit will be caught in the snare [ba-pakh]; for I will bring upon her, upon Moab, the year of their punishment,” declares YHWH.

To Babylon:

Jeremiah 50:24

I set a trap [yaqosh’ti] for you and you were also caught, Babylon, while you yourself were not aware; you have been found and also seized because you have engaged in conflict with YHWH.”

Even the Hebrew people were not immune to God’s trapping:

Isaiah 8:13-15

“It is YHWH of armies whom you are to regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, and He shall be your dread.

Then He will become a sanctuary; but to both houses of Israel He will be a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, and a snare and a trap [l-fawkh u-l-mowqesh] for the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

Many will stumble over them, then they will fall and be broken; they will be snared [w-noq’shu] and caught.

YHWH trapped only to save! Sometimes the trapper would use the trap to catch and release the captive in a better place and a better situation. YHWH was the Sanctuary and those who had wandered far from the place of rescue had to be trapped and returned to safety.

Image by John McArthur. Lobster traps at Peggy’s Cove, NS (pixabay.com)

People as Traps

There are a few examples where people were described as traps or snares. The Egyptian authorities thought of Moses as a dangerous snare and begged Pharaoh to agree to Moses’ request to let his people go:

Exodus 10:7

Then Pharaoh’s servants said to him [Pharaoh], “How long shall this man be a snare [l-mowqesh] to us? Let the people go, so that they may serve YHWH their God. Do you not yet realize that Egypt is destroyed?”

King Saul envisioned that his daughter would become a trap for David:

1 Samuel 18:20-21a

Now Michal, Saul’s daughter, loved David. When they informed Saul, the thing was pleasing to him. For Saul thought, “I will give her to him so that she may become a trap [l-mowqesh] for him, and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.”

Saul had hoped to trap David with his daughter and allow his destruction, but that did not happen. David did marry Michal, but instead of bowing down to the Philistines, he rose up to kingship. Saul, on the other hand, fell down to his destruction and death.

Certainly people were very good at being traps. The words from our mouths become trap to others and they also do a very good job of trapping ourselves as well:

Proverbs 18:7

A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are the snare [mowqesh] of his soul.

The Snares of Death

Ultimately, death was the final trap… the last snare to break free from. 

Proverbs 14:27 (see also Proverbs 13:14)

The fear of YHWH is a fountain of life, by which one may avoid the snares of death [mi-mowq’shey mawet].

David’s song of deliverance spoke of the snares of death and his rescue from it:

2 Samuel 22:2-7, 47-51  

[David:] “YHWH is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; my saviour, You save me from violence.

I call upon YHWH, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.

For the waves of death encompassed me; the floods of destruction terrified me; the ropes of Sheol surrounded me; the snares of death [mowqesh mawet] confronted me.

In my distress I called upon YHWH, yes, I called out to my God; and from His temple He heard my voice, and my cry for help came into His ears…

…“YHWH lives, and blessed be my Rock; and exalted be my God, the rock of my salvation, the God who executes vengeance for me, and brings down peoples under me, who also brings me out from my enemies.

You also raise me above those who rise up against me; You rescue me from the violent person.

Therefore I will give thanks to You, YHWH, among the nations, and I will sing praises to Your name. He is a tower of salvation to His king, and shows favour to His anointed, to David and his descendants forever.”

According to the prophet Isaiah, YHWH was the one who would break the pact with death. An exile would occur, and the people would be trapped, broken, and taken captiveut… but they also would be set free. The Messiah to come would also be trapped, broken, taken captive… and then set free: 

Isaiah 28:12-15

He [YHWH] who said to them, “This is the place of quiet, give rest to the weary,” and, “This is the resting place,” but they would not listen.

So the word of YHWH to them will be, “Order on order, order on order, line on line, line on line, a little here, a little there,” that they may go and stumble backward, be broken, snared [w-nowq’shu], and taken captive.

Therefore, hear the word of YHWH, you scoffers, who rule this people who are in Jerusalem, because you have said, “We have made a covenant with death, and with Sheol we have made a pact. The gushing flood will not reach us when it passes by, because we have made falsehood our refuge and we have concealed ourselves with deception.” 

Therefore this is what the Lord YHWH says: “Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed.

The one who believes in it will not be disturbed.  will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the level; then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters will overflow the secret place.

Your covenant with death will be canceled, and your pact with Sheol will not stand.”

The Messiah: Trapped and Released

Yeshua (Jesus) would take the snare of death and break its trap. He was trapped, executed and died, but death was unable to hold Him down. The plan was always for Yeshua to die. It was the only way to conquer death.

During Yeshua’s ministry the religious elite continually tried to trap him with words:

Matthew 22:15-22

Then the Pharisees went and plotted together how they might trap Him in what He said. And they sent their disciples to Him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and do not care what anyone thinks; for You are not partial to anyone. Tell us then, what do You think? Is it permissible to pay a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?”

But Jesus perceived their malice, and said, Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the coin used for the poll-tax.”

And they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?”

They said to Him, “Caesar’s.”

Then He said to them, “Then pay to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.”

And hearing this, they were amazed; and they left Him and went away.

They tried multiple times to trap Yeshua, but He never fell into the trap until He chose to walk into it on his own:

Matthew 26:47-50

And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, came accompanied by a large crowd with swords and clubs, who came from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now he who was betraying Him gave them a sign previously, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the one; arrest Him.” 

And immediately Judas went up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed Him. But Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you have come for.” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested Him.

Yeshua walked right into the trap that would lead Him to the execution rack. It would have been the perfect time for someone to call out, “It’s a trap!” But Yeshua knew what he was walking into. It was all part of YHWH’s cosmic plan rescue and redemption. He had to die so that He could conquer death and rise above it. Death would fall; Life would rise!

Regardless of Yeshua’s sacrifice, there was still the chance to be trapped by evil’s intentions. In the letters to Timothy, the term snare of the devil was used twice (1 Timothy 3:7, 2 Timothy 2:26). The letters encouraged the followers of YHWH to live well so that they would not find themselves caught in the Adversary’s trap… a trap which was always set and ready for any victim willing to walk in its path:

1 Timothy 6:8-12a

If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.  But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge people into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called

We live in a world that constantly tries to trap us… trick us into handing over our money and our time for useless, and maybe even dangerous, things; it tempts us with desirable possessions and it tests our fortitude when it comes to our personal weaknesses.

But we are to be YHWH’s reflection on earth. As redeemed children of God, any trap set for us won’t go off if we walk with God and live our lives genuinely and faithfully. We don’t need what the world is selling. Death, and the sin that dragged us towards the grave, has no hold on us any longer.

Yeshua walked into the trap set for Him so that we could resist all the traps set for us. With the Spirit of YHWH living within us, we can dodge the traps set for us. And even if occasionally we fall, YHWH is always willing to spring open the traps for His children. He lifts us up and sets us back on the path to freedom… a beautiful, eternal, life in the luxuriant Garden of our God. 

Next week: Revisiting Sweet

2 thoughts on “Yaqush, Mowqesh, Pakh: It’s a Trap!”

  1. Thank you for this website. I live in Kelowna and love to “play” with my rather dated Hebrew. Took it in seminary years ago but try to keep it alive


    1. Hi Daryl! A friend of mine is heading to Kelowna this coming weekend! I’ve never been, but would someday like to visit. What do they say about languages? If you don’t use it, you lose it. I’m glad I can help uphold the Hebrew language in your life.


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