Root: נגה (nogah) & נהר (nahar)
Sounds like: Noe-gaw and Na-hawr
The theme of Light recurs throughout the entire Bible. It may be the most prevalent recurrent theme, which explains why so many words support the theme, from sun, moon and stars, shining forth, being radiant, and even sunbeams. We’re going to look at two words this week:
- Nogah, which means radiance or brightness, and
- Nahar, which is often transcribed as radiant, but more specifically describes a ray or stream of light, like a sunbeam or sun-stream.
It is interesting to note that neither of these words show up in the Torah. When Moses’ face glowed after seeing YHWH, it has been translated as shining, and the word used was qaran, which is the only time the word was used with this definition. Qaran was closely connected to the word for horn (qeren), but it suggested that light streamed out from him, just as horns protruded out of oxen. [Note, this is why some older artists mistakenly depict Moses with horns]. This particular definition of qaran, (as light protruding from the body), was only found in Exodus 34:29-35.
Brightness: A Descriptor of YHWH
Radiant light, coming from heavenly beings, can be found more commonly in the latter part of the Hebrew Bible. When Ezekiel envisioned YHWH in His throne room he was amazed by the bright radiance around him:
Ezekiel 1:4-5a, 13-14, 26-28
As I looked, behold, a high wind was coming from the north, a great cloud with fire flashing intermittently and brightness [w-nogah] around it, and in its midst something like gleaming metal in the midst of the fire. And within it there were figures resembling four living beings…
…In the midst of the living beings there was something that looked like burning coals of fire, like torches moving among the living beings. The fire was bright [radiant: w-nogah], and lightning was flashing from the fire. And the living beings ran back and forth like bolts of lightning….
…Now above the expanse that was over their heads there was something resembling a throne, like lapis lazuli in appearance; and on that which resembled a throne, high up, was a figure with the appearance of a man. Then I noticed from the appearance of His waist and upward something like gleaming metal that looked like fire all around within it, and from the appearance of His waist and downward I saw something like fire; and there was a radiance [w-nogah] around Him. Like the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the radiance [ha-nogah] all around it. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of YHWH. And when I saw it, I fell on my face and heard a voice speaking.
In a later description, Ezekiel described how the glory of YHWH presented as radiant:
Now the cherubim were standing on the right side of the temple when the man entered, and the cloud filled the inner courtyard. Then the glory of YHWH went up from the cherub to the threshold of the temple, and the temple was filled with the cloud, and the courtyard was filled with the brightness [nogah] of the glory of YHWH.
The prophet Habakkuk also described God as radiant like the sun:
His [YHWH’s] radiance [w-nogah] is like the sunlight; He has rays flashing from His hand, and the hiding of His might is there…
David also highlighted the brightness that surrounded YHWH:
Psalm 18:1-12, 16-20 (see also 2 Samuel 22:1-20)
For the music director. A Psalm of David, the servant of YHWH, who spoke to YHWH the words of this song on the day that YHWH rescued him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. And he said,
“I love You, YHWH, my strength.”
YHWH is my rock and my fortress and my saviour, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon YHWH, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.
The ropes of death encompassed me, and the torrents of destruction terrified me. The ropes of Sheol surrounded me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called upon YHWH, and cried to my God for help; He heard my voice from His temple, and my cry for help before Him came into His ears…
…He rode on a cherub and flew; and He sped on the wings of the wind. He made darkness His hiding place, His canopy around Him, darkness of waters, thick clouds.
From the brightness [mi-nogah] before Him passed His thick clouds, hailstones and coals of fire. YHWH also thundered in the heavens, and the Most High uttered His voice, hailstones and coals of fire…
He sent from on high, He took me; He drew me out of many waters. He saved me from my strong enemy, and from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me.
They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but YHWH was my support. He also brought me out into an open place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me.
YHWH has rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands He has repaid me.
This was David’s Psalm of triumph, when he survived the attack from Saul. In the poem, David pulled images from the story of Moses leading the people out of Egypt. He spoke of God drawing him out of many waters and accentuated YHWH’s radiance as a cloud by day and a fire by night, reminiscent of what happened in the wilderness wanderings by Moses and the people.
The prophet Isaiah also referred back to the exodus wanderings when YHWH came as a cloud by day and fire by night:
YHWH will create over the entire area of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, and smoke, and the brightness [w-nogah] of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory will be a canopy. And there will be a shelter to give shade from the heat by day, and refuge and protection from the storm and the rain.
YHWH was radiant. In almost every physical description after Genesis, YHWH glowed brightly, and those who came in contact with YHWH also emitted a heavenly glow.
In the story of Yeshua’s transfiguration He was described as radiant/gleaming:
Mark 9:2-7 (see also Luke 9:29)
And six days later Jesus took with Him Peter, James, and John, and brought them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; and His garments became radiant and exceedingly white, as no launderer on earth can whiten them. And Elijah appeared to them along with Moses; and they were talking with Jesus. Peter responded and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here; let’s make three tabernacles, one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” For he did not know how to reply; for they became terrified. Then a cloud formed, overshadowing them, and a voice came out of the cloud: “This is My beloved Son; listen to Him!”
It wasn’t just YHWH and Yeshua who glowed. Many beings from the heavenly realm (for example, see Acts 10:30) seemed to emit radiance when they came to earth. When the women went to the tomb they were met with two “men” whose clothing glowed:
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in gleaming [radiant] clothing; and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why are you seeking the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen.”
Looking to YHWH makes you Radiant
Not only was YHWH brilliant, but He made anyone in contact with him radiate in return:
I will bless YHWH at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul will make its boast in YHWH; the humble will hear it and rejoice. Exalt YHWH with me, and let’s exalt His name together.
I sought YHWH and He answered me, and rescued me from all my fears. They looked to Him and were radiant [w-naharu],and their faces will never be ashamed.
Not only would the followers of YHWH shine in His presence, they would radiate and reflect YHWH on all that surrounded them:
Jeremiah 31:11-12a, 14
For YHWH has ransomed Jacob and redeemed him from the hand of him who was stronger than he. They will come and shout for joy on the height of Zion, and they will be radiant [w-naha’ru] over the bounty of YHWH—”
…I will refresh the soul of the priests with abundance, and My people will be satisfied with My goodness,” declares YHWH.
The Righteous followers of YHWH were like Radiant Lights! This was a familiar simile repeated throughout the Tanakh:
2 Samuel 23:3-4
[David:] “He who rules over mankind righteously, who rules in the fear of God, is like the light of the morning when the sun rises, a morning without clouds, when the fresh grass springs out of the earth from radiance [mi-nogah] after rain.’
The writer of Proverbs compared the path of the righteous to the radiant dawn:
But the path of the righteous is like a radiant [nogah] light that shines bright until the full day.
The way of the wicked is like darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.
But the righteous who feel like they’re walking in darkness, must trust in YHWH to experience the radiance that living in His Presence brings:
Who is among you who fears YHWH, who obeys the voice of His servant, who walks in darkness and has no light [radiance: nogah]?
Let him trust in the name of YHWH and rely on his God.
This was the goal… to have YHWH’s people shine forth with the radiance that comes from knowing YHWH. He promised His people that, one day, all nations would see and recognize the brilliance of their righteousness:
For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not keep quiet, until her righteousness goes forth like brightness [ka-nogah], and her salvation like a torch that is burning.
The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; and you will be called by a new name which the mouth of YHWH will designate.
You will also be a crown of beauty in the hand of YHWH, and a royal headband in the hand of your God.
It will no longer be said to you, “Forsaken,” nor to your land will it any longer be said, “Desolate”; but you will be called, “My delight is in her,” and your land, “Married”; for YHWH delights in you, and to Him your land will be married.”
Yeshua held onto this promise and shared the concept in a parable:
“No one lights a lamp and puts it in a cellar or under a basket. Instead, he sets it on a stand, so those who enter can see the light.
Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are good, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are bad, your body is full of darkness. Be careful, then, that the light within you is not darkness. So if your whole body is full of light, with no part of it in darkness, you will be radiant, as though a lamp were shining on you.”
Streaming, like a Radiant Ray of Sunshine
The main concept surrounding the word nahar, was the impression of light streaming down on something and illuminating it. It was like a sunbeam or sun-stream.
For example, Jeremiah announced that light would no longer shine down on Babylon. They were once the great and mighty nation in the spotlight, but with YHWH’s judgement, darkness would fall onto Babylon:
“How Babylon has become an object of horror among the nations! The sea has come up over Babylon; she has been engulfed by its roaring waves. Her cities have become an object of horror, a dry land and a desert, a land in which no one lives and through which no one of mankind passes.
I will punish Bel in Babylon, and I will make what he has swallowed come out of his mouth; and the nations will no longer stream [w-lo yi-n’haru] toward him. Even the wall of Babylon has fallen down!”
In the book of Revelation Babylon, as the archetype of YHWH’s enemy, would again fall and lose their spotlight. Instead an angel of authority would illuminate the earth:
After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illuminated from his glory. And he cried out with a mighty voice, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit, and a prison of every unclean and hateful bird.
Instead of Babylon, one day the people would stream towards the light of Judah:
Isaiah 2:1-3 (see also Micah 4:1-2a)
The word which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
Now it will come about that in the last days the mountain of the house of YHWH will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream [w-naha’ru] to it.
And many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let’s go up to the mountain of YHWH, to the house of the God of Jacob; so that He may teach us about His ways, and that we may walk in His paths.”
The people would stream to the light of YHWH instead of relying on their own (comparatively dull) brilliance. The light of YHWH highlighted the path that would lead back to Him.
The Brilliant Day of YHWH
The Day of YHWH was mentioned many times in the Tanakh. It pointed to special days of great significance… a time when YHWH would make His Presence undeniably known. It would be a time when the radiance of YHWH’s great, consistent, lights would suddenly change:
Joel 2:1-2, 10-14 (see also Joel 3:14-17a)
Blow a trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm on My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of YHWH is coming; indeed, it is near, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness.
As dawn is spread over the mountains, so there is a great and mighty people; there has never been anything like it, nor will there be again after it to the years of many generations…
…Before them the earth quakes, the heavens tremble, the sun and the moon become dark, and the stars lose their brightness [nag’ham]. YHWH utters His voice before His army; His camp is indeed very great, for mighty is one who carries out His word.
The day of YHWH is indeed great and very awesome, and who can endure it?
“Yet even now,” declares YHWH, “Return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping, and mourning; and tear your heart and not merely your garments.”
Now return to YHWH your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in mercy and relenting of catastrophe.
Who knows, He might turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him.”
The prophet Amos also spoke of the loss of brightness on the Day of YHWH:
Woe to you who are longing for the day of YHWH, for what purpose will the day of YHWH be to you?
It will be darkness and not light; as when a man flees from a lion and a bear confronts him, or he goes home, leans with his hand against the wall, and a snake bites him.
Will the day of YHWH not be darkness instead of light, even gloom with no brightness [w-lo nogah] in it?
Although the Day of YHWH wasn’t exclusive to a single event, Yeshua’s death and resurrection was a Day of YHWH that shook the world. In fact, during His crucifixion, the world lost its brightness:
Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabaktanei?” that is, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?”
And some of those who were standing there, when they heard it, said, “This man is calling for Elijah.”
And immediately one of them ran, and taking a sponge, he filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink. But the rest of them said, “Let us see if Elijah comes to save Him.”
And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and gave up His spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split.
The prophet Isaiah envisioned that darkness would fall, but YHWH would rise up out of it and enlighten the whole world:
Isaiah 60:1-5a, 19-20
“Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of YHWH has risen upon you.
For behold, darkness will cover the earth and deep darkness the peoples; but YHWH will rise upon you and His glory will appear upon you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness [l-nogah] of your rising.
Raise your eyes all around and see; they all gather together, they come to you. Your sons will come from afar, and your daughters will be carried on the hip. Then you will see and be radiant [w-nahar’t], and your heart will thrill and rejoice…
…“No longer will you have the sun for light by day, nor will the moon give you light for brightness [u-l-nogah]; but you will have YHWH as an everlasting light, and your God as your glory.
Your sun will no longer set, nor will your moon wane; for you will have YHWH as an everlasting light, and the days of your mourning will be over.
Yeshua (Jesus) came to earth to bring YHWH’s Kingdom forward. He taught the Way to YHWH and He reflected the radiance of His Father to a very fallen and hurt planet. Yeshua stood up the religious elite, knowing His peaceful defiance would lead to a horrible and violent death, and during it all He reflected the brilliance of YHWH perfectly:
In these last days [God] has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom He also made the world. And He [Jesus] is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.
Yeshua was the radiance of God’s glory. He was a great light, illuminating YHWH’s Presence to His people. And we, as the Imagers of YHWH, are to reflect His brilliance to everyone we meet. We are meant to be like sunbeams, putting the spotlight on YHWH and sharing His love with the whole world. Because the whole world ought to experience that kind of merciful, endearing, love that is brilliant beyond compare!
Next week: To Shine Forth