HOMELESS/RESTLESS/ROAMING/WANDERING: Rud, verb (Strong’s 7300); Marud, masculine noun (Strong’s 4788).
Sounds like: rood; ma’rood
Tonight, at sunset, begins the Festival of Sukkot, and Sukkot means: booth, shelter, den, pavilion, canopy, tent, tabernacle, hiding place. The festival requires a makeshift home (sukkah) to be made in order to commemorate the Hebrew people’s wandering in the wilderness with YHWH as their provider. A sukkah is not to be a solid structure. There are gaps in the roof and many sukkah’s only have three walls. As a long-term housing situation, this is an inadequate shelter to safely protect a family from the elements. It is fine for a week of remembering, but not for a lifetime of living.
Interestingly, tomorrow (10/10/22) is also World Homeless Day, recognizing that many people live on the streets or, in what might look like, some sort of rugged survival sukkahs.
In the Hebrew Bible there is a word that represents homelessness. It is actually connected with the words restless, wandering and roaming. It is a word that says, I have no home; I cannot rest; I am a wanderer.
The Bible identified two kinds of homelessness: physical homelessness and spiritual homelessness.
YHWH provided a spiritual home for anyone seeking Him, but so many people rejected the home that He offered:
[YHWH:] “You generation, look to the word of YHWH! Have I been a wilderness to Israel, or a land of thick darkness?
Why do My people say, ‘We are roamers [homeless: rad’nu]; we will no longer come to You’?
This was homelessness by choice. YHWH wanted to usher them into His Kingdom, but they wanted no part of it. They preferred to roam around like homeless wanderers and go in their own direction:
Ephraim surrounds Me with lies and the house of Israel with deceit; Judah is still unruly [wandering: rad] against God, even against the Holy One who is faithful.
[Note: There is some controversy surrounding this verse. Some translations indicate that Judah wandered with God (rather than against God) and it primarily comes down to the tiny word im, which sometimes means with and sometimes means against].
The Hebrew people knew, first-hand, what it felt like to be homeless. The Babylonians brutally attacked them. Jerusalem was destroyed, the Temple was turned to rubble, and the Hebrew people suddenly found themselves without a homeland. Even if they had wanted to stay, they couldn’t because they were taken away, as prisoners, to Bablylon:
In the days of her affliction and homelessness [u-m-rudeh’ha] Jerusalem remembers all her treasures that were hers since the days of old, when her people fell into the hand of the adversary and no one helped her. The adversaries saw her, they laughed at her ruin.
Jerusalem sinned greatly, therefore she has become an object of ridicule. All who honoured her despise her because they have seen her nakedness; even she herself groans and turns away.
Her uncleanness was in her garment’s seams; she did not think of her future. So she has fallen in an astonishing way; she has no comforter.
Babylon may have provided dwelling places for the Hebrew war refugees, but they were still “homeless”. Their livelihoods were destroyed and they were dragged away from their homeland. They were roaming about, living a wanderer’s existence. They did not belong where they were and they had no home to return to:
Remember my misery and my homelessness [u-m’rudi], the wormwood and bitterness. My soul certainly remembers, and is bent over within me. I recall this to my mind, therefore I wait.
YHWH’s acts of mercy indeed do not end, for His compassions do not fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.
“YHWH is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I wait for Him.” YHWH is good to those who await Him, to the person who seeks Him.
At their lowest point, they recognized that their only hope was in YHWH and He was worth waiting for.
Psalm 55 was in the voice of David as a restless/homeless person. It was a metaphorical homelessness for David, but if you imagine it as a prayer prayed by a homeless person, it lands an impactful punch:
Psalm 55:1-7, 16-19a
Listen to my prayer, God; and do not hide Yourself from my pleading.
Give Your attention to me and answer me; I am restless [a’rid] in my complaint and severely distracted, because of the voice of the enemy, because of the pressure of the wicked; for they bring down trouble upon me and in anger they hold a grudge against me.
My heart is in anguish within me, and the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror has overwhelmed me.
I said, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. Behold, I would flee far away, I would spend my nights in the wilderness. Selah…
…As for me, I shall call upon God, and YHWH will save me. Evening and morning and at noon, I will complain and moan, and He will hear my voice.
He will redeem my soul in peace from the battle which is against me, for they are many who are aggressive toward me. God will hear and humiliate them— even the one who sits enthroned from ancient times— Selah
Many people would love to fly away from their homelessness; many would love to find comfort and rest. But instead they are faced with humans who look down on them and throw aggression towards them. It’s one thing to battle against the elements, which is tough enough, but to have to defend yourself against those who hold a grudge against you simply for trying to exist, adds pain upon pain. It would be YHWH who would provide redemption and peace from the continual war-zone experienced by the homeless person. Therefore we, as YHWH’s Image Bearers, must do our part to provide peace to the homeless. In the Isaiah scroll, YHWH spoke of this:
[YHWH:] “Is this not the fast that I choose:
To release the bonds of wickedness, to undo the ropes of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke?
Is it not to break your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless [m’rudim] poor into the house; when you see the naked, to cover him; and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then your light will break out like the dawn, and your recovery will spring up quickly; and your righteousness will go before you; the glory of YHWH will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and YHWH will answer; You will cry for help, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’”
God responds to those who do His work… housing the homeless, freeing the captives, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked. If we are truly God’s reflection, then this is what we must do. By easing the suffering of others we are showing God’s love in action.
Yeshua the Homeless Wanderer
Yeshua (Jesus) was a wanderer, a roamer, with no fixed address. He knew His home was the Kingdom of God and He wandered, homeless, in order to guide people to their heavenly home by showing them the way.
However, he also recognized, first hand, how difficult it was to have no fixed address, and He implored people to help those in need:
“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, just as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, but the goats on the left.
Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’
Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You as a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? And when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’
And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of Mine, you did it for Me.’
Homelessness is a serious problem around the world. There are an estimated 150 million homeless people on this planet. Affordable housing seems to be a distant memory and even the idea of decent shelter is unreachable for many. The housing crisis seems like an overwhelming problem that we can’t fix. But we can do small things to alleviate the plight of those struggling. We can be the face of YHWH to people by offering even the simplest gestures, like a few kind words and a warm cup of tea.
Even with a roof over our heads, we may feel lost and alone, like we’re roaming aimlessly without a clear path or a comforting shelter. But we ought to take comfort in the assuredness that YHWH will not leave us homeless. He wants to bring us home to Him. Yeshua said He was going to the Kingdom to prepare our rooms in the House of God. If you recall, Yeshua was a carpenter!
“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms; if that were not so, I would have told you, because I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I am coming again and will take you to Myself, so that where I am, there you also will be. And you know the way where I am going.”
Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going; how do we know the way?”
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.”
With Yeshua’s death and resurrection He paid our entrance fee into the Garden Kingdom of God. Regardless of our social status, we have a glorious home to go to where YHWH waits for us with open arms. In His Kingdom, we can each enter the beautiful room that Yeshua has prepared for us, full in the knowledge that we belong, we are sheltered, and we are loved. Amen!
Next week: Revisiting Sukkot
8 thoughts on “Rud: HOMELESS/Restless/Wandering”
Pretty in depth knowledge of the subject.
Thanks so much for this post. Very timely and encouraging for me today. And I very much appreciate your connecting this Biblical thread to the needs of the homeless all around us. So often it’s easier to think of supporting the needy in any place but our hometown, and your post is such a gentle call back to the needs around us. Thank you 💖
It’s a pleasure to share what God lays on my heart. Shalom!
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Hi Sarah – thanks again for what you do each week.
I was interested in your comment about Hosea 11:12 – which is 12:1 in my Jewish Study Bible.
The Study Bible has ‘Judah stands firm with God and is faithful to the Holy One’.
The NRSV has ‘but Judah still walks with God and is faithful to the Holy One’. And in a note offers ‘roams’ or ‘rules’ instead of ‘walks’.
You took the opposite translation. So, I was interested in the debate for and against – and how/why you decided to go one way rather than the other?
Many thanks, Ian
Hi Ian… well, I’m not 100% convinced that the NASB (and others translations that support this stance) is the right translation, but when you break down the verse in the Hebrew you come to see that “stands firm” really doesn’t work with the words “od rud”. “Still walks”, I would say, is a better translation. “Od” can mean “continuously” or “again”, so “still” fits into that ballpark. “Im El” can mean both “with God” or “against God”, so that’s no help. It therefore comes down to the word “rud”. Knowing that in almost all cases the word “rud” is associated with the idea of being a bit lost and wandering without a home in a restless sort of way, then it seems to me that to be “od rud” means to be still wandering and lost. The faithful are not wandering and lost, they have put their faith in the One who guides them in the way. Judah had its ups and downs, and they most certainly weren’t always faithful… they, too, often wandered in the wrong direction, along with the Northern kingdoms. I’m not willing to stake my life on it, but for these reasons the negative translation makes a bit more sense to me. The confusion of this verse puts it’s on my list of Biblical questions to ask Yeshua when I get to the Kingdom!
Thanks Sarah! Maybe that could be a post one week? Your top 10 Biblical questions to ask Yeshua.
Hmmm… good idea!