Nashaq: the Family KISS

KISS: nashaq, verb, (Strong’s 5401); neshiqah, feminine noun, (Strong’s 5390).

Root: נשק

Sounds like: naw’shawk

This week, love takes centre stage for many of us. We are exposed to images of red and pink hearts, warm hugs, sweet chocolate treats, flowers and passionate kisses. St. Valentine’s Day is a commercial holiday which celebrates love, primarily passionate love, and that’s what we often think about when “kissing” comes to mind… epic, sweep you off your feet, consensual kisses. But in the Bible, we don’t see those kind of kisses… honestly, not at all.

Kissing is a family affair

Instead, what we find, is that kissing is a family affair. It was a warm greeting between family members.

When Elijah anointed Elisha to be his prophetic successor, Elisha asked only one thing:

1 Kings 19:20

“Please let me kiss [eh-sh’qa] my father and my mother, then I will follow you.”

Kissing was almost always an intimate greeting between family members. It wasn’t sexualized in any way. Even the sensual love poem, the Song of Songs, painted kisses in an innocent light:

Song of Songs 1:2-3a

May he kiss me [yi-sh’qeyni] with the kisses [mi-n-shiqoht] of his mouth! For your love is sweeter than wine. Your oils have a pleasing fragrance, your name is like purified oil.”

The lover in the Song of Solomon imagined a relationship as strong as brotherhood, with a familial kiss:

Song of Songs 8:1-3

“Oh that you were like a brother to me who nursed at my mother’s breasts. If I found you outdoors, I would kiss [eh-shaq’ka] you; no one would despise me, either.

I would lead you and bring you into the house of my mother, who used to instruct me; I would give you spiced wine to drink from the juice of my pomegranates.”

Kissing as Harmful Seduction

There really was only one example of a sexualized kiss in the Bible and it was a metaphorical picture drawn out by the writer of Proverbs. In the poem a foolish young man falls victim to a seductress. 

Proverbs 7:2-7, 10-27

Keep my commandments and live, and my teaching as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.

Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,” and call understanding your intimate friend, so that they may keep you from an adulteress, from the foreigner who flatters with her words.

For at the window of my house I looked out through my lattice, and I saw among the naive, and discerned among the youths, a young man lacking sense

…And behold, a woman comes to meet him, dressed as a prostitute and cunning of heart. She is boisterous and rebellious, her feet do not remain at home; she is now in the streets, now in the public squares, and lurks by every corner.

So she seizes him and kisses him [w-nash’qah low], and with a brazen face she says to him: “I was due to offer peace offerings; today I have paid my vows. Therefore I have come out to meet you, to seek your presence diligently, and I have found you. I have spread my couch with coverings, with coloured linens of Egypt. I have sprinkled my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let’s drink our fill of love until morning; let’s delight ourselves with caresses. For my husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey. He has taken a bag of money with him. At the full moon he will come home.”

With her many persuasions she entices him; with her flattering lips she seduces him.

Suddenly he follows her as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as one walks in ankle bracelets to the discipline of a fool, until an arrow pierces through his liver; as a bird hurries to the snare, so he does not know that it will cost him his life.

Now therefore, my sons, listen to me, and pay attention to the words of my mouth. Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways, do not stray into her paths. For many are the victims she has brought to ruin, and numerous are all those slaughtered by her. Her house is the way to Sheol, descending to the chambers of death.

The theme of the wanton prostitute played out in the behaviour of the Israelites who sought after pagan idols. Flirting with danger only brought disaster. Idolatry was like a prostitute. Her kisses would take you away from your family; it would trip you up and dislodge you from YHWH’s path. The path of idolatry would lead you down the dark path that ended in death and annihilation.

This kiss,, from the woman with a cunning heart was not a warm family greeting; as the writer of Proverbs wrote, deceitful are the kisses [n’shiqoht] of an enemy (Proverbs 27:6b).

A Kiss of Trickery

Kisses could be deceitful. In fact, the first time a kiss was mentioned in the Bible it was associated with trickery. Jacob used a kiss to invert the family birth order. He pretended to be his older brother, Esau, in order to trick his blind father into giving him the birthright blessing awarded to the eldest son. After disguising himself as his brother, Jacob brought a meal to his father, Isaac, and asked for the first-born’s blessing:

Genesis 27:24-27a

And he (Isaac) said, “Are you really my son Esau?” And he (Jacob) said, “I am.” 

So he said, “Bring it to me, and I will eat of my son’s game, that I may bless you.”

And he brought it to him, and he ate; he also brought him wine and he drank. Then his father Isaac said to him, “Please come close and kiss me [u-sh’qa-li], my son.” 

So he came close and kissed him [wai-yi’shaq low]; and when he smelled the smell of his garments, he blessed him…

It was the kiss that sealed the deal;the  second-born Jacob received the blessing reserved for the first-born.

Family Kisses: Jacob, Rachel, Laban, Esau

As mentioned, the most common kiss in the Tanakh (Old Testament) is a greeting-kiss between family members. The story of Jacob and his sons was filled with family kisses.

After Jacob tricked his way into the blessing of the first-born (even though he was the second-born), his elder brother Esau wanted to kill him. So Isaac, under Rebekah’s encouragement, sent Jacob away to his uncle Laban (Rebekah’s brother) to marry one of Laban’s daughters. 

To be exiled from your family, in order to prevent your own murder, must have been mentally exhausting. When Jacob finally arrived in the territory of Laban and saw his cousin Rachel, “he kissed [wai-yi’shaq] Rachel, and raised his voice and wept (Genesis 29:11). When Laban heard that his nephew Jacob had arrived he ran to meet him, and embraced him and kissed him [wai-nasheq low]” (Genesis 29:13).

Of course, things don’t go quite as smoothly as those first familial greetings. Laban didn’t want Jacob to marry his younger daughter, he wanted his eldest daughter Leah to be the first to be married, so he tricked Jacob into marrying Leah. Jacob, the deceiver was, himself,  deceived.

Eventually they worked this issue out and Jacob married both sisters, Leah and Rachel.  But as Jacob prospered, Laban became jealous and accused him of stealing the family’s wealth, and so Jacob and his family, under the instruction of YHWH left Laban’s territory and headed back to his homeland.

Seeing what had happened, Laban chased after Jacob. When he caught up to Jacob’s entourage, Laban said:

Genesis 31:27-29

“Why did you flee secretly and deceive me, and did not tell me, so that I might have sent you away with joy and with songs, with tambourine and with lyre; and did not allow me to kiss [l-nasheq] my grandchildren and my daughters? Now you have done foolishly. It is in my power to do you harm, but the God of your father spoke to me last night, saying, ‘Be careful not to speak either good or bad to Jacob.’”

After some open discussion Laban suggested they create a family covenant and set up memorial stones as a reminder of their promises to each other. The rift was fixed between nephew and uncle and Laban could kiss is daughters and grandchildren goodbye:

Genesis 31:55

Then early in the morning Laban got up, and kissed [wai-nasheq] his grandchildren and his daughters and blessed them. Then Laban departed and returned to his place.

And so Jacob and his family, with Laban’s blessing, headed back to the childhood home of Jacob. But there was one great fear that stood in Jacob’s way. How would he be received by his brother Esau, whom he had cheated,  after so many years?

Genesis 33:1-3

Then Jacob raised his eyes and looked, and behold, Esau was coming, and four hundred men with him. So he divided the children among Leah and Rachel, and the two slave women. He put the slave women and their children in front, and Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph last. But he himself passed on ahead of them and bowed down to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother.

Jacob was still under the impression that his brother wanted to kill him. And that impression wouldn’t have changed when Esau met him with army of 400 men. In response, Jacob put himself in front of his family to face the consequences. He bowed down to the ground seven times as his brother approached him. Esau’s reaction was a surprise:

Genesis 33:4

Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him [wai-sheqey’hu], and they wept. 

This was a family greeting of great joy and reconciliation after decades of separation. It was like the prodigal brother coming home.

Family Kisses: Joseph, his Brothers, his Father, and his Sons

The story of Jacob’s beloved son, Joseph, also included many family kisses. The first kiss in the story was actually a promise from the Pharaoh of Egypt. After winning Pharaoh’s favour Joseph received his blessing:

Genesis 41:39-42

So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has informed you of all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you are. You shall be in charge of my house, and all my people shall be obedient to you [kiss you: yishaq]; only regarding the throne will I be greater than you.” Pharaoh also said to Joseph, “See, I have placed you over all the land of Egypt.” Then Pharaoh took off his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen, and put the gold necklace around his neck. 

This was a type of anointing. Although most translations say that the people would be obedient to Jacob, the real meaning was that the people of Egypt would offer their allegiance through a kiss. Pharaoh saw Joseph as a family  member of the Egyptians.

Joseph’s rise in power came from the most humble beginnings. His brothers, out of jealousy, had sold Joseph into slavery. After years of servitude, Joseph steadily rose in power until he found himself adopted into Egyptian culture and second in command of the country. 

His brothers, on the other hand, found themselves dropped down in status and on the verge of starvation. In order to find food the brothers went to Egypt and asked Pharaoh’s house for food. Originally they did not recognize their brother, but eventually they were reunited. Joseph had every right to turn them away, but instead he rewarded them with a family kiss:

Genesis 45:15

And he kissed [wai-nasheq] all his brothers and wept on them, and afterward his brothers talked with him.

Joseph went on to reconnect with his father, and he introduced Jacob (Israel) to his grandchildren:

Genesis 48:8-11

When Israel saw Joseph’s sons, he said, “Who are these?” And Joseph said to his father, “They are my sons, whom God has given me here.” So he said, “Bring them to me, please, so that I may bless them.” 

Now the eyes of Israel were so dim from age that he could not see. And Joseph brought them close to him, and he kissed [wai-yishaq] them and embraced them. And Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face, and behold, God has let me see your children as well!”

When Jacob died, Joseph gave him one last kiss:

Genesis 50:1-3

Then Joseph fell on his father’s face, and wept over him and kissed him [wai-yishaq low]. Joseph commanded his servants, the physicians, to embalm his father. So the physicians embalmed Israel. Now forty days were required for it, for such is the period required for embalming. And the Egyptians wept for him seventy days.

Joseph had become family to the Egyptian people. Their kiss of allegiance meant that when Joseph mourned, they mourned.

Family Kisses: Moses, Aaron, Jethro, Naomi, Ruth, Orpah, David, Jonathan

Kisses remained as the most popular form of family greeting:

  • Aaron greeted his brother Moses with a kiss (Exodus 4:27)
  • Moses greeted his father-in-law, Jethro, with a kiss (Exodus 18:7)
  • Naomi kissed her daughter-i-laws and encouraged them to leave her (Ruth 1:9)
  • Orpah did leave her mother-in-law and gave her a kiss goodbye (Ruth 1:14)
  • King David kissed his son, Absalom (2 Samuel 14:33) [See below].

One of the more talked about kisses in the Bible, was the kiss between David and Jonathan. They were best friends, but Jonathan’s father, Saul, hated David and sought to kill him. 

Jonathan was determined to save David’s life, which he did, but it meant they could not remain together.

1 Samuel 20:4142

And they kissed [wai-yish’qu] each other and wept together, until David wept immeasurably. Then Jonathan said to David, “Go in safety, since we have sworn to each other in the name of YHWH, saying, ‘YHWH will be between me and you, and between my descendants and your descendants forever.’” So David set out and went on his way, while Jonathan went into the city.

This was a statement of brotherhood. It was a bold statement of “we are family”; our descendants are uniquely tied, separate but together, by YHWH. Some have tried to associate a romantic relationship to David and Jonathan, but the Biblical text does not support this theory. In fact, there isn’t a single example of a husband and wife kissing each other. Jacob kissed Rachel, his cousin, when he first arrived in Laban’s territory, but at that point they were not married. They greeted each other as family. All the Old Testament kisses (except the metaphorical poem of the seductive women) were between parent & child, siblings, cousins, and in-laws. Kissing was a family affair.

Kissing Pagan Gods

Kissing was a way to say “you are family”, so kissing Baal idols was pa statement of allegiance. In Canaanite religious ceremony you bowed down to Baal and kissed the idol. God promised to save the seven thousand in Israel whose knees “have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him [lo nashaq low](1 Kings 19:18).

All those who kissed Baal were declaring the idol as their family. With a kiss, they opted out of the family of God. It was a fatal mistake:

Hosea 13:1-4

“When Ephraim spoke, there was trembling. He exalted himself in Israel, but through Baal he incurred guilt and died.

And now they sin more and more, and make for themselves cast metal images, idols skillfully made from their silver, all of them the work of craftsmen. They say of them, Let the people who sacrifice kiss [yi-shaqun] the calves!

Therefore they will be like the morning cloud and like dew which soon disappears, like chaff which is blown away from the threshing floor, and like smoke from a chimney.

Yet I have been YHWH your God since the land of Egypt; and you were not to know any god except Me, for there is no Saviour besides Me.”

Allegiance to pagan gods was a death wish; only YHWH could save the people. Job understood the impact of the kiss of allegiance:

Job 31:24-28

[Job:] “If I have put my confidence in gold, and called fine gold my trust, if I have gloated because my wealth was great, and because my hand had obtained so much; if I have looked at the sun when it shone, or the moon going in splendour, and my heart was secretly enticed, and my hand threw a kiss [wa-tishaq] from my mouth, that too would have been a guilty deed calling for]judgment, for I would have denied God above.”

Why would it be bad to throw a kiss to the sun or moon? Because that would be greeting family… giving your allegiance to the “things” God created. YHWH was Job’s Father, not the moon and the stars. The family greeting of a kiss belonged to God.

Image by Helena Lopes (

The Coronation Kiss

The family kiss was the most prevalent kiss in the Bible, but there was also a kiss of anointing. When Saul was anointed as king the ceremony included a kiss:

1 Samuel 10:1

Then Samuel took the flask of oil, poured it on Saul’s head, kissed him [wai-yi-shaqeyhu], and said, “Has YHWH not anointed you as ruler over His inheritance?”

Yeshua was also anointed with kisses, but in a very inverted fashion. He did not receive a kiss from a prophet, on his head, but instead his feet were kissed by a sinful woman:

Luke 7:36-48

Now one of the Pharisees was requesting Him (Jesus) to eat with him, and He entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and she wiped them with the hair of her head, and began kissing [Greek: katephilei] His feet and anointing them with the perfume. 

Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner!”

And Jesus responded and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” 

And he replied, “Say it, Teacher.” 

“A moneylender had two debtors: the one owed five hundred denarii, and the other, fifty. When they were unable to repay, he canceled the debts of both. So which of them will love him more?” 

Simon answered and said, “I assume the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.” 

And He said to him, “You have judged correctly.” And turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave Me no kiss [Greek: philema]; but she has not stopped kissing [kataphilousa] My feet since the time I came in. You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume. For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but the one who is forgiven little, loves little.” And He said to her, “Your sins have been forgiven.”

This is one of the most beautiful moments in the Bible. The woman kissed Yeshua’s feet; she used her hair to wipe away her tears, and she anointed His feet with oil. This was an up-side-down Coronation ceremony. She bowed at His feet and anointed Him as King of her heart. Yeshua was her family; she was a daughter of the King.

A Kiss of Betrayal

As we have seen, there were kisses of deception (Jacob’s kiss to his father) and there were also  kisses of betrayal. 

Joab and Amassa were both nephews of King David, (the sons of his sisters Abigail and Zeruiah), and cousins to each other. When David promoted Amasa to be his military commander in place of Joab, Joab took matters into his own hands. He greeted Amasa, called him his “brother”, brought him in for a kiss, and then stuck a sword into his stomach (2 Samuel 20:8-10a).

In essence, this was how Judas treated Yeshua (Jesus). He dealt the fatal blow, with a kiss.

Another fatal kiss came from king David’s son, Absalom. Absalom kissed his father, king David (2 Samuel 14:33), but he wanted to be king himself. He sought to be a judge in Israel and he made himself very popular by offering a kiss of brotherhood to the people:

2 Samuel 15:5-6

And whenever a man approached to prostrate himself before him, he (Absalom) would put out his hand and take hold of him and kiss him [w-nashaq low]. Absalom dealt this way with all Israel who came to the king for judgment; so Absalom stole the hearts of the people of Israel.

In this action, Absalom presented himself like family to the people of Israel. He stopped them from prostrating themselves in front of him, and instead reached out his hand towards them and kissed them… a blessing of family. He was the stereotypical baby-kissing politician, winning the hearts of the people with a kiss.

As his popularity grew, so did his desire to take the crown of kingship for himself. He turned against his father, David, and overthrew his kingship. Ironically, Absalom’s name means “Father is peace”, but he was anything but peaceable to his father.

Absalom’s insurrection did not end well for him. He met his own end by hanging on a tree: 

2 Samuel 19:9-15

Now Absalom encountered the servants of David. Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the branches of a massive oak. Then his head caught firmly in the oak, and he was left hanging between the sky and earth, while the mule that was under him kept going. When a certain man saw him, he informed Joab and said, “Behold, I saw Absalom hanging in an oak.” 

Then Joab said to the man who had informed him, “So behold, you saw him! Why then did you not strike him there to the ground? And it would have been my duty to give you ten pieces of silver and a belt.” 

But the man said to Joab, “Even if I were to receive a thousand pieces of silver in my hand, I would not put out my hand against the king’s son; for in our hearing the king commanded you, Abishai, and Ittai, saying, ‘Protect the young man Absalom for me!’ Otherwise, if I had dealt treacherously against his life (and there is nothing hidden from the king), then you yourself would have avoided me.” 

Then Joab said, “I will not waste time here with you.” So he took three spears in his hand and thrust them through the heart of Absalom while he was still alive in the midst of the oak. And ten young men who carried Joab’s armour gathered around and struck Absalom and killed him.

This is very reminiscent of two New Testament deaths. Yeshua died on a tree and had a spear pierced through His side. He was the Son of the Eternal Creator King and He did not deserve to die. His perfection took him to the cross. Absalom was the imperfect rebellious son; Yeshua was the perfect obedient son. One was guilty, the other was not. 

The other New Testament death that ended up hanging in a tree was the demise of Judas. Judas, of course, was the one who betrayed Yeshua with a kiss:

Matthew 26:47-50 (see also Mark 14:43-46 & Luke 22:47-48)

And while He (Jesus) 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 [Greek: phileso], He is the one; arrest Him.” And immediately Judas went up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed [Greek: katephilesen] Him

But Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you have come for.” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested Him.

Judas had called Him “Rabbi” (meaning my Teacher), but his warm words did not match the coolness of his heart. Yeshua responded with, “Friend, do what you’ve come for”. 

Yeshua’s use of the word friend was ladened with irony. He knew that Judas did not come to bless Him with a familial kiss, but to curse Him with an enemy’s bite. [It’s interesting to note that in Hebrew the word for bite (nashak) bore a close resemblance to the word kiss (nashaq)].

Yeshua would be a friend through thick and thin, but there was no reciprocal kiss of friendship from Judas, only a false kiss… a kiss of death. This curse of death, delivered with a kiss, actually came back to bite Judas. Yeshua would overcome death; Judas would not. Weighed down by guilt, Judas took his own life:

Matthew 27:3-5

When Judas, His betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was gripped with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” 

They replied, “What is that to us? See to that yourself!” 

And throwing the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary, he left; and went away and hanged himself.

Embrace your Family: Kiss the Son

Kisses were symbols of family allegiance; signs of connectivity. It was a social norm to greet your family with a kiss, taught through years of habit, but there was actually one Psalm which command the people to give a kiss… but to whom?

Psalm 2:2-12

The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers conspire together against YHWH and against His Anointed, saying, “Let’s tear their shackles apart and throw their ropes away from us!”

He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them. Then He will speak to them in His anger and terrify them in His fury, saying, “But as for Me, I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain.”

“I will announce the decree of YHWH: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, today I have fathered You. Ask it of Me, and I will certainly give the nations as Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth as Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron, You shall shatter them like earthenware.’”

Now then, you kings, use insight; let yourselves be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve YHWH with reverence and rejoice with trembling.

Kiss the Son [nash’qu var], that He not be angry and you perish on the way, for His wrath may be kindled quickly. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!

We are to kiss YHWH’s Anointed Son. He is our family. We are to show our allegiance to Him with the family greeting of a kiss… and then we are to share that family kiss with others. The apostle Peter knew what this meant when he said,Greet one another with a kiss of love [philemati agapes]. Peace be to you all who are with the Messiah” (1 Peter 5:14).

To all my sisters and brothers in the Messiah, I send my love with a kiss. Peace be to you all. Shalom, shalom!

Psalm 85:10-13

Graciousness and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed [nashaqu] each other. Truth sprouts from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven.

Indeed, YHWH will give what is good, and our land will yield its produce. Righteousness will go before Him and will make His footsteps into a Way.

Next week: Relaxed or Lazy

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