TURNED OVER, OVERTURNED: hapak, verb (Strong’s 2015) and ma-h’pekah, feminine noun (Strong’s 4114).

Root: הפך

Sounds like: haw-fawk/haw-pawk

Things that are overturned, or turned over, sometimes make us uncomfortable. For the most part, we don’t like change. But change is what has kept history moving forward, for better or worse. 

When it comes to the Bible, the most significant turnover was humanity’s expulsion out of Eden. By disobeying YHWH, and their desire to take power into their own hands, Eve and Adam had to leave Eden and make their way in the wilderness. But God wouldn’t leave them stranded; He would plan for a way to bring them back home.

In the meantime, they could not re-enter Eden; they were no longer fit for sacred space. So, YHWH placed a cherubim at the entrance with an overturning sword that guarded the way to the tree of life:

Genesis 3:24

So He drove the human out; and at the east of the Garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned [ha-mi-t-happeket] every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.

This was the first time the Hebrew word hapak was used. It was a sword that turned in every direction in order to stop people from entering Eden because they could no longer live there and survive in the state they were in. There was a barrier to God’s Kingdom. But YHWH had a plan to overturn the curse of humanity. His people would not be barred forever.

Changing the State of Things

Hapak, was all about changing, or turning, from one state, or direction, to another:

  • God turned [ney-h’pek] a staff into a serpent (Exodus 7:15)
  • God turned [w-ney-hef’ku/wai’yeh-hef’ku] the Nile into blood (Exodus 7:17, 20)
  • God turned [wai-ya-ha’pok] the direction of the wind and drove the locusts into the Red Sea (Exodus 10:16-19)
  • God turned  [hafak] the sea into dry land (Psalm 66:6)
  • God turned [mit-hapek] the direction of the clouds to do his bidding (Job 37:10-12)
  • God turned [w-hohf’ek] deep darkness into morning (Amos 5:8)

God had the power to do miraculous changes! But arguably the biggest “turning” was overthrowing evil.

Overthrowing the Enemies

There was no messing around with evil and death. It had to be stopped. This showed up dramatically in the Tanakh.

Sodom and Gomorrah was a place of incessant violence, cruelty, pride, gluttony, and lacking in compassion and justice (Ezekiel 16:48-50). In dramatic fashion it was overturned by YHWH, never to be rebuilt:

Genesis 19:24-25

Then YHWH rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah from YHWH out of heaven, and He overthrew [wai-ya-h’pok] those cities, and all the surrounding area, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. 

This was one example of YHWH clearing out evil. Many others followed, including overturning the evil of Pharaoh against the enslaved Israelites and the overturning of Goliath and the Philistines at the hand of a young boy with a slingshot.

When Gideon faced the Midianites and the Amalekites, God minimized Gideon’s army (so they were wholly reliant on Him) and overthrew the opposing army with shouts and trumpet sounds. Before the event, He encouraged Gideon by sending him into the enemy’s camp to overhear a dream recounted by one of the enemies:

Judges 7:13-15

[The enemy to his friend, and overheard by Gideon:] Behold, I had a dream; a loaf of barley bread was tumbling [turned over: mi-t-hapek] into the camp of Midian, and it came to the tent and struck it so that it fell, and turned it [wai-ya-haf’kehu] upside down so that the tent collapsed.” And his friend replied, “This is nothing other than the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel; God has handed over to him Midian and all the camp.”

When Gideon heard the account of the dream and its interpretation, he bowed in worship. Then he returned to the camp of Israel and said, “Arise, for YHWH has handed over to you the camp of Midian!”

The dream of the barley loaf tumbling and turning into the camp was representative of the Israelites tumbling into the Midian camp and overturning their power.

This overturning of God’s enemies happened over and over in the Bible, but sometimes God had compassion on them as well.

The prophet Jonah was sent to Ninevah, the grand city of the incredibly violent Assyrians. There Jonah gave a heartless five (Hebrew) word sermon, “Forty more days, and Nineveh will be overthrown [ney-h’paket].” (Jonah 3:4). His heart wasn’t in it. He didn’t think that the Assyrians deserved forgiveness and He hated the idea of them being saved by YHWH. Regardless of Jonah’s disdain for the Assyrians, his pitiful little sermon worked and they repented in dust and ashes, and as a result, God relented from destroying them… at least at that time.

Jonah, of course, hated this and he had a full on pity party about it in the fourth chapter. He wanted God to overturn Ninevah by destruction; he did not want God to overturn their hearts. In Jonah’s mind, the Assyrians did not deserve God’s mercy or love. 

But the question really is… who are the enemies of YHWH? Who needs to be overturned by God? The Assyrians repented and their hearts were devoted to YHWH, and so regardless of their violent past, God relented from bringing disaster upon them.

Sadly, in less than a decade, the Assyrian nation reverted back to paganism and targeted Israel for destruction.

In the end, the enemies of God and His people would not stand. They may have had moments of victory, but when all was said and done, the righteous would be left standing and evil would be overturned:

Proverbs 12:7

The wicked are overthrown [hafok] and are no more, but the house of the righteous will stand.

God made it clear that power-hungry kings and kingdoms would one day fall down, and God’s upside-down Kingdom, where the meek and poor were lifted up, would rise.

Haggai 2:22

[YHWH:] And I will overthrow [w-hafak’ti] the thrones of kingdoms and destroy the power of the kingdoms of the nations; and I will overthrow [w-hafak’ti] the chariots and their riders, and the horses and their riders will go down, every one by the sword of another.’ 

In Hannah’s song of Thanksgiving, she highlighted God’s upside-down Kingdom:

1 Samuel 2:8

[Hannah:] “He [YHWH] raises the poor from the dust, He lifts the needy from the garbage heap to seat them with nobles, and He gives them a seat of honour as an inheritance; for the pillars of the earth are YHWH’s, and He set the world on them.”


Image by Santa (Pixabay.com)

God’s People Turned Against Him and God Responded

Unfortunately, even YHWH’s chosen people also turned against Him. They had a seat of honour and they rejected it. God understood Job’s pain when he said,All my associates loathe me, and those I love have turned [ney-h’p’ku vi] against me.” (Job 19:19).

When the people rejected YHWH and turned against Him, YHWH was understandably heartbroken:

Isaiah 63:8-10

For He said, “Certainly they are My people, sons who will not deal falsely.” So He became their Saviour.

In all their distress He was distressed, and the angel of His presence saved them; in His love and in His mercy He redeemed them, and He lifted them and carried them all the days of old.

But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit; therefore He turned Himself [wai-yey-hafek] to become their enemy, He fought against them.

They had it so good but they messed it all up. God showed them mercy and love. He was their Saviour. But they rebelled against Him and he couldn’t be their Saviour anymore, not because He didn’t want to, but because they didn’t want Him. He couldn’t be their Saviour if they didn’t want saving.

Jeremiah 2:21-22

[YHWH:] “Yet I planted you as a choice vine, a completely faithful seed.

How then have you turned [ney-h’pakt] yourself before Me into the degenerate shoots of a foreign vine?

Although you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, the stain of your guilt is before Me,” declares the Lord YHWH.

By this time YHWH had had enough. They rejected Him so their guilt rested on them. Because they did not want His help, He could not save them and He could not redeem them… but He could overthrow them.

Lamentations 4:6a

For the wrongdoing of the daughter of my people is greater than the sin of Sodom, which was overthrown [ha-ha’fukah] as in a moment

God’s people had become the very evil that He had promised to overthrow. They had painted themselves into a corner, but there was an easy way to escape His wrath. All they were required to do was to turn their hearts back to Him. But they did not do it and they paid the price:

Amos 4:11-12

I overthrew [hafak’ti] you, as God overthrew [k-ma-h’pekat] Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were like a log snatched from a fire; yet you have not returned to Me,” declares YHWH. “Therefore so I will do to you, Israel; because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, Israel.”

God gave them what they apparently wanted. They rejected Him, so He respected their wishes and rejected them in return. They no longer wanted a relationship, so YHWH severed the ties, and all the advantages that went with it. By severing ties, YHWH opened up the way for Israel’s enemies to do their worst and, their worst, they did.

2 Kings 21:12b-15

[YHWH:] ‘Behold, I am bringing such a disaster on Jerusalem and Judah that whoever hears about it, both of his ears will ring. I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria and the plummet of the house of Ahab, and I will wipe Jerusalem clean just as one wipes a bowl, wiping it and turning it [w-hafak] upside down. And I will abandon the remnant of My inheritance and hand them over to their enemies, and they will become as plunder and spoils to all their enemies, because they have done evil in My sight, and have been provoking Me to anger since the day their fathers came from Egypt, even to this day.’”

The Assyrians utterly destroyed the Northern kingdom and two centuries later the Babylonians utterly destroyed Judah. It was a clean sweep of the Hebrew people and all looked lost.

This gave NO pleasure to YHWH. It was a devastating loss and he grieved alongside His children:

Amos 8:10

“Then I will turn [w-hafak’ti] your festivals into mourning, and all your songs into songs of mourning; and I will put sackcloth around everyone’s waist, and baldness on every head.

And I will make it like a time of mourning for an only son, and the end of it will be like a bitter day.”

God had lost His people; it was like losing an only son. Each person lost to YHWH was important to Him, like losing a million firstborns.

The Babylonian invasion was particularly devastating. The Jewish people had their identities stripped from them. They lost their land and their homes, their place of worship, their language, their names, and their festivals and customs. Jeremiah cried out in grief:

Lamentations 1:20a

“See, YHWH, for I am in distress; my spirit is greatly troubled; my heart is overturned [ney-h’pak] within me…”

Lamentations 5:1-3, 15-16

Remember, YHWH, what has come upon us; look, and see our disgrace!

Our inheritance has been turned over [ney-heyf’ka] to strangers, our houses to foreigners. We have become orphans, without a father; our mothers are like widows

…The joy of our hearts has ended; our dancing has been turned [ney-h’pak] into mourning.

The crown has fallen from our head; woe to us, for we have sinned!

God Turned the Curse into a Blessing

Even though they rejected Him, God would not allow their disobedience to be an eternal punishment. He promised to bring His people back home to Jerusalem.

Jeremiah 31:13b-14

“For I will turn [w-hapak’ti] their mourning into joy and comfort them, and give them joy for their sorrow.

I will refresh the soul of the priests with abundance, and My people will be satisfied with My goodness,” declares YHWH.

A generation after the Hebrew people were exiled to Babylon, YHWH found a way to send them back home. A remnant returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple and the city walls. After the Temple had been restored they celebrated by reading the Torah out loud to the people:

Nehemiah 13:1-3

On that day the Book of Moses was read aloud as the people listened; and there was found written in it that no Ammonite or Moabite was ever to enter the assembly of God, because they did not meet the sons of Israel with bread and water, but hired Balaam against them to curse them. However, our God turned [wai-ya-h’pok] the curse into a blessing. So when they heard the Law, they excluded all foreigners from Israel.

Immediately, and without debate, they began to interpret scripture in their own way. They recalled the story of Balaam who had been sent to curse Israel but, with YHWH’s intervention, could only bless Israel. This was an expression of God’s love:

Deuteronomy 23:5

Nevertheless,  your God YHWH was unwilling to listen to Balaam, but YHWH your God turned [wai-ya-h’pok] the curse into a blessing for you because YHWH your God loves you.

But this blessing of God’s love was used to extinguish access to God’s love by foreigners. God had not quite overturned the bitter hearts of His people. Nevertheless, God worked with the people where they were at. 

God didn’t just turn a curse into a blessing, sometimes he overturned the table and flipped the blessing into a curse and the cure into a blessing. In the days of Esther the Jewish people were to be annihilated but, by Esther’s intelligent actions, what was supposed to happen to the Jews, happened to their enemies:

Esther 9:1, 22b

Now in the twelfth month (that is, the month Adar), on the thirteenth day, when the king’s command and edict were to be put into effect, on the day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain the mastery over them, it was turned [w-na-ha’pok] to the contrary so that the Jews themselves gained mastery over those who hated them…

…it was a month which was turned [ney-h’pak] for them from grief into joy, and from mourning into a holiday; that they were to make them days of feasting and rejoicing, and sending portions of food to one another, and gifts to the poor.

It is for this reason that we celebrate Purim, which begins tomorrow night (March 6,2023) at sunset. We are to feast, rejoice and share our bounty with others… because the enemy of God’s people was overturned and brought down, and God’s people were overturned and lifted up. In God’s upside-down Kingdom the meek were to be raised up; the humble were to be exalted.

The Forgiving God: Turning Darkness into light

But even though we are God’s raised up people, we often fall down. We are human and we often don’t behave like the Image Bearers of God we are meant to be. Fortunately YHWH has always upheld His promise to love and forgive. It was His guiding principle. God had every right to hold onto His anger, but His heart was overturned by compassion:

Hosea 11:8-9

[YHWH:] How can I give you up, Ephraim?How can I surrender you, Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim?

My heart is turned over [ney-h’pak] within Me, all My compassions are kindled.

I will not carry out My fierce anger; I will not destroy Ephraim again. For I am God and not a man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath.

God is better than humans. Humans were controlled by anger and rage, and YHWH refused to behave like humans. He would hold back His anger and be a loving, forgiving, God. He would send His Son, His Heir, to turn hearts and minds from darkness into light.

John 12:31-36a

[Jesus:] “Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Myself.” Now He was saying this to indicate what kind of death He was going to die. 

The crowd then answered Him, “We have heard from the Law that the Messiah is to remain forever; and how is it that You say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this Son of Man?”

So Jesus said to them, “For a little while longer the Light is among you. Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake [katalabē] you; also, the one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light.

The prophet Joel envisioned the Day of YHWH when the sun would be turned to darkness: 

Joel 2:30-32a

“I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth, blood, fire, and columns of smoke. The sun will be turned [yey-hapek] into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and awesome day of YHWH comes.

And it will come about that everyone who calls on the name of YHWH will be saved.”

During the execution of Yeshua, the sun, indeed, turned to darkness (Matthew 27:45, Mark 15:33, Luke 23:44), but when Yeshua rose up from death, it was like the sun returning with its light. Yeshua would overturn the darkness, not just in the natural world, but the darkness of our hearts (see also Revelation 22:1-5).

Paul adopted this mission: to give sight to the spiritually blind, turning them from their darkness and directing them towards the light. Paul was brought forward to three powerful individuals: King Agrippa, his sister Bernice, and Festus, the Roman governor of Judea. Paul implored them to become follows of Yeshua and turn their hearts towards the light:

Acts 26:12-29

[Paul to Agrippa, Bernice & Festus:] “While so engaged, as I was journeying to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, at midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who were journeying with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 

And I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ 

And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you as a servant and a witness not only to the things in which you have seen Me, but also to the things in which I will appear to you, rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’

“For that reason, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, but continually proclaimed to those in Damascus first, and in Jerusalem, and then all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they are to repent and turn to God, performing deeds consistent with repentance. For these reasons some Jews seized me in the temple and tried to murder me. So, having obtained help from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place, as to whether the Messiah was to suffer, and whether, as first from the resurrection of the dead, He would proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.”

While Paul was stating these things in his defense, Festus said in a loud voice, “Paul, you are out of your mind! Your great learning is driving you insane.” 

But Paul said, “I am not insane, most excellent Festus; on the contrary, I am speaking out with truthful and rational words. For the king knows about these matters, and I also speak to him with confidence, since I am persuaded that none of these things escape his notice; for this has not been done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the Prophets? I know that you believe.” 

Agrippa replied to Paul, “In a short time you are going to persuade me to make a Christian of myself.” 

And Paul said, “I would wish to God that even in a short or long time not only you, but also all who hear me this day would become such as I myself am, except for these chains.”

Unfortunately there was no indication that Herod Agrippa II or his sister Bernice ever turned their hearts to YHWH. 

Paul was left in the hands of his captors and sent to Rome, but his message remained the same: YHWH had sent the Messiah to be the light of the world. He had freed them from darkness.

1 Thessalonians 5:4-11

[Paul:] But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness, so that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then, let’s not sleep as others do, but let’s be alert and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who are drunk, get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let’s be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus the Messiah, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, just as you also are doing.

We will not be overcome! Those who hear and believe the Good News (Gospel) of salvation will turn from eternal darkness and walk into the light of God’s forever Kingdom. Our life that was chained to death was overturned and now we can walk freely in God’s Garden Kingdom when our day on this earth is done. It’s a reunion worth waiting for!

Next week: Isaiah 12:2a

2 thoughts on “Hapak: OVERTURNED!”

  1. Having said that, maybe the article size is good , just if you could add the hebrew words would be helpful


  2. Hi I wonder if you could make the articles a bit smaller and add the actual hebrew letters of the word throughout the article. Thanks William


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