Word Study Wednesday
God bless you in the wonderful name of Jesus Christ whom always had more than enough to carry out God’s will (Matthew 15:32-38).
English words have certainly changed since the 1611 when the KJV was written. Today, “fat” refers to obesity, being overweight and out of shape. However, “fat” used to mean “blessed with God’s prosperous abundance.” Dictionary.com still lists usages meaning plentiful, abundant, and plentifully supplied.
The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. 13 Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God. 14 They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing;
Since we are righteous this promise in Psalm 92:14 is for us. The two similes in verse 12 indicate how extensive our flourishing can be. The palm is one of the most beautiful trees. Its straight upright, branchless growth sometimes rises to the height of a hundred feet. The branches expand very wide on every side the stem, and as the older leaves decay, the stalk advances in height. With its ever verdant and graceful crown continually aspiring towards heaven, it is an apt image of the soul growing in grace (Psalms 92:12).
The cedar was an emblem of kingly might, it also became the type of the imperial grandeur of virtuous souls. The cedars in Lebanon are immensely large, being some of them thirty-five, or even forty feet in the girt, and thirty-seven yards in the spread of their boughs. They are always green; and, when cut down, yield a most beautiful kind of wood. The contrast of the palm’s perennial verdure, and the cedar’s venerable age, an age measured not by years, but by centuries, with the fleeting moments of the brief day of the grass, to which the wicked are compared (Psalm 92:7). The fruitfulness of the palm and the fragrance of the cedar as well as their stately growth, evergreen foliage, and longevity portray a stark contrast to the ephemeral grass which is the emblem of the wicked.
The original Hebrew word translated fat in this verse is dashen. It is used only two other times Psalms 22:20 and Isaiah 33:23. Definitions include: “fresh,” “rich,” “fertile,” “affluent,” “abundant,” “wealthy,” and “satiated.” This promise assures us of a fruitful life. When I can’t find much lexical information, I like to check other translations. Here are a few different renderings of “fat and flourishing” from other translations.
“Fresh and green,” “full of sap and green,” “healthy and green,” “vital and green,” “rich and fresh,” “Heavenly and sweet!” “healthy and fruitful,” “luxuriant and green,” “fertile and full of growth,” “always green and strong,” “fair and desirable,” “full of life and vitality,” “multiply; and continue prosperous,” and “rich and productive.”
Isaiah 58 has another verse where “fat” occurs. It is translated from another Hebrew word, chalats. It has a wide range of meanings and the KJV translates its 44 uses into 13 different English words. Its use in Isaiah 58:11 is also immediately followed by two similes to elaborate on its meaning.
And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat [chalats] thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.
As people get older, their bones tend to get brittle and break easily. This promise assures us plenty of moisture or marrow in the bones throughout life. Rather than getting old and brittle, our bones will remain limber and pliable all our days. For anyone with osteoporosis this word from the Lord can change things.
Although most modern translations of Isaiah 58:11 use a more generic word like “strengthen.” Looking at the 44 uses of chalats provides other word pictures to enrich our understanding. The Literal Standard Version reads: “He will arm your bones.” This rendering has a military overtone. To “arm the bones” is equip for battle or provide with protective armor so as to render us invulnerable to attack. Chalats is also used in the sense of removing sandals or stripping off excess baggage, cargo, or unnecessary weight allowing us to travel light. “Fat” today paints the opposite picture of carrying around extra weight and being burdensome and unhealthy.
Although there may be exceptions (like Genesis 41:20), the Biblical usage of fat in the KJV is not “corpulent” (body heaviness), but “opulent” (having abundant resources). As we age, we really do have a lot to look forward to.