The word hew is used in the Bible many different times. In order to understand exactly what God is talking about, I thought it’d be best to study the meaning of the word hew in Hebrew.
All scriptures are taken from NKJV unless otherwise marked.
“And the Lord said unto Moses, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which thou brakest.”
– Exodus 34:1 KJV
What Does The Word ‘Hew’ Mean In Hebrew?
gada- to feel a tree; to destroy.
chatab- to chop or carve wood.
chatsab- to cut stone or carve wood.
karath- to cut (off, down, or asunder).
Basically, karath means “to severe” something from someone else by cutting it with a sharp object. It’s used of:
- chopping down wooden idols (Exodus 34:13)
- chopping off a man’s feet or head (1 Samuel 5:14)
To cut off can mean to destroy or exterminate.
“Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
– Genesis 9:11
Karath can be used to describe social and spiritual extermination. For example, a person who’s “cut off” in this sense in not killed, but may be driven out of the family and removed from its blessing.
However, one of the best-known uses of this verb means to make a covenant or agreement. In genesis, it often gives reference to an act by which animals were cut in two. Then, the party taking the oath would pass through the piece.
Later, the term “cutting a covenant” didn’t automatically mean this act was include. Instead, it was in reference to the Abrahamic covenantal process.
In such a covenant, the one who passed through the pieces pledged their faithfulness unto the covenant. If that faithfulness were broken, he’d bring death upon himself, the same fate that befell the animals.
“And I will give the men who have transgressed My covenant, who have not performed the words of the covenant which they made before Me, when they cut the calf in two and passed between the parts of it— the princes of Judah, the princes of Jerusalem, the eunuchs, the priests, and all the people of the land who passed between the parts of the calf— I will give them into the hand of their enemies and into the hand of those who seek their life. Their dead bodies shall be for meat for the birds of the heaven and the beasts of the earth.“
– Jermeriah 34:18-20
Nevertheless, in some cases it was clear that no literal cutting of animals took place and karath is the word used in a technical sense of making an agreement in writing. This can be found in Nehemiah 9:38.
pacal- to carve, to chisel.
As you can see, the word hew means many things. It can mean to cut something, whether cut off or down. Or it can mean to make a covenantal agreement with someone. That’s what the word hew means in Hebrew. I found the definition of this word very interesting and enjoyable to study. I had no idea about the way they would cut the animals in order to make an agreement.
You may know that I usually make reference to the 1828 Noah Webster’s Dictionary. The definition in that dictionary is the same in the sense to cut. However, in English, it did not carry over the Hebrew meaning of making a covenant. If you’d like to check out the definition of the word Hew in the 1828 Noah Webster’s Dictionary, please click here.
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