Gods alles-wetendheid en toch te ‘berouwen’ zaken

Wanneer God alles van tevoren weet, hoe moet ik dan die verzen zien waarin staat dat het ‘God berouwde’ dat Hij dit of dat gedaan had?

Het Hebreeuwse woord waar het hier om gaat, isnacham. Het komt bijna 100 maal voor in het OT, in de NBG’51 ruim 30 maal vertaald met iets als ‘berouw’ of ‘berouwen’ en ruim 60 maal met iets als‘troost’ of ‘troosten’. Opvallend is echter dat het in het eerste geval meestal over God gaat, en in het tweede geval meestal over mensen. Alsof God wel berouw zou kennen, maar mensen niet.

De grondbetekenissen van het Hebreeuwse woord zijn:

  1. • van gedachten veranderen
  2. • betreuren

Daarvan afgeleide betekenissen zijn dan:

  • • er nu anders over denken: er, bij nader inzien, twijfels over hebben
  • • spijt of berouw hebben
  • • smart lijden
  • • medelijden hebben of tonen
  • • troosten, bemoedigen

Naar onze mening heeft het woord ‘berouw’ in de meeste gevallen dan ook een veel te sterke morele betekenis. Een goed voorbeeld vinden we in Exodus 13:17:

“God leidde (het volk) niet op de weg naar het land der Filistijnen, hoewel deze de naaste was; want God zeide:

Het volk mocht eens berouw krijgen, wanneer zij in strijd gewikkeld werden, en naar Egypte terugkeren”.

Het gaat hier niet om een morele inkeer: God overweegt dat als het volk meteen tegen moeilijkheden aanloopt, het die hele uittocht ineens niet meer zo zal zien zitten. Zij zouden op slag last krijgen van koudwatervrees en maar liever weer willen omkeren. Dit is duidelijk ‘van gedachten veranderen’, ‘er, bij nader inzien, twijfels over gaan hebben’. Iets meer morele lading lijkt het woord te hebben bij Jeremia:

“Ik [God] heb Efraïm horen klagen:

Gij hebt mij getuchtigd … bekeer (shub) mij,dan zal ik mij bekeren (shub), want Gij, HERE, zijt mijn God. Want nadat ik tot inkeer (shub) ben gekomen, heb ik berouw (nacham)gekregen” (Jer. 31:18-19).

We zien hier dat inkeer en berouw niet identiek zijn, want het eerste gaat vooraf aan het tweede.

Dat woord shub betekent: ‘omkering’. Letterlijk staat er dus niet meer dan:

‘Doe mij omkeren, dan zal ik mij omkeren, want nadat U mij hebt doen omkeren ben ik een nieuwe weg ingeslagen.’

Het is dus in de grond een heel letterlijk beeld. Zij gaan de verkeerde weg en vragen God hen op de goede weg te leiden. Pas wanneer wij dat toepassen krijgt het een morele component. In het geval van God is het nog zwakker bedoeld. God komt zeker niet tot een vorm van morele inkeer, maar het kan zelfs niet zo zijn dat God van gedachten verandert omdat het Hem zou zijn tegengevallen. Wat we zien is dat God ons lessen wil leren, en dat Hij daarom, in Zijn omgang met de mens, allerlei wijzen van aanpak uitvoert, zoals wij die zouden kiezen (let op: niet probeert, want Hij weet wat het resultaat zal zijn), om zo de mens leren dat die geen van alle tot het gewenste resultaat leiden. Dat moet ons ervan overtuigen dat alleen Zijn oplossing werkt.

Het woord nacham vertelt ons in zulke gevallen dat God ‘besluit’ dat het zo wel genoeg is, en dat de tijd gekomen is voor de volgende fase van Zijn plan, dus dat Hij van nu af een nieuwe weg inslaat. Dit is het einde van dit ‘experiment’, dus deze les, en begint de volgende. Wanneer we het gebruik van het woord nacham in verband met God nagaan, blijkt dat het steeds te maken heeft met het bereiken van zo’n keerpunt: het vertelt ons dat voor God de tijd gekomen is om een nieuwe richting in te slaan. Het is dus alleen maar het feit dat de vertalers, om vrij onduidelijke redenen, het woord ‘berouw’ gekozen hebben, dat ons op het verkeerde been zet. Dit woord ‘berouw’ heeft in onze taal veel te veel morele lading, die het in het Hebreeuws zelden heeft. Het feit dat nachamin de NBG’51 in slechts drie gevallen met ‘berouw’ is vertaald als het om mensen gaat (waar morele inkeer in principe wel mogelijk is, maar waar dat desondanks ook daar toch niet is bedoeld, zie bovenstaande voorbeelden), geeft al aan dat de morele betekenis daar niet voorop staat. Hoeveel te minder dan voor God.

7 Comments

Filed under Geestelijke aangelegenheden, Nederlandse teksten - Dutch writings, Vragen van lezers

7 responses to “Gods alles-wetendheid en toch te ‘berouwen’ zaken

  1. lost in translation unfortunately

    Liked by 1 person

    • We do hope you had it about the way confusion could come into existence by translation and not that you came lost by a computer translation of our article. Because the software programs do not yet translate texts properly and sometimes come even to say the opposite the writer explains.

      As such we can see it is not only a human problem to find a good way to express what an original writer wanted to tell.Our present electronic or IT-tools have still to be instructed in the right way to come to a good solution.

      😉

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    • It should not be forgotten that Bible translations like all writings of a certain time are bound to the use of words and sentence construction of a certain time.

      When going through a Bible translation people may not forget that in first instance one gets a reflection of an interpretation of very old writings, which were constructed in the way of thinking when they originally were written. Having a translation one must also always check in which period it was translated and in that time what meaning certain words had or how they were used at that time.

      In the years 1940-50 when the NBG 1951 edition was prepared, there were certain verbs that could also be used in reciprocal form. Likewise in this case (concerning “berouw” or “repent”/”repentance”) it could be said that someone showed repentance, by which one meant that he or she was not the one repenting but showing repentance, and as such having compassion with someone or something and did not care about making it known or showing it.

      It could thus be argued that the translators with “God repented” had previously meant “God showed regret (or repentance)” with the intention of expressing that God was sorry for the man “of what He had done or caused”.

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  2. Also found this difficult to translate.

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    • The article talks about the choice of words in a translation which can confuse people.

      The Hebrew word that we are talking about in the article is isacham, which occurs almost 100 times in the OT, and which is, in the NBG’51 more than 30 times translated with something like “repentance” “repent” or “to repent” and more than 60 times with something like “comfort” or “consolation” or “solace”.

      It is striking, however, that in the first case it is usually about God, and in the second case usually about people. As if God would know remorse or would have to repent about something, but not people. We notice also that often there is given a too strong meaning to the Hebrew word what basically means

      • to change your mind
      • mourn
      From that derived meanings which should have us to think about

      • thinking differently now or having, on closer inspection, doubts about it
      • regret or repent
      • suffer smart
      • have or show compassion
      • comfort, encourage

      As such those texts or Bible translations we can find where is written that “God showed remorse” would have been better translated that God regretted what He had done or that He came to show compassion with man, or regretted the situation of man.

      Though we also could have certain places where we could assume God would have wanted to change His mind or did not mind to change His mind and therefore for example came to allow something which He forbid previously or brought forward some changes in His Law-instructions.

      Also for the attitude of people the word ‘isacham” and its ground word ‘nacham’ in several instances should be understood as a form of ‘changing the mind’ it namely meaning “to come to repentance” and/or “to repent” or “to change your mind”. In the same way “shub” means “repent” but also “convert” or “reform”, the human being reforming himself or taking a new attitude, it is “changing of mind”.

      When we look for example to Jeremiah 31:18-19 we find God claiming or to yammer:

      “18 I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus, Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a calf unaccustomed to the yoke: turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art Jehovah my God. 19 Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth.” (Jer 31:18-19 ASV)

      שׁוב shuwb shoob requests God to turn on Ephraim, in this instance ‘to turn back (to God)’ or ‘to repent’. When the text comes to use ‘nacham’ or having received nacham in the Av we find it translated “because I did bear (8804) the reproach “.
      נשׂא nasa’ naw-saw’ or נסה nacah (#Ps 4:6) naw-saw’: to lift, bear up, carry, take, or ‘ to be taken away, be carried off, be swept away’.

      When it is used for God it does not mean God is being taken away from godly matters or that He would be carried off, but that He too had to ‘sustain’ or ‘endure’ something though He could have known before. But according to our thinking God does not always use His power to know everything beforehand and also wants people to give an other chance or different possibilities to solve matters. This means God allows people to go different ways making it also that God could or would have to react in different way in the phases in between.
      This way we come to see that when people or God or the bible talks about נחם nacham naw-kham’ the AV translates it as – comfort 57 times, repent 41 times, comforter 9 times and only once as ease;

      1a) (Niphal)
      1a1) to be sorry, be moved to pity, have compassion
      1a2) to be sorry, rue, suffer grief, repent
      1a3) to comfort oneself, be comforted
      1a4) to comfort oneself, ease oneself
      1b) (Piel) to comfort, console
      1c) (Pual) to be comforted, be consoled
      1d) (Hithpael)
      1d1) to be sorry, have compassion
      1d2) to rue, repent of
      1d3) to comfort oneself, be comforted
      1d4) to ease oneself

      We should know that when it is talking about God it is not saying that God Himself repented, like it could sound that way in certain Dutch translations, being translated with “berouw” = “repentance” or “repented”, but should bring us more to think that Jehovah felt sorry or even was moved to pity with what He saw. We should understand such translation of God having remorse as God having compassion. Him being sorry and sometimes even come to suffer grief.

      That word shub means ‘reversal’. Literally, therefore, there is no more written than:

      ‘Turn me around, then I will turn around, because after you have turned me around, I have taken a new path.’

      In the stories of the Old Testament we see that more than once people went the wrong way and asked God to lead them on the right path. Looking at such instances, when we apply it in the above way of “to be sorry” it does get a moral component. In the case of God it is meant to be weaker. God certainly does not come to a form of moral repentance, but it can not even be that God changes his mind because it would have disappointed Him. What we see is that God wants to teach us lessons, and that therefore He, in His association with man, performs all manner of ways, as we would choose (note: not trying, because He knows what the result will be) , to teach people that none of them lead to the desired result. That must convince us that only His solution works.

      We must understand that God does not to repent or has to “berouw tonen” (“repentance” in English) or had to go over to an action of repenting; but well going over to an action of sincere regret or remorse how the matters went. Therefore God also taking an other way. It does not have to include God changing His mind, but well saying He allows an other direction or by His compassion gives in to some wishes of man.

      The word nacham tells us in such cases that God “decides” that it has been enough, and that the time has come for the next phase of His plan, so that from that moment onwards He will take a new path and would present an other solution for man. You could consider it as if God gives lessons to man and awaits how they solve the instructions. At certain moments He and man face the end of a proposed lesson or ‘experiment’, so this lesson end, and starts the next one.

      Concerning the Dutch Bible translation spoken of, for quite unclear reasons, the translators have chosen the word ‘repentance’, which puts us on the wrong track. This word “repentance” has in the Dutch language far too much moral charge, which it seldom has in Hebrew. The fact that nachamin the NBG’51 in only three cases is translated “repentance” when it comes to people (where moral repentance is possible in principle, but where that is nevertheless also not meant there), gives already that the moral significance is not at the forefront. How much less than for God.

      In those instances we could better take as translation that

      God regretted that He had done this

      and that

      “God came to find out”

      or He discovered and was displeased and had the easing or alleviation of His feelings of grief or distress.

      ***

      Hopefully this reply gives some more clarity about the article in Dutch and the position of God in Bibles where it is translated that “God showed repentance”.

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  3. Bij het doornemen van een Bijbelvertaling moet men ook steeds na gaan in welke periode het werd vertaald en welke betekenis in die tijd bepaalde woorden hadden of hoe zij toen werden gebruikt.

    In de jaren 1940-50 toen de NBG 1951 editie werd vorobereid waren er bepaalde werkwoorden die ook in wederkerige vorm konden gebruikt worden. Zo ook in dit geval kon men zeggen dat iemand berouw toonde, waarbij men dan bedoelde dat hij of zij berouw vertoonde, dus compassie met iemand of iets had en er niet om gaf om dit kenbaar te maken of te vertonen.

    Men zou dus kunnen stellen dat de vertalers met te vertalen “God had berouw” eerder bedoelden “God vertoonde berouw” met de bedoeling om uit te drukken dat God tegenover de mens spijt betuigde” van hetgeen Hij gedaan had of veroorzaakt had.

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