Way - Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old Testament Words

Usage Number: 1
Part Of Speech: Noun
Strong's Number: H1870
Original Word: derek

Usage Notes: "way (path, road, highway); distance; journey; manner, conduct; condition; destiny." This noun has cognates in Akkadian, Ugaritic (where it sometimes means "power" or "rule"), Phoenician, Punic, Arabic, and Aramaic. It occurs about 706 times in biblical Hebrew and in all periods. First, this word refers to a path, a road, or a highway. In Gen. 3:24 (the first occurrence of the word) it means "path" or "route": "… And he placed at the east of the garden of Eden cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every [direction], to [guard] the way of the tree of life."

Sometimes, as in Gen. 16:7, the word represents a pathway, road, or route: "And the angel of the Lord found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur." The actual road itself is represented in Gen. 38:21: "Where is the [temple prostitute], that was openly by the wayside?" (In Num. 20:17 the word means "highway," a well-known and well-traveled road: "… We will go by the king's highway, we will not turn to the right hand nor to the left, until we have passed thy borders." Second, this noun represents a "distance" (how far or how long) between two points: "And he set three days' journey [a distance of three days] betwixt himself and Jacob…" (Gen. 30:36).

In other passages derek refers to the action or process of "taking a journey": "And to his father he sent after this manner; ten asses laden with the good things of Egypt, and ten she asses laden with corn and bread and meat for his father by the way [on the journey]" (Gen. 45:23). In an extended nuance derek means "undertaking": "If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable; and shalt honor him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure…" (Isa. 58:13). Cf. Gen. 24:21: "And the man wondering at her held his peace, to wit whether the Lord had made his journey prosperous or not" (cf. Deut. 28:29). In another emphasis this word connotes how and what one does, a "manner, custom, behavior, mode of life": "Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth" (Gen. 19:31). In 1 Kings 2:4 derek is applied to an activity that controls one, one's life-style: "If thy children take heed to their way, to walk before me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, there shall not fail thee… a man on the throne of Israel." In 1 Kings 16:26 derek is used of Jeroboam's attitude: "For he walked in all the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin…" Deeds, or specific acts, may be connoted by this noun: "Lo, these are parts of his ways; but how little a portion is heard of him? But the thunder of his power who can understand?" (Job 26:14).

Derek refers to a "condition" in the sense of what has happened to someone. This is clear by the parallelism of Isa. 40:27: "Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the Lord, and [the justice due to me is passed away] from my God?" In one passage derek signifies the overall course and fixed path of one's life, or his "destiny": "O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps" (Jer. 10:23). Finally, this word sometimes seems to bear the meaning of its Ugaritic cognate, "power" or "rulership": "Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the Lord thy God, and hast scattered thy ways [nasb, "favors"] to the strangers under every green tree…" (Jer. 3:13; cf. Job 26:14; Job 36:23; Job 40:19; Psa. 67:2; Psa. 110:7; Psa. 119:37; Psa. 138:5; Prov. 8:22; Prov. 19:16; Prov. 31:3; Hos. 10:13; Amos 8:14). Some scholars, however, contest this explanation of these passages.

Usage Number: 2
Strong's Number: H734
Original Word: ’orah?

Usage Notes: "way; path; course; conduct; manner." Cognates of this word appear in Akkadian, Arabic, and Aramaic. Its 57 occurrences in biblical Hebrew are all in poetry except Gen. 18:11. In meaning this word parallels Hebrew derek, which it often synonymously parallels. First, ’orah? means "path" or "way" conceived as a marked-out, well-traveled course: "Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels …" (Gen. 49:17). In Judg. 5:6 the word means "highways were unoccupied, and the travelers walked through byways." When the sun is likened to a "strong man" who rejoices "to run a race" (Psa. 19:5), ’orah? represents a race course rather than a highway or a primitive, snake-laden path. The man who makes his path straight goes directly on his journey, not turning aside for the beckoning harlot (Prov. 9:15). So here the word represents the "course" one follows between his departure and arrival conceived in terms of small units, almost step by step. In Psa. 8:8 the word represents the ocean currents: "… The fowl of the air and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas." ’Orah? signifies the ground itself as the path upon which one treads: "He pursued them, and passed safely; even by the way that he had not gone with his feet" (Isa. 41:3). In Job 30:12 the word seems to represent an obstruction or dam: "…They push away my feet, and they raise up against me the ways of their destruction."

The word can refer to a recurring life event typical of an individual or a group. In its first biblical occurrence (Gen. 18:11) it is used of "the manner of women" (menstruation). Job 16:22 mentions the "way whence I shall not return," or death, while other passages speak of life actions (Job 34:11; literally, "conduct") or life-style (Prov. 15:10: "Correction is grievous unto him that forsaketh the way…" prescribed life-style; Prov. 5:6: "Lest thou shouldest ponder the path [which is typified by] life…"). Thus, ’orah? sometimes figures a proper course of action or proceeding within a given realm, "the path of judgment" (Isa. 40:14). The noun ’orh?â, which occurs 3 times, represents a "wandering company" or a "caravan" (Gen. 37:25).

Usage Number: 3
Part Of Speech: Verb
Original Word: ’arah?

Usage Notes:’Arah? means "to go, wander." This word, which occurs 6 times in biblical Hebrew, has cognates in Phoenician, Ethiopic, Aramaic, and Syriac. One example of this verb's usage is found in Job 34:7-8: "What man is like Job… which goeth in company with the workers of iniquity, and walketh with wicked men."

Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old Testament Words