Pateh: Deception in Ancient Hebrew

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What is deception and what does it mean to be deceived? Just how dangerous is deception? Can it happen to God’s people or does it just happen to those who have no relationship to God? Can Hebrew pictographs explain deception to us so that we can be more able to understand and avoid it? Do these pictographs somehow reveal something to us about Messiah?


The sign most often given that signals the end of the age of the gentiles and the second coming of Messiah is the rise of deception. In the gospel of Matthew in Chapter 24 verses 4 and 5 Jesus twice warns His disciples that a time will come when deception will be offered by many:

"Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many."


And although this passage refers to a future time, the rise of deception is not new. This battle for truth has been ongoing since the serpent deceived Eve in the garden of Eden.


In Chapter 11 of the book of Deuteronomy Moses added a warning against deception. Here Moses called the people of Israel to not only love their God but to commit themselves to Him completely, and in verse 16 Moses wrote this:

"Take heed to yourselves that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them."


The nation of Israel was about to halt their many years of wandering and finally settle in a new land. But here they would face new temptations, and they would face war with inhabitants of different customs and different gods.


The word deceived that Moses used in his warning is the Hebrew word Pateh which is often translated to entice, to persuade, to allure, or to deceive. This definition does not tell the whole story, because the root word for Pateh means to open or to make roomy.

A good example of this is found in Genesis Chapter 9 verse 27 where Pateh is used for the first time in the scriptures. After Noah had awoken and discovered that Japheth and his brother Shem had carefully covered their father’s nakedness Japheth was given this blessing by Noah:

"God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant."


The word enlarge is again the Hebrew word Pateh and shows the “open” and “roomy” meaning found in it and describes a bigger blessing that will come and fill this space in Japheth’s life.


The ancient Hebrew pictograms are letters that are content-driven. These pictograms are recognizable pictures and contain information that can help us to understand each word better and preserve that word’s meaning over time. What can the pictograms for Pateh reveal to us? Pateh is spelled Pey Tav Heh. 

Pey    is the picture of the open mouth    and means to speak, to open, or a word.

Tav     is the picture of crossed wooden sticks      and means to seal, a sign, or to covenant.


Hey      is the picture of man with outstretched arms to the heavens     and means to behold, to reveal, to pay attention to what follows, or the Holy Spirit as the revelator.


What does the content of these three letters tell us? Something is being opened for discussion. What is that? The covenant God has made with His people. Whenever that occurs you had better pay attention, especially to what follows.


Whenever God’s promises are Pateh or made more roomy something predictable happens. Something else will be used to fill the void. What will that be and how could we recognize it?


According to Christian researcher and author George Barna who surveyed beliefs of those who called themselves Christians, 40% of those polled believed that the Bible, the Koran, and the Book of Mormon were all just different expressions of the same spiritual truth. This is the reason for the warning that Moses gave to the people of Israel. There was and is a very real danger that other religious beliefs will fill and corrupt any Biblical doctrines not tightly protected. The Koran and the Book of Mormon are only two examples of religious beliefs that are widely different than those of the Bible.


How could 40% of those who claim to be part of the Church of Jesus Christ be so badly mistaken about what God has said? Why are some of us so easily enticed, persuaded, and ultimately deceived? Why don’t we see the difference between the Truth of God’s word and the doctrines of other gods?


The answer to that can be principally found in how well those that call themselves Christians know their Bibles. The apostle John recorded this for us in Chapter 17 verse 17 where Jesus prays for His disciples:

"Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth."


To sanctify is to purify and to make holy. How is this to be done? Through the word of God which at that time was the Old Testament or the Tanakh. David wrote this for us in Psalm 119 verse 105 of that Tanakh:

"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path."


Here David reminds us that what has been written for us gives direction to our lives and reveals the obstacles on which we are prone to stumble. We must know what has been written for our own good.


The warning Moses gave his people to not be deceived or Pateh tells us one more thing. The structure of the Hebrew leaves no middle ground. Either you are serving the one true God, or you have turned aside and are worshiping idols. 


The apostle Peter also reminds us to not stray from Messiah even though it is our tendency. The word astray that he uses is the same word Matthew used and is most often translated deceive in the New Testament. In First Peter Chapter 2 verse 25 he says this:

"For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls."



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  1. Patsy says:

    Wow!! This is also the same word used in Hosea 2:14 where God says he will allure her into the wilderness and speak to her heart. So perhaps our wilderness experiences are exactly about lessons in making room for God’s truth.

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