Chazaq: To Strengthen in Ancient Hebrew

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We have all witnessed someone who has become overwhelmed and discouraged with life. It can result from strained relationships, problems with finances, health issues, or simply loneliness. What are we to make of this? Is there something that we can do, and even more, that we should do to help? Is there a guideline in the scriptures to which we can turn for instruction?


The first King of the nation of Israel was a man named Saul. It was not long before he failed to obey the word of the LORD through the Prophet Samuel and was consequently rejected by the LORD. Even with this rejection, he continued to rule without the blessing of the LORD for many years. He eventually became consumed with envy and jealousy of the young man David who had killed the Philistine giant Goliath, and had become a favorite of the people.


This envy and jealousy turned to hatred, and Saul made it his mission to kill David, even though the prophet Samuel had said David would be the next king in Saul’s place. Even as Saul pursued David with his evil intentions, there were allies that came alongside to help David, including Saul’s own son Jonathan.


In 1 Samuel Chapter 23 Jonathan’s help is described in verses 15 through 17:


And David saw that Saul was come out to seek his life: and David

was in the wilderness of Ziph in a wood. 


And Jonathan Saul’s son arose, and went to David into the wood,

and strengthened his hand in God.


And he said unto him, Fear not: for the hand of Saul my father shall not find thee;

and thou shalt be king over Israel.


Here we find an answer for meeting our obligation toward those we know that are in distress: come alongside them and care for their needs. Jonathan strengthened David’s hand in God. What does that really mean? The Hebrew word strengthened is Chazaq and means to fasten upon, to seize, to strengthen, to encourage, and to fortify.


Can the pictograms found in the ancient Hebrew letters explain this further? Chazaq is spelled Chet Zayin Qoof.

Chet     is the picture of the fence   

Zayin    is the picture of the harvesting tool      and means to cut or cut off, to prune, or to harvest.

Qoof   s the picture of the back of the head    and means behind, the last, or the least.


What can we learn from these about Jonathan and David?


The least will be cut off or separated into a sanctuary.


In his discouragement David felt like he was the least important person in Israel and that he would be cut off and killed by the King. But Chazaq reminds us that David will be protected and does need to fear King Saul. God indeed has other plans for David; he will one day be the king instead.


How do we know that God would be instrumental in David’s survival? The information in the numbers tell us. Each of the Hebrew letters is a number that has a meaning that comes from just how that number is used throughout the scriptures.



Chet   is the number 8 and indicates a new beginning.

Zayin   is the number 7 and stands for spiritual perfection.

Qoof is the number 100 and means election or the children of promise.


In these three numbers, we can see that God has all along had an absolutely perfect spiritual plan for each of His children that would result in a new beginning for them. Their ultimate freedom from the entanglements of sin would come at the hands of God’s Son. Rabbi Paul details this for us in Chapter 6 of his letter to the Romans. In verses 22 and 23 he gives the ultimate example of God’s Chazaq for us:


But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God,

ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.


For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life

through Jesus Christ our Lord.



But there is something more to be found in Chazaq that is quite unexpected. In the book of Exodus, the account is recorded of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, repeatedly refusing the request of Moses to release the nation of Israel from slavery. In Chapter 10 verse 20 Moses wrote this:


But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart,

so that he would not let the children of Israel go.


The word translated hardened used here by Moses is also Chazaq. Some have used this verse to demonstrate the sovereignty of God over the free will of man. In other words, Pharaoh had no choice in the matter but was simply forced to obey the will of God.


But remember Chazaq can mean to strengthen, encourage, and to fortify. What does this verse really tell us about Pharaoh? Through the responses of Pharaoh to each of the ten plagues God revealed something amazing about Pharaoh’s heart.


God encouraged Pharaoh’s heart and allowed him to expose to the world what was hidden there. God fortified Pharaoh’s heart and gave Pharaoh the strength to do what was in his heart all along. What Pharaoh did was what he wanted to do in his heart!


God was, and still is, in the business of revealing what is in hearts. His first step in dealing with us is to make us see for ourselves what is in our hearts, whether good or bad. 


Jesus summed this up for us in the Gospel of Luke Chapter 6 verse 45:


A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good;

and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil:

for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.




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