Shalom and welcome to a new feature of Jewish Voice MESSENGER magazine. What we hope to do is help you discover the Hebrew background of Jesus and deepen your understanding of the richness of your faith. Enjoy this inaugural article!
The Beatitudes of Jesus found in Matthew 5 are some of the most well-known verses in all of Scripture. You probably know at least some – or maybe all of them – by heart.
But what if you don’t really know them as well as you think you do?
Reading the Bible in English leaves us at a disadvantage because it doesn’t always take the nuances of the original language into consideration. Let’s look at the first of the Beatitudes, and see what Jesus really said: Matthew 5:3 – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.”
The term, “blessed are” is a quote from many of the Psalms. The Hebrew word for “blessed” is pronounced “ashrei.” While a better rendering of this word is “happy,” it is not followed by a verb. Thus, it’s not so much “blessed are” or “happy are” as it is “Oh, the happiness of.”
“Poor in spirit,” or in Hebrew “aniyei ha ruach”, has nothing to do with how much money you have. You can be materially poor and be “poor in spirit.” Or you can be financially wealthy yet still be “poor in spirit.” It speaks of someone who is “afflicted,” “wretched,” “lowly,” or “humble.” Simply put, it refers to someone who becomes humble enough to admit they can’t do anything without God, and thus they obey His will rather than their own.
Finally, what is the “Kingdom of Heaven?” In context, Jesus is using “Kingdom of Heaven” to refer to the ever-growing body of Believers in Jesus, who worship Him and acknowledge His everlasting reign. What a wonderful group to be a part of!
And that’s the beauty of Matthew 5:3. Yes, those who regard themselves as worthy of the gift of salvation do indeed receive it for the asking. But the news is even better for those who regard themselves as unworthy – Jesus and His free gift of salvation are equally available for them too!
So, what did Jesus really say in Matthew 5:3? Here’s a better rendering of what the disciples sitting with Him really heard: “Oh the happiness of those who realize they have nothing to give God, and are nothing without Him; it is they who come to obey the Lord and become part of the body of Messiah!”