Skip to content

The Hebrew thought of “world”?


This word, tebel, #8398, means world. It is a highly “extended” word, i.e. a “poetic synonym of earth” (eretz). But it is hard to pinpoint just what the idea behind this is since it is always used in “poetic” prose.

The root is יָבַל yabal, #2986, which means to conduct or bear along, as a river bears along a boat.

He has been driven-hard, and himself is he-who-is-bowed-down, and he is not opening his mouth, according as the Sheep to the Slaughtering he is conducted along, and according as the ewe [Rachel] to the faces of those-who-shear-her, has been mute, and he is not opening his mouth.

Isaiah 53:7 RBT

This sounds like it could be similar to our modern idea of “world” as that collective human force that carries us along whether we like it or not, and hence the adage, “to go against the flow”. The world goes…and it takes you with it. If it invents the phone, you will be inevitably be compelled to use it if you want to survive. If it discards the phone and invents the smartphone and Facebook, you will inevitably be compelled to use it to survive. Going against the flow of the world is always, I think, a drastic move with tough isolating consequences. One is forced to weigh the pros and cons, and it is never easy. The only alternative, as I see it, is to rule the world. 

Here’s some other interesting related words from the same root:

יָבָל yabal, #2988watercourse, stream

יָבָל Yabal, #2989, – son of Lemech (Gen. 4:20)

יַבֵּל yabbal, #2990 – a running, supperating (sore? – Lev. 22:22)

יִבְלְעָם Yibbl-Am #2991 – a conducting people, worldly people? This is a city in Manasseh. Thought by Strong to be “From bala’ and am; devouring people”

Tapping into the text of the NT we find Jesus providing an allegorical interpretation of this,

The Field is the World and the good seed [singular] these ones are the sons of the queen,

Matt. 13:38 RBT

the singular “good seed” interestingly is equated with the plural sons…