‘Shouted out of fear’ or ‘shouted out of joy’ – the appearance of the glory of God


Yesterday we talked about ‘the glory of God’ and its connection to the ‘sin offering’ as can be found in Leviticus 9:1-9. Today we will continue with this topic and will have a look at the end of this chapter. We will try to gain a deeper understanding of what exactly was the reaction of the people when the promised appearance of the glory of God was fulfilled:

“And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting, and when they came out they blessed the people, and the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people. And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.” (Leviticus 9:23-24)

In the original Hebrew the word for ‘shouted’ is ‘Va-yaronu’. {וירונו} In some of the English translations of the Bible, as well as the 11th century well known Jewish Bible commentator Abraham ibn Ezra {אברהם אבן עזרא} (lived mainly in Spain but also in England). The interpretation of this unique Hebrew verb is ‘shouted out of fear’ and meaning they were terrified from the powerful sight that was just revealed in front of their eyes.

Abraham ibn Ezra and the English translators of the Hebrew Bible based their interpretation on the appearance of this unique Hebrew word in the Book of 1 Kings: “And about sunset a cry went through the army, “Every man to his city, and every man to his country!”(1 Kings 22:36) there the word ‘cry’ appears in the original Hebrew as ‘Rina’ {רינה} – which derived from the same root as the Hebrew verb in Leviticus ‘Yaronu’.{ירונו}

However, Rashi,{רש”י}  who is probably the most famous Jewish Bible commentator in Jewish history (lived also during the 11th century,  in France and Germany) as well as the Aramaic translation of the Torah and the ‘Vulgate’ (the old Latin translation of the Bible) interpreted this Hebrew word as ‘praised’ meaning ‘shouted out of joy’ – which means the complete OPPOSITE! How can this be?

*The Latin translation uses the word ‘laudaverunt’ which is translated to English as ‘praised’ but actually is the origin of the English word ‘laud’.

The answer lies in the ‘neutrality’ of this Hebrew word. Originally this word meant simply ‘sound’ or ‘voice’ without any indication of fear or happiness. It is most common to find this Hebrew word in Psalms. There the element of praising and singing to the LORD stands out and because of the frequent usage of this ‘neutral’ word together with joy. It became so associated with it that today ‘joy’ is the meaning of the Hebrew name ‘Rina’.{רינה}

An Old Jewish tradition tried to integrate both interpretations by explaining that there were some people who were shouting out of fear and there were some people who were shouting out of joy – every person had a different reaction to the appearance of the glory of God.