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The meaning of Robber; Robbery in the Bible
(From International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)

rob'-er, rob'-er-i: "Robber" represents no particular Hebrew word in the Old Testament, but in the Apocrypha and the New Testament is always a translation of lestes (see THIEF). In the King James Version Job 5:5; Job 18:9, "robber" stands for the doubtful word tsammim, the Revised Version (British and American) "hungry" in Job 5:5 and "snare" in Job 18:9. The meaning is uncertain, and perhaps tseme'im, "thirsty," should be read in both places. Psalms 62:10, "Become not vain in robbery," means "put not your trust in riches dishonestly gained." RV's changes of the King James Version in Proverbs 21:7; Daniel 11:14; Nahum 3:1 are obvious. In Philippians 2:6 the King James Version reads "thought it not robbery to be equal with God." the English Revised Version has "a prize," while the English Revised Version margin and the American Standard Revised Version read "a thing to be grasped," the American Standard Revised Version rewording "counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped." The Greek here is harpagmos, a word derived from harpazo, "to ravish away," "carry off," "plunder" (compare "harpy"). Properly speaking, the termination -mos should give the derived noun an active sense, "the act of plundering," whence the King James Version's "robbery." The verse would then mean "who thought that being on an equality with God did not consist in grasping," and this translation gives good sense in the context and has some excellent scholarly support. But a passive significance is frequently found despite a -mos termination, giving to harpagmos the sense of "thing grasped," as in the Revised Version (British and American). Usually English commentators take "grasped" as meaning "clung to"—"did not think equality with God should be clung to tenaciously"—but "to cling to" seems unknown as a translation of harpazo. Hence, render "a thing to be grasped at"—did not seek equality with God by selfish methods but by humbling himself." It is to be noticed, naturally, that Paul is thinking of "equality with God" simply in the sense of "receiving explicit adoration from men" (Philippians 2:10-11), and that the metaphysical relation of the Son to the Father is not at all in point.

See also GRASP.

Burton Scott Easton


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