The meaning of Way in the Bible
(From International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)
wa ('orach, orcha', 'erets, bo', derekh, halikhah, ma'galah, nathibh; hodos, parodos, poreia, tropos; "highway," mecillah, meclul; diexodoi ton hodon): The list just cited contains only a portion of the words translated "way" or "highway" in the King James Version. Most of them have the primary meaning of "road," "customary path," "course of travel" (Genesis 3:24; Exodus 23:20; Numbers 20:17, etc.). By a very easy and natural figure "way" is applied to the course of human conduct, the manner of life which one lives (Exodus 18:20; Exodus 32:8; Numbers 22:32; I Samuel 8:3; I Kings 13:33, etc.; Acts 14:16; I Corinthians 4:17; James 5:20). "The way of an eagle .... of a serpent .... of a ship .... and of a man" (Proverbs 30:19) agree in that they leave no trace behind them (compare The Wisdom of Solomon 5:10-11). In some cases the language may be such as to leave it indeterminate whether the way or course of conduct is good or bad (Deuteronomy 28:29; I Samuel 18:14; II Chronicles 27:7; Job 13:15; Proverbs 3:6; Proverbs 6:6; James 1:8), though in most cases the Bible writers attach to every act an ethical evaluation. Sometimes this way of conduct is of purely human choice, without reference to either God or good (Judges 2:19; Job 22:15; Job 34:21; Psalms 119:9; Proverbs 12:15; Proverbs 16:2). Such a course is evil (II Chronicles 7:14; Psalms 1:6; Psalms 119:101, Psalms 119:104, Psalms 119:128; Proverbs 1:19, etc.) and will obtain such punishment as its lack of merit warrants (I Kings 8:32, I Kings 8:39; II Chronicles 6:23; Job 30:12; Job 34:11; Jeremiah 17:10; Ezekiel 7:3, Ezekiel 7:9; Hosea 12:2). At the opposite extreme from this is the good way (Psalms 1:6; Proverbs 8:20; Proverbs 12:28; Proverbs 15:10; Isaiah 26:7), which is that course of conduct enjoined by God and exemplified in His perfect conduct (Genesis 6:12; Genesis 18:19; Deuteronomy 8:6; Deuteronomy 26:17; I Kings 2:3; Job 23:11; Psalms 51:13, etc.). These two ways briefly but graphically described by the Lord (Matthew 7:13-14; compare Luke 13:24) became the subject of extended catechetical instruction in the early church. See the Epistle of Barnabas, xviii, and the Didache i.1. Frequently the way in this metaphorical sense is characterized by that quality which is its outstanding feature, e.g. mention is made of the way of life (Proverbs 15:24; Jeremiah 21:8; Acts 2:28); of truth (Psalms 119:30; II Peter 2:2); of peace (Isaiah 59:8; Luke 1:79; Romans 3:17); of justice (Proverbs 17:23; Daniel 4:37); of righteousness (Matthew 21:32; II Peter 2:21); of salvation (Acts 16:17); of lying (Psalms 119:29), and of death (Jeremiah 21:8). Frequently God's purpose or His customary action is described as His way (Psalms 103:7; Isaiah 26:8; Matthew 22:16; Acts 13:10). Since all of God's plans and purposes tend toward man's salvation, His provisions to this end are frequently spoken of as His Way, and inasmuch as all of the divine plans center in Christ He is preeminently the Way (John 14:6). Out of this fact grew the title, "The Way," one of the earliest names applied to Christianity (Acts 9:2; Acts 18:25-26; Acts 19:9, Acts 19:23; Acts 22:4; Acts 24:22).
The word highway is used to denote a prominent road, such a one for example as was in ancient times maintained for royal travel and by royal authority. It is always used in the literal sense except in Proverbs 15:19; Proverbs 16:17, where it is a course of conduct.
See also PATH, PATHWAY.
W. C. Morro
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