Context and Glossary for "Yada Karat B'ariyt"
"Our Humanity is the Corruption of Covenant - Emanuel is the Fullness and Fulfillment of Covenant."
They said, "We see plainly that the Lord has been with you. So we said, let there be a sworn pact between us, between you and us, and let us make a covenant with you.
The Hebrew word yada’, which is a common root in the Semitic languages, has a wide range of meanings depending upon the context in which the word is found. When yada’ is found in connection with the Hebrew words karat b’ariyt the meaning is simply; to know - as in a relationship.
The Hebrew word karat literally means “to cut or make a covenant.
The Hebrew word for a covenant is b'ariyt, which means "to select the best."
The definition of the Hebrew words yada’ karat b’ariyt
The Hebrew language is a root oriented language, meaning that every Hebrew word is derived from a root word and that root word is the foundation to other Hebrew words. Each word derived from one root will be closely related in meaning to all the other words derived from the same root. Another important thing to remember about studying the original Hebrew translation of the Bible and the Hebrew words in the Bible: words by themselves, do not have meaning. Words only gain their meaning within the context in which they are written and found. So the cut, copy, and paste approach of western Christianity is not what they would call a "best practice" approach to understanding the biblical Hebrew language. For example: the foundation for the word bariyt was derived from the root word barut, meaning "choice meat." However, it is also derived from the verbal root bir'yah, meaning "fattened." Just as they are today, in ancient Israel, livestock that are to be slaughtered are fed special grains to fatten and to make them the best cut or the premium choice meat from the herd.
So how is grain-fed and fattened choice meat related to the word for "covenant?" The phrase "make a covenant," appears eighty times in the Hebrew Bible and in every instance it is the Hebrew phrase karat bariyt, which literally means "cut a covenant."
The Hebrew covenant was instituted by the two parties of the covenant who would take a fattened animal, the best of the flock or herd, and "cut" it into two pieces. Then the two parties of the covenant would pass through the half pieces symbolizing their dedication to the covenant and by that act were saying, "If I do not hold to the agreements of this covenant, you can do to me what we did to this animal." A literal cut it in half? Hey, I guess that’s what they call "going Old Testament style" on you! Now... eventually it moved away from literal translation - but evolved certainly into consequences that cut deep. The idea would be that the covenant breaker would be made half of what he or she were before breaking covenant. Such as; cut of one's family name, cut of one's public reputation, cut of one's business opportunity, cut of one's community influence, and definitely a cut into the respect and regard held for one's word. Pretty radical - but very real and very effective. This methodology of "making" a covenant is clearly recorded in the bible.
“And the men who transgressed my covenant and did not keep the terms of the covenant that they made before me, I will make them like the calf that they cut in two and passed between its parts— the officials of Judah, the officials of Jerusalem, the eunuchs, the priests, and all the people of the land who passed between the parts of the calf. And I will give them into the hand of their enemies and into the hand of those who seek their lives. The dead bodies will be the food for birds of the air and the beasts of the earth.”
The Hebrew word “know” (yada'), which is a common root in the Semitic languages, has a wide range of meanings depending upon the context in which the word is found. Like our English word “know”, the Hebrew word can indicate a mental or intellectual knowledge, that is, that a person "understands" or "has knowledge" of something, as when we say “I know that 2+2 is 4 and 4+4 is 8." But the concept of “knowing” something or someone takes on a special meaning in the Semitic languages, and this specialized meaning has to do with relationship, and primarily a relationship that is based on the making of or cutting a covenant. We know this not only from the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament style) but also from literature outside of the Bible from the Ancient Near East.
In the Bible, we can see how the Hebrew word yada' which means "to know" can also have the meaning “enter into covenant together” in a verse like Genesis 18:19. Many of the modern English translations (such as the NASB, NIV, ESV) use the word “chosen” to translate yada' in this verse, where God is speaking of Abraham...
“For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him.”
For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”
For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”
In this case the old KJV, translates the verse more literally:
For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.
What does God mean when He says that “I have known him (speaking of Abraham)”? He means “I have entered into a covenant relationship with Abraham.”
It is clear from other literature of the Ancient Near East that the Semitic root yada' (to know) was used specifically with covenant as its intent.
And what does the word “know” mean in direct relationship to the Hebrew word Covenant? It means to be loyal to the stipulations and expectations of the covenant that is being enacted between two people of honor whose intentions are to give their best to make sure the agreement or covenant is fulfilled. This definition is clear in Genesis 18:19 when God says that He has “known” Abraham. Obviously He is not saying that He “knows about Abraham” or simply that He “has knowledge about Abraham.” Moses, in writing the text of Genesis, is using the word “know” or yada' in a common way that the word was used in the Ancient Near East and at the time he lived.
But why would the word “know” (yada‘) be used to denote a covenant relationship between two people? Primarily when it is used in context with the words Karat or B’ariyt that it takes on that sense or meaning. It is also because in the Ancient Near East, a covenant between two people or between a King and his people was considered to be a relationship that could not be broken and that if it were to be broken, it would result in severe consequences. In the Levitical biblical context there is covenant relationship with God and man, with man and God, with husbands and wives, with families, Kings, rulers, and their people, with nations, with friends and neighbors, with business partners and civil service, with religious believers/leaders and temple worship etc. All of those covenants whether conditional or unconditional had one thing in common. When broken - each of those covenant relationships had severe consequences.
When Moses writes in Genesis 4:1 that “Adam knew his wife Eve and she conceived...”, he is using the word “know” (yada‘) in its covenant sense: Adam was faithful to the covenant relationship (original marriage) into which he and Eve had entered, a covenant which meant he would have a spiritual and physical oneness with her and she with him, and they would have no such relationship with anyone else. The physical relationship in marriage is an essential part of the “being one” which God intends in marriage. But the physical relationship does not exhaust the meaning of “know” in its covenant sense relating to marriage. It goes much further, much deeper. To “know” one’s spouse means to be faithful to the vows made in covenant to God and to one’s spouse. This is not just about natural promises but also about a spiritual covenant. God acknowledges and approves because God created and designed the original covenant marriage. This is directly connected to not only the physical relationship, but the spiritual relationship to God and each partner. It is connected in all aspects of the marriage: support, comfort, friendship, service, and of course physical, verbal and emotional responses and behavior. These promised and vowed responses are the best and premium choice of the marriage covenant. And if that covenant is knowingly and intentionally violated and abused without genuine repentance or correction by one or both parties then that covenant has been broken and has been cut in two - there are consequences. It either must be restored, honored and renewed under accountable circumstances or disavowed, dissolved and can no longer carry the expectation of being honored. Let’s move on.
In the Scriptures (as well as in non-biblical Ancient Near Eastern literature), there is a difference between “knowing someone” and “knowing something.” Since the word “know” in Semitic languages can mean “to have knowledge of something,” to “know something” means “to understand it, to be aware of it, to be able to explain it to someone else, etc.” In other words, to “know something” means “to have intellectual understanding of something.” But more often than not, however, in the Semitic cultures and languages, to “know someone” means to have a relationship with that person, and very often, to have a covenant relationship with that person.
Just because the word “know” (yada‘) is found in one place like Genesis 4:1, does not mean that its meaning in another context will be the same.
For instance, the Hebrew word yada‘ is found six times in Psalm 139:
O LORD, You have searched me and known [me]. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O LORD, You know it all. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
In this specific Psalm, the word “me” of verse 1 is actually not in the Hebrew - it was supplied much later by the translators. Literally the verse reads: “Adonai, You have searched me and You know.” Then, if you will look carefully at the other five times the word yada‘ is found in the passage, it never has the Psalmist himself as the object of the verb but always the object of the verb is something - not someone.
1. You know when translates to You know and understand the reason for all of the movements of my life (when I sit; when I stand).
2. You know it translates to You know the words I’m about to speak, even before I speak them.
3. My soul knows it very well translates to recognize and acknowledge the beauty and majestic work of God in creating mankind
4. Know my heart translates to I willfully acknowledge and openly display my heart (my thoughts, intents, wishes), before You, O God, because I know that nothing is hidden from You. You know my heart.
5. Know my anxious thoughts translates to You even know what I’m unable to fully express, and I acknowledge that You know all of these things.
So even in Psalm 139, the use of the word “know” (yada‘) does not relate specifically to an intimate relationship as in the marriage relationship. The writer David, was a walking living breathing covenant. He had not only a covenant relationship with God, but also a relationship of kingly covenant with Him as well. God had anointed and appointed David to his throne. It is in the context of covenant, then, that we should also understand the word “know” in this Psalm. David is acknowledging and therefore affirming that he is maintaining loyalty of the covenant with God, for he is not hiding anything from God, and knows that he cannot hide anything from Him. David therefore confessing full covenant faithfulness to God as king over Israel, and pledges his ongoing faithfulness to God, the Great King (check out Psalms 47:2; 48:2).
Yada Karat Beriyt
You know the intentions of my heart; they are to give the best I have to offer in faithful obedience to my faith in God through Christ - to lead and to love my family through Christ - to faithfully serve, support and worship God as part of the Church - the body of Jesus Christ. This is my covenant - in Jesus name.