Chastening of the Lord”
Study of the Hebrew Word Musar
The book of Proverbs begins with the
stated objective - “To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of
understanding” (1:2, NKJV). The word translated “instruction” in this text
is the Hebrew word musar. This word holds a special significance which
is valuable for us to understand.
Derived from the verb yasar
meaning to “discipline, chasten, instruct,” which is also represented in
Ugaritic by the cognate ysr of the same meaning (TWOT, I, 386-387), musar can refer
to punishment, training or education.
In the Old Testament, musar
is first used in the second reading of the Law, when the Lord speaks of
the Israelites as having seen the “chastening (musar) of the
LORD your God, His greatness
and His mighty hand and outstretched arm” (Deuteronomy
11:2, NKJV). Here it is described as something that they could witness. The
next verses list three things which were a part of this “chastening” - 1. God’s
rescue of the people by the signs in Egypt and the destruction of Pharaoh’s
army (11:3,4), 2. God’s treatment of the people in the desert (11:5) and 3. The
punishment of the sons of Korah (11:6). From this example we can see that musar
is both corrective and educational.
communicated in various ways. When one is punished for wrong doing it is musar
(Proverbs 7:22). It is something that can be taught in words - “My son,
hear the instruction (musar) of your father, And do not forsake the
law of your mother” (Proverbs 1:8). Musar can be learned by
observing circumstances that surround a person. In the book of Proverbs the
writer looks at the rundown home of one whom he passes and learns the value of
work (Proverbs 24:30-34). This education from his own observation is “receiving
musar (Proverbs 24:32).
Musar must be “received”
and not rejected if it is to be of benefit (Proverbs 1:3; 8:10; 19:20; Jeremiah
5:3; 17:23; 32:33; 35:13; Zephaniah 3:7). We are urged not to despise musar
(Job 5:17); the wicked hate musar and cast the words of the Lord far
from them (Psalm 50:16,17). Fools despise musar (Proverbs 1:7). The
book of Proverbs personifies musar charging the reader to, “take firm
hold of instruction (musar) do not let go; keep her, for she is
your life” (Proverbs 4:13). The “reproofs” of musar are “the way
of life” (Proverbs 6:23).
While human beings can
teach musar it is primarily something we learn from God. Jeremiah shows
us that a benefit of a living God (in contrast to an idol) is the musar which
He offers. Jeremiah points out that, “A wooden idol is a worthless doctrine (musar).”
(Jeremiah 10:8). The New American Standard calls this “the discipline (musar)
Jesus is offered as musar. In the beautiful and yet
heartbreaking prophecy in the book of Isaiah which tells us about the suffering
Messiah we see Jesus as musar. The text reads, “But He was wounded
for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement (musar)
for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.” (53:5).
This tells us more than simply that Jesus suffered the punishment we
deserved. Jesus was the instruction (musar) that we must receive.
Looking at His suffering should teach us the seriousness or sin and its
penalty. This instruction (musar) if accepted can bring us peace with