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Hebrew Spirituality: The Jewish Roots of Meditation (part 4)

Post Title: Another Hebrew Word for Meditation

In our study so far, we have made two key observations.

  1. Biblical meditation has content. It arises from God’s words and works, indeed, God himself.

  2. Biblical meditation has sound. The Hebrew word for meditation (hagah) points us to verbalizing our thoughts before God.

To meditate—from the perspective of Yeshua’s Bible—is to articulate in some focused and fervent way, thoughts of worship, of wonder, of praise.

There is another word that clarifies the biblical view of meditation more fully. It is the word siach. What is this kind of meditation? It means to go over a matter, to occupy one’s attention with, to mull over something in your mind again and again.

Siach can be done inwardly or outwardly. When this process is engaged inwardly, we call it meditation or contemplation. When it is focused outwardly, the same word siach can be used to translate the term conversation.

In modern Hebrew, siach is used as conversation or talking.

I said, “Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate [siach] in my heart.” Then my spirit made a diligent search. - Psalm 77:6

This is internal reflection—bringing your attention to and preoccupying yourself with God. Psalm 119 is filled with this idea of meditation from the Hebrew word siach.

  • I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. - vs. 15

  • Even though princes sit plotting against me, your servant will meditate on your statutes. - vs. 23

  • Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works. - vs. 27

  • I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes. - vs. 48

  • My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise. - vs. 148

  • Oh, how I love your Torah! It is my meditation all the day. - vs. 97

Internal reflection on God’s Word leads to an external rehearsing or declaring truths about God and his works. Sing to him, sing praises to him;

tell of all his wondrous works! The word “tell” here in Psalm 105:2 is our word siach. Psalm 64:1 uses it to mean engage in conversation, Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint [siach] (Psalm 64:1).

Do you now have a better sense of what meditation is? The two principal words are hagah and siach.

In Israel, you will see orthodox Jewish people walking down the street muttering under their breath. It is not because they are distracted, it is because they are focused. What they are muttering is the word of God.

Did you know that to be a Puritan pastor back in the day, you had to have knowledge of both biblical languages, Hebrew and Greek, and all 150 Psalms committed to memory? As I travel to teach I like to ask, “Do any of you have all 150 Psalms committed to memory as our forefathers did? How about just one psalm, other than the 23rd?” The answer is always the same, just like it would be if I were to ask you.

One time a hand went up. I was so astounded I asked, “Who are you?” The young man said he was an Orthodox Jew that just two months before, had come to faith in Messiah Jesus. He had to flee Tiberias because of persecution, and was staying with some friends in Germany where I was speaking. He memorized the Psalter growing up because he was taught to meditate on God’s word.

Now that we better understand what biblical meditation is, let me answer two final questions. Why should Christians engage in biblical meditation? and, What are the benefits of doing so?

Why should we do it? Well, if you want to come to God through Messiah Jesus, we all know that we must be born again; born from above, by the Spirit of the living God. Do we also know that to enter into the process of Christian spiritual formation, to become like Christ, requires the renewing of the mind? In other words, to grow up in Messiah.

It’s one thing to be born, but what would we think if we had babies that didn’t grow up but remained infantile in their thinking and actions. So many of us as believers are born again but fail to grow up as disciples. We have to be constantly nursed, we go to church to be fed.

“I don’t go to that church anymore because I’m not getting fed.” I’ve heard this several times, have you? Perhaps you’ve even said it. My answer is it is time to get off the bottle and start preparing the food. Maturity thinks in terms of serving rather than being served.

Salvation is a gift, sanctification is a process of growing in that gift.

To be born again is a work of the Spirit. To be transformed into the mind of Christ is a work of that same Spirit. Here is the important thing to remember, it is a process. To mature means to grow in the grace of God’s salvation and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus.

Why should Christians meditate? To be conformed to the image of Jesus, which requires developing the mind of Christ. It is a Spirit-led process that involves repentance on the one hand, and renewal on the other.

  • Repentance: recognizing in ourselves the ideas and images that have been placed there by the world and turning from them.

  • Renewal: replacing those images and ideas with kingdom realities implanted by the Word of God.


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This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.

Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice.

Dwight founded JC Studies in 1984 to edify the people of God. Click here to explore over fifty of his audio and video seminars.


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