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VENERATION OF THE SAINTS: A BIBLICAL OUTLINE PT. 1

In this post I will quote the verses where individuals receive reverence, obeisance, relative worship etc., with God’s express approval. Here I will focus on all the places where the Hebrew (shachah) and Greek words (proskyneo) are employed, which are the very terms used in relation to the worship given to God:

The God-breathed Scriptures exhorts believers to worship (shachah) and serve (avad) the true God along:

“To this day they continue practicing the former rituals; they do not fear the LORD, nor do they follow their statutes or their ordinances, or the law and commandment which the LORD had commanded the children of Jacob, whom He named Israel, with whom the LORD had made a covenant and charged them, saying: ‘You shall not fear other gods, nor bow down (tishtachawu) to them nor serve them (ta’abdum) nor sacrifice to them; but the LORD, who brought you up from the land of Egypt with great power and an outstretched arm, Him you shall fear, Him you shall worship (tishtachawu), and to Him you shall offer sacrifice. And the statutes, the ordinances, the law, and the commandment which He wrote for you, you shall be careful to observe forever; you shall not fear other gods. And the covenant that I have made with you, you shall not forget, nor shall you fear other gods. But the LORD your God you shall fear; and He will deliver you from the hand of all your enemies.” 2 Kings 17:34-39

And yet, as I will show, these are the very same terms which the Holy Bible uses to describe the veneration which people rendered unto individuals of importance, authority, and/or whom God had highly exalted and honored.

For instance, the following passage is an interesting example since it depicts Israel worshiping both God and David the king together, without God or the king rebuking them for doing so:

“And David said to all the congregation, Now bless the LORD your God. And all the congregation blessed the LORD God of their fathers, and bowed down their heads, and worshipped the LORD, AND the king.” 1 Chronicles 29:20 Authorized King James Version (AV)

Here are other cases where David was “worshiped” by his subjects:

“Now Araunah looked, and saw the king and his servants coming toward him. So Araunah went out and bowed before the king with his face to the ground.” 2 Samuel 24:20

“So David came to Ornan, and Ornan looked and saw David. And he went out from the threshing floor, and bowed before David with his face to the ground.” 1 Chronicles 21:21

We even have a case where a prophet was venerated after his death when his disembodied spirit appeared to the wicked king Saul to rebuke him!

“And the king said to her, ‘Do not be afraid. What did you see?’ And the woman said to Saul, ‘I saw a spirit ascending out of the earth.’ So he said to her, ‘What is his form?’ And she said, ‘An old man is coming up, and he is covered with a mantle.’ And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground and bowed down.” 1 Samuel 28:13-14

With the foregoing in view I now quote all the relevant places where men or women of importance were venerated with God’s approval:

“Then Abraham stood up and bowed himself to the people of the land, the sons of Heth… Then Abraham bowed himself down before the people of the land;” Genesis 23:7, 12

“And he came near and kissed him; and he smelled the smell of his clothing, and blessed him and said: ‘Surely, the smell of my son Is like the smell of a field Which the LORD has blessed. Therefore may God give you Of the dew of heaven, Of the fatness of the earth, And plenty of grain and wine. Let peoples serve you, And nations bow down to you. Be master over your brethren, And let your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, And blessed be those who bless you!’ Now it happened, as soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, and Jacob had scarcely gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, that Esau his brother came in from his hunting.” Genesis 27:27-30

“Now Jacob lifted his eyes and looked, and there, Esau was coming, and with him were four hundred men. So he divided the children among Leah, Rachel, and the two maidservants. And he put the maidservants and their children in front, Leah and her children behind, and Rachel and Joseph last.Then he crossed over before them and bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother. But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.And he lifted his eyes and saw the women and children, and said, ‘Who are these with you?’ So he said, ‘The children whom God has graciously given your servant.’Then the maidservants came near, they and their children, and bowed down.And Leah also came near with her children, and they bowed down. Afterward Joseph and Rachel came near, and they bowed down.” Genesis 33:1-7

“Now Joseph had a dream, and he told it to his brothers; and they hated him even more.So he said to them, ‘Please hear this dream which I have dreamed: There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Then behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf.’ And his brothers said to him, ‘Shall you indeed reign over us? Or shall you indeed have dominion over us?’ So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words. Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, ‘Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me.’ So he told it to his father and his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, ‘What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you?’ And his brothers envied him, but his father kept the matter in mind.” Genesis 37:5-11

“Now Joseph was governor over the land; and it was he who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed down before him with their faces to the earth.” Genesis 42:6

“And when Joseph came home, they brought him the present which was in their hand into the house, and bowed down before him to the earth. Then he asked them about their well-being, and said, ‘Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?’ And they answered, ‘Your servant our father is in good health; he is still alive.’ And they bowed their heads down and prostrated themselves.” Genesis 43:26-28

“Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise; Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; Your father’s children shall bow down before you.” Genesis 49:8

“So Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, bowed down, and kissed him. And they asked each other about their well-being, and they went into the tent.” Exodus 18:7

So she fell on her face, bowed down to the ground, and said to him, ‘Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?’” Ruth 2:10

“Then Jonathan gave his weapons to his lad, and said to him, ‘Go, carry them to the city.’ As soon as the lad had gone, David arose from a place toward the south, fell on his face to the ground, and bowed down three times. And they kissed one another; and they wept together, but David more so.” 1 Samuel 20:40-41

“David also arose afterward, went out of the cave, and called out to Saul, saying, ‘My lord the king!’ And when Saul looked behind him, David stooped with his face to the earth, and bowed down.” 1 Samuel 24:8

“Now when Abigail saw David, she dismounted quickly from the donkey, fell on her face before David, and bowed down to the ground. So she fell at his feet and said: ‘On me, my lord, on me let this iniquity be! And please let your maidservant speak in your ears, and hear the words of your maidservant. Please, let not my lord regard this scoundrel Nabal. For as his name is, so is he: Nabal is his name, and folly is with him! But I, your maidservant, did not see the young men of my lord whom you sent. Now therefore, my lord, as the LORD lives and as your soul lives, since the Lord has held you back from coming to bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hand, now then, let your enemies and those who seek harm for my lord be as Nabal. And now this present which your maidservant has brought to my lord, let it be given to the young men who follow my lord. Please forgive the trespass of your maidservant. For the LORD will certainly make for my lord an enduring house, because my lord fights the battles of the LORD, and evil is not found in you throughout your days. Yet a man has risen to pursue you and seek your life, but the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living with the LORD your God; and the lives of your enemies He shall sling out, as from the pocket of a sling. And it shall come to pass, when the Lord has done for my lord according to all the good that He has spoken concerning you, and has appointed you ruler over Israel, that this will be no grief to you, nor offense of heart to my lord, either that you have shed blood without cause, or that my lord has avenged himself. But when the LORD has dealt well with my lord, then remember your maidservant.’… Then she arose, bowed her face to the earth, and said, ‘Here is your maidservant, a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord.’” 1 Samuel 25:23-31, 41

“Now it came to pass after the death of Saul, when David had returned from the slaughter of the Amalekites, and David had stayed two days in Ziklag, on the third day, behold, it happened that a man came from Saul’s camp with his clothes torn and dust on his head. So it was, when he came to David, that he fell to the ground and prostrated himself.” 2 Samuel 1:1-2

“Now when Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, had come to David, he fell on his face and prostrated himself. Then David said, ‘Mephibosheth?’ And he answered, ‘Here is your servant!’ So David said to him, ‘Do not fear, for I will surely show you kindness for Jonathan your father’s sake, and will restore to you all the land of Saul your grandfather; and you shall eat bread at my table continually.’ Then he bowed himself, and said, ‘What is your servant, that you should look upon such a dead dog as I?’” 2 Samuel 1:1-2

“And when the woman of Tekoa spoke to the king, she fell on her face to the ground and prostrated herself, and said, ‘Help, O king!’…

Then Joab fell to the ground on his face and bowed himself, and thanked the king. And Joab said, ‘Today your servant knows that I have found favor in your sight, my lord, O king, in that the king has fulfilled the request of his servant.’… So Joab went to the king and told him. And when he had called for Absalom, he came to the king and bowed himself on his face to the ground before the king. Then the king kissed Absalom.” 2 Samuel 14:4, 22, 33

 So the king said to Ziba, ‘Here, all that belongs to Mephibosheth is yours.’ And Ziba said, ‘I humbly bow before you, that I may find favor in your sight, my lord, O king!’” 2 Samuel 16:4

“Then Joab said to the Cushite, ‘Go, tell the king what you have seen.’ So the Cushite bowed himself to Joab and ran.” 2 Samuel 18:21

And Bathsheba bowed herself, and worshipped the king; to whom the king said, What wilt thou to thee? (And Bathsheba bowed herself down, and honoured the king; to whom the king said, What wilt thou that I do for thee?)… And they told to the king, and said, Nathan, the prophet, is present. And when he had entered in the sight of the king, and had worshipped him lowly to the earth (and had bowed low to the ground before him)… And Bathsheba, with her cheer bowed down into the earth, worshipped the king, and said, My lord king David live without end. (And Bathsheba, with her face bowed down to the ground, honoured the king, and said, My lord King David, may thou live forever!)… Therefore king Solomon sent, and led out Adonijah from the altar; and he entered, and worshipped king Solomon (and he entered, and bowed low before King Solomon); and Solomon said to him, Go into thine house.” 1 Kings 1:16, 23, 31, 53 Wycliffe Bible (WYC)

“Bathsheba therefore went to King Solomon, to speak to him for Adonijah. And the king rose up to meet her and bowed down to her, and sat down on his throne and had a throne set for the king’s mother; so she sat at his right hand.” 1 Kings 2:19

“Now when the sons of the prophets who were from Jericho saw him, they said, ‘The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.’ And they came to meet him, and bowed to the ground before him.” 2 Kings 2:15

“Now when she came to the man of God at the hill, she caught him by the feet, but Gehazi came near to push her away. But the man of God said, ‘Let her alone; for her soul is in deep distress, and the Lord has hidden it from me, and has not told me.’… When Elisha came into the house, there was the child, lying dead on his bed…  So she went in, fell at his feet, and bowed to the ground; then she picked up her son and went out. 2 Kings 4:27, 32, 37

“Now after the death of Jehoiada the leaders of Judah came and bowed down to the king. And the king listened to them.” 2 Chronicles 24:17

“Thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people: and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders. And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers: they shall bow down to thee with their face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am the LORD: for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.” Isaiah 49:22-23 AV

“The sons also of them that afflicted thee shall come bending unto thee; and all they that despised thee shall bow themselves down at the soles of thy feet; and they shall call thee, The city of the LORD, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel.” Isaiah 60:14 AV

“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name. Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.” Revelation 3:7-9 AV

In the next installment I will show where individuals were given avad or douleuo, the Hebrew and Greek words for serve: VENERATION OF THE SAINTS: A BIBLICAL OUTLINE PT. 2.

Unless indicated otherwise, biblical citations taken from the New King James Version (NKJV) of the Holy Bible.

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