📄 What it Means to “Know God”

By Dr. Anne Davis

How well do you know your Lord Yeshua? The role of Yeshua the Messiah is to bring you into the presence of God the Father. How well do you know God the Father?

Let me explain the biblical concept of what it means to truly know someone. You can apply this understanding not only to knowing the Lord Jesus and God the Father, but also how to really know another person, especially those whom you love and care for.

I will take you to an account in Genesis. After the fall of mankind, we learn that “Adam had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain” (Genesis 4:1). That is the New American Standard Version. The Complete Jewish Bible translates, “The man had sexual relations with Chavah his wife.” Chavah is the Hebrew name for Eve. Neither of these translations is correct!

Listen to the Hebrew as you speak it aloud.  אִשְׁתוֹ וְהָאָדָם יָדַע אֶת-חַוָה  (HaAdam yadah et-Chavah ishtoe). Adam is not the man Adam but refers to all mankind. Then comes the verb, which is the power engine of the sentence (yada). I’ll get to the verb in a moment, but what follows the verb is Chava ishtoe, Eve his wife. 

So, we’re left with a mystery. What is the verb? Yada simply means “to know”, so the correct translation should be, “Adam knew his wife, Eve.”

Many Christian commentators have simply concluded that this is a euphemism meaning sexual relations that led to the birth of Cain. But stop thinking with a literal western mind and reflect with a Hebrew mindset. The people of ancient Israel would have heard, “Adam knew his wife with a very close personal relationship and together they bore a son whom they named Cain”. That is, the relationship was so close that the two became one to create new life. So “knowing” in this context means a very close personal relationship that brings new life to the two principals. 

Now let’s apply this concept of “knowing” to God who told Moses, “I am aware of their suffering” (NASB), meaning God’s people Israel. However, the translation “aware” does not convey the correct sense of meaning. The Hebrew is yada (“knowing”), so the people of Israel would have heard that God was “knowing” their suffering with a deep inner experience. I want you to feel the agony expressed from God’s personal relationship with His people when He told Moses that he “knew” their suffering.”

Now we can turn to how we should “know” God. He tells us, “You shall know that I am the Lord”, a charge that is repeated many times in the Torah. “Lord” is the translation of the sacred name, יהוה yod-hay-vav-hay. How well do you know, in an intimate way, the One with the sacred name, yod-hay-vav-hay, which in English is translated Jehovah or Yahweh?

How do we come to truly “know” God? It is a journey that I often call a “maturing process”. How do we go through this journey? Well, Scripture explains how. God tells His people, “All the commandments that I am commanding you today you shall be careful to do….[In this way] you will come to know in your heart that the Lord your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son” (Deuteronomy 8:1-5). 

How does God discipline us? Well, I am a visual person and I get a picture in my mind of a naughty little boy who is running out of control. He takes a tumble and scrapes his knees and elbows. That is how God disciplines us. He let’s us take the consequences of our worldly actions, and in the midst of our pain and suffering from our worldly behavior we think, “Oops! If I turn to God, perhaps this worldly misery will begin turning to peace and harmony with my loving God.”

The same message appears in the New Testament. We learn in 1 John 2:3, “By this we know that we have come to know Him, IF we keep His commandments”. Did you hear the repetition of the verb to “know”? “We know…that we have come to know Him…IF we keep His commandments.”  

As you grow closer and closer to God through your Lord Yeshua, to whom we submit in humble obedience, perhaps you will be like Moses who saw God face-to-face, not literally as our Western minds would picture, but in a very intimate way of truly knowing first our Lord Yeshua and then God the Father to whom Yeshua is leading us by helping us walk in ways that please God.

God tells His people, “All the commandments that I am commanding you today you shall be careful to do….[In this way] you will come to know in your heart that the Lord your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son” (Deuteronomy 8:1-5). 

Dr. Anne Davis is a professor of Biblical Studies who enjoys working with graduate students to enhance their exegetical skills for exploring the depth of Scripture.

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