The Bible supplies us with a rich store of images for courage. This is no surprise, since the Bible is about small people accomplishing great deeds with God’s help. The images of courage are as various as the mighty deeds celebrated in the biblical canon.
The vocabulary of courage is especially rich in the OT. Biblical Hebrew employs a number of idioms for courage, only some of which can be translated into English term-for-term understandably. One common expression for courage was the word heart. This usage corresponds roughly to our own; the English word courage comes to us from the Latin word cor ("heart"). The "bravest warriors" (Amos 2:16 NIV) of Israel were literally "strong of heart." Loss of heart meant a loss of courage. This could be expressed in a number of ways: the heart "goes out" (Gen 42:28, author’s translation), "falls" (1 Sam 17:32, author’s translation), "faints" (Job 23:16), "fails" (Jer 4:9, author’s translation) or "melts" (Ezek 21:7). Hebrew idioms also linked courage with the hands and knees. Gaining and losing courage were expressed with the phrases "strengthening/loosening the hands/knees." (2 Sam 16:21; Job 4:4; Is 13:7; Ezek 7:17).
One striking feature of biblical depictions of courage is the close link between courage and the expectation of success. With the possible exception of David’s lament for Saul and Jonathan (2 Sam 1:19–27), the biblical writers never picture courage as a grim stoicism in the face of defeat. On the contrary the frequent exhortations to "be strong and courageous" are grounded on God’s promise of success (Deut 31:6; Josh 1:6–9; Judg 7:9–15; 2 Chron 32:7; Hag 2:4; Acts 27:22).
Published on Thursday, July 1, 2010 @ 5:49 AM CDT