When I write, I sense, that often my reader’s theological sensitivities are rattled if not offended. But in my defense, it’s not my fault but the language of Scripture that often nuances a word differently from how we are prone to interpret it. Preachers often translate Scriptural thoughts in a way slanted to make more sense to the occidental mind, to the way we think or understand things, even though most Scripture was written to the oriental or (semitic) thinker.
Case in point: There is no Hebrew, Old Testament, word for “promise.” The word “promise” is used five times to translate the Hebrew word into Greek in the Bible but these leave room for doubt as to the accuracy of the translation. Nowhere does the Old Testament Scripture use the phrase “the promises of God.”
Twice in Esther 4:7 the Hebrew states simply the Haman said to the king. The Greek translation interpreted this as his promise to the king which the English translations kept.
In Psalms 56:8, the New King James Version seems closest, “You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book?” The Greek is a rather free interpretation of the Hebrew which adds the words, “even according to Thy promise.”
Proverbs 13:12 in the Hebrew, according to the NIV, reads “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” But the Greek reads, “Better is he that begins to help heartily, than he that promises and leads another to hope; for a good desire is a tree of life.”
Amos 9:6 in the Hebrew says, “He [God] builds his lofty palace[unsure of word] in the heavens and sets its foundation[unsure of word] on the earth; he calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out over the face of the land— the LORD is his name.” The Greek says, “He …establishes His promise on the earth [words not found in the Hebrew]”.
In seven different verses the King James uses our word “promise” in the translation. Numbers 14:34 “breach of promise” speaks of God’s opposition. [interesting that the Hebrew word is spelled “NO” In 1 Kings 8:56 the Hebrew talks about God’s “good words.” I can begin to see way the translators might like the word “promises” I will leave you to look up the rest. In each case the English word “promise” interprets the Hebrew word “Word” which in the Greek is the well known theological term “logos.” We know the “Logos” of God is Jesus Himself (John 1:1)! Think about it.
A recognition of God’s Word as His promises to us is best explained in 2 Peter 1:4 “Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises [the actual Greek word], so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” Jesus was sent as the incarnate or the embodiment of “The Word of God” to bring about our “participation” in His holiness freeing us from a world of “evil.”
What else did He promise? What else should He have promised?