Does God visit? —HCSB

Visiting seems to be a lost art. When I was young we had no computers, no cell phones, no TVs, and the telephone was a nine-party line. We kept in touch and cared for one another in the farming/logging community by visiting people. Rarely, the visit was for a serious confrontation. Thus, a visit wasn’t a 30 minute drop-in, drive-by kind of stopping. No, the whole family would get in the car or truck, and we would spend hours at the other’s person’s house. Visiting was refreshing, many times soothing, and even a great aid when bad things happened.

Sunday I preached on Luke 7:1-17, which contained the word “visit.” It brought back many memories for me. When the people evaluate Jesus in light of what He has done, we read:

Then fear came over everyone, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen among us,” and “God has visited His people.” (Luke 7:16 HCSB)

The people understood that Jesus’ miracles could only happen if God himself visited the people. And in this case, the visiting was positive, for healing and raising the dead.

The Greek word translated “visited” is ἐπεσκέψατο. From BDAG we find two likely meanings: a) to go to see a person with helpful intent, visit someone, b) to exercise oversight in behalf of, look after, make an appearance to help, of divine oversight. With the first of these, we also find this statement: “special suggestion in the context on care to be bestowed: look after widows and orphans ἐν τῇ θλίψει αὐτῶν in their distress” (James 1:27). Most translations of Luke 7:16 reflect the latter option.

We find another significant use of ἐπεσκέψατο (“visit”) in the NT related to God visiting for saving purposes.

Luke 1:78–79: Because of our God’s merciful compassion, the Dawn from on high will visit us to shine on those who live in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.

In the Old Testament

Sadly I found that several Old Testament passages that have historically been translated “visit” are not translated that way in HCSB. It seems that an important connection with regard to this concept. Several Old Testament texts use the Hebrew word: פקד (paqad). According to HALOT, there are also three possible meanings, but essentially coming down to two: 2. to see something remarkable, 3. to seek, seek out, visit.

While the Greek and Hebrew words do not overlap in meaning everywhere, nor do they encompass the full range of the English word “visit,” in some contexts the best translation of both words seems to be “visit.” The LXX seems to confirm this connection; in the following texts (except Exodus 20:5), it translates the Hebrew with ἐπεσκέψατο (same word in NT).

God visiting His people would involve either visiting (God is present) for judgment or salvation. For the former situation consider

Exodus 20:5 You must not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing [“visiting”] the children for the fathers’ sin, to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me

For the latter salvation understanding in several contexts God “visits” in particular related to His saving, intervening purpose.

Gen. 21:1 The LORD came to [“visited”] Sarah as He had said, and the LORD did for Sarah what He had promised. (HSCB)

Gen. 50:24–25  Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will certainly come to your aid [“will surely visit you”] and bring you up from this land to the land He promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” So Joseph made the sons of Israel take an oath: “When God comes to your aid [“visits you”], you are to carry my bones up from here.”(HCSB)

Ex. 4:31 The people believed, and when they heard that the LORD had paid attention to [“visited”] them and that He had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped. (HCSB)

Ruth 1:6 She and her daughters-in-law prepared to leave the land of Moab, because she had heard in Moab that the LORD had paid attention to [“visited”] His people’s need by providing them food. (HCSB)

Jer. 29:10 For this is what the LORD says: “When 70 years for Babylon are complete, I will attend to [“visit”] you and will confirm My promise concerning you to restore you to this place.

Zeph 2:7 And the coast will be for the remnant of the house of Judah, they will pasture on it. In the houses of Ashkelon they will lie down at evening; for the LORD their God will care for [“visit”] them and restore their fortune.

1 Sam. 2:21 The LORD paid attention to [“visited”] Hannah’s need, and she conceived and gave birth to three sons and two daughters. (HCSB)

Overall it seems that something is lost by not translating each of these as “visit.” Sadly NAS in 1995 moved away from this, too. The 1977 NAS retained the word “visit” in most of these contexts. While “visit” may be an older term it is still understandable in today’s usage. I would recommend HCSB translation team reconsider this option.

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About exegete77

disciple of Jesus Christ, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, teacher, and theologian
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