“He swore an oath to the LORD and made a vow to the Mighty One of Jacob” (Psalms 132:2 NIV)

The Hebrew word translated ‘mighty one’ is ‘avir’. This word comes up only in poetical passages of the Bible. The first time we see it is Jacob’s blessing on his son Joseph:

“But his bow remained steady, his strong arms stayed limber, because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel,” (Genesis 49:24 NIV)

The third phrase of that verse – “the hands of the Mighty One” – is paralleled in the line before it by “hands were made strong.” The following phrase – “the stone of Israel” – also parallels “the Mighty One of Jacob.” So ‘avir’ – ‘Mighty One of Jacob’  is sandwiched by symbols of strength.

In fact the English word translated here “stone” is the Hebrew word transliterated ‘even’ which when pronounced sounds like ‘avir’ – “Mighty One” – and this emphasises God’s strength even more.

The word ‘avir’ appears twice in Psalm 132 (vv. 2 & 5). Each time it is paralleled by the divine name YHWH. The same paralleling happens in the three uses of ‘avir’ in Isaiah:

“Therefore says the Sovereign, the LORD of hosts, the Mighty One of Israel: Ah, I will pour out my wrath on my enemies, and avenge myself on my foes!” (Isaiah 1:24 NRSV)

“I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh, and they shall be drunk with their own blood as with wine. Then all flesh shall know that I am the LORD your Saviour, and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.” (Isaiah 49:26 NRSV)

“You shall suck the milk of nations, you shall suck the breasts of kings; and you shall know that I, the LORD, am your Saviour and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.” (Isaiah 60:16 NRSV)

The use of the word ‘avir’ as a substitute for the name of God is not the only time this happens in the Bible. Another occurrence is the use of the Hebrew word ‘fachad’ meaning ‘fear’. We see this used in this way in Genesis chapter 31:

“If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been on my side, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed…” (Genesis 31:42)  “….So Jacob swore by the Fear of his father Isaac,” (Genesis 31:53 NRSV)

You will see that the word ‘fear’ is capitalised in the English translation indicating that it is a substitute word for God.

Mary the mother of Jesus clearly knew her Old Testament. It seems to me she was thinking of these qualities of God when she offered up her prayer in Luke chapter 1:

“Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” (Luke 1:48–49 NRSV).

Her Mighty One is our Mighty One. Let us be encouraged and strengthened by the confidence that comes from His power.

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