singleness – Hiphil

As we enter the Advent season, anticipating Jesus’ arrival, I’m reminded how much I love the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth. According to Luke’s testimony, this couple prayed for a child. But like several other women in the Bible, Elizabeth was barren. Incapable of producing offspring.

I wonder what it was like for them.

Have you ever wondered how long ago they first prayed for a son?

And perhaps, how long ago they stopped praying for a son?

Two people who “were righteous in God’s eyes” and were from the priestly lines of Aaron and Abijah. Sounds like a great, godly couple to me. Why hadn’t the Lord answered with favor? Can you feel their disappointment? Can you understand their anger as they receive religious platitudes from others? Do you want to scream to break His silence?

How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?[1]

I wonder if we would find these pain-filled, desperate words in their journals. I wonder if the pages might be smudged because these verses were read aloud in temple, causing Elizabeth to weep silently as she took notes. I wonder if she ever expected what was coming…

“One day Zechariah was serving God in the Temple, for his order was on duty that week.”[2]

{typical day. at work. serving God.}

“For God has heard your prayer, and your wife, Elizabeth, will bear you a son!”[3]

{insert fear. confusion. astonishment.}

Being a Jewish priest, Zechariah knew his Patriarchal history. Zechariah knew that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob gave children to the barren wives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And yet, he didn’t believe it could be true for him. He trusted in logic.

False Assumption #5: If I’m single at 39, there’s little hope of being married.

A quick Hebrew lesson: verbs in Hebrew have various forms and tenses. While the three verb tenses in English are related to time (past, present, and future), Hebrew verb tenses are related to action. The verbs in Genesis 1:28 [4] and Genesis 9:1 [5] are in the Qal. This means that the subject of these two verses is human beings. But when God speaks to Abraham (and elsewhere thereafter), the verb tense changes to the Hiphil, meaning the subject causes the action of the verb. In Genesis 17:6 [6], the subject changes to God, and therefore, becomes a promise:  “I will cause you to be fruitful.”[7]

Adam and Noah’s responsibility? Get busy. “(You) Be fruitful and multiply.”

Abraham’s responsibility? Get busy and wait on God. “I will make of you a great nation.”

How do we know He will be the one to cause it? Sarah is barren. Rebekah is barren. Rachel is barren. Elizabeth is barren.

How do I have hope of being married? I trust the God of the Hiphil.


[1] Psalm 13

[2] Luke 1:8

[3] Luke 1:13

[4] And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

[5] And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.”

[6] I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you.

[7] If you, like me, think this might be the coolest thing you’ve ever learned, leave a comment!  🙂


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