Noble generosity

Peter J. Leithart
February 24, 2010
Category: Bible - OT

In Hebrew, the word nadib does double duty.  It describes the “willing” spirit that inspires the people to donate to the tabernacle construction (Exodus 35:5), and the willing spirit that David hopes Yahweh will create in him (Psalm 51:14).  It means generous, liberal.

At the same time the word means “noble.”  In 1 Samuel 2:8, the poor are raised up to sit with the “nobles,” and in the Song of Songs 7:2, the bride is described as the “daughter of a noble,” a “princely maiden.”

I submit that we should read these two meanings together.  To be generous is to act nobly; to be noble in ancient Israel had little to do with high birth and everything to do with generosity and liberality with goods and gifts.  It is thus particularly striking that Hannah would look for the elevation of the “poor” to nobility: Those who have been oppressed and deprived are raised up to take a seat among the generous.


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