Today’s word, maf•chid, scary, also belongs to the same grammatical meaning class called ‘hif•il.’ This meaning class includes verbs that are causative. Causative verbs are a special pattern in Hebrew grammar that indicates that the verb is causing an action or a feeling, usually affecting other people. So, Causative verbs are simply verbs that cause actions to take place. For example ‘to amuse’ is to cause someone to laugh; ‘to dictate’ is to cause someone to write or to act as instructed; ‘to aggravate’ is to cause someone to be angry; and ‘to play’ (music) is causative because it makes others or ourselves hear it, etc.
English verbs to frighten and to scare are causative. Maf•chid, then, is something or someone that is causing fear. As in English, this can be an adjective (such as a label we attach to a person) or just a causative verb indicating that something objective is scaring us, such as a horror movie.
The Biblical origin of maf•chid
The word, maf•chid, is derived from the root PA.CHAD. Be aware that the letters P and F are one letter in Hebrew. Therefore, the ‘f’ in mafchid’ is still a part of the ‘PA’ you saw in the root above. The first time a word from this root appears in the Bible is in reference to Jacob’s fear of his father, Isaac. It is noted as the fear of Isaac:
“Except the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac, had been with me, surely you would have sent me away now empty”
The knowledge that God is with Israel was scary for the chiefs of Edom: “Fear and dread shall fall upon them; by the greatness of your arm they shall be as still as a stone” (Exodus 15:16). The idol worshipers will experience the same fear of the Lord:
“And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the Lord”
We shall end with the positive aspect of fear – its absence in the presence of God for His followers:
“The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life. Of whom shall I be afraid?”