Hat•ma•da (perseverance) is a modern word which is, like in many cases in Hebrew, a direct derivative of the biblical word ‘ta•mid’ (always, continually, everlasting). We’ll discuss this important word in more detail tomorrow. Today’s word, ‘perseverance,’ is not mentioned in the Bible even once. How is it possible that such an important word, and, hence, a concept, could be completely absent from the biblical narrative? Hasn’t Israel displayed dramatic perseverance in the face of so many powerful enemies throughout history? The essence of Israel’s existence is in its perseverance.
In the absence of the concept from the biblical text, we should look at the traits that make up Israel’s perseverance. We look at perseverance as something positive, right?
Wrong. At least, biblically. Perseverance is a consequential outcome of special qualities. Here comes a surprise: most of these qualities or attributes as they are related to Israel in the Bible are negative! Yet, the result is a desired one.
What are these attributes then? The first is being stiff-necked. This expression appears 7 times in relation to Israel: Am k’she o•ref, stiff-necked people. As you read each reference, especially when God Himself is calling Israel as such, you can’t help but conclude that God kind of likes this negative trait in His Chosen People. God supposedly struggles with it, wants to punish Israel for it, but always forgives it.
“And the Lord said to Moses, ‘I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people; Now therefore let me alone, that my anger may burn hot against them…’”
Is it truly so? Does God need permission from Moses to punish Israel?
Another characteristic of Israel that contributes to its perseverance is its stubbornness, chiz•key lev. This is a very negative trait in every one of its 24 biblical references.
“For they are impudent children and stubborn. I send you to them; and you shall say to them, ‘Thus said the Lord God’”
Pay close attention to the structure of the verse. Do you see the fatherly attitude here?
The verse that best describes Israel’s perseverance is about the hardship of its slavery in Egypt:
“But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were mortified because of the people of Israel”