Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet;
but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God
(Philippians 3:13-14 NASB)
The Meek Inherit The Earth
April 24, 2009
Recently, the European press described President Obama as meek. Whether he is or is not meek, I do
not know, and this is not the subject of this issue. What caught my attention was what I heard on a local
talk-radio show. A woman called in to this show to complain about the president being called meek. She
identified herself as a Christian and was upset because she did not want a meek president, as if
meekness were a dirty word. Other callers, who seemed to hold the same beliefs as this woman, did
likewise. So, what interested me was a so-called Christian seeing meekness as a bad character trait for
our national leader and, I assume, other leaders as well. But wasn’t Moses meek, and didn’t the Lord
Jesus call Himself meek and teach that the meek shall inherit the earth?
(Now the man Moses was very meek (H6035 anav ) [humble], above all the men which
were upon the face of the earth.) (Numbers 12:3 KJV [NASB, YLT])
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek (G4235 praos ) [gentle] and lowly
[humble] in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. (Matthew 11:29 KJV [NASB])
Tell ye the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy king cometh unto thee, meek (G4239 praus )
[gentle], and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass. (Matthew 21:5 KJV [NASB])
[9] For evildoers will be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the
land . [10] Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more; and you will look
carefully for his place, and he will not be {there.} [11] But the humble (H6035 anav )
[meek] will inherit the land , and will delight themselves in abundant prosperity. … [22]
For those blessed by Him will inherit the land ; but those cursed by Him will be cut off.
(Psalm 37:9-11, 22 NASB [KJV])
“Blessed are the meek (G4239 praus ) [gentle/humble], for they shall inherit the earth.”
(Matthew 5:5 ASV [ALT, NASB/ ISV, NLT])
This got me thinking, and I quickly realized that the issue is how one defines the word meek and, I
should add, similar words like gentle , humble , and lowly . As noted in the above verses, English
translations vary in which word they use in translating from the original languages.
In the English language, the words meek, gentle , humble , and lowly are synonyms that are often used
interchangeably, even though there might be some subtle differences in their respective meanings.
However, the greater challenge in using these words is the fact that they can have both a favorable and
an unfavorable connotation. In a favorable sense, the word meek “stresses a mildness and patience of
disposition which is not easily stirred to anger or resentment”; in an unfavorable sense, it “connotes
spineless submissiveness.” In a favorable sense, the word humble “suggests an unassuming character in
which there is an absence of pride and assertiveness”; in an unfavorable sense, it “connotes an almost
abject lack of self-respect.” The word lowly is “an older equivalent for humble but never carries the
unfavorable connotation of abjectness.” [Source: Webster’s New World Dictionary , 1966, The World
Publishing Company.]
The above explanation captures the full spectrum of the adjective meek and its noun form meekness
(Greek feminine); however, the important question is: How does Scripture view meekness ? The fact of
the matter is that built into the meaning of meekness is the process by which one becomes meek.
Meekness deals with one’s character; it is a quality of character that comes about by a process or, we
could say, through experiences of life. After all, what made Moses and Jesus meek, and what will make
those who shall inherit the earth meek? We need to know.
To assist in our discussion, the Strong’s Concordance numbers, along with the respective Hebrew or
Greek transliteration of the word, have been placed in the above verses. According to Strong’s
Concordance, anav (H6035) means “ depressed (figuratively), in mind ( gentle ) or circumstances
( needy , especially saintly ): - humble, lowly, meek, poor,” and praus (G4239) is “apparently a primary
word; mild , that is, (by implication) humble: - meek; similar to G4235 ( praus ).” Notice that the word
depressed is used to define meek. To some, this might not be a very positive word. After all, who wants
to be depressed? However, this makes sense if we understand that this speaks to a process, which is best
explained by another Hebrew word for meek, aniy (H6041), which, according to Strong’s Concordance,
means “ depressed , in mind or circumstances (practically the same as H6035 subjectively and H6041
objectively): - afflicted , humble`, lowly`, needy, poor.” Notice the word afflicted and how it is used by
Zechariah, as translated in a more literal translation.
Rejoice exceedingly, O daughter of Zion, Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem, Lo, thy King
doth come to thee, righteous, and saved is He, afflicted (H6041) [meek/lowly/humble] and
riding on an ass, and on a colt, a son of she-asses. (Zechariah 9:9 YLT [MKJV/KJV/NASB)
Jesus was meek because He was afflicted. In other words, the afflictions that he suffered gave Him the
quality of meekness. Scripture says of Jesus as a man: Although He was a Son, He learned
obedience from the things which He suffered (Hebrews 5:8). Christ was perfected or made
complete in character through His sufferings. He is the Son perfected forever. He was a learner; He was
teachable as He listened to His heavenly Father. Even His sinless soul was perfected as He cried out to
the Father at Gethsemane. His soul was deeply grieved or, we could say, depressed to the point of death
(Matthew 26:38). In other words, His character as Man was perfected through all that He suffered. This
is why He is able to aid those who are tempted (Hebrews 2:18). He is a High Priest who can sympathize
with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15) and who is able to save us to the uttermost (spirit, soul, and body)
if we draw near to God through Him (Hebrews 7:25). Through His afflictions, He was made meek.
We see that the same character was developed in Moses as he suffered the reproach of Christ, looking to
the reward, the reward of the inheritance of the kingdom.
By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s
daughter; choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy
the passing pleasures of sin; considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the
treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward. (Hebrews 11:24-26 NASB)
Moses suffered and became meek as he tended sheep on the west side of the wilderness (Exodus 3.1) for
forty years. While in Egypt, he thought that he could deliver his brethren his way, but it would not do.
He was too strong in himself. He had to be broken if he was to be of any use in fulfilling God’s plan for
the Hebrew people. Simply, he had to be broken of his own strength and understanding, and become
totally dependent on the Lord. Like Jesus, Moses learned by the things that he suffered. First, he
learned that he could not do what God had called him to do (Exodus 4.10). He was poor in spirit, and he
needed God. Paul, who died daily, came to the same place in his life with Christ, for to him to live is
Christ, and he learned to be content in all things and to do all things through Christ (Philippians 1:21;
4:10-13). Second, Moses learned of God’s purpose and plan, which led him to line up with what God was
doing (Exodus 4:18-23). Through his afflictions, Moses not only learned the ways of the Lord but also
his utter need for the Lord. He became teachable, and this gave him the quality of meekness.
Thus, meekness is a quality of character, a virtue that is learned, and this learning comes through trial,
suffering, or affliction. Knowledge comes from learning, and to learn one needs to be teachable;
affliction is designed to make one teachable and pliable in the hands of God. The meek are ones who
learn obedience through their suffering, affliction, or depression; who learn their utter dependence on
and need for the Lord; who are broken; who are teachable and pliable. Through their trials, they have
become patient, gentle, and kind toward others; they have been humbled to see that they are nothing
but Christ is all; they seek for the reward, for the city which has foundations, whose architect and
builder is God (Hebrews 11:10). They are the ones who will inherit the earth. “You have made them
to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth (Revelation
5:10 NASB; also 20:6). So, let us not demean the word meek , but let us seek to be meek and pray that
God raise up true leaders, ones who have become meek and teachable through their afflictions.
The Upward Call: #03-09116
by: Stuart H. Pouliot