the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26
Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary
A Syriac word, signifying Father. It is thrice used in the New Testament. Once, by the Lord Jesus, (Mark 14:36.) and twice by his servant the apostle Paul. (Romans 8:15. and Galatians 4:6.) It is a word of peculiar tenderness; and I could wish that the real and full meaning of it was strongly impressed on the mind of every regenerated believer. It would tend to give great confidence and comfort in a dark and trying hour. David, Levi, in his Lingua Sacra, derives it from a root, which signifies, desire, delight, complacency, satisfaction: and implying no less, special interest of relationship, as between the nearest of all connections. And agreeably to this account of the word, it is remarkable, that though the word, in its extensive sense, signifies the Ab, or Head, and Lord of a family; yet a slave, or menial servant, was never allowed to use it in addressing the Ab.
I very earnestly beg the reader not to lose sight of this view of the word Abba, but to let it possess a suitable place, equal to its importance, in his remembrance. For if it was so specially confined, among the people of the East, to the children of a family; and Jesus and his people in him, are enjoined to use it on this account; can any thing more strikingly prove their relationship? And I cannot but express my hope, that if the reader of this Poor Man's Concordance, is enabled, by grace, to see his own personal privilege herein, and can enter into a proper apprehension of the word, in this most endearing view, he will be led to discover the sweetness and blessedness of it, and from henceforth adopt it, in all his approaches to the throne of God in Christ. And how delightfully in this sense, doth it explain to us that passage of the apostle, in his epistle to the Galatians; where he saith, "Because ye are sons, [not because ye are to be made so, but because ye are already sons] God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying Abba, Father." (Galatians 4:6.)
While I am upon this word Abba, Father, I cannot forbear adding to those observations, though in a cursory manner, a remark upon the word Ammah, Mother. For it is from the same root, and is also of the like peculiarity of tenderness, in reference to the church of Jesus; which, as the apostle saith, (including both that in heaven and in earth, for they are but one and the same,) "is the mother of us all." (Galatians 4:26.) We meet with the several branches of the same root in Scripture, according to the several relations arising out of it; but they are all one and the same family. (Ephesians 3:14-15.) Hence Zion is called, and by the Lord himself, the "Virgin daughter (the Almah) of Zion." (Isaiah 37:22.) So again she is spoken of as the sister (Ruhamah) (Hosea 2:1.) And it is no uncommon thing for Christ to call his church by all these names. (See Song of Song of Solomon 4:9-10; Son 4:12.) And when Isaiah was commissioned to proclaim to the church, the subject of the miraculous conception, he used the same word as the Lord did of Zion. "Behold, a virgin, (Almah) shall conceive." (Isaiah 7:14.) I venture to believe that if the recollection of these names, all springing as they do from one and the same source, were frequent in the believer's remembrance, they would much refresh the soul. And I think it worthy of yet farther remark, that there is a beautiful sameness between the first cry of nature, in the infancy of our being, and this language of grace when the souls of believers are first born to God. It was said by the prophet concerning Him, whom he predicted, that "before the child should know to refuse the evil and choose the good," the event leading to it should be accomplished. (Isaiah 7:16.) And it must be truly said, that before the cry of the soul, in the new birth of grace, goes forth in Abba, or Ammah, the apprehending union, interest, and relationship in Christ with his church, had been settled long before, even from all eternity.
Though I have already far exceeded, under this article, the ordinary limits to be observed in a work of this kind, yet I must beg to trespass a little farther, by way of confirmation of the observations made upon it.
The special and personal interest of the word Abba, derives another authority, from the customs and manners of the East. It is well known, that the ancient nations of the Arabs, retain many of the usages we read of in sacred history. And although they know nothing of the true religion of the patriarchs, yet in provincial acts and habits, they are much the same people that they were, two or three thousand years ago. Hence, among many proofs in point, which might be given in confirmation of this sameness of manners, the mode of salutation is one, in which there is nothing changed. We find among the patriarchs, the general expression was, "Peace be to you." (Genesis 43:23.) In the days of the Judges, the salutation was the same. (Judges 19:20.) So in the days of David, (1 Samuel 25:6.) and in the days of our Lord, and by Christ himself. (John 20:19.) In like manner the limitation of the word Abba is still the same as ever, not being brought into common use, but wholly restricted to relations, and of the nearest and tenderest kind.
One proof more. In the common acts of respect observed in the East, when servants do reverence to their masters, or superiors, it is always done by kissing the feet, or the garment. Hence the poor woman we read of, Luke 7:38. But when children meet their parents, and do reverence, they kiss the hand, or the head. Hence the father in the parable. (Luke 15:20.) Moreover, the posture which is observed upon those occasions, differs materially according to the rank of the parties. From inferiors, in giving what is called the Asslem-mah, (Salutation) they always offer it, by laying their right hand upon their breast. Persons of equality, or relations, do it by kissing the hand, head, or shoulder of each other. So Dr. Shaw relates in his Travels to Aleppo, page 301. Let the reader connect this with Jacob kissing his son, and the church's call unto Christ. (Song of Song of Solomon 1:2.) How beautiful and striking both cases! How little the change made in those things, in a period of near four thousand years!
From the whole of these observations, I cannot but conclude, that the word Abba hath a peculiar sweetness in it, and is intended to intimate what a nearness and dearness of affinity there is, between Christ and his church. And I venture to believe, that our holy faith, not only warrants the use of it, but enjoins it, from the personal union, and oneness, of the Lord Jesus Christ with our nature. And under such high encouragement and authority, I confess, that I feel a disposition, upon every occasion, to adopt it, considering it the peculiar privilege of all true believers in Christ, to bring it into constant use, whenever they draw nigh to a throne of grace. See Ammi.
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Hawker, Robert D.D. Entry for 'Abba'. Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance and Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​pmd/​a/abba.html. London. 1828.