There are two main words for threshold in Hebrew. One relates to an ordinary entrance: good, blessed and essentially holy. The other describes a doorway that is defiled, unholy and treacherous.
The first word, ‘kaph’, is the ordinary threshold. I introduced ‘kaph’ in session 6 and spoke briefly about it in session 8. The source of the word is the Hebrew letter ‘kaph’, which we’d call K. Both the word and the letter are spelled the same way and they originate in a picture for the palm of a hand. Sometimes you’ll also find another word, ‘saph’, translated as threshold but, strictly speaking, ‘saph’ is the shallow basin carved into the stone below the doorway that was positioned to collect blood dripping down from the lintels and doorposts.
Now, although ‘kaph’ means threshold or cornerstone, the family of words connected to it generally relate to covering and atonement. Such words include ransom or redemption, the Day of Atonement, the pitch coating Noah’s ark, the mercy-seat covering the Ark of the Covenant, the caps sitting on the heads of orthodox Jews, frost layering the landscape, even henna dyeing and decoration.
In vast contrast is ‘miphtan’, the other Hebrew word translated as threshold. Unfortunately, English translations of Scripture do not readily bring out the immensely significant differences between ‘miphtan’ and ‘kaph’ and, as a consequence, they can lead to confusion and seeming contradiction.
Zechariah 1:9 ESV speaks about the Day of the Lord as a time when He ‘will punish everyone who leaps over the threshold.’ This statement doesn’t make any sense, because God actually wants us to leap joyfully across thresholds—why on earth would He punish us for celebrating a Passover? Because to ‘pass over’ actually meant to leap over a threshold, avoiding the blood in the basin, and joining in the fine feast the host had prepared.
Only when we understand God wants us to pass over a ‘kaph’ but not a ‘miphtan’ does the verse make sense. A ‘miphtan’ is a watching post for the spirit of Python and stinks with spiritual corruption. The Hebrew name for python is actually hidden in the word ‘miphtan’.
The first time ‘miphtan’ appears in Scripture, the indicators of defilement are clearly evident. The Philistines had captured the Ark of the Covenant and put it as a trophy of war in the temple of Dagon. 1 Samuel 1:4–5 NIV explains what happened:
The following morning… there was Dagon, fallen… on the ground before the ark of the Lord! His head and hands had been broken off and were lying on the threshold; only his body remained. That is why to this day neither the priests of Dagon nor any others who enter Dagon’s temple at Ashdod step on the threshold.
Both times, threshold as used here is ‘miphtan’. All too often we think, just because we’re believers, the threshold into our calling will be secure and undefiled. That is simply naïvety.
This is Grace Drops; I’m Anne Hamilton. May Jesus, Lord of all thresholds, watch over you today.
Thank you to Lorna Skinner of www.riversofmusic.co.uk for the background music.