Mat 11:7 What did you go out into the wilderness to see?

KJV Verse: 

Mat 11:7 What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?

Greek Verse: 

Literal Alternative: 

What did you go out into the middle of nowhere to view for yourselves? A hollow stalk under a wind, trembling?

Hidden Meaning: 

There are a couple of subtle aspects to this verse that are hidden in translation. However, the verse is clearly humorous with a subtle play on words that is lost in translation.

The word translated as "what" is a pronoun that often, but not always signals a question.

The word translated as "went ye out" means literally "to go or come out," but it has a secondary meaning of "making something come true."

The word translated as "into" means "into" a place, "towards" as a direction, and "up to" limits in time and measure.

"The wilderness" is from an adjective meaning "desolate", "lonely," and "solitary." It has the sense of the English phrase "the middle of nowhere."

The Greek verb translated as "to see" means to "gaze at" or "behold." It is not one of the common words usually translated simply as "to see". It has the sense of viewing something as a spectator. Of the mind, it means "to contemplate." It is in the form describing someone acting on themselves.

"A reed" is translated from a Greek word that means "a reed," that is, a plant of hollow stalks that is not a bush or tree. Christ uses it as a metaphor for something standing upright that is not hard or solid.

"Shaken" is a verb which means "to cause to rock", "to vibrate," and has the metaphorical meaning of "being tempest-tossed" It is in the form which indicates that subject acting on themselves. In English, we describe someone shaking themselves as "trembling".

The word translated as "with" primarily means "by", "under," or "with" (with the genitive and a passive verb as here). Its primary meaning is "under" both in the sense of moving under, being under, and being under different forms of compulsion.

"Wind" is from a noun which means "wind" or "gale." However, lost in translation is the fact that the Greek word translated as "spirit" also means "breath" or "wind." Christ does not use the word here but he refers to it.


 A play on "wind" being a synonym for "spirit." 


Τί (pron sg neut nom ) What" is from tis which can mean "someone", "any one", "everyone", "they [indefinite]", "many a one", "whoever", "anyone", "anything", "some sort", "some sort of", "each", "any", "the individual", "such," and so on. In a question, it can mean "who", "why," or "what."

ἐξήλθατε (2nd pl aor ind act) "Went ye" is from exerchomai, which means "to come or go out of " "to march forth", "go out on", "to stand forth", "to exceed all bounds", "to come to an end", "to go out of office," and [of dreams or prophecies] "to come true."

εἰς (prep) "Into" is from eis, which means "into (of place)," "up to (of time)", "until (of time)", "as much as (of measure or limit)", "as far as (of measure or limit)", "towards (to express relation)", "in regard to (to express relation)", "of an end or limit," and "for (of purpose or object)."

τὴν ἔρημον (adj sg neut acc) "The wilderness" is from eremos, which is an adjective (used as a noun) that means "desolate", "lonely", "solitary", "reft of", "destitute of", "bereft of", "unclaimed", "vacant," [of places] "deserted," [of people] "friendless," and "not gregarious."

θεάσασθαι; (aor inf mid) "To see" is theaomai, which means "to behold", "to gaze with a sense of wonder", "view as a spectator", "to see clearly," and "to contemplate."

κάλαμον (noun sg masc acc) "A reed" is kalamos, which means "a reed" or anything made of reed, specifically a reed staff, a measuring reed, a reed you write with, a fishing pole, a shaft of an arrow, or a reed pipe.

ὑπὸ (prep) "With" is from hypo (hupo), which means [with genitive] "from under (of motion)", "down under," under, beneath," indicating a cause with passive verbs, "by", "under," or "with", "under the cover or protection of", "of the agency of feelings, passions," "expressing subjection or dependence," "subordinate", "subject to;" [with accusative] "towards" and "under" (to express motion), "under" (without a sense of motion), "subjection", "control", "dependence," of Time, "in the course of", "during", "about," as an adverb, "under", "below," beneath, the agency or influence under which a thing is done "by", "before,' and "under," (with genitive and passive verbs of cause).

ἀνέμου (noun sg masc gen​) "The wind" is from anemos, which means "wind", "a cardinal point," or "quarter." It means both the physical wind and the direction from which the wind comes.

σαλευόμενον; (part sg pres mp)"Shaken" is saleusô, which means "to cause to rock", "to vibrate", "to wave to and frow, "move up and down", "roll", "toss," and metaphorically, "toss like a ship at sea", "to be tempest-tossed," and "be in sore distress."

Jun 21 2017