Matthew 10:16 Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves:

KJV Verse: 

Mat 10:16 Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: therefore be as wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.

Greek Verse: 

Literal Alternative: 

Look at yourselves! I myself am sending you off just as domestic animals in the competition of wolves. Become for yourselves really as prudent as a snake and as pure as the doves.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

This has always been an interesting verse because it contains a number of plays on words that make is meaning a lot broader. The "sheep" are not necessarily at a disadvantage against the "wolves" here. Both the serpents and the doves are also misleading characterized.

"Behold" is a verb meaning "to behold", "to see", and "to perceive". It is in the form of a command. However it is also in passive form ("be seen") where the subject acts for or on itself. The sense is "Be seen by yourself" or "look at yourselves."

The pronoun "I" is used here. Since, as the subject of the sentence, it is part of the verb, its explicit use accentuates who is speaking "I." Saying "I myself" captures this feeling in English.

The "send forth" is a Greek verb that means "to send off" and "dispatch." It is the source of our word "apostle."

The "you" here is plural, indicating all Christ's listeners. Since we cannot tell a singular "you" from a plural "you" in English, it is helpful to say "you all".

The word translated as "as" has a very broad meaning, translating as "how", "when", "where", "just as", "like," and "nearly".

"Sheep" is the Greek word that refers to any domesticated animal. In the plural, it sometimes works better if it is translated as "flock" or "herd" since it refers to the group. Christ uses this word to refer to all "followers" of a certain way of thinking. Note that both "sheep" ("cows", "goats") and "wolves" are "group" or "follower" animals. Both the hunter and the hunted are groups, unlike, for example, cats, snakes, or doves.

The word translated as "in" also means "within" or "among."

The word translated as "the midst" generally means "middle" but has a lot of special meanings with different prepositions. One of those with the "in" used here is "offer for competition" and "middle point." It also means "difference" so it accentuates the differences between the herd and the wolves.

The Greek word for "wolves" means wolves or jackals, but it is also the name for anything shaped like a hook, representing the claw. It is in the possessive modifying "midst", "competition," and "difference." It is in the possessive plural form "of wolves".

The Greek word translated as "therefore" either emphasizes the truth of something ("certainly", "really") or it simply continues an existing narrative. Either works here. However, since it appears after the verb not before, "really" works a better.

The word translated as "be ye" means "to become," that is, to enter into a new state. In Greek, especially as used by Christ, it is the opposite of "being," which is existence in the current state. It is a command. Like "behold" above, it is in a form where the subjects are acted upon by themselves or for themselves. The sense is "become for yourselves."

The Greek term used for "wise" means "in one's right mind", "showing a presence of mind," and "prudent."

The Greek word for "serpents" is the common word for snake and snake-like things. It is plural, but it is introduced by an article, "the serpents" or "the snakes". This is a reference to the Hebrew in Genesis 3:1, where the serpent is described as the cleverest of all animals. The bronze or brass snake raised by Moses in the desert to cure the Israelites of snakebite is a symbol for Christ being raised on the cross, John 3:14.

The Greek word translated as "and" is used as the conjunction "and", but it also is used to add emphasis ("also") and, in a series, is best translated as "not only...but also."

"Harmless" is translated from a Greek word, which doesn't mean harmless at all. It means "pure", "unravaged," and "incorruptible."

The Greek word for "doves" means either "doves" or "pigeons." Doves were a form of sacrifice required in Leviticus and used at the temple, so it becomes a symbol of purity. The word is plural and introduced by an article, "the doves".

Greek Vocabulary: 

Ἰδοὺ (2nd sg pres imperat mp) "Behold is from idou, which means "to behold", "to see," and "to perceive." It acts as an adverbial phrase in this form meaning "Lo! Behold!" and "See there!' It is a form of the verb eido, which means "to see."

ἐγὼ (pron 1st sg masc nom) "I" is from ego, which is the first person singular pronoun meaning "I". It also means "I at least", "for my part", "indeed," and for myself.

ἀποστέλλω (1st sg pres ind act) "Send...forth" is the Greek, apostello, which means "to send off", "to send away", "t put off", "to doff," or "to dispatch." It is our source of the word "apostle."

ὑμᾶς (pron 2nd pl acc) "You" is from humas which is the plural form of su the pronoun of the second person, "you."

ὡς (conj/adv) "As" is from hos, an adverb which means to "thus", "as", "how", "when", "where", "like", "just as", "so far as", "as much as can be", "that", "in order that", "nearly (with numbers)," and "know that."

πρόβατα (noun pl neut acc) "Sheep" is from probaton, which means any domesticated four-footed animal, "sheep", "cattle", "herds," and "flocks."

ἐν (prep) "In" is from en, which means "in", "on", "at", "by", "among", "within", "surrounded by", "in one's hands", "in one's power," and "with".

μέσῳ (adj sg masc dat) "The midst" is from mesos, which means "middle", "middle point", "midway between", "offered for competition", "deposited," "by the middle", "by the waist", "impartial", "inter-mediate", "indeterminate", "things indifferent (neither good nor bad)", "middling", "moderate", "midst", "intervening space", "intervening", "difference", "in a moderate degree", "in the mean," and "equator."

λύκων: (noun pl masc gen) "Wolves" is from lykos (lukos), which means "wolf", "grisly", "jackals", "anything shaped like a hook", "a kind of noose," and "an engine of war for defending gates."

γίνεσθε (2nd pl pres imperat mp) "Be ye" is from ginomai, which means "to become", "to come into being", "to be produced," and "to be." It means changing into a new state of being. It is the complementary opposite of the verb "to be" (eimi)which indicates existence in the same state.

οὖν (adv) "Therefore" is from oun, which means "certainly", "in fact", "really", "in fact," "so" and "then" (continuing a narrative), and "then" and "therefore."

φρόνιμοι (adj pl masc nom ) "Wise" is from phronimos, which means "in one's right mind", "showing presence of mind," and "prudent." In Hebrew, the source word is arum, which means "crafty", "shrewd," and "sensible."

ὡς (conj/adv) "As" is from hos, an adverb which means to "thus", "as", "how", "when", "where", "like", "just as", "so far as", "as much as can be", "that", "in order that", "nearly (with numbers)," and "know that."

οἱ ὄφεις (noun pl masc acc) "Serpents" is from ophis, which means "serpent", "a serpent-like bracelet," and "a creeping plant." It is a metaphor for "an arrow."

καὶ (conj) "And" is from kai, which is the conjunction joining phrases and clauses, "and," or "but." After words implying sameness, "as" (the same opinion as you). Used in series, joins positive with negative "Not only...but also." Also used to give emphasis, "even", "also," and "just."

ἀκέραιοι (adj pl masc nom) "Harmless" is from akeraios, which doesn't mean harmless at all. It means "pure", "unravaged," and "incorruptible."

ὡς (conj/adv)​ "As" is from hos, an adverb which means to "thus", "as", "how", "when", "where", "like", "just as", "so far as", "as much as can be", "that", "in order that", "nearly (with numbers)," and "know that."

αἱ περιστεραί. (noun pl fem nom)"Doves" is from, peristera, which means "common pigeon" or "dove."


 The word translated as "midst" also means "competition" and "difference."  

The Spoken Version: 

“Master, can we really do this?” Asked Jim, sounding very young. Most of those being sent out were young.
“Of course we can,” said Andy proudly. Big Simon, James, and John all voiced their enthusiastic agreement. Tom and Tad expressed their doubts. Some family members offered encouragement while others expressed their concerns.
“But the Master himself is sending is out!” John argued to silence the critics.
This quieted the argument as everyone turned toward the teacher.
“Look at yourselves!” The teacher said, walking through the group, patting the ones he was sending out on the chest. “I myself am sending you off!”
This made everyone feel better, but some noticed that the teacher wasn’t smiling.
“Like sheep in the competition of wolves,” he finished.
“Well, that doesn’t sound good!” Thad interjected, voicing everyone’s thoughts, but breaking the mood so everyone laughed nervously.
“We’ve talked about this,” Big Simon said. “It isn’t safe on the road. The more successful we are, the more certain groups of people are going to feel threatened.”
“Like the Militants,” said young Simon.
“And the local Dedicated,” Jude pointed out. “So some of us, like James, young John and myself, have to think before we act.”
“Become for yourselves really as careful as a snake,” the teacher agreed.
“And some of us, like young Simon, Nat, and myself, have to control our emotions.”
“And as gentle as the doves,” added the teacher, finishing his thought.

Related Verses: 

May 23 2017