Matthew 23:37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets,

KJV Verse: 

Mat 23:37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

Greek Verse: 

Literal Alternative: 

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one slaying the prophets, and the one throwing stones at the ones having been sent to her. So many times, I have wanted to collect and bring in your children. Which, even as the bird collects and brings in her chickies. You really didn't want [it].

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

A number of uncommon (for Christ) words here, including some changes from words he has used before that are difficult to understand. Though not precisely translated, the KJV captures the gist of the verse, but it misses the wordplay that makes it clear that the "bird with chickies" part of this verse was performed.

The word "Jerusalem" denotes the city or its inhabitants. Two different forms of this word appear in the NT. This is the only time this form is used in Matthew. It is only used once in Mark, but not in Christ's words. It isn't used at all in John. This version is used most heavily in Luke, mostly in his narration, but a few times in Christ's words. It seems to be the more formally Greek version of the name.

"Thou that killest" is translated from a Greek word that means "destroy" more than just "kill" because the base word means "slay." The Greek source has the sense of "kill off," that is, destroy in a more thorough way. When we talk about "destroying" someone, we use it to mean destroying their reputation, the strength of their spirit and ideas as well as physically killing them. This is more the sense here. This is a verb used as a noun, "the one slaying."

The Greek word translated as "prophets" means "one who speaks for God", "interpreter" and was the highest level of priesthood in Egypt. Christ uses it to refer not only to divine spokespeople but their books in the OT. It is from the verb that means "to shine before."

"Stonest" is from a word that means literally "to throw stones." The verb is in the form of a noun, "the one stoning." Like the "slaying" used above, the tense is in the present.

The "them that was sent" here is from a word that means "to send off" and "dispatch." It is the source of our word "apostle." Here, the verb is in the form a plural, masculine noun in the past perfect, "the ones that have been sent."

The word translated as "unto " means "towards", "by reason of (for)", and "against." 

The word translated as "to you" actually is the third-person feminine so "to her". This statement is not seem addressed to Jerusalem but said about Jerusalem. 

The word translated as "how often" means "how many time" or "so many times."

The Greek word translated as "I would" is not the same as the helper verb "will" in English, which primarily expresses the future tense. Its primary purpose is to express consent and even a delight in doing something. It means "to consent" and "to be resolved to a purpose".

This is the first time Christ uses the term translated as "gather together" (literally, "collect and bring in"). After the later use in this verse, the next time he uses it (Mat 24:31) to refer specifically to the gathering of the elect. The term has a sense of someone doing work to bring together something for their own use.

The word translated as "children" means "child" but in the more general sense of "offspring." Christ does not use it to refer specifically to children under seven, which is another term. See this article more about these words for "child."

An untranslated word appears here in the Greek, a demonstrative pronoun, but it often acts as a pronoun, especially a connective pronoun introducing a dependent clause. It matches the form of the following word.

"Even as" is from a noun, uncommon for Christ that means "style", "way," or "custom," plus a lot of other specific meanings. The sense here is "this way." However, it in the form of an object without a verb, so the sense is "[it is] this way." This would announce a demonstration of the following part.

The word translated as "hen" is the general, formal word for "bird," in Greek. It includes birds of prey and domestic fowls. This is not the word Christ normally uses for birds, which literally means "wing ones." This is the only time he uses this word (except for parrallel verse in Luke). Nor does it mean a female bird, being in a form that can mean either male or female.

"Gatherest" is from the word used above the means "collect and bring in."

The Greek word translated as "chickens" doesn't refer to chickens, but to a young bird or chick. It is a diminutive form, so "chickies." The sense in good Greek is more like "youngies" but it is spelled differently here ("nossia" instead of "neossia," with "neo" meaning "young") so that sense is lost.

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

The Greek word translated as "wings" is the common word for "wings," and, like our word, has a lot of related meanings. If is a version of this word that usually gets translated as "birds" in the NT.

The Greek word translated as "ye would" is the verb translated as the "I would" above, mean "to want" or "to desire."

The Greek word translated as "not" is the Greek negative used to deny objective facts, not opinions. It makes a negative statement of fact. Adding "really" to the sentence to captures the same idea.

Greek Vocabulary: 

Ἰερουσαλήμ, "Jerusalem" is from Ierousalēm, which is a form of word that denotes the city or its inhabitants. Two different forms, this form and Hierosolyma, in the NT. This is the first use of this form.

ἀποκτείνουσα (part sg pres act fem nom), "Thou that killest" is from apokteino, which means "to kill," and "to slay." It combines the word for "to slay" (kteino) with the proposition, apo, indicating separation, meaning "from" or "away from."but it is a stronger form than the normal verb kteino. It is more like our "destroy." It is in the form of a present participle, "destroying" acting as a noun ("those destroying").

τοὺς προφήτας (noun pl masc acc) "The prophets" is from prophetes, which means "one who speaks for a god and interprets his will", "interpreter", "keepers of the oracle", "the highest level of priesthood in Egypt", "interpreter," and "herald." It is a verb that means "to shine forth" It is a form of the verb, prophao. which means "to shine forth," or "to shine before."

καὶ "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."

λιθοβολοῦσα (part sg pres act fem nom) "Stonest" is from lithoboleo, which means "to pelt with stones."

τοὺς ἀπεσταλμένους (part pl perf mp masc acc) "Them that was sent" is from apostello, which means "to send off", "to send away," or "to dispatch."

πρὸς "For" is from pros, which means "on the side of", "in the direction of", "from (place)", "towards" "before", "in the presence of", "in the eyes of", "in the name of", "by reason of", "before (supplication)", "proceeding from (for effects)", "dependent on", "derivable from", "agreeable,""becoming", "like", "at the point of", "in addition to", "against," and "before."

αὐτὴν, (adj sg fem acc ) "Thee" is from autos, which means "the same," and the reflexive pronouns, "myself", "yourself", "himself", "herself", "itself," or the oblique case of the pronouns, "him", "her," and "it." It also means "one's true self," that is, "the soul" as opposed to the body and "of one's own accord."

ποσάκις [uncommon] (adv) "How often" is from posakis, which means "how many times?." "how often?" and "so many times."

ἠθέλησα (verb 1st sg aor ind act") "Would I" is from thelo, which as a verb means "to be willing (of consent rather than desire)", "to wish", "to ordain", "to decree", "to be resolved to a purpose" "to maintain", "to hold", "to delight in, and "will (too express a future event)." As an adverb, "willingly," and "gladly." and "to desire." As an adjective, it means "wished for" and "desired."

ἐπισυναγαγεῖν [uncommon] (verb 1st sg aor ind act) "Gather together" is from episynago, which means "to collect and bring to a place." It also means to "bring into" a conversation or to "infer" or "conclude."

τὰ τέκνα (noun pl neut nom) "Children" is from teknon, which means "that which is born", "child," and "the young."

σου, (adj sg masc/neut gen) "Thy" is from sou which means "you" and "your."

ὃν (pron sg masc/neut acc) Untranslated is hos, which means "this", "that", "he", "she", "which", "what", "who", "whosoever", "where", "for which reason," and many similar meanings.

τρόπον [uncommon](noun sg masc acc) "Even as" is from tropos, which means a "turn", "direction", "course", "way", "guise", "how?" "fitting", "suitable," of persons, "a way of life", "habit", "custom," a man's "ways", "habits", "character", "temper," in speaking or writing, "manner", "style," but more generally, "style," and in Music, a particular "mode."

ὄρνις [uncommon] (noun sg masc/fem nom) "A hen" is from ornis, which means "bird," including birds of prey and domestic fowls, "bird of omen," a metaphor for "omen" taken from the flight or cries of birds, "cock", "hen," and "fowl."

ἐπισυνάγει (verb 3rd sg pres ind act) "Gathereth" is from episynago, which means "to collect and bring to a place." It also means to "bring into" a conversation or to "infer" or "conclude."

τὰ νοσσία (νεοσσιά) [uncommon] (noun pl neut nom/acc diminutive) "Chickens" is from nossion, which means "a young bird", "nestling", "chick", "yolk" of an egg, and, as a metaphor, "chip off the block." A form of "neon" meaning "young" and "youthful."

[αὐτῆς] (adj sg fem gen) "Her" is from autos, which means "the same," and the reflexive pronouns, "myself", "yourself", "himself", "herself", "itself," or the oblique case of the pronouns, "him", "her," and "it." It also means "one's true self," that is, "the soul" as opposed to the body and "of one's own accord."

ὑπὸ "Under" 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).

τὰς πτέρυγας, [uncommon](noun pl fem acc) "Wings" is from pteryx, which means "wings", "winged creature", "bird," "flight", "augury", "omen,"anything like a wing, "flippers" of seals or turtles, "feathery foliage," "blade" of the steering-paddle, "flap" of a cuirass, "broad edge" of a knife or hunting-spear, "shoulder-blade," pl., "sails," anything that covers or protects like wings, and "wings" of a building.

καὶ "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."

οὐκ "Not" is from ou which is the negative adverb for facts and statements, negating both single words and sentences. The other negative adverb, μή applies to will and thought; οὐ denies, μή rejects; οὐ is absolute, μή relative; οὐ objective, μή subjective. -- The Greek word translated as "not" is the Greek negative used to deny objective facts, not opinions. It makes a negative statement of fact. Adding "really" to the sentence to captures the same idea.

ἠθελήσατε; (verb 2nd pl aor ind act) "Ye would" is from thelo, which as a verb means "to be willing (of consent rather than desire)", "to wish", "to ordain", "to decree", "to be resolved to a purpose" "to maintain", "to hold", "to delight in, and "will (to express a future event)." As an adverb, "willingly," and "gladly." and "to desire." As an adjective, it means "wished for" and "desired."

Wordplay: 

The word translated as "even as" means "this way" seemingly announcing a demonstation,

Christ contrasted what he desires with what Jerusalem desires. 

The Spoken Version: 

"Jerusalem," he said, putting his hands around his mouth as if calling children in to dinner. "Jerrruuuusaaaleeem!"

The crowd laughed and he continued in the same light tone.

"The one destroying the prophets," he called. "And the one throwing stones at the ones who were sent to you!"

The crowd laughed again.

"So many times," he continued, still talking to the city. "I have wanted to gather and bring in your children."

He waved his arms broadly in a repeated, soft gathering motion that he turned into a comedic flapping one.

"This style?" he explained to the crowd, explained to the crowd. "A hen gathering her chickies beneath her wings!"

The crowd laughed.

But then he looked off to the city again and at his chief opponent, looking much sadder.

"No," he said almost sighing in resignation. "You really didn't want that."

Related Verses: 

Jul 8 2016