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ISBE: GROAN
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Groan

GROAN [ISBE]

GROAN - gron (na'aq, 'anaq; stenazo, embrimaomai): The English word, noun and verb, is an attempt to imitate the vocal sound which is expressive of severe pain or distress, physical or mental. It is cognate with the Scottish dialect word girn, and with grin in its original obsolete sense, as used in the Anglican Prayer-book version of Ps 59:6,14, "grin like a dog and go about the city"; here "grin" is a translation of hamah, and means the sound of the nightly howling of the pariah dogs in Jerusalem and other oriental cities. It is used in the Old Testament:

(1) To denote the expression accompanying physical suffering, as in the case of the Israelites in Egypt oppressed by Pharaoh's taskmasters (Ex 2:24; 6:5), or in Palestine under the yoke of the Canaanites (Jdg 2:18, neqaqah). It is also used in Job's description of the sufferings and wretchedness of the poor (Job 24:12) as well as in his complaint concerning his own suffering when smitten by the hand of God (Job 23:2). The Psalmist speaks of groaning when fever-stricken and remorseful, the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American) "roaring all the day long" (Ps 32:3; 38:9; 102:5; 22:1).

(2) The expression of suffering on the part of beasts, hungry and thirsty in drought (Joel 1:18).

(3) The manifestation of mental and spiritual distress as in Ps 6:6; 102:20 (the Revised Version (British and American) "sighing").

(4) Metaphorically groaning is the despairing note of Egypt in the prophecy of her overthrow by Babylon, the sound being that uttered by a deadly wounded man (Ezek 30:24; similarly in the prophecy of the Persian conquest the misery of Babylon is thus represented by Jer 51:52); and the misery of Tyre when taken by Babylon is similarly described (Ezek 26:15, the King James Version "cry").

The word for "sigh" ('anachah) is closely allied, and the meanings are sufficiently akin, so that the terms seem interchangeable. A sigh is physically a sign of respiratory distress due to depressed action of the heart; sighing is consequently the indication of physical weakness or mental disquietude, as Ps 12:5; 31:10; 79:11; Isa 21:2; 24:7; 35:10; Jer 45:3.

Na'aq is the crying of persons dying or starving, as in Ezek 30:24; Job 24:12. A somewhat similar word, haghah, means the complaining sound like that of the cooing of doves (Isa 59:11; Nah 2:7). Nehi is the sound of lamentation of the dead (Jer 9:10; 31:15; Am 5:16).

In the New Testament "groaning" is used for the expression of mental distress. In Jn 11:33,15 the word used is part of the verb embrimaomai, which conveys the idea of deep and earnest emotion. The same word in two other passages is translated "strictly charged," and indicates the emphasis of the charge (Mt 9:30; Mk 1:43). Elsewhere "sighing" and "groaning" are renderings of words derived from the verb stenazo, as in Rom 8:23; 2 Cor 5:2,4; Mk 7:34; 8:12. Stephen calls the groaning of Israel in Egypt stenagmos (Acts 7:34), and the united wail of the travailing creation is expressed by Paul by the word sunstenazei (Rom 8:22). The sigh is a characteristic sign of woe in Isa 21:2; 24:7; Jer 45:3; Lam 14,8,11,12; Ezek 9:4; 21:6 f.

Alexander Macalister


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