a great and heavy object; burdensome, great
Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened,
That it cannot save;
Nor His ear heavy,
That it cannot hear.
Previous article: Pharaoh’s Heart
The literal definition of this word is fairly straightforward, as seen in the following verse.
When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell backward from his chair beside the gate. He broke his neck and died, for he was old and heavy. He had judged Israel for forty years. 1 Samuel 4:18
The word describes something that had great weight due to great bulk (such as Eli) or a large quantity, such as Absalom’s hair.
And when he cut the hair of his head–at the end of every year he cut it because it was heavy on him–when he cut it, he weighed the hair of his head at two hundred shekels according to the king’s standard. 2 Samuel 14:26
We get some help from Job in understanding how ancient Israelites used the word figuratively. In the following passage, Job used the word literally, but in a figurative context.
Oh that my grief were thoroughly weighed, and my calamity laid in the balances together! For now it would be heavier than the sand of the sea: therefore my words are swallowed up. Job 6:2-3
Job compared his tragedies to being crushed under the heaviest weight you could imagine. While the sand of the sea has a literal, physical weight, his tragedies did not have a physical weight. Yet the burden of his tragedies were as crushing on an emotional level as the weight of the sand on a physical level. Thus, the ancient Israelites used the metaphor similarly to how we use it.
These verses below link the figurative concept of H3513 with the literal by using direct comparisons of tangible weight with intangible burdens.
A stone is heavy (H3514) and sand is weighty, But a fool’s wrath is heavier than both of them. Proverbs 27:3
For my iniquities have gone over my head; Like a heavy (H3515) burden they are too heavy for me. Psalm 38:4
Very likely, this figurative use of heavy is relatively easy for us to grasp since we often use similar figurative language. Just as we use the word, burden, in the English language in a wide variety of contexts, so Scripture used H3513 to describe a wide variety of things that might be burdensome. For example, Pharaoh used the word in the context of work.
“Let more work be laid on the men, that they may labor in it, and let them not regard false words.” Exodus 5:9
But Scripture used the concept of heavy in applications other than burdensome, such as speaking of figuratively heavy [fierce] battle (Judges 20:34, 1 Samuel 31:3), or a fountain abounding [heavy] with water (Proverbs 8:24).
An interesting figurative application of ‘heavy’ is to speak of relative greatness, such as Abram’s great wealth.
Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold. Genesis 13:2
In other words, Abram was very ‘heavy’ in possessions. I’m guessing this application was based on the fact that a very heavy object was generally an impressively massive object. For example, a very heavy rock would be a great (large) rock. So Abram’s wealth was called ‘heavy’ in the sense that it was an impressively great amount of wealth. In a similar fashion, Scripture applied H3513 to great people, such as the prince of Shechem.
So the young man did not delay to do the thing, because he delighted in Jacob’s daughter. He was more honorable than all the household of his father. Genesis 34:19
In other words, the prince of Shechem was morally heavier, or, greater in morality, than his peers. H3513 also described a greater social status.
‘for I will certainly honor you greatly, and I will do whatever you say to me. Therefore please come, curse this people for me.’ Numbers 22:17
In this passage, king Balak promised to make Balaam heavy, that is, greater than his peers in a social setting. So H3513 could describe a greater morality, a greater social status, but also a greater reverence or respect.
“Then the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gained honor for Myself over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.” Exodus 14:18
Furthermore, Scripture even applied the concept in the context of a false sense of greatness.
“Indeed you say that you have defeated the Edomites, and your heart is lifted up to boast. Stay at home now; why should you meddle with trouble, that you should fall–you and Judah with you?” But Amaziah would not heed, for it came from God, that He might give them into the hand of their enemies, because they sought the gods of Edom. 2 Chronicles 25:19-20
Amaziah had a false sense of greatness that stemmed from the pride that came from his previous victory. This false sense of greatness led him to ignore the wise words of warning and make a stupid decision that cost him his nation, just as Pharaoh’s pride cost him greatly.
The final type of figurative application we will consider is when heavy was applied to a body part. It generally meant the body part did not function as it should.
Now the eyes of Israel were dim with age, so that he could not see. Then Joseph brought them near him, and he kissed them and embraced them. Genesis 48:10
Saying Jacob’s eyes were heavy with age meant he was more or less blind. Similarly, saying a person’s ear was heavy meant they couldn’t hear.
Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear. Isaiah 59:1
Or, it meant the person wouldn’t hear and refused to heed what was told to them.
“But they refused to heed, shrugged their shoulders, and stopped their ears so that they could not hear. Zechariah 7:11
Notice how making their ears heavy produced a similar result to when Amaziah was making himself heavy (great) through his boasting: neither Amaziah nor these people heeded the advice they received; both responded in a way that did not make good sense. So Scripture used H3515 to describe people as heavy with pride, which made them stubborn and unwilling to listen, and to describe people’s ears as heavy, which meant they were not willing to listen.
It was in this same sense of dysfunctional that God used the term in calling for His peoples’ ears to be made heavy.
“Make the heart of this people dull, And their ears heavy, And shut their eyes; Lest they see with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart, And return and be healed.” Isaiah 6:10
God called for this dullness because the people of Israel, repeatedly getting into trouble through their idolatries, would repent just enough for God to bring deliverance, and once delivered they returned quickly to idolatry. God desired to bring a judgment that was severe enough to turn them from idolatries for good. For the judgment to be effective, it was necessary for the people to know why the judgment was coming. But to prevent them from having a shallow repentance to avoid the impending judgment, God called for their ears to be made heavy. The end result was, because their ears were heavy, they were carried away into Babylon for 70 years where they finally turned from idols for good.
The literal definition is heavy, due to bulk (Eli) or great quantity (Absalom’s hair).
The figurative applications are varied. Using the concept of weight, Scripture called burdensome things, heavy. In addition, Scripture called honored people, heavy; evidently using the fact that the heavier object is also the larger object. Finally, when it called a body part heavy, it meant the body part didn’t function as normal.