Matthew 5:5, blessed are the meek
5:5 “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.”
(Matt 5:5 WEB)
Inheriting the earth
The next to receive Jesus’ attention are a group whom translators variously described as the gentle, the meek or the afflicted. In practice none of these words does justice to the original Greek, or the Hebrew ideas that lay behind the word.
The Greeks used the word, to describe a horse that had been broken in, in other words a wild animal taken and rendered gentle and compliant in the service of its master. By extension the word was also used of people who had a similar temperament. Jesus uses just such an image, of the disciple as valued workhorse, when he invites others to take his yoke. Everyone serves someone or something, even if that someone is only ourselves or the something is the expectations of others, but Jesus presents serving God as a far better option.
When the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek, the same word as used in this beatitude is applied in a telling way. It carries the sense of being shaped by affliction, and is applied to men and women whose rebellion has been broken by adverse experiences, but who respond by willingly yielding their strength to the service of God. They are those who, like the patriarch Joseph, come out of life’s ordeals convinced that God allowed their suffering only that good might eventually result. Like the well trained work-horse, they obediently turn their strength to ploughing a straight furrow.
The Hebrew Bible’s promise, that those whom God has fashioned through adversity will inherit the land, originated with the promise to Abraham that God would give to his descendants whatever land he saw. Abraham only saw Palestine and it was to that area that the promise would become firmly attached. However, with the advent of King David there came a renewed sense that the promise was not geographically constrained to the Middle-East, but whatever land the King of Israel might desire to extend his benevolent authority over, God would give it to him.