What Is Trust?

Posted by on Dec 16, 2016

A friend shared an experience she had when she heard two words from the Creator: emunah “faith” and bitachon “trust.” In previous articles we studied the Hebrew words for faith, hope, grace, and love.

This experience prompted the present author to write another article from the series “What is …?” So, in this article we will study the Hebrew word for “trust.” In a non-Hebraic culture the words like faith, hope, grace, love, and trust very often have abstract ideas which not always reflect their true meaning in the Hebraic culture. And to make it even more complicated a lot of baggage has been attached to them which contributes to even more misunderstanding of these important words so often used in the Scripture.

But in Hebrew they have very concrete and simple meanings which once understood open our eyes to see their true meanings from Hebraic perspectives. Below the present author will explain the Hebrew word bitachon which is commonly translated in English as “trust.” We will use two verses from Psalm 22 as they are translated in Jewish Publication Society (JPS) Bible. Notice that in the Christian Bibles they appear as verses 9 and 10, but in the JPS: as verses 10 and 11.

For Thou art He that took me out of the womb; Thou madest me trust when I was upon my mother’s breasts. Psa 22:9 (22:10)

Upon Thee I have been cast from my birth; Thou art my God from my mother’s womb. Psa 22:10 (22:11)

And below is the literal and interlinear translation of these two verses:

כִּי־אַתָּה because You  גֹחִי took me out  מִבָּטֶן from the womb

מַבְטִיחִי You made me cling  עַל־שְׁדֵי on the breast  אִמִּי of my mother ׃

עָלֶיךָ upon You  הָשְׁלַכְתִּי I was cast  מֵרָחֶם from the womb

מִבֶּטֶן from the womb  אִמִּ֗י of my mother  אֵלִי My El  אָתָּה You are ׃

Our word in this passage is the Hebrew word בָּטַח batach, which figuratively translated means to trust, be confident, or sure. Also, be bold, confident, secure, and even to hope. A word that derives from it is בֶּטַח, betach, with the meaning of a place of refuge but abstractly: safety, safely, confidence, and security. The feminine form of betach is בִּטְחָה, bit’chah, with the same meaning: confidence, a state or place of safety.

With which we come to the word in question בִּטָּחוֹן, bitachon, most commonly translated as “trust”, “confidence”, with the meaning of a trust in a future outcome.

But is this the true meaning of the word בִּטָּחוֹן, bitachon? Notice how the present author has translated this word in Psa 22:9 (10): to cling in a sense of to come or be in close contact with someone or hold together and resist separation. But also, to remain emotionally or intellectually attached to someone.

And how did we come to this translation? Let us analyze these two verses of Psalm 22 using the so-called chiasm: an intersection or crossing of two tracts in the form of the letter X. But first what is a chiastic structure of the Biblical text? There different types of chiasma or chiastic structures which are often used as method of writing of the Biblical text.

To mention a few, we will start from In the beginning … or the Creation story where a type of ABC…ABC chiastic structure is used to narrate the six days of creation. This type of chiasm uses parallelism in order to convey the idea of creation. Another type of a chiastic structure is AB…BA.

The ABCBA chiastic structure is used in many places in the Torah. This kind of chiasm uses a mirrorlike structure and is used to give emphasis to the inmost concept, i.e., C, the concept that appears either twice in succession or only appears once. Also, it shows that the other ideas are all leading up to the middle idea or concept. The idea behind this type of structure is to point the reader to the central idea, that of C-statement.

We will use the AB…BA chiastic structure to analyze Psa 22:9-10. Let us read:

A: Because You are the One who took me out from the womb;

B: You made me cling (batach) on my mother’s breasts. (Psa 22:9)

B: Upon You I was cast (shalak) from birth.

A: You have been my God from my mother’s womb. (Psa 22:10)

We see that the ABCBA chiastic structure’s topics A and B are placed in a symmetrical, mirrorlike order to emphasize the main concept: topic C.

For example, topics A in the text above are about the adoption from the very beginning of human life: You are the One who took me out from the womb and You have been my God from my mother’s womb.

Topics B are about the strong bond created between a child and a mother since birth: You made me cling on my mother’s breasts and between a human and his Creator: Upon You I was cast from birth.

Because the topics in the text appear in the order ABBA so that the first concept A is repeated again at the end, this is actually one topic. And so is the second topic B reiterated in the central place of the chiastic structure to show us that as one is cast upon the Creator from birth, so is a baby clung to the mother’s breast from birth, too. The idea of topic B is to show the strong bond between a baby and a mother which holds them together, but also the idea of emotional attachment to the Creator.

This comes to tell us that topics A lead to the central topics B and to teach us what the psalmist consider close synonyms: batach “to trust” and shalak “to cast on”. Hence, we may conclude that batach has the idea of clinging in a strong bond between the Creator and man. And this is the concrete meaning of the Hebrew word בִּטָּחוֹן, bitachon.

Hopefully, this will help us read and understand the Word better.