Song of Songs 5:2 (NASB) “I was asleep but my heart was awake. A voice! My beloved was knocking: ‘Open to me, my sister, my darling, My dove, my perfect one! For my head is drenched with dew, My locks with the damp of the night.’
One of the themes of Elul, especially leading up to Rosh Hashanah or Yom Teruah, is being aroused from sleep, a stupor, or mystically, from the grave. Yom Teruah, often dubbed the Feast of Trumpets, literally means “the day of the awakening blast.” While the ultimate manifestation of arising from “sleep” is bodily resurrection, other figurative or spiritual applications are equally valuable to our walk with Messiah.
I was blessed to have recently joined the ladies of “The Hidden Voice of Hadassah” on Messianic Lamb Radio. (Listen here.) AviGayle O’Hare mentioned a podcast she had made the previous week on Jonah. This intrigued me as Jonah is the haftarah on Yom Kippur, the end of the forty days of teshuvah. (You can listen here by clicking the title “You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide.”)
Sometimes, hearing the Word is different than reading the Word. When AviGayle read the words of Jonah chapter one, a particular section captured my attention. (See the bolded text below.)
Jonah 1:3-6 (NASB) But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. 4 The LORD hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up. 5 Then the sailors became afraid and every man cried to his god, and they threw the cargo which was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone below into the hold of the ship, lain down and fallen sound asleep.6 So the captain approached him and said, “How is it that you are sleeping? Get up, call on your god.Perhaps your god will be concerned about us so that we will not perish.”
When Jonah flees the commandment or Word of YHWH to go to Nineveh, he boards a ship headed to Tarshish. Because of his disobedience, Adonai caused a storm with great winds to threaten the ship and its occupants. Despite this dire circumstance, Jonah falls into a “sound sleep” below deck.
Have you ever been on a ship at sea during a storm? I’ve been on a cruise ship that avoided the worst of a storm, but the waves still managed to cause us to rock and sway far more than was comfortable. Many grew deathly sea sick. Sleep eluded most people until the waters calmed. So, how is it that when the rest of the crew was awake and panicked, that Jonah fell into a sound sleep and managed to stay in that condition? We will come back to this question later. First, let’s examine sleep in the Bible and let the Word interpret itself.
The Creator sovereignly chose to create mankind with the ability and NEED for sleep. On average, we sleep about a third of lives. That is a massive chunk of time! Getting a good night’s rest improves one’s cognitive abilities and decreases the likelihood of disease and sickness. According to various scientific studies, someone lacking sleep is equivalent to a drunk. Judgment skills and motor function are severely impaired.We NEED sleep. True rest rejuvenates and restores one’s mind, body, emotions, and spirit. Perhaps this is why the Hebrew word for dream, chalom, is nearly the same as shalom in spelling and meaning. But, that’s a topic for another post.
The Hebrew words for normal sleep are yashen and shenah.
Strong’s H3462 יָשֵׁןyâshên A primitive root; properly to be slack or languid, that is, (by implication) sleep (figuratively to die); also to grow old, stale or inveterate: – old (store), remain long, (make to) sleep. Total KJV occurrences: 19
Strong’s H8142 שֵׁנָא שֵׁנָה shênâh (The second form used in Psa 127:2); from H3462; sleep: – sleep. Total KJV occurrences: 23
While Strong’s links these two words together and suggests that the latter (shenah) is rooted in the former (yashen), there is another possibility that I find quite intriguing, particularly in relation to the season of teshuvah and the upcoming feast of Yom Teruah or Rosh Hashanah. Carefully look at H8142 above. Now, look at the Hebrew word shanah, the word for year and to repeat, and its verbal root:
Strong H8141 שָׁנָה שָׁנֶהshâneh shânâh (The first form being in plural only, the second form being feminine); from H8138; a year (as a revolution of time): – + whole age, X long, + old, year (X -ly). Total KJV occurrences: 812
H8138 שׁנהshânâh BDB Definition: 1) to repeat, do again, change, alter. 1a) (Qal) to change. 1b) (Niphal) to be repeated. 1c) (Piel) to change, alter. 1d) (Hithpael) to disguise oneself. Part of Speech: verb A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: a primitive root
The words for sleep, repeat/change, and year are related. There are other words that fall into this family that are also interesting. You can read more about them here. How does sleep (shenah) relate to change or repetition (shanah)? Well, for starters, we sleep over and over again in a repeating daily cycle, so the repetition is obvious.
Does sleep change one in some way? Modern science could answer this question with empirical evidence supporting the notion that sleep restores the mind, body, and emotions, which is a change for the better. If this is true in the natural, then it must also be true in the spiritual. In some way, sleep restores and changes one spiritually. While I believe dreams play a strong role in this nocturnal process, this post will stick to the related activity of sleep and deep sleep.
Now that we’ve connected sleep (shenah) to change (shanah), what about the Hebrew word for year, shanah? A year is also a repeating cycle, a revolution of time that is like the previous cycle, but new and different, a change. Since we are approaching Rosh Hashanah, the change or turn of the year, which is also the time of the awakening blast, I couldn’t help but to point out this word play to my readers. I don’t believe in coincidences.
This is the season to make a change, to turn, to repeat the things that need to continue, to stop and change the things that need to be corrected. Spiritually speaking, this is WAKING from slumber. It is becoming conscious of the reality of one’s sin and consequent death. It is, as King Solomon recorded in the Song of Songs, being asleep with a heart that is awake ready to receive the King, our Beloved. Rambamsaid it this way:
“Even though the blowing of the shofar on Rosh HaShanah is a Biblical decree, it hints at something, i.e., ‘Wake up, sleepers, from your sleep! And slumberers, arise from your slumber! Search your ways and return in teshuvah and remember your Creator! Those who forget the Truth amidst the futility of the moment and are infatuated all their years with vanity and nothingness that will not help and will not save, examine your souls and improve your ways and your motivations! Let each of you abandon his wicked ways, and his thoughts which are no good.’”- Mishneh Torah, Repentance 3
My prayer for you in this season of teshuvah leading up to the High Holy Days is to be fully awake and aware of what is in your own heart. Yeshua is Light, and light reveals what is in the darkness. May we be sensitive to the gentle discipline of the Holy Spirit and be merciful with our neighbors that struggle in their slumber. May the blast of the shofar pierce your heart and soul so that sincere change occurs. Notice how this verse from Isaiah reflects the message of the Shulamite woman in Song of Songs quoted at the beginning of this post, and the direct references to waking and resurrection.
Is. 26:19 (NASB) Your dead will live; Their corpses will rise. You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy, For your dew is as the dew of the dawn, And the earth will give birth to the departed spirits.
More Hebrew Words for Sleep
Sleep is a strange and wonderful thing. Sentient beings laying down, closing their eyes, and becoming unaware of the conscious world around them is rather mystical when one meditates upon this phenomenon. It’s not difficult to see why sleep became an idiom for death in the Bible.
21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept (yashen); then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. (NASB)
The Hebrew word translated as “deep sleep” is tardemah.This word is only found in seven places in the Bible. The context of the first mention above makes it clear that this is no ordinary sleep or rest. In fact, YHWH is the cause of this trance-like state. It’s second use is equally compelling.
Gen. 15:12 (NASB) Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, terror and great darkness fell upon him. (Context is the Covenant of the Pieces)
Both Adam and Abram are a type of Messiah. Adam’s tardemah results in him receiving a bride. Abram’s tardemah results in him receiving a nation (descendants) and the Land of Promise. Mystically speaking, Adam and Abraham “died” (deep sleep) to receive the covenant of marriage (his house), descendants, and a land. In fact, terror and great darkness was felt by Abraham. Did Messiah suffer anything like this?
While Messiah’s death was literal rather than figurative, the lives of these ancient fathers prefigured Messiah’s work. His suffering and death also resulted in a covenant, a bride, a people, and the Land. In fact, Messiah’s work was far greater in that He overcame the whole world, even sin and death (the grave)!
The other instances of tardemah demonstrate that God uses this type of deep sleep in other ways as well.
1 Sam. 26:12 (NASB) So David took the spear and the jug of water from beside Saul’s head, and they went away, but no one saw or knew it, nor did any awake, for they were all asleep (yashen), because a sound sleep from the LORD had fallen on them.
Job 4:12-14 (NASB) “Now a word was brought to me stealthily, And my ear received a whisper of it. 13 “Amid disquieting thoughts from the visions of the night, When deep sleep falls on men, 14 Dread came upon me, and trembling, And made all my bones shake.
Job 33:15-18 (NASB) “In a dream, a vision of the night, When sound sleep falls on men, While they slumber in their beds, 16 Then He opens the ears of men, And seals their instruction, 17 That He may turn man aside from his conduct, And keep man from pride; 18 He keeps back his soul from the pit, And his life from passing over into Sheol.
Pr. 19:15-16 (NASB) Laziness casts into a deep sleep, And an idle man will suffer hunger. 16 He who keeps the commandment keeps his soul, But he who is careless of conduct will die.
Is. 29:10 (NASB) For the LORD has poured over you a spirit of deep sleep, He has shut your eyes, the prophets; And He has covered your heads, the seers.
A deep or sound sleep can result in a divine message from the Creator, but it can also prevent one from waking or experiencing what is happening in the conscious human world. It also seems that one can fall into this type of sleep in a figurative way by being lazy, idle, or because of rebellion. One thing is certain based on the complete mention of this noun: this is a spiritual or supernatural type of sleep.
Tardemah comes from the verbal root radam. While radam can mean to sleep naturally, it is also used figuratively for death, of a stupor, confusion, or of a prophetic trance-like state. Consider the following definition and verses:
H7290 רָדַםrâdam A primitive root; to stun, that is, stupefy (with sleep or death): – (be fast a-, be in a deep, cast into a dead, that) sleep (-er, -eth). Total KJV occurrences: 7
Jdg. 4:21 (NASB) But Jael, Heber’s wife, took a tent peg and seized a hammer in her hand, and went secretly to him and drove the peg into his temple, and it went through into the ground; for he was sound asleep and exhausted. So he died.
Ps. 76:6 (NASB) At Your rebuke, O God of Jacob, Both rider and horse were cast into a dead sleep.
Pr. 10:5 (NASB) He who gathers in summer is a son who acts wisely, But he who sleeps in harvest is a son who acts shamefully.
Dan. 8:18 (NASB) Now while he was talking with me, I sank into a deep sleep with my face to the ground; but he touched me and made me stand upright.
Dan. 10:9 (NASB) But I heard the sound of his words; and as soon as I heard the sound of his words, I fell into a deep sleep on my face, with my face to the ground.
Jonah 1:5-6 (YLT) and the mariners are afraid, and cry each unto his god, and cast the goods that are in the ship into the sea, to make it light of them; and Jonah hath gone down unto the sides of the vessel, and he lieth down, and is fast asleep. 6 And the chief of the company draweth near to him, and saith to him, ‘What—to thee, O sleeper? rise, call unto thy God, it may be God doth bethink himself of us, and we do not perish.’
Near the beginning of this post, I asked how Jonah could be sleeping when chaos and eminent danger were upon him in the conscious human world. Based on the type of sleep that Jonah experienced (radam), his rebellion and lack of compassion put him in a stupor, much akin to death. In other words, Jonah was spiritually “dead” long before he was swallowed by the great fish.
Jonah wanted Nineveh to suffer. He desired strict justice for these ancient Assyrians, not the compassionate mercy that He knew YHWH was known for. In Jonah’s mind, these people deserved to be punished and wiped off the map. The last thing he wanted to do was be the mouthpiece or vessel of the Holy Spirit to offer them repentance. This was true even after YHWH had had compassion upon Jonah by hearing his prayer from the belly of the fish, a figurative death.
Nineveh was one of three major ancient Assyrian cities. Since the discovery of the Library of Ashurbanipal,many clay tablets with text and reliefs from the centuries near the time of Jonah makes it evident what sort of wickedness provoked God to want to destroy it. But, YHWH’s mercy warned them of their coming destruction through the reluctant prophet Jonah.
Jonah is an intriguing character. On the one hand, we chastise him for his lack of concern for 120,000 ignorant souls. How could anyone be that compassionless? On the other hand, we are guilty of the same rebellion and lack of compassion when it comes to those that have hurt and betrayed us. The truth is that, if we could, most of us would call down fire from heaven to rain upon the heads of the ignorant, cruel, and wicked. Hurting people often revel in hurting back.
Ironically, Jonah or Yonah in Hebrew means “dove,” the universal symbol of peace, shalom. He was called to a heathen (pagan) city, and he had no love or compassion for them. It was only by proverbially dying that he did as he was told. But even this didn’t pull Jonah out of his stupor. In chapter four, he was angry that the people repented!
Jonah 4:1-4 (NASB) But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry. 2 He prayed to the LORD and said, “Please LORD, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity. 3 “Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life.” 4 The LORD said, “Do you have good reason to be angry?”
I think it’s interesting that Jonah basically quotes Exodus 34, but leaves off the part where Adonai says, “He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.” We often have a skewed sense of justice. It’s as if we are afraid that those that have hurt us will not get what we think they deserve. We forget that vengeance belongs to Adonai.
Ex. 34:6-7 (NASB) Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; 7 who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”
Lev 19:16-18 (NASB) ‘You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the LORD. 17 ‘You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. 18 ‘You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.
When you’ve screwed up or hurt someone, would you rather receive strict justice or mercy? Will you grant the same request to your enemy? Even if they have committed great atrocities toward you or those you love? That is the question. And, it’s one that Jonah would have rather died than to have seen actualized. He repeats this three times in chapter four. This is not the evidence of a changed heart, regardless that he fulfilled his commission to Adonai.
Jonah is a book with a mighty message at this season. While God certainly gave Jonah a second chance despite his rebellion and disobedience, Jonah couldn’t bring himself to sincerely offer the souls of Nineveh the same. He reveled in the idea that God was going to destroy them for their wickedness.
Jonah 4:3-5 (NKJV) Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!” 4 Then the LORD said, “Is it right for you to be angry?” 5 So Jonah went out of the city and sat on the east side of the city. There he made himself a shelter (sukkah) and sat under it in the shade, till he might see what would become of the city.
Beloved, if you have been deeply wounded, hurt, betrayed, or suffered horrific abuse at the hands of another person or people group, please consider Jonah. Though he knew the truth, and eventually preached it to a people he hated, he still held out hope that they would die in their debauchery. He even built a SUKKAH, sat in its shade, and instead of recalling that Adonai had Israel dwell in sukkot after delivering them from Egypt (something they didn’t deserve), he longed to see the destruction of an entire city.
I wonder if we have done the same? Have we sat in our own satisfaction and self-righteousness, thinking it was a fine covering, forgetting whom we serve and the GREAT mercy He bestowed upon us? Have we been asleep when chaos is shaking our lost neighbors? Have we judged people and people groups that have acted wickedly and danced at the thought of their demise? If so, now is the time to WAKE UP! These secret relishes belong to darkness, sleep, and death.
Repent AND Forgive before you sit in your sukkah or there will be no true joy, no real waking life, only the desire for sleep. The Book of Jonah ends with HaShem asking Jonah a rhetorical question.
Jonah 4:11 (NASB) “Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?”
If you want to be forgiven, forgive. If you want to receive mercy, extend mercy. If you desire God’s compassion, give compassion. When you’ve been broken, hurt, or betrayed, this becomes extremely difficult. This week, Sombra Wilson shared her testimony of radical forgiveness on Renewed Radio. If your pain has placed you in rebellion or a stupor, a trance-like sleep (death), and it is preventing you from moving forward, I encourage to listen to her testimony.
May the Faithful One bring you and yours into complete unity, health, and restoration before the upcoming High Holy Days. May your deeds be complete. Messiah, speaking to the 5thassembly of Sardis (Red Ones) in the Book of Revelation that corresponds to the 5th festival of Rosh Hashanah (Yom Teruah) says:
Rev. 3:1-6 (NASB) “To the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. 2 ‘Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. 3 ‘So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you. 4 ‘But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. 5 ‘He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. 6 ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
May you be inscribed for a good year!
 Job 33:15-18 (NASB) “In a dream, a vision of the night, When sound sleep falls on men, While they slumber in their beds, 16 Then He opens the ears of men, And seals their instruction, 17 That He may turn man aside from his conduct, And keep man from pride; 18 He keeps back his soul from the pit, And his life from passing over into Sheol.
 You can read more about why Yom Teruah is also called Rosh Hashanah in the footnotes and comments of this post.
 H8639 תַּרְדֵּמָה tardēmāh: A feminine noun referring to deep sleep; a sound sleep. It refers to a deep unconscious state needed, usually, for rest. God may bring it on in special circumstances (Gen 2:21; Gen 15:12; 1Sa 26:12). It is a common event in the middle of the night and may be accompanied by dreams naturally or from God (Job 4:13; Job 33:15). Laziness, a moral problem, can result in a person falling into this state (Pro 19:15). It is used in a figurative sense of a moral and spiritual stupor (Isa 29:10).
See The Creation Gospel Workbook One by Dr. Hollisa Alewine.