Write (To) - Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old Testament Words

Usage Number: 1
Part Of Speech: Verb
Strong's Number: H3789
Original Word: katab
Usage Notes: "to write, inscribe, describe, take dictation, engrave." This verb appears in most Semitic languages (not in Akkadian or Ugaritic). Biblical Hebrew attests around 203 occurrences (in all periods) and biblical Aramaic 7 occurrences.

Basically, this verb represents writing down a message. The judgment (ban) of God against the Amalekites was to be recorded in the book (scroll): "And the Lord said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven" (Exod. 17:14, the first biblical occurrence of the word).

One may "write" upon a stone or "write" a message upon it. Moses told Israel that after crossing the Jordan "thou shalt set thee up great stones, and plaster them with plaster: and thou shalt write upon them all the words of this law…" (Deut. 27:2-3).

This use of the word implies something more than keeping a record of something so that it will be remembered. This is obvious in the first passage because the memory of Amalek is "to be recorded" and also blotted out. In such passages "to be recorded," therefore, refers to the unchangeableness and binding nature of the Word of God. God has said it, it is fixed, and it will occur. An extended implication in the case of divine commands is that man must obey what God "has recorded" (Deut. 27:2-3). Thus, such uses of the word describe a fixed body of authoritative instruction, or a canon. These 2 passages also show that the word does not tell us anything specific about how the message was composed. In the first instance Moses seems not to have merely "recorded" as a secretary but "to have written" creatively what he heard and saw. Certainly in Exod. 32:32 the word is used of creative writing by the author; God was not receiving dictation from anyone when He "inscribed" the Ten Commandments. In Deut. 27:2-3 the writers must reproduce exactly what was previously given (as mere secretaries).

Sometimes katab appears to mean "to inscribe" and "to cover with inscription." The 2 tablets of the testimony which were given to Moses by God were "tables of stone, written [fully inscribed] with the finger of God" (Exod. 31:18). The verb means not only to write in a book but "to write a book," not just to record something in a few lines on a scroll but to complete the writing. Moses prays: "Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin,; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written" (Exod. 32:32). Here "book" probably refers to a scroll rather than a book in the present-day sense.

Among the special uses of katab is the meaning "to record a survey." At Shiloh, Joshua told Israel to choose three men from each tribe "and they shall arise, and go through the land, and describe it…" (Josh. 18:4).

A second extended nuance of katab is "to receive dictation": "And Baruch wrote from the mouth of Jeremiah…" (Jer. 36:4). The word can also be used of signing one's signature: "And because of all this we make [are cutting] a sure covenant, and write it; and our princes, Levites, and priests, seal unto it" (Neh. 9:38). Thus they "cut," or completed, the agreement by having the representatives sign it. The cutting was the signing.

Usage Number: 2
Part Of Speech: Noun
Strong's Number: H3791
Original Word: ketab

Usage Notes: "something written; register; scripture." This noun occurs 17 times in the Old Testament. In 1 Chron. 28:19 ketab is used to mean "something written," such as an edict: "All this, said David, the Lord made me understand in writing by his hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern." The word also refers to a "register" (Ezra 2:62) and to "scripture" (Dan. 10:21).

Two other related nouns are ketobet and miktab. Ketobet occurs once to mean something inscribed, specifically a "tattooing" (Lev. 19:28). Miktab appears about 9 times and means "something written, a writing" (Exod. 32:16; Isa. 38:9).

Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old Testament Words