Friday, November 14, 2014

Hebrew Words for Gossip: "Libo Yiqebbats Aven Lo Yetse Lahuts Yedabber"

Our series continues towards a biblical definition of gossip, starting with a tour of the Old Testament and the Hebrew words most often translated "gossip."

Gathering Gossip and Spreading It

Libo Yiqebbats Aven Lo Yetse Lahuts Yedabber. “Gathering Gossip and Spreading It.” Psalm 41 is a plaintive song about experiencing the pain of gossip. King David seems to have experienced a debilitating illness, and some of his associates, instead of encouraging and supporting him, eagerly look for his downfall. “My enemies say of me in malice, ‘When will he die and his name perish?’” (Ps 41:5).

In verse 6 (verse 7 in Hebrew), David describes his enemies’ treacherous actions, “Whenever one comes to see me, he speaks falsely, while his heart gathers slander; then he goes out and spreads it abroad.” The NLT reads, “They visit as if they are my friends, but all the while they gather gossip, and when they leave, they spread it everywhere.” The Hebrew for the gathering and spreading action of David’s two-faced enemies could be woodenly translated, “to their hearts they gather trouble/iniquity/wickedness/sorrow and going out from me they speak it.” Gossip, here, is gathering negative information about someone and then sharing it indiscriminately with others. Eugene Peterson’s The Message puts it into lively language, “If someone comes to see me, he mouths empty platitudes, / All the while gathering gossip about me to entertain the street-corner crowd.”37

Imagining the Worst and Publishing It

David has gotten word of what they are saying about him. “All my enemies whisper38 together against me; they imagine the worst for me, saying, ‘A vile disease has beset him; he will never get up from the place where he lies’” (Ps 41:7-8). Gossip does not come from love, but from hate. It imagines the worst for its subject and publishes it abroad.

Gossip is treachery. David laments, “Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me” (Ps 41:9). This prefigured the betrayal of great David’s greater Son, the Lord Jesus (John 13:18-30).

The answer to this kind of gossip is faith in the LORD. “But you, O LORD, have mercy on me; raise me up, that I may repay them. I know that you are pleased with me, for my enemy does not triumph over me. In my integrity you uphold me and set me in your presence forever. Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen and Amen” (Ps 41:10-13).


[37] Eugene H. Peterson, The Message: New Testament With Psalms and Proverbs (Colorado Springs: Navpress, 1995), 708.

[38] This is a different Hebrew word for “whisper” than what we have seen already, but the effect is the same.

Previous Posts in "Toward a Definition of Gossip"