Intimacy is one of those words you expect to read in the Bible. I mean with its prevalent usage in the church/Christian context you would think it would show up all over The Book. However, in the most commonly used Biblical translations (ESV, NIV, KJV, NASB) there is not a single mention of this word. Even amongst paraphrased versions it was very rare if they included intimacy at all. So I searched more broadly. The search results increased when I used the word, “intimate,”so much of my research was learning about the kind of relationships which occur within intimacy. I have placed the verses containing “intimate” in four subcategories of intimacy.
Man’s Relationship with Friends
All my intimate friends abhor me, and those whom I loved have turned against me. - Job 19.19 ESV
And a slanderer separates intimate friends. - Proverbs 16.28 NASB
God’s Relationship with Man
Oh, for the days when I was in my prime, when God's intimate friendship blessed my house, - Job 29.4 NIV
For the devious are an abomination to the LORD; But He is intimate with the upright. - Proverbs 3.32 NASB
From among all the families on the earth, I have been intimate with you alone. That is why I must punish you for all your sins." - Amos 3.2 NLT
Then I told her, "You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will behave the same way toward you." - Hosea 3.3 NIV
Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,” and call insight your intimate friend, - Proverbs 7.4 ESV, NASB
These verses give us a general sense “intimate” in English translations and they range within the full spectrum of human relationships. God and us; us and us; us and lovers; us and learning. They also tell us a good deal of what to expect when we engage in intimacy. When we are in intimate relationship with others, we are going to find ourselves smack dab in the middle of betrayal, blessing, accountability, boundaries, and shared life.
I think is interesting to note that in all of the above verses there are only three Hebrew words used. In my opinion, these words give the truest definition of intimacy for us to follow in various intensities. The first word is alluwph (Prov. 16.28), which means “captain” or “chief friend.” I’d prolly call this the “bestie” level of relationship. Due to the use of captain or chief, it is most likely evident that this person has set themselves above the rest when it comes to relationship. They are the people who you expect to keep their mouths closed about you and your business.
The second word is yada (Amos 3.2), meaning “to know,” as well as moda (Prov. 7.4), which is a form of yada, meaning “friend, kinsperson.” This is a word that is typically connected to deep knowledge of another person. Many time it includes sexual relations; however, it is also deeply connected to the ability to narrate another person’s life as you are participating and announcing their character and their story. One of the keys to this word has to do with your ability to observe and see another for what’s happening and recognize where things are headed.
The last Hebrew word, which is used most frequently for “intimate,” is the word sod. This word captures the fullest extent of what intimate truly means in the Old Testament. Sod means, “council, counsel,” or a “divan or circle of familiar friends,” “an intimate circle,” “assembly, company,” “secret counsel,” “familiar converse with God, intimacy.” This word comes with the idea of “founding, establishing, or fixing.” The Arabic picture behind sod intimacy word is “to fix as a pillow against one, recline against, lean upon.” This is beyond just seeing and narrating another’s life and story; and it is beyond recognition of someone’s relational acumen. This kind of intimacy reveals people who you can lean upon in every situation. They can handle what’s going on in your life. You can rest when you are with them. You don’t have have to be covered up around them. You can trust the things they speak to you. You believe them cause they believe in you. You can identify how their relationship bolsters your life. They are pillars for your life and your process. They are the safest people you have ever known.
It is apparent we all need these various degrees of intimacy; but I bet that most of us are terrified out of our minds at how to live this way and how to attempt this kind of shared life and story. Disclose and embrace are not naturally easy for most of our lives. We are smacked in the face like the verses above of treason, distrust, hurt, etc. when people fail to remain intimate. At the same time I think we are all thinking of what would it be like to have one or all of these types of intimate people in our lives.
As I write this, I am struck by so many things about this biblical understanding to “intimate” is; but namely, all I can think of is a moment in the New Testament which presents the perfect example and picture of intimacy. I hope you will continue this journey with me next week as we continue to get “Biblical, Biblical” about intimacy in the story of Jesus.