Old Testament Word Studies
"Visit, Appoint, Oversee"
The verb paqad, usually translated "visit" in older translations, has a wide range of meanings that call for special attention. The older translation of "visit" is somewhat misleading if that is understood in the contemporary sense of a social visit; and so a contextual study of the passages where this word occurs is in order.
The dictionaries list the basic meaning of the verb as "attend to, visit, muster, entrust." In addition to the verb there are several derived forms to consider. One noun, pequddah, means "visitation," but more specifically the kind of visitation intended, such as "punishment" in Hosea 9:7 and "prison" in Jeremiah 52:11. It also has the meaning of "store" or "storage" in Isaiah 15:7, "overseeing" in 1 Chronicles 26:30, and "mustering" fighters in 2 Chronicles 17:14. This range of meanings for the noun parallels the verb.
There is also a word paqid which means "overseer" (Gen. 41:34; Judg. 9:29).
The idea of "appointing" is also attested with related words. Piqqud is a "precept," that is, something appointed to be obeyed (Ps. 19:8). The noun mipqad is "appointment" in 2 Chronicles 31:13, and an "appointed place" in Ezekiel 43:21. It is also translated "muster" in 2 Samuel 24:9. Piqqadon is a "deposit" or "store" in Genesis 41:36.
The root paqad is well attested in the cognate languages. The dictionaries record that it occurs in Akkadian with essentially the same meanings as Hebrew. In the Ugaritic texts pqd has the meaning "to give orders." In Phoenician it means "to attend to, to provide." The Syriac cognate means "to visit." Arabic has the meanings "to lose, miss, give attention to." And Ethiopic has the word with the meanings "to muster, to visit, to desire, to need." All these meanings in the cognate languages parallel the Hebrew meanings, with a few of them developing the meanings further in later times.
It is necessary, given the wide range of definitions, to survey the uses and then try to explain the connections between the meanings. The following are the main categories of meaning.
1. To Attend To
The word occurs in passages where the expected meaning has something to do with "attending to" something or someone. Translations may vary a bit here to suit the immediate contexts.
For example, it may have the meaning "to pay attention to, to observe." In a few passages the idea is that of a close examination or observation, with the intent to do something to benefit or punish. The psalmist says, "What is man that you are mindful ('zakar) of him, or the son of man that you visit ('paqad) him?" (Ps. 8:4).
Or, "I remember (paqadti) that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait" (1 Sam. 15:2). In spite of the various ways that the English versions have rendered the verb in these passages, the idea is clearly that of observing or paying attention to something with the intent to act.
Some passages take the meaning a little further, having the sense of the intended action and not just the examination; here we would have the idea of "to see to something." An example is found in Zechariah 11:16, which says, "I will raise up a shepherd in the land who shall not attend to (yipqod) those who are cut off."
Also connected to the idea of looking for or taking note of something is the meaning "to seek." Here the word may be used to convey the idea of looking for a remedy or for something missing. For example, Isaiah says, "Yahweh, in trouble have they sought you (peqaduka); they poured out a prayer when your chastening hand was upon them" (Isa. 26:16). Similarly we read, "If your father at all miss me (paqod yipqedeni) . . ." (1 Sam. 20:6). The first sample uses the verb for seeking that finds expression in prayer; the second sample uses it for seeking something in vain.
All the samples in this first category of meaning, then, have the idea of paying attention to, looking after, looking for, or remembering with the intent of doing something.
2. To Visit
The second category of meaning includes uses that describe some kind of intervention (usually by God) for blessing or for punishment. The translation "visit" may be somewhat archaic in view of modern English usage, but it still in retained in several of the English translations. Moreover, Webster's Dictionary, The American heritage Dictionary, The Oxford English Dictionary, and The American College Dictionary all include as part of the usage of "visit" the concepts found in these passages, that is, to come to comfort or aid, to assail, to plague, or to afflict with suffering. The use of "visit" for this category is therefore acceptable, although each passage may be given a more precise meaning and translation.
In many passages the word describes "intervention for good" or for blessing. One type of blessing is childbirth--the speaker attributes the birth of a long-awaited child as the work of God. Genesis 21:1 reports that Yahweh "visited" Sarah so that she gave birth to Isaac. And 1 Samuel 2:21 reports the same with regard to Hannah.
Another blessing that comes through a divine intervention is growth in the fields. Ruth 1:6 says, "She had heard that Yahweh had visited (paqad) his people by giving them bread." It had rained, the crops had grown and been harvested, and bread was abundant--Yahweh visited them. Likewise the psalmist says, "You visit (paqadta) the earth and water it" (Ps. 65:9).
A third blessing that this word introduces is deliverance from oppression. Two passages clearly show it to be the means of escaping from bondage. Joseph said, "God will surely visit (paqod yipqod) you and will bring you out of this place" (Gen. 50:24-25). And, "after seventy years have been accomplished in Babylon, I will visit ('epqod) you and perform my good word to you in causing you to return to this place" (Jer. 29:10).
The idea of deliverance can also be personal when God "visits" his servant. The psalmist says, "O visit me (poqdeni) with your salvation" (Ps. 106:4); and Jeremiah says, "O Yahweh, you knew; remember me and visit me (u-poqdeni) and revenge me of my persecutors" (Jer. 15:15).
When paqad is used to describe Yahweh's intervention for good, some deliverance or benefit will be granted. It is interesting to note that the concept of "remembering" appears in some of these passages, as it did in those under the first category; "to remember" means to act upon what is remembered.
A second group of passages uses the word to describe "intervention for punishment." Punishment for sin is clearly expressed in the first example from Exodus: "I, Yahweh your God, am a jealous God, visiting (poqed) the iniquity of the fathers on the children" (Exod. 20:5). The verse is saying that the children often pay for the sins of the fathers if they do not turn to the Lord. Another passage that expresses punishment concerns the sin of the golden calf: "when I visit (poqdi) . . . I will visit (u-paqadti) their sin on them" (Exod. 32:34). The verb seems to have two slightly different senses here: when the Lord intervenes in their life (a neutral connotation), it will be for punishment for sin (a negative connotation).
In some contexts the emphasis is more on the judgment that is the punishment. For example, Hosea says, "Now will he remember their iniquities and visit (weyipqod) their sins, and they shall return to Egypt" (Hos. 8:13). Amos says, "When I visit the transgression of Israel upon him, I will visit (u-paqadti) the altars of Bethel as well"--and the horns of the altar will be cut off and fall to the ground (Amos 3:14). Isaiah says, "In that day Yahweh with his awesome and great strong sword will punish (yipqod 'al) Leviathan" (Isa. 27:1). The verse declares that God will destroy Assyria, Babylon, and Egypt, by destroying these "gods" that empowered them. And again Isaiah says that the Lord will water and keep a vineyard "lest any harm (pen yipqod) it" (Isa. 27:3). In all these samples the verb depicts punishment inflicted in some way by intervention.
A third sub-group here has the idea of "intervention for testing." The word describes suffering at the hand of God as a form of testing, not punishment. Job asks, "What is man that you should visit him (wattipqedennu) every morning and test him (tibkhanennu) every moment?" (Job 7:17-18).
3. To Number
A third main category may have developed out of the first category of observing or examining with preparation in mind--usually for war. Numbers records, "You shall number (tipqedu) them [males, twenty years old and able to fight] by their armies" (Num. 1:3). And later David said to Joab, "Go through all the tribes . . . And number (u-piqdu) the people . . . that I may know the number of them" (2 Sam. 24:2).
4. To Appoint
The fourth category of meaning is close to that of "seeing to" something; but these passages emphasize the appointing of someone. For example, Genesis says, "And the captain of the guard charged (wayyipqod) Joseph with them, and he served them" (Gen. 40:4). The Law prescribed, "They shall make (u-paqedu) captains of the armies to lead the people" (Deut. 20:9). And finally, Cyrus says of Yahweh, "And he has charged me (paqad 'alay) to build a house in Jerusalem" (2 Chron. 36:23).
Summarizing the usage of the verb in the qal and niphal verbal systems, we may say that the basic ideas are "to attend to" something, examine or observe it, see to it, look for it; "to intervene," used of God's visiting with benefits or punishments or sufferings; "to number" by examining or observing for the purpose of warfare; or "to appoint" or entrust with the responsibility of overseeing or attending to someone.
5. To Entrust
This category is very close to the last one, except that the emphasis in these passages is more of entrusting than appointing; besides these passages use the verb in the hiphil and hophal verbal systems. The basic idea seems to be that of entrusting something or someone into another's care. The following uses show the range of this category of meaning. Genesis records that Potiphar made Joseph overseer (wayyapqidehu) over his house (Gen. 39:4). Or, the Law instructed: "You shall appoint (hapqed) the Levites over the Tabernacle of the Testimony" (Num. 1:50). Or, the prophet-historian reported that Rehoboam made shields "and committed them" (wehipqid) to the chief of the guard (1 Kings 14:27). And finally, Isaiah says, "At Michmash he will store up (yapqid) his implements" (Isa. 10:28).
6. To Muster
A couple of passages use the verb in the piel-hithpael verbal systems with the idea of mustering armies. This sense is clearly related to the qal system's idea of numbering the armies for the purpose of fighting, but appears to be more intensive, more immediate, that is, rousing the troops to fight. Isaiah, for example, says, "Yahweh of armies musters (mepaqqed) the army for the battle" (Isa. 13:4).
The Old Greek Translations
The categories of meaning are too diverse for any one word to be used throughout an ancient version. In the Greek Old Testament, however, one of the basic terms used is episkeptomai, episkopeo, "to look at, take care of, oversee," and the noun episkope, "a visitation" (see Gen. 50:24, which in the Greek reads "In the visitation with which God shall visit . . . "). This verb is even used in passages like Numbers 1:3 for "taking account" or "numbering" the tribes). There is also the noun episkopos, "an overseer" (from which we get "bishop, overseer" in the New Testament, and then the derived "Episcopal" for the Church). But in some of the more developed meanings other Greek words were used as would be expected.
It should be clear from this brief survey of the usage of paqad that there are common motifs than run through the uses--ideas of attending to something or seeing to something--which lead to the ideas of intervening for blessing or punishing, the enlisting of people for military intervention, or the appointing or entrusting of such responsibilities to individuals. It should be clear that no one English word can be used to translate all the uses of this verb.
Gunnel Andre, in his book Determining the Destiny: PQD in the Old Testament, proposes that the basic idea behind the word is "to determine the destiny." This understanding fits very well many of the passages, especially where the Lord is said to visit people for one reason or another.