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A "compass" is usually thought of as either a navigational device for finding directions, or an instrument for drawing circles, but the English word compass originated from an old Latin word that literally means to walk around (the pass in compass was originally pace, meaning to walk). That original definition is also the literal meaning of the Hebrew and Greek words of the Holy Scriptures that are translated as "compass," usually meaning to go around, either in a circle, or at least in a circuitous course. Interestingly, a circle can appear elliptical or oval (i.e. egg shaped - oval and ovum are both from the Latin word meaning egg) if it is viewed from an angle e.g. the opening of a glass appears circular when viewed directly from the top, but the circle, even though it is still there, disappears and becomes anything from a wide oval to a thin ellipse when viewed from the side.

"When ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies"

In the time of the Garden of Eden, the Pison river encircled, or compassed, the whole land of Havilah (see also Rivers of Creation).


"And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads. The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold" (Genesis 2:10-11 KJV)

When the two angels entered Sodom to get Abraham's nephew Lot and his family out, the perverts of the city encircled the house.

"But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter" (Genesis 19:4 KJV)

The "compass of the altar" at The Tabernacle In The Wilderness was a round metal holding ring.

"And thou shalt make for it a grate of network of brass; and upon the net shalt thou make four brazen rings in the four corners thereof. And thou shalt put it under the compass of the altar beneath, that the net may be even to the midst of the altar" (Exodus 27:4-5 KJV)

As had been the case through their 40 years wandering in the wilderness (a punishment for refusing to enter the Promised Land when they were first given the opportunity to do so; see A Journey Without A Destination), the Israelites "compassed mount Seir many days":

"Then we turned, and took our journey into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea, as The Lord spake unto me: and we compassed mount Seir many days. And The Lord spake unto me, saying, Ye have compassed this mountain long enough: turn you northward" (Deuteronomy 2:1-3 KJV)

One of the most famous events of Bible History was the Israelites "compassing" Jericho, an act of faith (Hebrews 11:30; see What Actually Made The Walls of Jericho Fall?).

"And The Lord said unto Joshua, See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valour. And ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days. And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams' horns: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets" (Joshua 6:2-4 KJV)

The King James Version uses "fetch a compass behind them" to mean "circle around behind them" (the RSV correctly translates it as "go around to their rear, and come upon them") as in this example with King David.

"And when David inquired of The Lord, he said, Thou shalt not go up; but fetch a compass behind them, and come upon them over against the mulberry trees." (2 Samuel 5:23 KJV)

The same term is found in the New Testament where "fetched a compass" was a sailing term for "we made a circuit" (RSV), meaning that they sailed around, in that case, the coast.

"And from thence we fetched a compass, and came to Rhegium: and after one day the south wind blew, and we came the next day to Puteoli" (Acts 28:13 KJV)

As a security term, "compass the king round about" meant to surround the king with a security perimeter of bodyguards.

"And ye shall compass the king round about, every man with his weapons in his hand: and he that cometh within the ranges, let him be slain: and be ye with the king as he goeth out and as he cometh in." 2 Kings 11:8 KJV)

The Lord is His people's security perimeter.

"For thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield" (Psalm 5:12 KJV)

In referring to the circumference of the Tabernacle's water-holding "sea," "thirty cubits did compass it round about"

"Also he made a molten sea of ten cubits from brim to brim, round in compass, and five cubits the height thereof; and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about." (2 Chronicles 4:2 KJV)

In one of The Messianic Psalms, "dogs have compassed me" refers to the Satanic Roman troops who gleefully tortured the bound, blindfolded Jesus Christ and surrounded Him as He was dying.

"For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture." (Psalm 22:16-18 KJV)

The earth was created as a sphere, "a compass upon the face of the depth" (a fact plainly stated in the Bible right from the beginning, while many of the Bible-rejecting "great men of science" once claimed that the earth was flat):

"When He prepared the heavens, I was there: when He set a compass upon the face of the depth: When He established the clouds above: when He strengthened the fountains of the deep: When He gave to the sea His decree, that the waters should not pass His commandment: when He appointed the foundations of the earth" (Proverbs 8:27-29 KJV)

One of the rare Biblical references to a compass being an instrument for measuring or drawing is found in Isaiah 44:13. Unfortunately, it refers to someone carving an idol.

"The carpenter stretcheth out his rule; he marketh it out with a line; he fitteth it with planes, and he marketh it out with the compass, and maketh it after the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man; that it may remain in the house." (Isaiah 44:13 KJV)

Jesus Christ prophesied the Fall of Jerusalem In 70 A.D. when "thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee and compass thee round" - a prophecy that helped His people to escape the fate of the city at that time (see Pella).

"For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation." (Luke 19:43-44 KJV)

Fact Finder: What did Jesus Christ say about "when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies" and how it related to His return?
Luke 21:20-21,27 - see also Who Should Flee Into The Mountains?

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