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Couching

The English word "couch" originated from a French word which meant to lie down. The English word "crouch" is a variant of "couch," with a meaning of to bend down.

"Couch" is used to translate a number of different Hebrew words, some of which are (pronounced) yaw-tsoo-ah, meaning to spread, as on a bed; mish-kawb, meaning a bed, or to sleep; soo-awk, meaning to meditate; eh-res, meaning to arch.

As well, the old English of the King James Version has "couchingplace" which it uses to translate the Hebrew word, pronounced mar-bates, meaning a fold, or a place for flocks to lie down (see the Fact Finder question below) i.e.

"25:5 And I will make Rabbah a stable for camels, and the Ammonites a couchingplace for flocks: and ye shall know that I am the LORD." (Ezekiel 25:5 KJV)

It was that form of the word that was used by King David in his famous twenty-third Psalm:

"23:1 A Psalm of David.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 23:2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 23:3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

23:4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

23:5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 23:6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever." (Psalm 23:1-6 KJV)

"He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters"

As he was about to die, Jacob (who the LORD renamed as Israel) made a prophetic blessing upon each of his sons. For Reuben, it was a condemnation because "he went up to my couch" and committed adultery with one of Jacob's other wives ("Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father's concubine" Genesis 35:22 KJV), who was the mother of Reuben's half-brothers Dan and Naphtali.

The Holy Scriptures

"49:3 Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power: 49:4 Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel; because thou wentest up to thy father's bed; then defiledst thou it: he went up to my couch." (Genesis 49:3-4 KJV)

Jacob used "couching" (the Hebrew word that is translated as such) in referring to two other of his sons, Judah and Issachar, but unlike that for Reuben, for Judah and Issachar it was a blessing (particularly for Judah because it prophesied the Messiah to come who would be a descendant of Judah, the first "Jew" - see Hebrew).

"49:9 Judah is a lion's whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up? 49:10 The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be." (Genesis 49:9-10 KJV)

"49:14 Issachar is a strong ass couching down between two burdens: 49:15 And he saw that rest was good, and the land that it was pleasant; and bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant unto tribute." (Genesis 49:14-15 KJV)

The term "couched, he lay down as a lion" was also used for all of Israel.

"24:8 God brought him forth out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn [see also Did Unicorns Really Miss The Boat?]: he shall eat up the nations his enemies, and shall break their bones, and pierce them through with his arrows. 24:9 He couched, he lay down as a lion, and as a great lion: who shall stir him up? Blessed is he that blesseth thee, and cursed is he that curseth thee." (Numbers 24:8-9 KJV)

According to one of its literal meanings in Hebrew, "couch" was also another word for a bed. Both Job and David used the term, albeit both of them in times of distress.

"7:13 When I say, My bed shall comfort me, my couch shall ease my complaint; 7:14 Then thou scarest me with dreams, and terrifiest me through visions." (Job 7:13-14 KJV)

"6:6 I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears." (Psalm 6:6 KJV)

In the New Testament, the term was usually applied to what might be called a stretcher or litter today.

"5:19 And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus.

5:20 And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.

5:21 And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?

5:22 But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason ye in your hearts? 5:23 Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk? 5:24 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house. 5:25 And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God." (Luke 5:19-25 KJV)

Fact Finder: Does the Messiah have a "couchingplace," or a "fold," for His flock?
See The Shepherd's Fold


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