OTCL 505-D06



APRIL 26, 2012



     What is the true nature of “trust” and what is its object? Is there objectivity to this term that is foundational to all of human experience? Or rather, can true trust be obtained through the subjective experiences and attitudes of man? The purpose of this essay is to evaluate these questions via the Hebrew word בטח, a word that carries with it a number of meanings in the original language, with all of these meanings well linked with the root form of this word. In the evaluation of this term, this study will attempt to demonstrate how בטח it is utilized contextually throughout the Old Testament, with its various forms of trust, security and confidence all finding their foundation in the covenant God, YHWH.


     The most basic meaning בטח, according to Brown-Driver-Briggs (BDB) is that of “trust.”[1] Keyed in the Strong’s Lexicon as H982 (and BDB 982),[2] this word, “batach,”[3] occurs one-hundred and eighteen in the pages of the Old Testament, with usage range occurring from Deuteronomy through Zephaniah and is defined as: “batach . . . a primitive root; properly, to hide for refuge . . . figuratively, to trust, be confident or sure:–be bold (confident, secure, sure), careless (one, woman), put confidence, (make to) hope, (put, make to) trust.”[4]

Sub-uses of this word which still falls under primary definition occur with the following meanings: (1) trusting in trust [בָּטָֽחְתָּ הַבִּטָּח֛וֹן > ], (2) “trust in” [בָּטָֽחְתּ] (a) “God,” (b) “persons,” (c) “things,” (d) “in the name of God,” (3) “trust or rely upon” [וּבוֹטֵ֖חַ עַל ] (God, persons or things) and (4) “trust to,” or towards, [בְּטַ֣ח אֶל] (God, persons or things).[5] Secondary usages of this word are defined as that of “confidence,” or more precisely, to “be confident.”[6] Less often usages of this second category carry with it an idea of “security,”[7] as used in Judges 18:7 where the text speaks about the security the people [וּבֹטֵ֗חַ…עִם־אָדָֽם],[8] a usage as a antonym, “careless” or carelessness (Isa 32:10, בֹּֽטְח֑וֹת feminine plural), and finally, to “cause to trust” and/or “make secure.”[9]


     Although it has predominantly a strict range of meaning, בטח can nevertheless be divided into four basic categories of understanding. The first of these three categories maintains the general meaning of “trust” or “trusting in” a particular object while the final of these categories retains the basic meaning of secure confidence. These categories are as follows: (1) Divine Trust (2) Temporal Trust (3) General Trust and finally (4) Secure Confidence.

Divine Trust

     By far, the most important of the categories listed above comes by way of a true and salvific trust in YHWH for redemption. Here, both a cognitive and volitional “trust” is witnessed throughout the pages of Scripture, with this category accounting for forty-five uses total.[10] Perhaps the most famous of the בטח renderings is found in the precious words of the prophet Isaiah, where in chapter 12 of the book of Isaiah, he penned; “Behold, God is my salvation; ‘I will trust [אֶבְטַ֖ח], and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation’” (Isa 12:2, ESV, emphasis and insertion added). Further examples of this “Divine Trust” can be seen in three basic subcategories, namely, “corporate,” “political” and “personal.”

Corporate or Covenantal Trust

Examples of this category call God’s people to fidelity within the covenant, in general, corporate fashion. For instance, in Ps 4:5, the Psalmist tells his readers to offer sacrifices in trust of YHWH. Likewise, in the corporate prayer of Ps 33, David proclaims that the people’s hearts are glad because they have trusted in the name of the Lord (Ps. 33:21). One final example of this corporate trust, or call to trust, is gleaned from Ps 115:8-11, where four consecutive verses call for fidelity to the Lord and His covenant, with verses 9-10 specifically mentioning both the nation of Israel and the “house of Aaron.”

Political Trust

This subcategory, although much more sparse, is nevertheless vitally important both historically, and, in regards to the “general equity” of the Law of God that is to carry over into all societies. In 2 Kg 18:5, Hezekiah’s “trust” [בָּטָ֑ח] and obedience to the ordinances of the Lord made him second to none, “among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him” (2 Kg 18:5, ESV). Another wonderful example of the civil magistrates trust in the Lord come by way of Ps 21:7, which reads; “For the king trusts in the LORD, and through the steadfast love of the Most High he shall not be moved” (Ps 21:7, ESV). Here, a correspondence is seen between the civil magistrate’s obedience and dedication to the Lord and the success of the leader. David links this “trust” to his strength and salvation in the first verse of the Psalm.

Personal Trust

By far, the most expansive usage of the various forms of בטח comes in the form of personal, individual trust. God’s love (Ps 13:5), God’s person (Ps 28:7), God’s protection (Ps 31:14-15), God’s mercy (Ps 52:8), God’s refuge (Ps 91:2), God’s word (Ps 119:42), God’s understanding (Prov 3:5) and God’s strength (Isa 26:4) are but a few examples of the personal trust of the individual toward the one true and living God. Interestingly, Prov 3:5 and Ps 146:3 are just two examples of “trust in” [בְּטַ֣ח] and “trust not in” [אַל־תִּבְטְח֥וּ] verses, with both urging the reader not to put their trust on objects apart from the Lord. Hence, it is also noted that בטח is used in both positive and negative forms, with both instances urging the reader or hearer to place their trust in YHWH.

Temporal Trust

     The area of temporal trust highlights the use of בטח in specific individuals or peoples, with both positive and negative connotations attached to this “trust.” Examples of temporal trust[11] include Jug 20:36, where the men of Israel trusted those in position of ambush, 2 Kg 18:21 and trust in the Pharaoh of Egypt (in contrast to verse 22 and trust in YHWH), Jer 9:4 with a call not to trust in brothers, 17:5 which is used negatively regarding the trusting in man (c.f. 17:7 and trust in YHWH), and Micah 7:5 which calls on the people not to trust in friends, but rather, in the Lord (v. 7), are all examples of the use of בטח that find their context outside of the ultimate trust of God, but rather, in the realm of man or men.

General Trust

     This third category is fascinating when one considers the various ways in which one trusts in the inanimate or abstract. In Ps 44:6, the Psalmist proclaims that he will trust in neither bow nor sword, with Ps 49:6 speaking negatively about trusting in wealth. Ps 52:7 speaks of one who trusts in riches and wickedness (c.f. Isa 47:10), whereas Ps 62:10 is a call not to trust in oppression, with Isa 59:4 denouncing trusting in vanity. Jeremiah 7:4 and 7:8 are two wonderful examples of the upholding of the Ninth Commandment, where the trusting in “lying words” is denounced, with the opposite, positive principle of the Commandment being inferred. Perhaps the most dramatic of these verses comes by way of Jer 48:7, where the people of Israel are set to be taken into exile for trusting “in their works and treasures,” rather than in their covenant God. All of these are but a few examples of the trusting in abstract, non-creaturely ideas or objects.

Secure Confidence

     The final category that will be discussed in this section of the study pertains to the minor or secondary understanding of בטח. This uses fall into the realm of “security” and “confidence” where בטח is used to promote a quality of well-being. Examples include: Jgs 18:7 (secure or security), Job 6:20 (confident), and Job 11:18 (secure > לָבֶ֥טַח). Although sparse in number, this connotation of בטח is contextually vital to a proper understanding of Holy Writ.



     Much correspondence is found between the argued position and the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT). First, as noted previously, the primary and ultimate sense of בטח falls into the realm of “divine trust,” where, the individual or the corporate entity places their trust in YHWH. Note the TWOT citation on this extremely important point; “In general, the OT contrasts the validity of that sense of confidence which comes from reliance upon God with the folly of any other kind of security. It is made plain that all such trust will end in disgrace and shame . . . whereas those whose hope is in God alone will be delivered from their enemies . . . their prayers will be answered . . . they will walk in straight paths . . . will be given joy and gladness . . . will know inner peace and absence of fear . . . Hence, the repeated admonition to trust in the Lord (Prov 16:20; Isa 30:15; Jer 17:7).[12] In short, the positive understanding of בטח finds its fulfillment in the covenant God, YHWH.

Further correspondence is noted in the TWOT’s identification of misguided בטח, which finds its place ultimately in human autonomy and reasoning, other than, the true and living God.[13] This usage runs throughout the Old Testament and identifies “trust” apart from YHWH as its direct object. Similarly, the TWOT lists a number of less oft usages of   בטח in its various forms with the meanings of “safety,” “security,” and “confidence.” In summary, the TWOT and this essay understand בטח in very similar fashion, with points of agreement in both primary and secondary definitional forms.


       One slight point of tension falls into the realm of the substance or inner constitution of “trust” or “trusting.” It has been previously argued that true trust in the divine is a movement of both one’s cognitive ability and a volitional movement of the will. Hence, בטח in its proper sense flows out of a true salvific binding to God as the source giver for all confidence. On this point, the TWOT states the following; “It is significant that the LXX never translates this word [בטח] with πιστευω “believe in” but with ελπιζω “to hope,” in the positive sense “to rely on God” or πειφομαι “to be persuaded,” for the negative notion for relying on what turns out to be deceptive. This would seem to indicate that bāṭa does not connote that full-orbed intellectual and volitional response to revelation which is involved in “faith,” rather stressing the feeling of being safe or secure.”[14]

First, to be sure, “faith” and “trust” are two different acts. For instance, one could have a true, salvific faith in YHWH, yet, not fully trust the message of Rom 8:28 which states that “all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28, ESV), in a particular situation. These are two different categories, both cognitively and volitionally, with the former being in the area of Justification (salvific faith) and the latter being in the realm of Sanctification (trust or non-trust in temporal matters). Yet, trust in the Sanctification sense cannot be separated from faith and trust in the direct object of Justification and the enabler of Sanctification, the Triune God of Scripture. Yet, it seems as if the TWOT separates these two “actions” of the “will” as disconnected from one another. This is the specific area of tension because a trust in the divine is dependent on the antecedent of trust, which is a saving faith that justifies. The unbeliever that has their mind set on the flesh cannot and does not have the ability to please YHWH (Rom 8:7-8). Yet, divine trust is both commanded and pleasing to God (Ps 4:5, Prov 16:20) and possible for the elect. Hence, if it is the TWOT’s intent to separate the two terms in disconnected fashion, the author disagrees with the TWOT’s conclusion. However, if the TWOT is simply pointing out that trust does not necessitate a “full-orbed”[15] cognitive and volitional response, then, the author agrees. Simply put, there is not enough information presented in the TWOT to finalize a conclusion on this matter, and as a result, the author assumes the latter of these propositions, while, reserving the right to disagree if in fact the TWOT’s intent is an implication that “trust” can be disconnected from “faith.”


     The application of the uses and understanding of בטח are many. First, it has been shown that the proper use of בטח always falls into the realm of divine trust, with YHWH as the direct object of that trust. Hence, it is true and justified to proclaim that “trust” and “confidence” in anyone or anything outside of God is both irrational and misguided. Likewise, any sense of security outside of the providence and loving care of the Lord is empty striving that does not comport with human experience or divine revelation. Instead, the Christian and all of creation is to place their “trust” in the being of YHWH, the person’s of the God-head and the attributes of God associated with His “ being” (strength, power, providence, wisdom, love, protection, mercy, and understanding).

Likewise, rulers of nations are to trust in the ordinances of God as holy, righteous and just, along with trust in a personal fashion that derives from a true and saving faith.  Corporately, the church needs to abandon its notion of defeatism and trust that God can bring about revival and reformation within the culture. Also, this “trust” is to transfer generationally into the covenant family structure, with children being instructed in trusting God to the fullest. In short, true בטח is a trust, confidence and security in the author of all creation, the covenant God, YHWH, in His Triune majesty. Anything short of this is misguided, un-Scriptural and not pleasing to God.


     As noted throughout the duration of this study, בטח is a highly nuanced term with a general meaning of “trust.” However, true trust can never be achieved apart from the foundation of trust, the living God, YHWH. Hence, it is seen that there is an objective foundation to “trust” that cannot be displaced from God. In short, בטח carries with it the highest degree of moral obligation where trust in YHWH is not simply suggested, but rather, commanded. If one wishes to have true peace, confidence and security, these qualities are attained far beyond ones subjective disposition on particular matters. Rather, true peace, confidence and security are grounded in and foundational to a salvific binding to the God who justifies sinners. When this is achieved by the grace of God that same grace will depart to the believer trust in God; a trust that will grow throughout the duration of one’s life as they are transformed into the image of the eternal Son and Savior, Christ Jesus.


ESV Study Bible. Kindle. Good News Publishers/Crossway Books (2009).

Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia : With Westminster Hebrew Morphology. Electronic Ed. Stuttgart; Glenside , PA: German Bible Society; Westminster Seminary, 1996.

Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2012. http:// (accessed 04 23, 2012).

Brown, F. Driver, S. Briggs, C. The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. 13. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2010 (1906).

Strong, James. Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon . Electronic ed. Prod. Woodside Bible Fellowship. Ontario, 1996.

Youngblood, R. F. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. electronic ed. Edited by G. L. Archer, Jr. & B. K. Waltke R. L. Harris. Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999.

[1] F. Brown, S. Driver, C. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, 13th. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2010 (1906), 105-a.

[2] Blue Letter Bible. “Dictionary and Word Search for ‘”trust*” AND “H982″‘ in the KJV”. Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2012. 23 Apr 2012. < http://
Criteria=trust%2A+H982&t=KJV >

[3] James Strong, Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon (electronic ed.), Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship, Logos Bible Software (1996).

[4] Ibid., Strong’s (H982).

[5] Ibid., BDB, 105 (all definitions).

[6] Ibid., BDB

[7] Ibid., BDB

[8] As seen in the ESV rendering, “Then the five men departed and came to Laish and saw the people who were there, how they lived in security…” (Judges 18:5, ESV, emphasis added).

[9] Ibid., BDB

[10] This formulation is compiled by taking the BDB categorical definition (p. 105-a) of sections 1-5 as listed under “trust,” “trust in,” “rely,” and “trust to,” that place God as the direct object of that trust and compiling them into a single category for the purpose of this study.

[11] The use of temporal trust is up and against the Divine trust previously demonstrated. Here, trust is placed in creatures rather than the divine.

[12] Youngblood, R. F. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. electronic ed. Edited by G. L. Archer, Jr. & B. K. Waltke R. L. Harris. Chicago, IL: Moody Press, (1999), 101.

[13] This essay, in essence runs parallel to the TWOT on this point, which lists this misguided trust as the following; “The OT considers these sources of false security in some detail in order to show by contrast the excellence of hope in God. The list includes man (Ps 118:8; 146:3; Prov 25:19; Jer 17:5); wickedness (Isa 47:10); violence and oppression (Ps 55:23 [H 24]; 62:10 [H 11]; Isa 30:12); riches (Ps 49:6 [H 7]; 52:7 [H 9]; Prov 11:28); idols (Ps 31:6 [H 7]; 115:8; Isa 42:17; Hab 2:18); military power (Deut 28:52; Ps 44:6 [H 7]; Isa 31:1; Jer 5:17; Hos 10:13); religion (Jer 7:4, 8, 14); one’s own righteousness (Ezk 33:13; Hos 10:13); foreign alliances (Isa 36:4ff; Ezk 29:16). In particular the Bible heaps scorn upon those who live in complacency, never having evaluated the flimsy basis for such complacency (Isa 32:9–11; Ezk 30:9; Amos 6:1).” Ibid., TWOT, 102.

[14] Ibid., TWOT, 101.

[15] Ibid., TWOT