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New Testament Words and Verses
NT Words for "Jumping" and "Leaping"

This study on the various verbs for “jumping” or “leaping” was suggested to me by the unusual use of εφαλλομαι in I Samuel 16:13.  In that passage we saw Samuel anoint the boy David as future king of Israel.  At his anointing the spirit didn’t gently settle down on David, nestling on him like a bird from heaven, but it “jumped on” him (ἐφήλατο, the aorist middle of εφαλλομαι). This is the same verb used for a descent of the spirit of God on Saul (I Sam 10:6), who is told that when this happens he will prophecy and “turn into another man.” Well, as that passage develops, we have the story of the “jumping” of the spirit of prophesy on Saul, but in I Sam 10:10 the verb used to describe this is ἅλλομαι, to jump. So, the verbs εφαλλομαι and ἅλλομαι are used synonymously.


The New Testament uses εφαλλομαι once, where a demon-possessed man “jumps on” those who are trying to exorcize the demon (Acts 19:16), and ἅλλομαι appears three times, twice in the book of Acts, where it is used to confirm an act of healing a paralytic—that is, he is now “leaping” (Acts 3:8; 1410)—and once in the Gospel of John, where it describes a fountain “welling up” or “springing up” (John 4:14). 


But we have yet another verb with ἅλλομαι as its root in Acts 3:8, and that is ἐξάλλομαι, a NT hapax, which may be rendered “leaping up,” to describe the healed paralytic. What is interesting about the man healed in Acts 3 is that his condition is described in 3:7 with two more NT hapaxes, βάσις (feet) and σφυρόν (ankle).  Thus, we have the harvest of three NT hapaxes in seven words in 3:7, 8.


As we move to the LXX, we have an additional verb with ἅλλομαι as its root, and its use is a sort of bridge to another and even more fruitful word group for jumping, πηδάω.  I am speaking of the lilting passage in Song of Solomon 2:8, whose English is perhaps familiar to many:


My brotherkin’s voice!

   Look, he has come,

leaping upon the mountains,

    bounding over the hills.


Note the Greek:


φωνὴ ἀδελφιδοῦ μου 

   ἰδοὺ οὗτος ἥκει 

πηδῶν ἐπὶ τὰ ὄρη 

   διαλλόμενος ἐπὶ τοὺς βουνούς


διάλλομαι and πηδάω stand in poetic parallelism and both mean the same thing:  leaping or jumping. But even though we now have four verbs, including ἅλλομαι, with the ἅλλομαι root in biblical literature, we have twice that number with the πηδάω root.  A few examples will bring it into focus. Tobit 6:2 tells about the journey of Tobias back to Mesopotamia to pick up the money held in trust for his father.  As he reached the river Tigris, a fish leaped out of the river.  The verb is ἀνεπήδησεν.  Then,  in the poetic masterpiece of Deuteronomy 33, the following is the description of the tribe of Dan:  Dan is the whelp of a lion, and he leaps up out of/leaps forth from (ἐκπηδήσεται) Bashan.  Thus, we have the literal meaning of the prepositions attached to the base verb. This continues with εἰσπηδάω, which appears both in the NT and LXX, and which means to “rush in” or to “enter.” The more well-known NT passage is when the jailer thinks that Paul may be trying to escape from his custody when there has been an earthquake at night, breaking open the doors of the prison.  So the jailer rushes in, and the verb used is εἰσπηδάω. The opposite verb, εξπεδάω, appears in Acts 14:14, but instead of meaning “rush out” its better meaning is “to rush out into” as Barnabas and Paul are running into a crowd.  Then, there is καταπηδάω in Gen 24:64 and a few other LXX passages to mean “jump down from or alight (as from a camel in this passage).  έμπηδάω appears in I Macc 9:48 and, predictably, means to “jump in,” in this case the Jordan River.  Finally, in 4 Macc 11:1, we have the unusual verb παραπηδάω, which means to “spring forward.” In all of these verbs, the translation is made rather straightforward because the prepositions are taken in their usual or literal meaning.


The other verb which often appears and is rendered to “skip” or “jump” is σκιρτάω. Perhaps its most memorable appearance is in the highly suggestive Psalm 114 (113), where the “mountains skip like rams and the hills like lambs” (Greek is: τὰ ὄρη ὅτι ἐσκιρτήσατε ὡσεὶ κριοί καὶ οἱ βουνοὶ ὡς ἀρνία προβάτων).  The verb σκιρτάω is familiar to any reading the NT as a description of the “leaping” of the baby in Elizabeth’s womb when it heard the voice of her cousin Mary. (Luke 1:41, 44).


Finally, we have the very unusual αναβράσσω in Nah 3:2, usually rendered as effervesce or bubble up, but here describing the “jumping” or “bounding” chariot.


We indeed have a rich biblical harvest with verbs of jumping or leaping. Most of them are rendered predictably, and the prepositions prefixed actually make the verbs sharper rather than more confusing, but there still is the interesting case of the Spirit sometimes “leaping upon/jumping upon” people.

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