Hebrews 13:5 is quoted by many. It’s thrown around all over the place, even by people who it doesn’t apply to. Saw it in a new way the other day.
I took Greek in seminary, lots of it. I sometimes feel I wasted my time and money on it. Occasionally I will delve into it, try to find something cool to make me think I got my money’s worth. Hebrews 13:5 in Greek gives my tuition expenses some value.
“I will never leave you” is the first phrase. Leave does not mean “leave.” The word “leave” actually means uphold or sustain. The KJV translators tried to convey the double negative of the Greek into the verb.
Double negatives in Greek do not make a positive, they make a doubly strong negative. The double negative should say “I will not, I will not leave you” Or, even better, “I will not, I will not cease sustaining you.”
Some Greek tuition value right there. But the last phrase, “nor forsake you” is different in the Greek too. When we read Hebrews 13:5 we think he’s saying the same thing twice: he won’t leave or forsake. In reality he’s saying two different things. God won’t fail to sustain us nor will He leave us.
The second part, “nor forsake you” actually has a triple negative in the Greek! Triply negative. In other words, a guy could legitimately translate Hebrews 13:5 this way:
“For He Himself has said, I will not, I will not cease to sustain thee, I will not, I will not, I will not forsake thee.”