BURDEN is represented by several Heb. terms and by a greater variety of Gr. words. The most important are as follows:

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)


1. In the Old Testament:

In the Old Testament more than one word is rendered "burden."

The word mas’-eth, of the same derivation as massa’, is applied to foolish oracles (La 2:14 the King James Version, oracles the American Standard Revised Version, burdens the American Revised Version, margin, burdens the Revised Version (British and American), oracles the Revised Version, margin; Am 5:11, burdens the King James Version, exactions the American Standard Revised Version and the Revised Version (British and American)).

Massa’ is used also in Pr 30:1 and Pr 31:1, and is variously rendered prophecy (the King James Version), oracle (American Revised Version), burden, or the name of the speaker’s country (Revised Version margin, the American Revised Version, margin), oracle (Revised Version). The reading is doubtful, but probably the reference is to the speaker’s country- -"Jakeh, of Massa" (compare Ge 25:14), "Lemuel king of Massa."

2. In the New Testament:

In the New Testament several Greek words mean "burden."

(1) baros, "something heavy." Burdens of the day (Mt 20:12), the burden of duty to be borne, a difficult requirement (Ac 15:28; Re 2:24). The burden of one’s moral infirmities (Ga 6:2).

(2) phortion, "something to be borne." The obligation which Christ imposes (Mt 11:30); the legal ordinances of the Pharisees (Lu 11:46); a man’s individual responsibility (Ga 6:5). Whether any clear and consistent distinction can be made between these two words is doubtful. Probably, however, phortion refers to the load as something to be borne, whether heavy or light, whilst baros may be an oppressive load. According to Lightfoot baros may suggest a load of which a man may rightly rid himself should occasion serve, but phortion a burden which he is expected to bear, as every soldier carries his own pack. But most likely too much weight should not be given to these distinctions.

(3) There is also the word gomos, "the freight" of a ship (Ac 21:3); compare ogkos, weight or encumbrance which impedes the runner’s progress to the goal (Heb 12:1), with particular reference to the superfluous flesh which an athlete seeks to get rid of in training (compare 1Co 9:24-27), and figuratively whatever hinders the full development of Christian manhood.