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DESIRE (אֲבִיּוֹנָ֑ה, caperberry). The word “desire” (Eccl 12:5) can be tr. “caperberry,” “caper,” or even “caper tree,” in the Lat. Vul., the LXX and the Goodspeed VSS.

The caper is Capparis sicula, which grows all over Pal. and particularly around Jerusalem. The berries have an aphrodisiac effect. It is said that when the fruits fail to have a stimulating effect on men, the latter are really old! The plant grows like the ivy on walls and rocks, or spreads itself over the ground.

Capparis spinosa var. canescens is the wild form of the cultivated caper.


One aspect of this word is that of craving or covetousness. Covetousness is condemned and prohibited in the tenth commandment (Exod 20:17). Greed is seen as lying at the base of all sin and social injustice (Micah 2:1). The writers in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes indicate a number of times that envy and greed are never satisfied (Prov 27:20; Eccl 5:10). The psalmist expresses it as the “desire” of the wicked (Ps 10:3).


Under the category of love would come friendship (Ps 133:1-3). Then there is the love/desire as expressed between a man and a woman so vividly written by the author of Song of Songs (Solomon). In Ezekiel 24:16 there is illustrated the love/desire between husband and wife. The expression of love or desire toward God is seen in Deuteronomy 19:9 and Romans 10:1.

Good or pleasure.

This third aspect of the word desire involves delight or happiness in beauty and accomplishment. Solomon had accomplished his goal in the construction of the Temple (1 Kings 9:1). Solomon granted to the Queen of Sheba all that she desired which was good for her and her country (2 Chron 9:12). Handsomeness is called that which is desirable (Ezek 23:6). The suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 is not beautiful that He be desired (Isa 53:2).

Natural desires.

These can be listed as hunger (Ps 145:16), protection and refuge (Ps 7:1), sexual desire separate from a love relationship (Deut 21:11).

Paul strongly stressed in the NT the conflict which takes place between the desires of the old nature without Christ and those of the new nature under the control of Jesus Christ (Rom 7). With spiritual growth the desires under the control of Christ would supersede those of the old nature.


Εριθυμία-ἡδονή, TDNT, III, 168-172 (1965); “Covetousness,” Encyclopedia Judaica (1971).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

See also

  • Plants