Set

Few words in the English language have such a rich variety of meaning and are used in so rich a variety of idiomatic expression as the word "set." A glance at any of the great dictionaries will convince anyone of the truth of this statement. The Standard Dictionary devotes three and a half columns to the word. In its primary meaning it there denotes 22 distinct things, in its secondary meaning 17 more, while 18 distinct phrases are given in which it is used, in some cases again in a variety of meanings. It is indeed a word calculated to drive a foreigner to despair. Some 70 Hebrew and about 30 Greek words in the original tongues of the Holy Scriptures have been rendered by the word "set," in the King James Version and also in the Revised Version (British and American). A careful comparative study of the original and of translations in other tongues will at once indicate that a lack of discrimination is evident on the part of the English translators in the frequent use of the word "set."


(1) In its primary meaning the word "set" is used in our English Bible in many senses:

(a) Foundation: So 5:15, "His legs are as pillars of marble set upon."

(b) Direction: Eze 21:16, "whithersoever thy face is set."

(c) Appointed time: Ac 12:21, "upon a set day."

(d) Fixed place: 2Ch 20:17, "Set yourselves, stand ye still, and see"; 2Sa 6:17; Mt 4:5.

(e) Cause to sit: 1Sa 2:8, the King James Version "to set them among princes"; 2Ch 23:20; Ps 68:6.

(f) Appointment: Ezr 7:25, the King James Version "set magistrates and judges"; Ge 41:41; 1Sa 12:13; Ps 2:6; Da 1:11. (g) To lift up: Ge 31:17, "set his sons and his wives upon."

(h) Appointed place: Ge 1:17, "God set them in the firmament."

(i) Cause to stand: Ge 47:7, "Joseph brought in Jacob .... and set him before Pharaoh"; Nu 8:13; 2Ch 29:25.

(j) Sitting: Mt 5:1, the King James Version "when he was set"; Heb 8:1 the King James Version.

(k) Location: Mt 5:14, "a city set on a hill." These by no means exhaust the meaning which the word, in its primary sense, has in our English Bible.

(2) In a secondary or tropical sense it is used with equal frequency, usually with various prepositions. Thus,

(a) To attack: Jud 9:33, the King James Version "and set upon the city."

(b) To imprint: Ge 4:15, the King James Version "The Lord set a mark upon Cain."

(c) To direct to: 1Ki 2:15, "And that all Israel set their faces on me."

(d) To place: 1Ki 20:12, Ben-hadad shouted one word to his allies: "Set," i.e. set the armies in array, the battering-rams and engines of attack in their place.

(e) To incline toward: Eze 40:4, "Set thy heart upon all that I shall show."

(f) To trust in: Ps 62:10, "If riches increase, set not your heart thereon."

(g) To place before: Ps 90:8, "Thou hast set our iniquities before"; Ps 141:3, "Set a watch, O Yahweh, before my mouth."

(h) To go down: of the setting of the sun (Mr 1:32; Lu 4:40).

(i) To be proud: Mal 3:15, the King James Version "They that work wickedness are set up."

(j) To fill in: Ex 35:9, "stones to be set, for the ephod."

(k) To plant: Mr 12:1, "set a hedge about it."

(l) To mock: Lu 23:11, "Herod .... set him at nought."

(m) To honor: 1Sa 18:30, "so that his name was much set by."

(n) To start: Ac 21:2, "We went aboard, and set sail." As may be seen the word is used in an endless variety of meanings.

Henry E. Dosker