What does the word “Corban” mean?

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By BibleAsk Team


The word “Corban” appears in the New Testament in the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 7, verses 9-13. This passage is part of a larger narrative in which Jesus confronts the Pharisees and scribes regarding their adherence to religious traditions over the commandments of God. To fully understand the meaning of “Corban” in this context and its significance in the Bible, let’s explore its historical, cultural, and theological implications, referencing the New King James Version (NKJV) of the Bible.

Historical and Cultural Context

In ancient Jewish culture, the concept of “Corban” was closely associated with religious practices and offerings. The term “Corban” is derived from the Hebrew word “qorban,” which means “offering” or “sacrifice.” It refers to something that is dedicated to God or set apart for religious purposes. The practice of making a “Corban” vow involved dedicating property, possessions, or resources to the service of God, often through the temple or religious rituals.

Mark 7:9-13: Jesus’ Confrontation with the Pharisees

In Mark 7:9-13, Jesus rebukes the Pharisees and scribes for their hypocrisy and misuse of religious traditions. He says:

“He said to them, ‘All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. For Moses said, “Honor your father and your mother”; and, “He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.” But you say, “If a man says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban’—’ (that is, a gift to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.'”

In this passage, Jesus criticizes the Pharisees for using the practice of “Corban” as a loophole to avoid fulfilling their obligations to honor and care for their parents. By declaring their resources as “Corban,” they were exempting themselves from their responsibility to provide for their parents in their time of need. This misuse of religious tradition allowed them to prioritize their own interests over the commandments of God.

The Pharisees’ Misuse of Corban

The Pharisees’ interpretation and application of the “Corban” vow reflected a legalistic and hypocritical approach to religious observance. These actions clearly violated the fifth commandment that states, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12). Instead of honoring their parents and obeying God (Exodus 20:1-17), they exploited the practice of “Corban” to maintain control over their resources and avoid their familial responsibilities. In doing so, they disregarded the spirit of the law and nullified its intended purpose.

Jesus defended the rights of elderly parents, whereas the religious leaders showed their true hypocrisy by being enemies of both God and their fellow men (Luke 10:27). Thus, the “tradition of men” stood forth in uncompromising opposition to the clear loving commandment of God.

Jesus’ Reinterpretation of the Law

Jesus’ confrontation with the Pharisees over the issue of “Corban” reflects his broader mission to reinterpret and fulfill the moral law of God (Matthew 5:17,18). Throughout his ministry, Jesus emphasized the principles of love, mercy, and justice over rigid adherence to religious rituals and traditions. In Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus summarizes the essence of the law:

“Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Spiritual Application

The principle of “Corban” and Jesus’ rebuke of the Pharisees have broader spiritual implications for believers today. It serves as a caution against legalism, hypocrisy, and self-righteousness in matters of faith and religious practice. Instead of prioritizing outward observance or religious rituals, Jesus calls believers to cultivate genuine love for God and compassion for others, reflecting the heart of true obedience to God’s commandments.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the word “Corban” in the Bible refers to the practice of dedicating something to God or setting it apart for religious purposes. In the context of Jesus’ confrontation with the Pharisees, “Corban” represents a misuse of religious tradition to avoid fulfilling one’s obligations to honor and care for parents. Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for their hypocrisy and legalism, emphasizing the importance of genuine obedience to God’s commandments and the principles of love and compassion. As believers, we are called to heed Jesus’ teachings and prioritize the weightier matters of faith, including love, mercy, and justice, over mere religious observance.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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