In Old Testament times a gift was customarily given for the price of a bride ( Gen 34:12 ). The gifts of all the wave offerings of the Israelites were given by God to the priests and their families ( Num 18:11 ). Fathers gave gifts to sons before sending them away ( Gen 25:6 ); sons would receive inheritances from their fathers ( 2 Ch 21:3 ). Gifts were often given to the poor. Gifts were sometimes spiritual in orientation: gifts would be given to God ( Exod 28:38 ) or for service by the Levites and priests ( Numbers 18:6 Numbers 18:9 ).
Gifts can be used to gain friends ( Prov 19:6 ) or influence ( Prov 18:16 ). God gives gifts to people so that they can enjoy life ( Eccl 3:13 ). Some people boast of gifts, and then never give them ( Prov 25:14 ).
In the New Testament a gift was given by the priest as an offering to God ( Heb 5:1 ). The magi presented gifts to the infant Jesus ( Matt 2:11 ). God gave the gift of redemption to humankind ( Eph 2:8 ).
God's righteousness is a gift ( Rom 5:17 ); God has provided for us an "indescribable" gift ( 2 Cor 9:15 ). Paul talks about the gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12). Those who have tasted the heavenly gift have been enlightened ( Heb 6:4 ). Paul is a servant of the gospel by the gift of God's grace ( Eph 3:7 ).
In general, in Scripture the word "gift" has three senses: gifts men give to men; sacrificial offerings presented to God; and gifts God gives to men, especially in connection with salvation, righteousness, and his grace.
See also Offerings and Sacrifices.
Bibliography. F. F. Bruce, ISBE, 2:395-96; F. Buchsel, TDNT, 2:860-66; D. G. Burke, ISBE, 2:465-67; W. Kaiser, TWOT, 2:600-602; G. Thompson and W. A. Elwell, EDT, pp. 1042-46; W. White, Jr., ZPEB, 2:721.
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The giving of presents entered largely into the affairs of common life in the East. The nature of the presents was as various as were the occasions: food ( 1 Samuel 9:7 ; 16:20 ), sheep and cattle ( Genesis 32:13-15 ), gold ( 2 Samuel 18:11 ), jewels ( Genesis 24:53 ), furniture, and vessels for eating and drinking ( 2 Samuel 17:28 ); delicacies, as spices, honey, etc. ( 1 Kings 10:25 ; 2 Kings 5: : 22 ). The mode of presentation was with as much parade as possible: the presents were conveyed by the hands of servants ( Judges 3:18 ), or still better, on the backs of beasts of burden ( 2 Kings 8:9 ). The refusal of a present was regarded as a high indignity; and this constituted the aggravated insult noticed in Matthew 22:11 , the marriage robe having been offered and refused.
The giving and receiving of presents has in all ages been not only a more frequent but also a more formal and significant proceeding in the East than among ourselves. We cannot adduce a more remarkable proof of the important part which presents play in the social life of the East than the fact that the Hebrew language possesses no less than fifteen different expressions for the one idea. The mode of presentation was with as much parade as possible. The refusal of a present was regarded us a high indignity. No less an insult was it not to bring a present when the position of the parties demanded it. ( 1 Samuel 10:27 )
gift (mattanah, minchah, shochadh; doron, dorea, chairisma):
In Genesis 25:6; Exodus 28:38; Numbers 18:6,7,29; Ezekiel 20:26, etc., mattanah, "a gift," is so rendered; minchah, an offering or present, used especially of the "meat offerings," is translated "gift" (2 Samuel 8:2,6 the King James Version; 2 Chronicles 26:8), in which passages "tribute" is meant, as the Revised Version (British and American); 32:23; Psalms 45:12. A few other words occur singly, e.g. 'eshkar, "a reward" (Psalms 72:10); mas'eth, "lifting up" (Esther 2:18); nathun is translated "gifts" (Numbers 8:19; the Revised Version, margin "Hebrew nethunim, given"); nedheh, nadhan, "impure gifts" (Ezekiel 16:33); nisse'th, "a thing lifted up" (2 Samuel 19:42); shochadh means "a bribe" (Exodus 23:8; Deuteronomy 16:19; 2 Chronicles 19:7; Proverbs 6:35; 17:8,23; Isaiah 1:23; Ezekiel 22:12); in each instance the American Standard Revised Version has "bribe" except Proverbs 6:35, "gifts"; teramah, "a present" (Proverbs 29:4), may also mean a bribe, the King James Version "he that receiveth gifts," the Revised Version (British and American) "he that exacteth gifts," margin "imposeth tribute, Hebrew a man of offerings."
In the New Testament doron, "a present," "gift" (from didomi, "to give"), is translated "gift" (Matthew 2:11; 5:23,14 bis; Mark 7:11 the King James Version; Hebrews 5:1; Revelation 11:10, etc., referring chiefly to gifts or offerings to God); dorea, "a free gift" (John 4:10; Acts 2:38; Romans 5:15,17; 2 Corinthians 9:15; Hebrews 6:4, etc., referring to the gifts of God); dorema, "a free gift" (Romans 5:16; James 1:17, the English Revised Version "boon"); dosis, " giving" (James 1:17, "every good gift," the Revised Version, margin "giving"); charisma, "grace," "favor," a benefit or good conferred, is also used of Divine gifts and favors, especially of the supernatural gifts imparted by the Holy Spirit (charismata) enumerated in Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12; the word occurs translated "gift, gifts" (Romans 1:11), "some spiritual gift" (Romans 5:15,16, "free gift"; Romans 6:23, "The gift of God is eternal life," the Revised Version (British and American) "free gift"; 11:29; 1 Corinthians 1:7; 7:7; 2 Corinthians 1:11; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6; 1 Peter 4:10); charis, "grace," "favor" (2 Corinthians 8:4, the Revised Version (British and American) "grace"); merismos, "distribution," "parting" (Hebrews 2:4, the Revised Version, margin "distributions"); anathema, "a thing devoted to God," is once (Luke 21:5) used of "the goodly gifts" (the Revised Version (British and American) "offerings") which adorned the Temple at Jerusalem.
In the Revised Version (British and American) "gift" is substituted in the text of Genesis 33:11 for blessing, margin Hebrew "blessing"; "boasteth himself of his gifts falsely" (Proverbs 25:14) for "boasteth himself of a false gift," margin Hebrew "in a gift of falsehood"; "a parting gift" for "presents" (Micah 1:14); "Given to God" for "a gift" (Mark 7:11).
W. L. Walker
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