In the King James Version this word is used 22 times as a noun and 26 times as a predicate. In the former case it is represented by 5 Hebrew and 3 Greek words; in the latter by 11 Hebrew and 2 Greek words. As a noun it is purely a physical term, gaining almost a technical significance from the "mark" put upon Cain (Genesis 4:15 the King James Version); the stigmata of Christ in Paul's body (Galatians 6:17); the "mark of the beast" (Revelation 16:2).
As a verb it is almost exclusively a mental process:
e.g. "to be attentive," "understand ": bin (Job 18:2 the King James Version), rightly rendered in the Revised Version (British and American) "consider"; shith, "Mark ye well her bulwarks" (Psalms 48:13), i.e. turn the mind to, notice, regard; shamar, i.e. observe, keep in view; so Psalms 37:37, "Mark the perfect man"; compare Job 22:15 the King James Version. This becomes a unique expression in 1 Samuel 1:12, where Eli, noticing the movement of Hannah's lips in prayer, is said to have "marked her mouth." Jesus "marked" how invited guests chose out (epecho, i.e. "observed") the chief seats (Luke 14:7); so skopeo (Romans 16:17; Philippians 3:17), "Mark them," i.e. look at, signifying keen mental attention, i.e. scrutinize, observe carefully. The only exceptions to this mental signification of the verb are two verses in the Old Testament: Isaiah 44:13, "He marketh it out with a pencil" ("red ochre," the King James Version "line"), and "with the compasses," where the verb is ta'ar, "to delineate," "mark out"; Jeremiah 2:22, "Thine iniquity is marked (katham, "cut (i.e. engraved)) before me," signifying the deep and ineradicable nature of sin. It may also be rendered "written," as in indelible hieroglyphics.
As a noun the term "mark" may signify, according to its various Hebrew and Greek originals, a sign, "a target" an object of assault, a brand or stigma cut or burnt in the flesh, a goal or end in view, a stamp or imprinted or engraved sign.
(1) 'oth, "a sign":
Genesis 4:15 the King James Version, "The Lord set a mark upon Cain" (the American Standard Revised Version "appointed a sign"). It is impossible to tell the nature of this sign. Delitzsch thinks that the rabbins were mistaken in regarding it as a mark upon Cain's body. He considers it rather "a certain sign which protected him from vengeance," the continuance of his life being necessary for the preservation of the race. It was thus, as the Hebrew indicates, the token of a covenant which God made with Cain that his life would be spared.
(2) mattara', "an aim," hence, a mark to shoot at. Jonathan arranged to shoot arrows as at a mark, for a sign to David (1 Samuel 20:20); Job felt himself to be a target for the Divine arrows, i.e. for the Divinely decreed sufferings which wounded him and which he was called to endure (Job 16:12); so Jeremiah, "He hath set me as a mark for the arrow" (Lamentations 3:12); closely akin to this is miphga`, an object of attack (Job 7:20), where Job in bitterness of soul feels that God has become his enemy, and says, `Why hast thou made me the mark of hostile attack?'; "set me as a mark for thee."
(3) taw, "mark" (Ezekiel 9:4,6). In Ezekiel's vision of the destruction of the wicked, the mark to be set upon the forehead of the righteous, at Yahweh's command, was, as in the case of the blood sprinkled on the door-posts of the Israelites (Exodus 12:22,23), for their protection. As the servants of God (Revelation 7:2,3)--the elect--were kept from harm by being sealed with the seal of the living God in their foreheads, so the man clothed in linen, with a writer's inkhorn by his side, was told to mark upon their foreheads those whom God would save from judgment by His sheltering grace. Taw also appears (Job 31:35) for the attesting mark made to a document (the Revised Version (British and American) "signature," margin "mark").
The equivalent Hebrew letter taw ("t") in the Phoenician alphabet and on the coins of the Maccabees had the form of a cross (T). In oriental synods it was used as a signature by bishops who could not write. The cross, as a sign of ownership, was burnt upon the necks or thighs of horses and camels. It may have been the "mark" set upon the forehead of the righteous in Ezekiel's vision.
(4) qa`aqa`, "a stigma" cut or burnt. The Israelites were forbidden (Leviticus 19:28) to follow the custom of other oriental and heathen nations in cutting, disfiguring or branding their bodies.
The specific prohibition "not to print any marks upon" themselves evidently has reference to the custom of tattooing common among savage tribes, and in vogue among both men and women of the lower orders in Arabia, Egypt, and many other lands. It was intended to cultivate reverence for and a sense of the sacredness of the human body, as God's creation, known in the Christian era as the temple of the Holy Spirit.
See also CUTTINGS IN THE FLESH.
(5) skopos, something seen or observed in the distance, hence, a "goal." The Christian life seemed to Paul, in the intensity of his spiritual ardor, like the stadium or race-course of the Greeks, with runners stretching every nerve to reach the goal and win the prize. "I press on toward the goal (the King James Version "mark") unto the prize" (Philippians 3:14). The mark or goal is the ideal of life revealed in Christ, the prize, the attainment and possession of that life.
In The Wisdom of Solomon 5:21 "they fly to the mark" is from eustochoi, "with true aim" (so the Revised Version (British and American)).
(6) stigma, "a mark pricked or branded upon the body." Slaves and soldiers, in ancient times, were stamped or branded with the name of their master. Paul considered and called himself the bondslave of Jesus Christ. The traces of his sufferings, scourging, stonings, persecution, wounds, were visible in permanent scars on his body (compare 2 Corinthians 11:23-27). These he termed the stigmata of Jesus, marks branded in his very flesh as proofs of his devotion to his Master (Galatians 6:17).
This passage gives no ground for the Romanist superstition that the very scars of Christ's crucifixion were reproduced in Paul's hands and feet and side. It is also "alien to the lofty self-consciousness" of these words to find in them, as some expositors do, a contrast in Paul's thought to the scar of circumcision.
(7) charagma, "a stamp" or "imprinted mark." "The mark of the beast" (peculiar to Revelation) was the badge of the followers of Antichrist, stamped on the forehead or right hand (Revelation 13:16; compare Ezekiel 9:4,6). It was symbolic of character and was thus not a literal or physical mark, but the impress of paganism on the moral and spiritual life. It was the sign or token of apostasy. As a spiritual state or condition it subjected men to the wrath of God and to eternal torment (Revelation 14:9-11); to noisome disease (Revelation 16:2); to the lake of fire (Revelation 19:20). Those who received not the mark, having faithfully endured persecution and martyrdom, were given part in the first resurrection and lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years (Revelation 20:4). The "beast" symbolizes the anti-Christian empires, particularly Rome under Nero, who sought to devour and destroy the early Christians.
(8) molops, "bruise," Sirach 23:10 (the Revised Version (British and American) "bruise"); 28:17.
Dwight M. Pratt