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Proverbs 3:6 (NASB)

In all your ways acknowledge Him,

And He will make your paths straight.

What is the difference between a "way" and a "path"?

More specifically, what is the significance in using two different words for what seems to be the same thing?

  • Welcome to BH Stack Exchange, @sara. Interesting question - I noticed that Job 6:18 also uses both Hebrew words, straight after each other. – Possibility Jan 16 '19 at 10:16
  • Hebrew poetry often uses synonyms to purposely mean the same thing. – Perry Webb Jan 16 '19 at 10:19
  • Hi Sara, welcome to Hermeneutics! I made an edit to adjust your format. I hope this proves helpful. And, great question! – Jesse Steele Jan 21 '19 at 23:53
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Actually, sara, the two different words are not directing to the same thing. The English versions are very accurate here. See below two examples:

Proverbs 3:6

  • In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths (AKJV).

  • In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths smooth (TNK)

In the LXX they used the same word for both:

Proverbs 3:6

ἐν πάσαις ὁδοῖς σου γνώριζε αὐτήν ἵνα ὀρθοτομῇ τὰς ὁδούς σου ὁ δὲ πούς σου οὐ μὴ προσκόπτῃ

Yet in the Hebrew there are two different words with quite a different meaning:

Proverbs 3:6 בְּכָל־דְּרָכֶ֥יךָ דָעֵ֑הוּ וְ֝ה֗וּא יְיַשֵּׁ֥ר אֹֽרְחֹתֶֽיךָ׃

  1. דְּרָכֶ֥יךָ < דֶּרֶךְ (n-m) heb way, road, distance, journey, manner road, way, path journey direction manner, habit, way of course of life (fig.) of moral character (fig.)

  2. אֹֽרְחֹתֶֽיךָ < אֹרַח (n-m) heb way, path path, road the path, way, passing of life (fig.) way of living (fig.) traveller, wayfarer (meton)

For more, please have a look here and here.

So, the expression "all your ways" is about the whole area of one's beliefs, way of thinking, life's actions, etc. And it is not simply in theory, but also in practice, in everyday's routine. Whereas "paths" is about the work of God in most likely every event of one's life, at a more down to earth level, where God will be removing all obstacles out of the way.

In a more abstract way of putting it, "all your ways" is about the general and "paths" is about the particular. If you travel say, "from Chicago to LA" :-) there is one way (direction), but many paths (means of getting to the destination).

That would be: "if on the whole you acknowledge him, he shall be looking after you in every detail of your life."

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Although ארח and דרך are both "way" , or "path" the first is more figurative and related to the way one should act (metaphorical way / path of life).

This verse say that one should remember God commandments on every step he make: the path he walks in and the way he acts.

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