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Greek Word Study - Exhort

Dorimachus was a young man with a violent and aggressive spirit. Around 220 B.C. he led a force of Greek warriors against a little city on the peninsula south of Corinth. He sent a few of his men to sneak into the city by way of the aqueduct. Once inside, they killed the guards and opened the gates to the marauders.

Startled awake by the invasion, many of the townspeople fled into the night in utter terror. Some, however, ran to the citadel, where they gradually increased in numbers and courage. When Dorimachus attacked the citadel, the citizens fought back.

Cheering each other on, they resisted and met the attack gallantly. The hand-to-hand combat was fierce. One side was fighting only to gain plunder, but the other side was fighting for their homes, their children, and their honor. Finally the invaders were put to flight and the city was saved.

The Greek word for "cheering each other on" in this history by Polybius was parakaleo (par ah kah LEH oh). In the New Testament the word is often translated "plead, encourage, urge." In the context
of preaching parakaleo is also translated "exhort." It is not a scolding word; it is a word of encouragement to rally the troops.

This is the word used by Paul to young Timothy in the familiar words, "Preach the word . . . reprove, rebuke, and exhort" (2 Tim 4:2, KJV), or in the NIV, "correct, rebuke and encourage." It is the word for John the Baptist in Luke 3:18, "And with many other words he exhorted the people." It is the word for Peter in Acts 2:40, "And he pleaded with them, 'Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.'" It is the word for Paul and Barnabas in Acts 14:22, "encouraging them to remain true to the faith."

It's a little hard to put just the right flavor on parakaleo. "Exhort" is too formal; "encourage" is too soft, like a mere pat on the back. Somehow I like the flavor in the story about the brave
defenders of that ancient city, "cheering each other on" to victory!