World is the English term by which our translators have rendered four Hebrew words (in addition to the general term אֶרֶוֹ, erits, "earth"):
1. חֶדֶל, chedel, which is erroneously supposed by some to have arisen by transposition of letters from חלד, comes from a root which signifies "to rest," to "discontinue," and hence "to cease from life," "to be at rest;" and as a noun, "the place of rest," "the grave." 'The word occurs in the complaint uttered by Hezekiah, when in prospect of dissolution, and when he contemplates his state among the inhabitants, not of the upper, but the lower world (Isa 38:11); thus combining with many other passages to show that the Hebrews, probably borrowing the idea from the Egyptian tombs, had a vague conception of some shadowy state where the manes of their departed friends lay at rest in their ashes, retaining only an indefinable personality in a land of darkness and "the shadow of death" (Job 10:21-22).
2. חֶלֶד, cheled (Ps 42:11), means "to conceal," and derivatively "any hidden thing," hence "age," "antiquity," "remote and hidden ages;" also "the world," as the hidden or unknown thing (Ps 49:1).
3. עוֹלָם, 'olam (in the New Test. αἰών), the root-signification of which is "to hide," denotes a very remote, indefinite, and therefore unknown period in time past or time to come, which metaphysicians call eternity a parte ante, and eternity a, parte post (Ec 3:11). In Ps 73:12, it is rendered "world;" but in this and in the previous instance it may be questioned whether the natural creation is really meant, and not rather "the world" in our metaphorical use of the term, as denoting the intelligent world, the rational inhabitants of the earth, and still more specifically that portion of them with which we are immediately concerned.
4. תֵּבֵל, tebel (the usual word so rendered the Greek κόσμος), comes from a root that signifies "to flow," and as water is the unfailing cause of fertility in the East, it denotes "to be productive," "to bear fruit;" and as a noun, "the fruit-bearer," that is, the earth. This word is frequently rendered "world" in the common version, but if more was intended than the earth on which we dwell, it may be doubted if the passages in which it occurs will justify the translators. In truth, the Hebrews had no word which comprised the entire visible universe. When they wanted to speak comprehensively of God's creation, they joined two words together and used the phrase "heaven and earth" (Ge 1:1). We have already seen that they had an idea of an under world; the meaning of their ordinary term for earth, אֶרֶוֹ, which signifies the "lower," shows that they also regarded the earth as beneath the sun; while the term for heaven, שָׁמִיַם, denoting "what is elevated," indicates that their view was that the heavens, or the heights, were above. Above, below, and under these three relations of space comprehend their conception of the world. SEE EARTH; SEE HEAVEN.
The following Greek words are also translated "world:"
1. κσόμος, kosmos, the world, universe (Mt 13:35; Mt 24:21; Lu 11:50; Joh 17:5,24; Ac 17:24; Ro 1:20); the inhabitants thereof (1Co 4:9); also the earth, as the abode of man (Mt 13:38; Mr 16:15; Joh 1:9; Joh 3:19; Joh 6:14; Joh 16:21,28; Joh 21:25; Heb 10:5; Mt 4:8; Ro 1:8); the inhabitants of the earth (Mt 5:14; Joh 1:29; Joh 3:16; Joh 17:14,25; Ro 3:6,19; Heb 11:7; 2Pe 2:5; 1Jo 2:2); the multitude, as we say "everybody" (Joh 7:4; Joh 12:19; Joh 14:22; Joh 18:20; 2Co 1:12; 2Pe 2:5); also the heathen world (Ro 11:12,15). It likewise designates the state of the world, as opposed to the kingdom of Christ (Mt 16:26; Mr 8:36; Joh 18:36; 1Co 3:22; 1Co 5:10; Eph 2:2; Ga 6:14; Jas 4:4) and men of the world, worldlings (Joh 12:31; 1Co 1:2; 1Co 3:19; 2Co 7:10; Php 2:15); also the Jewish dispensation, founded on Sinai and ended on Calvary (Eph 1:4; 1Pe 1:20; Heb 9:26)
2. Οἰκουμένη, Oikounene, the inhabited earth, the world as known to the ancients (Mt 4:8; Mt 24:14; Lu 4:5; Ro 10:18; Heb 1:6; Re 16:14); the inhabitants of the earth (Acts 17:31: 19:27; Re 3:10; Re 12:9); the Roman empire (Ac 17:6; Ac 24:5); Palestine and the adjacent countries (Lu 2:1; Ac 11:28).
3. Αἰών, Aihn, the world, or age, the present time, or the future, as implying duration (Mt 12:32; Mr 10:50; Mr 3:28-29; Lu 18:30); the present world or age, with its cares, temptations, evils, etc. (Mt 13:22; Lu 16:8; Lu 20:34; Ro 12:2; 1Co 1:20; 1Co 2:6,8; 2Co 4:4; 2Ti 4:10; Tit 1:12; Ga 1:4); and men of the world, wicked generation (Eph 2:2; Lu 16:8; Lu 20:34); also the world itself, as an object of creation and existence (Mt 13:40; Mt 24:3; Heb 1:2; Heb 11:3). This term also denotes the age or world before the Messiah, i.e., the Jewish dispensation (1Co 10:11; Heb 9:26); also, after the Messiah, i.e., the Gospel dispensation (Heb 2:5; Heb 6:5). SEE COSMOGONY.
In popular Christian phraseology, the world is taken also for a secular life, the present state of existence, and the pleasures and interests which steal away the soul from God. The love of the world does not consist in the use and enjoyment of the comforts God gives us, but in an inordinate attachment to the things of time and sense. We love the world too much
(1) when, for the sake of any profit or pleasure, we wilfully, knowingly, and deliberately transgress the commands of God;
(2) when we take more pains about the present life than the next;
(3) when we cannot be contented, patient, or resigned, under low and inconvenient circumstances;
(4) when we cannot part with anything we possess to those who want, deserve, and have a right to it;
(5) when we envy those who are more fortunate and more favored by the world than we are;
(6) when we honor and esteem and favor persons purely according to their birth, fortunes, and success, measuring our judgment and approbation by their outward appearance and situation in life;
(7) when worldly prosperity makes us proud and vain and arrogant;
(8) when we omit no opportunity of enjoying the good things of this life; when our great and chief business is to divert ourselves till we contract an indifference for rational and manly occupations, deceiving ourselves, and fancying that we are not in a bad condition because others are worse than we (Jortin, Sermons, volume 3, ser. 9). See Hopkins, On the Vanity of the World; Stennet, Sermon on Conformity to the World;. More, On Education, volume 2, chapter 9; Walker, Sermons, volume 4, ser. 20.