Although it literally means, “armies” in both Hebrew and Aramaic, this word is most often transliterated into English as either "Saboath", or "hosts".
Rev. Fr. Finelli of the Church of the Holy Ghost, Triverton, Rhode Island correctly translates the word Sábaoth as it is used in the Latin Mass as “of heavenly armies” (Finelli, 2009). However this word, which is often left untranslated in the liturgy is consistently translated in English Bibles as the "Lord of Hosts". The words “armies” and “hosts” do not have the same or even similar meanings. So why the discrepancy? The word "sabaṓth" צְבָאות is the Hebrew Feminine plural of צָבָא, which means "battle", "army" or "warfare" or in some sense even "throngs". In Psalm 44:9 it is used to mean "armies".
But you have cast us off, and put us to shame, no longer go forth with our armies. (Psalm 44:9) In the Peshitta we encounter this word at Romans 9:29 and James 5:4 as the feminine singular noun צבאות in the phrases:
According to what Isaiah has already [affirmed / said / spoken], if the Lord TsBAWoT does not benefit our survival, it is because we have begun to resemble Sodom and Gomorrah. (Romans 9:29)
Behold that the pay owed the labourers who have reaped your land, cry out bring their appeal to the Lord TsBAWoT (James 5:4)
Marya Tzaboat מריא צבאות translates either as the "Lord Armies" or the “Lord Multitudes”. The term tsaba צבא by itself means “willing”. The lack of a definitive ד (‘of’) means that it specifically does not mean “Lord of Armies” or “Lord of Multitudes”. Instead the “moria” points directly to the word Tzaboat as if it were a proper name.
But this is from the Sanctus, a prayer which found its way into the liturgies both east and west in the 7th century. We do not find the source of this prayer in the Narrow Canon, but instead in the book of Hênok, in the Wider Canon, which in the Ge’ez reads:
ይባርኩከ እለ ኢይነውሙ ወይቀውሙ በቅድመ ስብሐቲከ ወይባርኩከ ወይሴብሑ ወያሌዕሉ እንዘ ይብሉ ቅዱስ ቅዱስ ቅዱስ እግዚአ መናፍስት ይመልእ ምድረ መንፈሳት Those who are awake in every generation bless Him, and stand before His glory, praising and exalting Him, saying, "Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of Spirits, Who fills the Earth with souls.” (Hênok 39:12) (Israel, 2016)
Thus we see that this is the “God of Spirits” who fills the Earth with a multitude of souls. Putting these things together into a common context we can understand that the LORD mentioned here is the “LORD OF SPIRITUAL WARFARE”, a definition with far reaching implications, well beyond the less-than adequate interpretation of “Lord of Hosts” used by the translators of our English language bibles.
- Finelli, J. A. (2009, 3 10). Latin Mass Parts - Kyrie & Sanctus. Récupéré sur Church of the Holy Ghost: http://www.holyghostcc.org/2009/03/latin-mass-parts-kyrie-sanctus/
- Israel, H. M. (2016). Book of Hênok. Hollywood: Righteous Endeavour.