The Great Lessons of Humility

Yael Eckstein  |  June 5, 2023

Rachel, elderly Holocaust survivor from Ukraine, receives love and High Holy Days aid in Israel, 2022

He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. — Genesis 28:12

As we celebrate the men in our lives this month, enjoy these devotions looking at the defining characteristics of godliness that we can glean from the biblical men of faith — and how we can pass on those values to our children.

Sennacherib was the most powerful king of his time. In the Bible, he was the Assyrian king who attacked Jerusalem during the reign of King Hezekiah. In the mid-1800s, archaeologists discovered monuments that Sennacherib had erected to himself in Nineveh, in today’s northern Iraq.

These monuments were inscribed with stories about Sennacherib, written by himself about himself. Consider the lofty tone in which Sennacherib described himself: Sennacherib, the great king, the mighty king, king of the world, king of Assyria, king of the four quarters, the wise shepherd, favorite of the great gods, guardian of right, lover of justice, who lends support, who comes to the aid of the destitute, who performs pious acts, perfect hero, mighty man, first among all princes, the powerful one who consumes the insubmissive, who strikes the wicked with the thunderbolt …

And it goes on like this. Sennacherib certainly had an exceedingly high opinion of himself!

Contrast this with giants of our faith. Abraham said of himself, “I am nothing but dust and ashes” (Genesis 18:27). King David, Israel’s greatest king, wrote, “I am a worm and not a man” (Psalm 22:6).

The Great Lessons of Humility

The great men and women of the Bible are models for us — not because they won great wars and accomplished remarkable things — but because of the great lessons of humility and faith that they teach us.

The Jewish sages saw this lesson in the famous scene of Jacob’s dream. We read, “He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.”

One interpretation of this verse is that Jacob saw the way to “climb” to heaven was to be rooted in the ground. In other words, we should be more concerned about humbly lowering ourselves rather than building ourselves up like Sennacherib.

And that doesn’t only apply to getting to heaven. Think about it. Have you ever been impressed or inspired by someone because they bragged and praised themselves?

Self-aggrandizement and boastfulness distances us from God and from those around us. Humility invites them in.

Your Turn:

Let’s commit ourselves to walk more humbly with God. Can we put others first? Can we overlook insults? When we root ourselves firmly on earth and learn the great lessons of humility, we eventually will ascend Jacob’s ladder and reach the kingdom of heaven.