1. The Substantive:
The word is used in the Old Testament both as a substantive add as a verb. In the New Testament it appears as a verb only. 'erebh, ma'arabh, mean a concealed hiding-place for purposes of sudden attack, an ambuscade. (1) "Lie in wait": "Abimelech rose up .... from lying in wait" (Jg 9:35 the King James Version); "When they .... abide in the covert to lie in wait" (Job 38:40). (2) "Lay wait": "They compassed him in, and laid wait for him" (Jg 16:2).
2. The Verb:
(1) sharath, "to serve," "to minister," to act in the capacity of servant or attendant: "These waited on the king" (2Ch 17:19). Used especially in this sense with regard to the ceremonial service of the host: "They shall go in to wait upon the service in the work of the tent of meeting" (Nu 8:24; compare Nu 8:25); "The Levites wait upon their business" (2Ch 13:10 the King James Version). "Wait at" occurs in the same sense in the New Testament: "They which wait at (the Revised Version (British and American) "wait upon") the altar," etc. (1Co 9:13 the King James Version). (2) The simple verb is used to describe the longsuffering and patience of God toward His willful people: "And therefore will Yahweh wait, that he may be gracious unto you" (Isa 30:18); "When the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah" (apekdechomai, 1Pe 3:20). (3) The most important and frequent use of the word "wait," however, is to define the attitude of a soul God-ward. It implies the listening ear, a heart responsive to the wooing of God, a concentration of the spiritual faculties upon heavenly things, the patience of faith, "the earnest expectation of the creation" (Ro 8:19). It describes an eager anticipation and yearning for the revelation of truth and love as it is in the Father. Thus: "My soul, wait thou .... for God only" (Ps 69:5); "Our soul hath waited for Yahweh" (Ps 33:20); "Mine eyes fail while I wait for my God" (Ps 69:3); "Wait for Yahweh, and he will save thee" (Pr 20:22).
Also the New Testament thus: "Waiting for our adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body" (Ro 8:23); "For we through the Spirit by faith wait for the hope of righteousness" (Ga 5:5). From various references in the New Testament there seems to have been in the days of Jesus a sect in whose name the word "wait" played an important part. Of the aged Simeon, who met Mary and Joseph when they brought the infant Jesus to the temple, it is said that he was "waiting for (the Revised Version (British and American) "looking for") the consolation of Israel" (Lu 2:25), that is, he was looking for the fulfillment of the Messianic promise. Again, after our Lord's crucifixion, when Joseph of Arimathea begged for the body of Jesus, we are told that he was one of those that "waited for the kingdom of God" (prosdechomai, Mr 15:43 the King James Version; Lu 23:51 the King James Version). It is thought by some authorities that this implies their having belonged to the sect of the Essenes. Epiphanius associates the sect with one which he names "Gortheni," whose title is derived from a word which means "to expect."
Arthur Walwyn Evans