Hearken is not a word you come across in daily speech or conversation. It sounds old-fashioned. In fact, the first time I ever used it was in elementary school, when we sang the traditional English refrain of an old Neapolitan song: “Hearken, hearken, music sounds afar! Funiculi, funicula, funiculi, funicula. . . .”
But as I started being a serious student of Christian Science, I noticed that hearken comes up a lot in the Bible, at least in the King James Version. In fact, it appears 233 times (in various forms). So it must be important, I reasoned. It had to mean more than just “hear,” because it says in Isaiah, “The ears of them that hear shall hearken” (32:3). When I looked up hearken in my dictionary, I found: “To listen, hear, and heed.” In today’s vernacular, it would probably be “Listen up!” or “Pay attention!”
In Scripture, hearken is often used as an admonition to not only listen and hear, but heed God’s voice—or that of His messengers. The Old Testament records how Moses was told by God that he should go to the children of Israel and tell them he was chosen to lead them out of slavery in Egypt. He responded, “They will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice” (Exodus 4:1). The Lord then gave Moses two signs of His omnipotent power that he should show the people: (1) Following the Lord’s instructions, he threw his rod (walking stick) on the ground and it became a serpent; then, he picked the serpent up by the tail and it became a rod again. (2) Directed to then put his hand in his bosom, once again Moses obeyed, and his hand turned leprous; repeating the motion, the leprosy vanished. If the children of Israel didn’t heed him after he showed them the first sign, the second would offer additional proof.