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Vayikra/Leviticus 27:29 Any proscribed person, who has been proscribed from mankind, he shall not be redeemed - he shall certainly be put to death.
Coming at the conclusion of a passage dealing with items which have been dedicated - as offerings - to G-d in various ways, and whether they can or cannot be redeemed once so dedicated, this verse seems a startling change of topic. The verb means to place under a ban or to commit toHaShem by total destruction. For example, the penalty of being placed under the ban is incurred for idolatry: "Whoever sacrifices to a god other than the L-RD alone shall be proscribed" (Shemot 22:19, JPS). Used as a noun, is here taken to mean a person who has been sentenced to death by due process of the courts. The text, then, says that once a person has been officially sentenced to execution, it is not possible for either himself or others to redeem him, either by the payment of a financial penalty or substitution of animal sacrifices. The Sages of the Mishnah and Talmud have a detailed discussion about this (cf. b. Arachin 6b) summarised by Rashi:
1. from the moment that the sentence has been passed, the process of death has begun and is irreversible
2. as a "dead man" the man has no value or worth; a redemption valuation cannot be made or paid
Taking a slightly different approach, Rabbi Samson RaphaelHirsch points out that unless the judge can be shown to have made a mistake, this is G-d's justice, against which there can be no appeal. Whilst human decisions - the subject of the previous verses - can be reversed or changed, even if at a cost, G-d never changes His mind, so He cannot be "bought off" from His justice. The Torah itself insists that once sentenced, the death penalty is immutable: "You may not accept a ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of a capital crime; he must be put to death" (B'Midbar 35:31, JPS).
The Scriptures tell us that Yeshua too was totally committed to G-d. In his vision of the apocalypse, John describes Yeshua as "the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world" (Revelation 13:8, NIV). In other words, before time or creation itself began, Yeshua was already a dead man, awaiting the moment of execution. In that light, see how Isaiah describes him: "He had no form or beauty, that we should look at him: no charm, that we should find Him pleasing. He was despised, shunned by men, a man of suffering, familiar with disease. As one who hid his face from us, He was despised, we held Him of no account" (Isaiah 53:2-3, JPS). Isaiah prophesied that the leaders in Yeshua's time would place no value or worth upon him, so that he could not be redeemed. Even when Pilate attempted to free him, the crowd chose Barabbus - a condemned murderer - over Yeshua.
This was no accident, but the deliberate design of G-d; Peter explained to the people on the day of Shavuot, just seven weeks since Yeshua had been crucified and then resurrected again: "this Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of G-d, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death" (Acts 2:23, NASB). During His own ministry years with the disciples, Yeshua had made it plain to them what was going to happen to Him - "All these things Jesus spoke to the multitudes in parables, and He did not speak to them without a parable, so that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, 'I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things hidden since the foundation of the world.'" (Matthew 13:34-35, NASB) - but they had almost as much difficulty as the crowd in understanding. After what many scholars take as a pivotal point in Yeshua's ministry - Peter's confession of Yeshua as Messiah at Caesarea Philippi - when Yeshua first spoke about His coming death, Peter went as far as to rebuke Him, "From that time on, Yeshua began making it clear to His talmidim that He had to go to Yerushalayim and endure much suffering at the hands of the elders, the head cohanim and the Torah-teachers; and that He had to be put to death; but that on the third day, He had to be raised to life. Kefa took Him aside and began rebuking Him, 'Heaven be merciful, L-rd! By no means will this happen to you!'" (Matthew 16:21-22, CJB). "You must not let this happen!", Peter urged. "But Yeshua turned his back on Kefa, saying, 'Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my path, because your thinking is from a human perspective, not from G-d's perspective!'" (v. 23, CJB). From the human perspective they had, the disciples thought that Yeshua had a choice, more, that G-d wouldn't allow Him to be killed. They couldn't see that the crucifixion and resurrection were already an accomplished action from G-d's eternal perspective; they just needed to happen within time.
Hebrew has a syntactic device used to express future actions that, although they haven't yet happened, are as good as done because in the writer's or character's mind they are certain; the decisions have already been taken. An example of this can be found in the book of Ruth. Boaz tells the kinsman redeemer that Naomi, Ruth's mother-in-law, has decided to sell the field that belonged to her late husband. Although the translations say, "Naomi is selling" (Ruth 4:3, NIV), "Naomi has to sell" (NASB), "Naomi must sell" (JPS), the Hebrew text has the word , a plain Qal affix 3fs form. The affix form is most often translated in the past, as single event completed actions, but is here referring to a future event. This is known as an "affix of intent", meaning that the future event is so certain that to all intents and purposes it has already happened. The same device is being used prophetically in the Isaiah quotation above as Isaiah predicts the reaction of the Jewish leaders nearly seven hundred years after his own lifetime.
Later in his life, Peter wrote to the early Jewish believers in Messiah scattered throughout the Roman world to confirm his certainty about the events that had happened in Jerusalem: "For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you" (1 Peter 1:20, NASB). Peter remains adamant that Yeshua's death was no accident, it was not a fall-back position as G-d switched from Plan A to Plan B because the Jewish leaders had rejected Yeshua. This had been G-d's plan all along, hidden from the world yet enigmatically hinted at throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. And the purpose? Why did He do all this? "For your sakes" (CJB). That's the simple truth: He did this for us.
Further Study: Isaiah 42:8-9; Matthew 24:36-37; Ephesians 1:11-12
Application: Do you share Peter's certainty about the plan and purpose of G-d? Know that the same certainty that governed Yeshua's life and ministry applies to G-d's plans for your life. "For I am mindful of the plans I have made concerning you -- declares the L-RD -- plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a hopeful future" (Jeremiah 29:11, JPS).
© Jonathan Allen, 2010
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