Shemot/Exodus 8:19(23) And I shall place redemption between My people and your people
TheBaal HaTurim explains that the Masoretic text note to the word means that it occurs three times in the Hebrew Scriptures; he lists these occurences as here, with defectiva spelling, and at Psalm 111:9 and Psalm 130:7 with plene spelling: . Even-Shoshan reports that the word does actually occur a fourth time, in Isaiah 50:2 as , with the preposition - from - as an assimilated prefix. is a feminine noun - usually translated 'redemption' or 'salvation' - from the root - to redeem, ransom, set free, deliver (Davidson). Following the Septuagint and the Vulgate, albeit with a footnote that the Hebrew text is translated 'redemption', most English versions (for example, NASB, NIV, ESV, RSV, NRSV) change their translation here to 'distinction', possibly because they are theologically uncomfortable with the idea of salvation or redemption being available before Yeshua. Although 'distinction' is also supported by some of the Jewish commentators, Nahum Sarna underlines this inconsistency by stating that " is otherwise invariably translated as rescue or redemption". Targum Onkelos explicitly uses the Aramaic word and paraphrases the verse to read, "I will bring redemption to My people and I will bring a plague upon your people".
The Baal HaTurim goes on to explain that the use of in Psalm 111 - "He has sent redemption to His people; He has ordained His covenant forever; Holy and awesome is His name" (Psalm 111:9, NASB) - shows that the redemption provided from Egypt was only a partial redemption, but that the use in Psalm 130 - "Isra'el, put your hope in ADONAI! For grace is found with ADONAI, and with him is unlimited redemption" (Psalm 130:7, CJB) - shows that the future redemption will be full and complete.Rashi, after pointing out in his commentary to the previous verse that when HaShem says "I will distinguish" means "I will set apart", comments that the redemption "will distinguish between My people and your people"; that is to say, that the redemption is the means by which the two people groups will be separated: the Israelites will be saved or redeemed, the Egyptians will not. The Ramban produces a cross-reference to the verse "For I am the L-RD your G-d, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I have given Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in your place" (Isaiah 43:3, NASB) to show that HaShem is in the redemption business, giving other nations and peoples as a ransom for Israel.
An early anonymous Christian apologetic from the 2nd century describes the separation that existed between the believers of his time and the rest of the Roman world:
For Christians are not distinguished from the rest of humanity by country, language or custom. For nowhere do they live in cities of their own, nor do they speak some unusual dialect, nor do they practice an eccentric way of life. This teaching of theirs has not been discovered by the thought and reflection of ingenious people, nor do they promote any human doctrine, as some do. But while they live in both Greek and barbarian cities, as each one's lot was cast, and follow the local customs in dress and food and other aspects of life, at the same time they demonstrate the remarkable and admittedly unusual character of their own citizenship. They live in their own countries, but only as non-residents; they participate in everything as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners. Every foreign country is their fatherland, and every fatherland is foreign. They marry like everyone else, and have children, but they do not expose their offspring. They share their food but not their wives. They are in the flesh, but they do not live according to the flesh. They live on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven. They obey the established laws; indeed in their private lives they transcend the laws. They love everyone, and by everyone they are persecuted. They are unknown, yet they are condemned; they are put to death, yet they are brought to life. They are poor, yet they make rich; they are in need of everything, yet they abound in everything. They are dishonoured, yet they are glorified in their dishonour; they are slandered, yet they are vindicated. They are cursed, yet they bless; they are insulted, yet they offer respect. When they do good, they are punished as evildoers; when they are punished, they rejoice as though brought to life. By the Jews they are assaulted as foreigners, and by the Greeks they are persecuted, yet those who hate them are unable to give a reason for their hostility. (Epistle to Diognetus 5:1-17; The Apostolic Fathers, trans. Michael W. Holmes)
We hear the probably deliberate echoes of the gospel texts and the letters of Rav Sha'ul running through this description but nevertheless it shows what a distinct and set apart people these believers were. We may regret the way in which they were rejected by the Jews of their time, just as believers - particularly Messianic Jews - are rejected today by mainstream Orthodox Jewry, but their lives were a testimony to the hope and faith they had in Yeshua as their Messiah and the redemption that they experienced in their lives despite the hostility of the people and environment in which they lived. Put another way, there was no mistaking these people - although just like everyone else around them they stuck out like sore thumbs - the salvation that they had separated them from everyone else. Although their neighbours could not identify anything wrong with the believers or any reason to dislike them, their redemption set them apart from those who did not have a relationship with the One True G-d.
In his vision of the end times, John saw, "a great white throne and the One sitting on it. Earth and heaven fled from his presence, and no place was found for them" (Revelation 20:11, CJB). The text goes on to tell us that all the people who ever lived were standing before that throne and were judged according to their actions in this life. The single question that divided those who would spend eternity in heaven and those who would not is clearly explained: "And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire" (v. 15, CJB). How does one's name become written in the Book of Life? In the next chapter, this book is described as "The Lamb's Book of Life" (21:27, CJB), while Yeshua is the one who erases peoples' names from the book (Revelation 3:5). The Psalmist knows of the book, for he begs G-d concerning the wicked, "May they be blotted out of the book of life, and may they not be recorded with the righteous" (Psalm 69:28, NASB). So it is the righteous whose names are written in the book, those who are in covenant relationship with G-d and those whose lives witness to their separation from the world around them. Yeshua describes their situation: "I have given them Thy word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world" (John 17:11, NASB). Those who belong to Yeshua and are called by His name are those who are the separate ones, those who possess G-d's salvation, the ones who have experienced His redemption.
Further Study: Isaiah 56:3-7; Ephesians 2:11-13
Application: Do you know G-d's redemption in your life? If you were arrested and charged with being a believer, would there be enough evidence to convict you? It is time to seek G-d as to how you are to be separate and distinct - without being weird or whacky - from the world around you so that there may be a difference and a witness in your life.
© Jonathan Allen, 2009
25Jan09 13:34 Logan: I liked this drash. It looks at a truly elemental, yet sobering and profound concept. The separating between the blessed and the cursed is loud and bright to the blessed and indistinct and dim to the lost. They will not take care to it until they are unable to.
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