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B'resheet/Genesis 44:33 And now, your servant will stay, please, in place of the youth: the servant of my lord
Nechama Leibowitz points out that the word - slave, servant or bondman - occurs thirteen times in Y'hudah's oration to Yosef and twice in this particular verse. It is "underlining their humble posture in front of the mighty ruler," she concludes. The Ramban comments that Y'hudah is telling Yosef that he would rather become a permanent servant than go back to his father without Binyamin; that since Y'hudah stood surety for Binyamin's safe return (v32), his 'punishment' should be that he will substitute now for Binyamin's 'punishment' and remain in Egypt while Binyamin goes home to his father.
Here is a clear case of penal substitution: one taking the place or punishment of another. G-d can be seen doing the same thing: "For I am the L-rd your G-d, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour; I have given Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in your place. Since you are precious in My sight, since you are honoured and I love you, I will give other men in your place and other peoples in exchange for your life" (Isaiah 43:3-4, NASB). Later on, Isaiah prophesies of the ultimate substitution (or 'great exchange' as Derek Prince called it), "We're all like sheep who've wandered off and got lost. We've all done our own thing, gone our own way. And G-d has piled all our sins, everything we've done wrong, on Him, on Him" (Isaiah 53:6, The Message).
In Yeshua's own time, Caiaphas - the high priest - "had advised the Jews that it was expedient for one man to die on behalf of the people" (John 18:14, NASB). Better that an innocent - if, from the religious leaders' point of view, somewhat troublesome - man should die than that the Romans should crush a popular uprising and end up killing many people, or take away what little freedom the Jewish people still retained to govern their own affairs.
It is Rav Sha'ul, however, who pulls the issue into sharp focus. "For while we were still helpless, at the right time, the Messiah died on behalf on ungodly people. Now it is a rare event when someone gives up his life even for the sake of somebody righteous, although possibly for a truly good person one might have the courage to die. But G-d demonstrates His own love for us in that the Messiah died on our behalf while we were still sinners" (Romans 5:6-8, CJB). Although we have no excuse before G-d, all of us having sinned (Romans 3:23), yet Yeshua voluntarily laid His life that we might be free; He took our punishment, although He deserved none, so that we could be restored to relationship with G-d.
Further Study: Romans 8:31-36; 2 Corinthians 5:21
Application: Today is a day to rejoice in your freedom. Know not only that G-d loves you, but that He gave His Son as a ransom for your sin so that He might know you and you could call Him 'Father'.
© Jonathan Allen, 2004
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