Word for Today - Yeshu’ah
Brian Clatworthy, Newton Abbot, Devon, England [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
Yeshimon (desert, wilderness)
Yeshu’ah (deliverance, salvation, help)
When our Lord met the woman at Jacob’s well and told her that ‘salvation is of [or better rendered “from”] the Jews’, John 4. 22, He was not indicating that all Jews would be saved, but, rather, referring to the part that Israel had played in the revelation of salvation to the world. 1 This revelation of salvation is rooted in the Hebrew noun Yeshu’ah, which is used extensively in the Old Testament to describe God’s strength and power to deliver in salvation as in Deuteronomy chapter 32 verse 15, where the narrative states that Jeshurun not only forsook God but ‘lightly esteemed the Rock, or Mountain, of his salvation’. 2 In Isaiah chapter 25 verse 9, it describes the deliverance that comes from death to those who put their trust in the Lord. In the vast majority of Old Testament occurrences of the word Yeshu’ah, God acts on behalf of others to bring about their salvation. Even when men are used as the instruments of salvation, it is still God’s work that is paramount, e.g., Judg. 7. 2. 3 The word has a wide range of meanings to express this act of salvation so that it can mean ‘to receive help’, ‘deliver’, ‘come to one’s aid’, or ‘bring salvation’.
One of the earliest patterns evident in the Old Testament, especially in relation to Israel, is that deliverance, or salvation through divine intervention, comes as a result of their cry to God for help, Exod. 14. 10-13. Moses describes the event at the Red Sea as seeing ‘the salvation of the Lord’, and as the Lord fighting for Israel, vv. 13, 14. During the period of the Judges, the word is used extensively of the acts of individuals such as Othniel et al., who delivered their people from oppression, Judg. 3. 9, 10; 6. 14, 15; 10. 1; cp. 2 Kgs. 13. 5. 4 When Israel later demanded a king because they wanted to be like the nations around them and moved from a theocracy to a monarchy, God permits the appointment of Saul as the saviour or deliverer of His people, 1 Sam. 9. 16. Notice again the emphasis that is placed upon the deliverance that God effects in salvation rather than by any human achievement when David rebukes Goliath, 1 Sam. 17. 46; cp. Zech. 4. 6. The Psalmists are full of praise to God not only because He is the source of their salvation, but also for the fact that it is only through His mercy that salvation can be commanded, Pss. 3. 8; 44. 4; 119. 174. 5 McKnight states that the ‘images of salvation and deliverance abound in the book of Psalms, with the root for “save” (ys) appearing in almost half the psalms’. 6 This leads one to conclude that the God of the psalmist is the God of salvation, 51. 14.
The imagery of salvation is reflected in the Psalms and elsewhere in the Old Testament:
The ‘Rock of . . . salvation’, Deut. 32. 15; cp. Luke 1. 69;
‘O thou that savest by thy right hand’, Ps. 17. 7;
‘Save thy people, and bless thine inheritance; feed them also, and lift them up for ever’, 28. 9;
The ‘cup of salvation’, 116. 13;
The ‘helmet of salvation’, Isa. 59. 17; cp. Eph. 6. 17.
For the psalmist, salvation can only be found in God alone, Ps. 62. 1, and deliverance from sin implies being washed, 51. 2, 7, and receiving a new heart created by God, v. 10. This, then, presupposes that a state of forgiveness must follow, 85. 2. No wonder the psalmist pauses after this statement!
The prophet Isaiah makes much of the concept of divine action in chapter 59 verses 1 and 2, where he reveals that God’s salvation can only be effective when human sin has been removed. Further in the same chapter, God is seen as putting on the clothes of righteousness, salvation, vengeance and zeal, vv. 17, 18. As Motyer puts it, ‘When the Lord dons this clothing he is publicly revealing what he is. But he is also declaring what he intends to do and that he is able to do it. It is a work which will display and satisfy his righteousness, save his people, repay his foes and be carried through to completion by the driving motivation of divine zeal’. 7 Daniel, in his narrative concerning Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, forcibly reminds us that the God ‘whom we serve is able to deliver us’, 3. 17, much to the world’s bemusement!
In the Septuagint (LXX), the Hebrew root word for salvation Yeshu’ah is often translated by the Greek word sozo and its cognates. Again, it assumes the idea of saving or preserving from death, Gen. 19. 17; Jer. 31. 6, or the process of attaining salvation, Prov. 11. 31, 8 as in Genesis chapter 47 verse 25, where the people of Egypt acknowledge that their lives have been saved through the intervention of Joseph. The word is also used by Jonathan in 1 Samuel chapter 14 verse 6, where he asserts that God is ‘not straitened to save by any or few’ LXX. The LXX also translates the word as ‘peace offering’, ta soteria, in Exodus chapter 20 verse 24, which suggests that one of the outcomes of salvation is peace with God through sacrifice. But God saves not simply on the basis of human need, but because of His own gracious character as evident in Isaiah chapter 37 verse 35, where He indicates that He would save Jerusalem from the Assyrian hordes primarily ‘for mine own sake’. Salvation belongs exclusively to God, Isa. 45. 22, and there can be no other one who effects salvation, 43. 11. It is this picture of a coming Saviour that is captured by the prophet Zechariah, chapter 9, and becomes the prophetic thrust for New Testament revelation.
The Greek word used in the New Testament for ‘salvation’ is soteria, a linguistic derivative of the verb soizo. According to Moulton and Milligan, soteria ‘is common in the papyri in the general sense of “bodily health”, “well-being”, “safety”’, and suggests that ‘this may be compared with the usage in Acts 27. 34 and Heb. 11. 7’. 9 However, the principle application of soteria in the New Testament is on all fours with the usage in the Old Testament. Again, it has a variety of meanings including deliverance, Phil. 1. 28, preservation, v. 19, safety and ultimately complete salvation, v. 6. Salvation is presented as the present possession of all true believers, and the future salvation that they will enjoy with Christ, 1 Thess. 5. 8, 9; 2 Tim. 2. 10. But this doctrine of salvation 10 is intrinsically linked to ‘a deliverer (soter) 11 the Messiah, the Lord’, Luke 2. 11 NEB. Girdlestone observes that ‘the word Yasha to save (a cognate of Yeshu’ah), which generally answers to the Greek soizo has given a name not only to Joshua, but to Jesus, who should save his people from their sins’. 12
The New Testament sets out how this great salvation can be acquired through the person and work of Christ alone. 13 Therefore, it is incumbent upon all those who receive this salvation to make others aware of this message of salvation, Acts 28. 28, because the time is short, 2 Cor. 6. 2; Jas. 4. 14.
‘Outcasts of men, to you I call.
Harlots, and publicans, and thieves!
He spreads his arms
to embrace you all;
Sinners alone his grace receives;
No need of him the righteous have;
He came the lost to seek and save’.
For further reading/study
‘Salvation’ in Robert S. Girdlestone, Synonyms of the Old Testament, pp. 124-126.
‘Salvation and Deliverance Imagery’ in TREMPER LONGMAN III and PETER ENNS (ed.), Dictionary of the Old Testament – Wisdom, Poetry and Writing, pp. 710-714.
1 Notice the difference here with Jonah chapter 2 verse 9 where the source of salvation is emphasized not the outworking of it.
2 Rather, ‘the Rock who delivered him’ who protected him from danger’, The JPS Commentary - Deuteronomy, pg. 306.
3 Eliphaz also concurs when he states that God, ‘saveth the poor from the sword, from their mouth, and from the hand of the mighty’, Job 5. 15.
4 The English title of the book of Judges does not convey the main role of this group of individuals. Their judicial function was very limited as they were specifically commissioned by God to be ‘saviours’ or ‘deliverers’ of their people, Judg. 2. 16; cp. Neh. 9. 27.
5 William P. Brown states that ‘to make a “joyful noise to the rock of our salvation” is to affirm the sovereignty of the “King above all gods” (95:1,3)’. Seeing the Psalms – A Theology of Metaphor, pg. 29.
6 Tremper Longman Iii and Peter Enns (ed.), Dictionary of the Old Testament – Wisdom, Poetry and Writing, pg. 710.
7 J. A. Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah, pg. 491.
8 Note how this text is then applied in the New Testament in 1 Peter chapter 4 verse 17 to 19.
9 J. H. Moulton and G. Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament - Illustrated from the Papyri and other Non-Literary Sources, pg. 622.
10 Often referred to as the doctrine of Soteriology from the Greek verb soizo.
11 The Greek honorific title soutera tou kosmos = Saviour of the world, which is applied to Jesus in John chapter 4 verse 42 (see also 1 John 4. 14) was also used by Roman Emperors. An acknowledgement of Jesus’ claim would therefore have immediate consequences for the early church. Notice too that the title bestowed upon Joseph by Pharaoh in Genesis chapter 41 verse 45 (Zaphenath-paneah) can also mean ‘Saviour of the world’, but this referred to a deliverance from hunger not to a deliverance from sin.
12 R. S. Girdlestone, Synonyms of the Old Testament, pg. 124.
13 Luke 2. 30-32; John 10. 9; Rom. 1. 16; 1 Peter 1. 9-12. hagios – Bauer, A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament.
AUTHOR PROFILE: He is an elder and active member of a pioneer assembly work in Newton Abbott. For many years he has been welcomed as a ministering brother in the south of England and has written a number of articles for the magazine. He is married and has two children.