This week’s devotional is by Mark Hathaway.
Last time we learned about Hebrew poetry as expressed in Psalm 107 verses one through three. We learned that Hebrew poetry arranges thoughts in the form of Parallelism. We defined the three main forms of parallelism; Synonymous, Antithetical, and Synthetic. Then we went through the exercise of identifying which parallelism forms were used in the first three verses of Psalm 107. If we were intending a thorough study of this beautiful Psalm, we would continue to work our way through the remaining verses to discover each of the forms of parallelism.
When studying through a Biblical passage, it is important to identify key words in the passage, and define them accurately. As english speaking people, our natural inclination would be to grab an english dictionary to define the word we have identified. Although a Biblical word study can include a target language (english in our case) dictionary, it is a mistake to only consult the target language dictionary. If restricted to the target language dictionary, the student runs the risk of inaccurate or incomplete definitions. Wrong or incomplete definitions of words will most certainly skew our understanding of the biblical passage we are studying.
The first step in studying a biblical word, even if we think we know the meaning, is to consult a source language (Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic) lexicon or dictionary. What we want to discover is the range of possible meanings of that particular word. Consider Psalm 107:2, it says,
“Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy,” (NKJV)
It is clear that the word “redeemed” is a keyword in this verse.
Often times there is great value in consulting multiple source language lexicons if they are available to you. For the sake of brevity, we will restrict ourselves to Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament. This volume identifies the range of meaning for the Hebrew word Go’el (redeemed) as:
- TO REDEEM
- BUY BACK
- to require blood
- to avenge bloodshed
- to require the penalty of bloodshed
- to be redeemed
- to redeem oneself
Another common mistake when doing a word study is to assume that a word always means the entire range of meanings. Context in which the word is used helps us to determine which meaning in the range is appropriate for our passage. Source language dictionaries often times will give us additional information or background on the word we are studying.
We will examine some of that additional information in a moment.
First let me point out, you can look up the definition in an English dictionary, to get the range of meaning for the English word the translators selected but do so carefully. It might be useful to compare the source language range of meaning to the target language range of meaning. You will see where a particular meaning from the source intersects with the target meaning. This demonstrates why the translators chose that particular word.
Here is some additional definition from Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament
גָּאַל fut. יִגְאַל.—(1) TO REDEEM, BUY BACK, as a field or farm sold, Lev. 25:25; Ruth 4:4, 6; a thing consecrated to God, Lev. 27:13, 15, 19, 20, 31; a slave, Lev. 25:48, 49. Part. גֹּאֵל redeemer (of a field), Lev. 25:26. Very frequently used of God as redeeming men, and specially Israel, as out of the slavery of Egypt, Ex. 6:6; from the Babylonish captivity [or other dispersions]
Gesenius, Wilhelm, and Samuel Prideaux Tregelles. Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures 2003 : 151. Print.
More could be said about how to correctly do a word study, but instead of taking an exhaustive look at word studies, I’d like to revisit verse two of Psalm 107.
“Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy,”
Did you notice that word redeemed is in two different forms? In the first thought “…Let the redeemed of the Lord say so…” it is a noun. In the second thought (or sentence fragment), “…Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy…”, it is a verb.
The first thought tells us that there is a specific group of people called the redeemed of the Lord. The psalmist uses the imperative to instruct the redeemed to say, or verbalize that they are the redeemed.
The second half of the verse tells us how that group of people came to be called the “redeemed of the Lord”. He [God] redeemed them from the hand of the enemy. God purchased them back. There is something that is often overlooked when considering the word redeemed, or redeemer, or redemption. We tend to focus on the people redeemed, forgetting that the redeemer paid a price. Redemption is a costly ransom paid.
Psalm 107 is clearly talking about God redeeming his people Israel, however when we consider the New Testament concept of redemption, we become acutely aware of the high price God paid for our liberation. The death of God’s only son the messiah Jesus, was the highest possible price that could ever be paid.
As we consider the high price that God paid for our redemption we can relate to the Psalmist in verse eight as he cries, “Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness,
And for His wonderful works to the children of men!” (NKJV)