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Judgment And It’s Multiple Meanings

February 25, 2013 in Hebrew Understanding

(Matthew 12:18; Isaiah 42:1) Here is my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved in whom my soul delights. I will put my spirit on him, and he will proclaim judgment to the Gentiles.

Even the Hebrew word “judgment” (or justice) can mean “salvation.” In the same way, the verb “judge” often means “save.” When David is in trouble, he cries out, “Judge me, O God…(Psalm 43:1) The judges of the Old Testament were saviors or deliverers of the people, and not judges in the modern since of the word. God is called “the Judge” (Judges 11:27; Isaiah 33:22), or “the Judge of all the earth” (Genesis 18:25; Psalm 94:2). “Righteousness and judgment” are the foundation of His throne (Psalm 89:14). Over and over, the Prophet Isaiah uses “judgment” as a synonym for “salvation”.

Isaiah 59:9,11,14 - “Therefore judgment is far from us; and righteousness does not reach us…We look for judgment, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us…Judgment is turned back; and righteousness stands at a distance.”

Jesus promised his disciples that they would sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28, parallel to Luke 22:30). Are the disciples at some future time going to sit as judges handing out punishment to members of the tribes of Israel? No, they are to be deliverers or saviors! Jesus is referring to Psalm 122. In this Psalm, the city of salvation – Jerusalem – is the city to which the twelve tribes of Israel go up, and there thrones (note the plural) of judgment (i.e., salvation) are set up.

Of course “judgment” is not always a synonym for “salvation” in the Bible. It is often a synonym for “destruction” or “damnation.” How then can the English reader distinguish between the two meanings? He cannot, unless he is aware that the text he is reading is a translation from Hebrew, and unless he knows that in Hebrew the word “judgment” has additional meanings which do not exist in English. Equipped with that knowledge, he can do what the Hebrew reader does – decide on the basis of the context which meaning of “judgment” is demanded.