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Isaiah 61:1 – Liberty to Captives!

December 30, 2008

Isa 61:1  The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners;

Liberty…what an awesome sounding word! Before we can understand what liberty means, though, we need to understand who is getting that liberty. So, we shall look first at the word “captives”.

Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Definitions defines it this way:
BDB Definition:
1) to take captive
1a) (Qal)
1a1) to take captive
1a2) captive (participle)
1a3) to lead captive
1b) (Niphal) to be taken captive
Part of Speech: verb
A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: a primitive root

Needing more than BDB had to offer, I also looked it up in Webster’s 1828 Dictionary:

1. A prisoner taken by force or stratagem in war, by an enemy; followed by to; as a captive to the victor.

2. One who is charmed or subdued by beauty or excellence; one whose affections are seized, or who is held by strong ties of love.

3. One who is ensnared by love or flattery, or by wiles. 2 Tim 2:26.

4. A slave. Anciently captives were enslaved by their conquerors. But in modern times, they are not made slaves in Christian countries; and the word captive, in a literal sense, rarely signifies a slave.

CAPTIVE, v.t. To take prisoner; to bring into subjection.

Now, that really explains the idea of being captive to me.

I see many ways to become captive. It can be something that is forced upon us…or something that we are led into by our own desires. It is something that can be physical…or it can be a captivity of the heart and/or mind. Any way you look at it…we are captive.

To what does Yahweh/God proclaim to the captives? Liberty!

BDB Definition:
1) a flowing, free run, liberty
1a) flowing (of myrrh)
1b) liberty
Part of Speech: noun masculine
A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: from an unused root (meaning to move rapidly)

Flowing, free run. Liberty…the ability to live life in flowing manner and to be able to run freely without restraint.

I looked up myrrh, thinking that it must be something that flows easily, since it is used in 1a of the definition of liberty. This is what I found:

MYRRH, n. mer. [L. myrrha.] A gum-resin that comes in the form of drops or globules of various colors and sizes, of a pretty strong but agreeable smell, and of a bitter taste. It is imported from Egypt, but chiefly from the southern or eastern parts of Arabia; from what species of tree or plant it is procured, is unknown. As a medicine, it is a good stomachic, antispasmodic and cordial.

That kind of threw me as gum-resin is not exactly what I would call “flowing”. I found this article, from which I got this physical description of myrrh: “Myrrh is the sweet-smelling oleo-gum resin that naturally exudes from wounds or cuts in the stems and bark of several species of this shrubby desert tree. This sap forms a thick, pale yellow paste as it seeps out. It then hardens into a mass about the size of a walnut, taking on a reddish-brown color.”

Now, that was something I did not expect…for it to be thick. Hmm…so we have the idea here of something thick and hardened that flows. How many times does our woundedness cause us to be unable to move freely…to flow? It can bog us down and make it hard to do anything. Yet, here it says that we are to receive liberty…be given the ability to flow freely in life. We, who have been captive within, are being given the liberty!

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