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Vengeance is Mines! Who said that?

Updated: Mar 2, 2023

It’s the sort of thing we expect a vigilante to say in a violent action film. But this promise "vengeance is mine" was first spoken by our Creator, the Author of our story. We are not to repay or vindicate, as YAHUAH has given more righteousness than we could ever deserve. 

Moses was the scribe, but YAHUAH authored the words “Vengeance is mine, and I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them.” (Deuteronomy 32:35)

This is YAHUAH’s promise and His Torah, given first in Exodus and a second time here. Deuteronomy is a reminder of the covenant that YAHUAH made with His people.  The word ‘Deuteronomy’ is ‘eleh ha-devarim’ in Hebrew” meaning “‘these are the words.’” 

Moses is preparing to pass the baton to a new generation of Israelites led by a next-generation leader, Joshua. Moses is reminding the people to remain faithful to the one true ALAHIYM and His Torah. YAHUAH has fed them and provided water in the desert. And now, knowing he will soon die and not see the Promised Land, Moses rebukes the people:

For I know your rebellion, and your stiff neck: behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against YAHUAH; and how much more after my death? DEVARIYM (DEUTERONOMY) 31:27 את CEPHER

In Deuteronomy 32, referred to as ‘The Song of Moses,’ Moses sings to YAHUAH and the phrase “vengeance is mine” is first recorded here in Deuteronomy 32:35. It is a promise Moses claims for himself and his people. He continues with: In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them.” YAHUAH will vindicate his people... 

Later, Paul quotes this verse to the Believers in Rome to emphasize the point that they should not “repay evil for evil.” (Romans 12:17)

A dictionary definition of “vengeance” leads us to “retribution” or “repayment.” Strong’s Hebrew Concordance explains that the word used here—naqam—means “avenged, quarrel, vengeance."

Paul would have used the Greek which is “ekdikēsis” or “vengeance, vindication.” “Vindication” is a little different, meaning “acquittal, clearing, exculpation, exoneration.”

When we see these two definitions side-by-side, we can take the phrase to mean:

1.  YAH punishes the wicked.We are not to exact punishment on behalf of YAHUAH for His honor: He will satisfy His own wrath. YAHUAH destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah out of vengeance for their iniquity. He withheld vengeance from Nineveh when Jonah preached truth to them and they turned to YAHUAH.

2. We are saved to offer mercy not vindication.Thanks to the Besorah, we do not receive retribution (vengeance) from YAHUAH for our sin. If someone hurts us, we must not become absorbed in proving who is right (vindication). 

YAHUAH’s Old Testament Torah tells the people how to deal with criminal behavior and certain sins such as adultery and murder, yet we are told not to take vengeance. How can this be? And should we never take a case to court to clear our name if we are slandered or abused?

I think we can clear up this confusion by asking: how far would you go in order to be “right?” What motivates your actions? Is it a desire of the flesh? Or is it righteous anger?

There is no one righteous, not even one.Romans 3:10

The only way to righteousness is “through faith in YAHUSHA” (Romans 3:22). If we are saved by grace, then grace has set us free from punishment, but also from condemnation under the Torah.

The contrast of this freedom with our former depravity should make us acutely aware that we are not owed anything by YAHUAH, yet He already bought our freedom at the cross. We have no right to receive earthly honor, but if that’s what we want, then if we are honored on earth we “have received our reward in full.” (Matthew 6:2).

Ideally, we will let YAHUAH avenge His people when they suffer for MASHIACH and we won’t seek vindication from the world. His glory is all that matters, and “before all the people I will be glorified” says YAHUAH (Leviticus 4:3).

We have a tendency to want justice for ourselves; to be treated fairly. Our society spends a lot of time talking about “rights” but these, for the Believer, are merely self-centered expectations.

YAHUAH has never told us we will be treated fairly on earth.

In fact, we don’t get what we deserve. We live under grace and not the Torah (Romans 6:14).

We are better off under grace than under “human rights.” John Piper once preached, “Our rights are to belong to MASHIACH, to stand justified before a holy ALAHIYM, to own everything and inherit everything, to love our enemies, to return good for evil, to treasure MASHIACH above all things” which are “blood-bought rights. They cannot be secured for us by laws,”

Everything else, Paul wrote, “is loss.”

Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Mashiach Yahusha my Yeshua: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Mashiach,  PHILIPPIYM (PHILIPPIANS) 3:8 את CEPHER

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