Meaning of "Cut Off"




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Meaning of "Cut Off"

Does the expression "cut off" as used in Leviticus 23:29 regarding the Day of Atone­ment, mean to put to death, or merely to sepa­rate or excommunicate from Israel!

The term is part of a formula used often in the Levitical books. It reads "shall be cut off from among his people." The word translated "cut off" comes from the primitive root rsn; (kawrath), which Strong in his lexi­con defines, "to cut (off, down, asunder), by implication to destroy or consume.'

Davidson's definition is "to be cut off or down, to be divided, separated, to be destroyed, to perish."

Gesenius, outstanding Hebrew lexicographer, says of the expression "shall be cut off from among his people," that it is "the frequent formula of the Mosaic law," citing numerous instances in the Levitical books, with which we are all familiar. He then says : "This phrase denotes the punishment of death in general without defining the manner." He says further that "it is never the punishment of exile" or separation, as some suppose.

This word "cut off," occurs first in Genesis  9:11 (after the flood) : "Neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood." There can be no doubt of its mean­ing death here.

In Exodus 31:14, where the penalty for Sabbathbreaking is given, the term "cut off" is self-defined. Concerning the Sabbath it is first stated that "everyone that defileth it shall surely be put to death." Here the same expression is used as in Genesis 2:17 (margin), "dying thou shalt die," only in Exodus it is "dying he shall die"—a Hebrew method of denoting emphasis, and hence our English "surely die." The latter part of Exodus 31:14, a Hebrew usage of parallelism, repeats the sin and the penalty in other words: "For whoso­ever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people." Very plainly "cut off" means death.

A strikingly similar use and self-definition of terms occurs in Leviticus 20 :2-3, in regard to giving children to Molech. We read in verse 2: "Whosoever . . giveth any of his seed unto Molech; he shall surely be put to death;" literally, "dying he shall die." In verse 3, of the same man and the same offense, it is said, "I . . . will cut him off from among his people."

Continuing we find about the same thing in verses 4 and 5: "If the people . . . kill him not" (as verse 2 says they should), "I . . . will cut him off." In these four verses it is stated twice of the sane sin and the same man that "he shall surely die" (even giving the mode of killing), and twice it is declared of the same man and the same sin, "I will cut him off from among his people." Evidently "cut off" and "kill" or "die" mean the same thing.

Coming now to an offense of the utmost importance, that of failing to refrain from work and to afflict the soul on the Day of Atonement, as recorded in Leviticus 23:27-3o, what do we find?—The very phrasing that Gesenius in his lexicon calls "the frequent formula of the Mosaic law," namely, "shall be cut off from among his people." Verse 29 declares: "Whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people." Then in Hebrew fashion this is repeated in other words in verse 3o: "Whatsoever soul it be that doeth any work in that same day, the same soul will I destroy from among his people." The word rendered destroy here is `7,:l$ (awbad) which Queen Esther used when she said, "If I perish, I perish," and from which comes that "name in the Hebrew tongue . . . Abaddon," the destroyer in Revelation 9:11. Here in these two verses "cut off" is again defined as mean­ing destroy, or cause to perish, in its applica­tion to the unrepentant sinner on the Day of Atonement.

In striking parallel, and as a climax to the death of the sinner in typical times, is the forecast of the death of the substitutionary antitypical Lamb in behalf of the sinner, as recorded in Daniel 9 :26: "After threescore and two weeks shall the Messiah be cut off, but not for Himself." The word "cut off" here is exactly the same as that used in the "formula of the Mosaic law" throughout the Levitical books:  (See pdf for Hebrew text). Could the cutting off of the Messiah mean anything less than death?

This little study might be extended with profit, but enough has been said to show clearly and conclusively that the Day of Atone­ment was a day of judgment. This word rn? was first used to designate the work of judgment upon the wicked at the flood. It was repeated at the institution of the Pass­over as a term of judgment: "Whosoever eat­eth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel." (Ex. 12:15, 19.) It is a recurrent term throughout the Levitical books, culminat­ing on the Day of Atonement, and when used to denote the penalty of certain sins, is de­clared by Gesenius to mean death. It is used of the Messiah by the prophet Daniel to char­acterize the death of the true Lamb of God as a substitutionary act of judgment.

The Day of Atonement as a day of judg­ment was a true foreshadowing of what is now going on in the heavenly sanctuary through to the close of probation. On that day the people of Israel were instructed how to prepare to meet their God. All were judg­ment bound. Those who make the preparation by afflicting their souls and doing no servile work, were finally freed from the sins they had confessed during the year. Those who failed to prepare were cut off from the land of the living. So does the Saviour describe the antitypical separation of sheep and goats in the day of His coming:

"Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. " "Then shall He say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from Me, ye cursed, into ever­lasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.': Matt. 25:34, 45.


[S.D.A. Theological Seminary.]

The "Times" of Daniel

Are the "times" of Daniel 2:21 the same as the "times" of Daniel 7:25?

What do these texts say ? In Daniel 2:21, speaking of God, Daniel said: "He changeth the times and the seasons." And in Daniel 7:25, we read of a power that shall "think to change times and laws," into whose hand the saints shall be delivered for "a time and times and the dividing of time."

Now the English reader might easily sup­pose that the word "times" in Daniel 2:21 would be the same as "times" in the phrase "think to change times and laws" in Daniel 7:25. But this is not the case. The Hebrew word translated "times" in the first case is (See PDF for Hebrew characters) (iddan), the Chaldaic form being used in the text; while in the second case the Hebrew word is (See PDF for Hebrew characters) (seman). Now the difference in meaning of these two words is that  (iddan) means time in general, and is some­times used for a year as in Daniel 7:25; while lit (zeman) is from a root (See PDF for Hebrew characters) (zaman) which means to appoint.

The word seman in Chaldee form does occur in Daniel 2:21, where it is translated by the English word "seasons," but with the sense of appointed time. We use the word appoint­ments for definite, determined time. So it is declared that God changes times and definite appointments, while we read in Daniel 7:25 of a power, represented as a little horn, that thinks to change the appointments and laws of God. But let it be understood that the word translated "seasons" in Daniel 2:21 is the same as the word translated "times" in the first part of Daniel 7:25.

One must not confuse (See PDF for Hebrew characters) with another word which is also sometimes trans­lated "appointed time." This is V:in (moed) from the root err (yaad), "to appoint" or "to fix."                  L. L. CAVINESS, 

[Professor, Pacific Union College.]