The Agora
Bible Articles and Lessons: A

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Avenge, vengeance (Greek)

The only problem that arises regarding this verb and noun ("ekdikeo", "ekdikesis") is whether they always mean just that, or whether there is a milder, more impersonal meaning: "do justice". Rom 13:4 might seem to fall into this category: "he (the ruler) is... a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil." Yet what might be impersonal administration of justice in a human ruler is a very personal anger -- "wrath" -- in an Almighty God who sees His laws being flouted. And the context also suggests vengeance: "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto the wrath (of God): for it is written, Vengeance is mine: I will repay, saith the Lord" (Rom 12:19).

There can be no doubt about the meaning of the Lord's prophecy of the horrors of AD 70: "these be the days of vengeance" (Luk 21:22). Israel had violently rejected the Son of God, and continued to do so; and the Father was angry.

The parable of the importunate widow, a problem to our translators, ceases to be a problem when the context is allowed to do its work. The second half of Luk 17 is all about the Second Coming; and Luk 18:8 rounds off with: "when the Son of man cometh..." Then is there not here a plain directive to apply the intervening parable to the Second Coming? In that case, who is the widow? -- Israel or the new Israel? The former, doubtless: Isa 54:5-8; Lam 1:1 (ct Mat 28:20; Heb 13:5).

For centuries Israel has seen herself undeservedly bereft of help and at the mercy of her enemies. To the Jews their God has seemed like an unjust judge, callously heedless of their needs and their rights. Only when Israel turns to God in a persistent importunity not to be gainsaid will there be response to their plight. "And shall not God (then) avenge his own elect, they crying day and night unto him, he being (hitherto) longsuffering (with their persecutors) regarding them? Then (when they are importunate) he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of man (the Messiah: Dan 7:13) cometh, shall he find faith (in God's power to save) in the Land?" -- implying: Only in a small remnant.

In the parable, the widow cries: "Avenge me of mine adversary" (Luk 18:3), and this is right. But the Revisers, missing the point of the parable and uneasy about a widow crying for vengeance, have turned it into: "Do me justice" (RV mg.). The RSV has "Vindicate". NEB: "Demanding justice." But the AV is right.

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