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יֵשַׁע – safety (state or place of)

Semantic Fields: Deliverance   
Author(s): James K. Aitken
First published: 2016-01-01
Last update: 2023-12-03 (Raymond de Hoop, Paul Sanders)
Citation: James K. Aitken, יֵשַׁע – safety (state or place of),
               Semantics of Ancient Hebrew Database (, 2016 (update: 2023)

For a fuller discussion of the lexical field ‘Deliverance’ as a whole, see on this site the ‘Overview of SAHD entries for ‘Deliverance’ words by Graham I. Davies.


Grammatical Type: n m.
Occurrences: 36x HB (0/13/23); 2x Sir; 12x Qum; 1x inscr. (Total: 51).

  • Nebiim: 2 Sam 22:3, 36, 47; 23:5; Isa 17:10; 45:8; 51:5; 61:10, 11; Mic 7:7; Hab 3:13 (2x), 18;
  • Ketubim: Ps 12:6; 18:3, 36, 47; 20:7; 24:5; 25:5; 27:1, 9; 50:23; 51:14; 62:8; 65:6; 69:14; 79:9; 85:5, 8, 10; 95:1; 132:16; Job 5:4, 11; 1 Chron 16:35;
  • Sir: ms B, 51:1, 10;1
  • Qum: CD–B 20:20; 1QHa 13:14; 4Q381 24a+b:7; 31:6; 33ab+35:8, 9; 4Q417 2.i:11; 4Q510 2:2; 11Q5 18:2; 22:4; partially reconstructed: 4Q379 19:1; 4Q443 1:12;
  • Inscr: Naveh & Magen 1997:43, text D (=D-50:004); see B.4
  • Text doubtful: –

Text Doubtful

B.1 At Hab 3:13 the אֵת following the second יֵשַׁע has been taken to indicate that a verb is required, and an infinitive can easily be substituted in view of the prefix לְ before the noun. Ward (1959:27) suggests that this is called for, not only by the sign of the direct object, but also by the LXX’s infinitives, both in the Old Greek and in the variant text of Codex Venetus and other mss cited by him (on the latter see Ziegler 1967:37-39, 80-81, 274; Jellicoe 1968:198; Glenny 2017:616). And yet only one of the two nouns in that verse is translated by an infinitive, and even then in the Old Greek it is an articular infinitive, which operates more as a noun than as a verb. It should be noted that an articular infinitive renders the noun [מוֹשָׁעָה] at Ps 68[67]:21 in the same manner. It could be argued in the other direction that the אֵת is an addition by a later scribe who read לישׁע as a verb rather than a noun with prefix. Freedman (1972:535) prefers to understand the אֵת either as an emphasizing particle or as the second person masculine pronoun (written defectively) to call attention to the pronominal suffix on the following noun. BHK also proposes reading a verb, emending the nouns to the hiph. inf. לְהוֹשִׁיעַ (cf. Wellhausen; GKC, §115d), whilst Dahood suggests that such emendation is not necessary if one only changes the vocalization to read a hypothetical yiphil form, יֹשִׁיעַ (‘yōšīaʿ ’; 1979:258–59). It may simply be the object marker after an abstract noun, perhaps also found at Deut 7:8 (GKC, §115d). For further proposals and discussion see Andersen 2001:334-35.

B.2 If the form יֹשַׁעֲכֶם at Isa 35:4 were to be taken as a nominal form, then we either have an alternative spelling of the noun (Wernberg-Møller 1957:73) or a text that requires emendation. It is, however, probably the verb in this verse. See Formal Characteristics B.1.

B.3 Although the NAB would correct the noun יֵשַׁע to the verb at Job 5:11 (cited by Clines 1989:116), the noun can be understood as an adverbial accusative (see Syntagmatics A.3; GKC, §118q) and need not be emended.

B.4 The three letters ישׁע (with the yodh uncertain) appear on a late third-century/early second-century inscription from Gerizim (Naveh and Magen 1997:43, text D). Since the inscription is broken off immediately before these letters, it is not possible to determine whether this is a whole word or part of it. It may be significant to note that the context suggests some form of dedicatory prayer, and the possible appearance of the word יקום (denoting resurrection?) could indicate that it is a prayer or Psalm to God. This would support the reading ישׁע, a noun that only appears in poetry in the OT and most often in prayers and Psalms.

Qere/Ketiv: none.

1. Root And Comparative Material

A.1 See ישׁע: Root and Comparative Material.

2. Formal Characteristics

A.1 Segholate noun. It is always found in the singular in OT.

A.2 The nominal form יוֹשַׁע appears in the Babylonian tradition at Job 5:4, 11 and possibly in the MT itself at Isa 35:4 (Wernberg-Møller 1957:73). See B.1 below.

B.1 The form יֹשַׁעֲכֶם at Isa 35:4 is sometimes seen as an incorrect vocalization of the verb (so BHS), and Watts (1987:7) concludes that the verb and meaning is clear, even if the form is not. Wernberg-Møller reads it as the noun, but this is less likely.

3. Syntagmatics

A.1 יֵשַׁע is subject of the verb יָצָא, ‘to go out’ (Isa 51:5), בּוֹא, ‘to come’ (Isa 62:11)), גלה niph., ‘to be revealed’ (CD-B 20:20; 1QHa 13:14).

A.2 יֵשַׁע is the object of the verbs צמח hiph., ‘to cause to spring up’ (2 Sam 23:5), נָתַן ‘to give’ (Ps 85:8), ידע hiph., ‘to make known’ (11Q5 18:2). יֵשַׁע is also the indirect object of the verb לבשׁ hiph., ‘to clothe’ (Ps 132:16). It is preceded by the verbs שִׁית + בְּ, ‘to place in’ (Ps 12:6), רָאָה hiph. + בְּ, ‘to show’ (Ps 50:23), רָחַק + מִן, ‘to be far from’ (Job 5:4), שָׂגַב, ‘to be exalted’ (Job 5:11).

A.3 At Job 5:11 יֵשַׁע follows immediately on שָׂגַב, ‘to be exalted’ without any preposition as an adverbial accusative (Gordis 1978:56; GKC, §118q).

A.4 יֵשַׁע is nomen regens of אֱלֹהִים, ‘God’ (Ps 50:23), and of פנים, ‘face’ (4Q381 33ab+35:9).

A.5 יֵשַׁע is the nomen rectum of אֱלֹהִים, ‘God’ in liturgical contexts (Isa 17:10; Mic 7:7; Hab 3:18; Ps 18:47; 24:5; 25:5; 27:9; 65:6; 79:9; 85:5; 1 Chron 16:35; 4Q381 31:6; 4Q510 2:2). In most of these cases יֵשַׁע has a pronominal suffix (‘my’, ‘your’, ‘his’, ‘our’).
It is also the nomen rectum of things: קֶרֶן, ‘horn’ (2 Sam 22:3; Ps 18:3), מָגֵן, ‘shield’ (2 Sam 22:36; Ps 18:36), צוּר, ‘rock’ (2 Sam 22:47; Ps 95:1), בְּגָדִים, ‘clothes’ (Isa 61:10), גְּבֻרוֹת, ‘powers’ (Ps 20:7), שָׂשׂוֹן, ‘joy’ (Ps 51:14), and אֱמֶת, ‘faithfulness’ (Ps 69:14). It is the nomen rectum of מולדים, ‘births’ (4Q417 2 i 11), and יום, ‘day’ (11Q5 22:4).

A.6 יֵשַׁע is the predicate of יהוה (Ps 27:1). יֵשַׁע has as its predicate the adj. קָרוֹב, ‘near’ (Ps 85:10).

A.7 יֵשַׁע is in apposition to אלהים, ‘God’ (Sir 51:1).

A.8 יֵשַׁע is followed by waw + חֵפֶץ, ‘delight’ (2 Sam 23:5) or follows אוֹר + waw (Ps 27:1).

B.1 It is probable that at Isa 45:8 יֵשַׁע should be the subject of the verb emended to וְיֵפֶר (Westermann 1969:153).

B.2 The precise syntagmatic relationship in Hab 3:13 is uncertain (see Introduction: Text Doubtful B.1).

4. Ancient Versions

a. Septuagint (LXX):

  • ἔλεος, ‘pity, mercy’:2 Isa 45:8;
  • ῥύομαι, ‘to rescue’: Hab 3:132nd (Codex Venetus);
  • σωτήρ, ‘saviour’: Isa 17:10; 62:11; Mic 7:7; Hab 3:13, 18; Ps 24[23]:5; 25[24]:5; 27[26]:1, 9; 65[64]:6; 79[78]:9; 95[94]:1;
  • σωτηρία, ‘rescue, deliverance’: 2 Sam 22:3, 36, 47; 23:5; Hab 3:131st; Ps 12[11]:6; 18[17]:3, 36, 47; 20[19]:7; 69[68]:14; 132[131]:16; Job 5:4; 1 Chron 16:35;
  • σωτήριον, ‘deliverance, security’: Isa 51:5; 61:10; Ps 50[49]:23; 51[50]:14; 62[61]:8; 85[84]:5, 8, 10;
  • σῴζω, ‘to save’ as articular infinitive: Hab 3:132nd;
  • No rendering: Job 5:11.

b. Peshitta (Pesh):

  • ܦܘܪܩܢܐ (purqānā), ‘salvation, redemption’:3 2 Sam 22:3, 36; 23:5?; Isa 17:10; 45:8; 51:5; 61:10; Pss 12:6; 18:3, 36; 20:7; 27:1; 50:23; 51:14; 62:8; 69:14; 85:8, 10; 132:16; Job 5:4, 11;
  • ܦܪܘܩܐ (pārōqā), ‘saviour’: 2 Sam 22:47; Isa 17:10; 62:11; Mic 7:7; Hab 3:18; Pss 18:47; 24:5; 25:5; 27:9; 65:6; 79:9; 85:5; 95:1; 1 Chron 16:35; Sir 51:10;
  • ܦܪܩ (prq) Peal, ‘to save, liberate’: Hab 3:13 (2x);
  • [[ܦܘܩܕܢܐ (puqdānā)]], ‘command, order’: 2 Sam 23:5 (see A.6 below).

c. Targum (Tg: J/K):

  • [[מיתיא]], ‘dead’:4 Isa 45:8;
  • פּרק, ‘to redeem’: 2 Sam 22:36; Isa 62:11; Hab 3:13 (2x);
  • פּורקנא, ‘redemption, salvation’: 2 Sam 22:3, 47; Isa 17:10; 51:5; 61:10; Mic 7:7; Hab 3:18; Pss 12:6; 18:3, 36, 47; 20:7; 24:5; 25:5; 27:1, 9; 50:23; 51:14; 62:8; 65:6; 69:14; 79:9; 85:5, 8, 10; 95:1; 132:16; Job 5:4, 11; 1 Chron 16:35;
  • [[צורכא]], ‘need’: 2 Sam 23:5.

d. Vulgate (Vg):

  • Iesus, ‘Jesus’:5 Hab 3:18; also Pss 51[50]:14PsH; 79[78]:9PsH; 85[84]:5PsH; 95[94]:1PsH;
  • salus, ‘a being safe and sound, welfare’:6 2 Sam 22:3, 36, 47; 23:5; Isa 61:10; Hab 3:13 [2x]; Pss 18[17]:3, 36, 47; 20[19]:7; 27[26]:1PsG; 69[68]:14PsG; 85[84]:5PsG; Job 5:4;
  • salutaris, ‘salvation, health’: Pss 12[11]:6; 24[23]:5PsH; 27[26]:1PsH; 50[49]:23; 51[50]:14PsG; 62[61]:8; 65[64]:6PsG; 69[68]:14PsH; 79[78]:9PsG; 85[84]:8, 10; 95[94]:1PsG; 132[131]:16;
  • salvator, ‘saviour, redeemer’: Isa 17:10; 45:8; 51:5; 62:11; Mic 7:7; Pss 24[23]:5PsG; 25[24]:5; 27[26]:9; 65[64]:6PsH; 1 Chron 16:35;
  • sospitas, ‘safety, health, welfare’: Job 5:11.

A.1 It is striking how often the LXX (σωτήρ), Pesh (ܦܪܘܩܐ [pārōqā]) and the Vg (Iesus, salvator) read the word as denoting a person rather than an abstract noun, although they do not agree on each passage to render this way. Tg to 2 Sam 22:36 and Isa 62:11 also read those passages as speaking of a ‘saviour’.

A.2 Tg to Isa 45:8 interprets the concept of salvation as the resurrection of the dead, a reflection of the Targum’s theological views rather than semantics. Likewise the Targum’s reading צוֹרְכָא, ‘necessity’ at 2 Sam 23:5 forms part of a midrashic text and is not evidence for the semantics.

A.3 It is noticeable how the Pesh and Tg favour the root prq, and do not once choose šzb or pṣy, roots often chosen for translating cognates of פלט, מלט and נצל.

A.4 The choice in the Vg of cognates of salvare distinguishes the word from נצל where cognates of liberare were more popular (cf. Sawyer 1990:449).

A.5 The late Latin lexeme sospitas, ‘safety’ at Job 5:11, although not from the same root as most of the Vg’s choices, nonetheless conveys the same sense. In fact it is an apposite term since it has associations with divine safety in pagan writers. A cult title of Juno at Lanuvium was Sospita (Cicero, De natura deorum 1:82; see OLD, 1796), and sospitatrix was used of Isis (Apuleius, Metamorphoses 11:9, 25; OLD, 1796). Perhaps as a result of this association sospitator, ‘saviour, preserver, deliverer, redeemer’ (Lewis & Short, LD, 1734), another post-classical Latin noun, became a title used of Christ (sospitator nostri generis, Arnobius Afer 2:96).

A.6 At 2 Sam 23:5 the positional equivalent in Pesh is ܨܒܝܢܐ (ṣbynʾ), ‘favor, good will’ (Sokoloff, SLB, 1271). Generally it is the equivalent of the noun חֵפֶץ, which occurs in the following phrase (cf. Pesh on Qoh 12:10). In fact, since the positional equivalent of חֵפֶץ is ܦܘܩܕܢܐ (puqdānā), one might consider that for some reason Pesh has interchanged its renderings of יֵשַׁע and חֵפֶץ.7

B.1 The LXX translation ἔλεος ‘pity, mercy’ at Isa 45:8 renders the cause of God’s salvation, rather than the effect.

B.2 The LXX of Job 5:11 does not appear to translate יֵשַׁע, perhaps finding difficulty with the syntax of the verse (see Syntagmatics A.3, and Introduction: Text Doubtful B.3).

5. Lexical/Semantic Fields

A.1 See in general ישׁע: 5. Lexical/Semantic Fields.

A.2 יֵשַׁע is found in parallelism with צוּר מָעוֹז, ‘rock of refuge’ (Isa 17:10), צְדָקָה, ‘righteousness’ (Isa 61:10; CD-B 20:20; 4Q443 1:12), חֶסֶד, ‘steadfastness’ (Ps 85:8). יֵשַׁע also forms part of a series of words denoting protection (Ps 18:3).

A.3 יֵשַׁע is very frequent in the Psalms (20x), but never appears in the Pentateuch. Elsewhere it appears 4x 2 Sam, 5x Isa, 1x Mic, 3x Hab, 2x Job and 1x 1 Chron. This indicates that it is always found in poetry or prayer, since the instances in 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles are in addresses to God sung by the king.

6. Exegesis

A.1 יֵשַׁע in the lexica is glossed as ‘Rettung, Hilfe, Heil’ (Ges18, 511) and, in similar fashion, ‘i) safety, welfare, prosperity; ii) salvation; iii) victory’ (BDB, 447). It may perhaps be possible to bring out further shades of meaning, especially on the basis of the syntagmatics.

A.2 The construct expressions containing יֵשַׁע are frequent and present colourful associations from which we may gain an insight into its meaning.

A.3 יֵשַׁע is frequently used of God, often in conjunction with terms such as ‘rock’, ‘horn’ or ‘shield’, and in these cases יֵשַׁע appears to denote a permanent state (i.e. of God’s nature), even when it is used of God in response to his action on a particular occasion (e.g., 2 Sam 22:3, 47). It appears to be a definition of God’s nature in some cases (Mic 7:7; Hab 3:18). As this is a frequent feature of יֵשַׁע, it is to be distinguished from יְשׁוּעָה and תְּשׁוּעָה in this respect: it often means ‘a state or place of safety’.

A.4 Sawyer (1990:446) concludes that יֵשַׁע comes to those in need but does not ‘rescue’ or remove them from danger. It is in this respect more of a state than an action, visible in its association with צְדָקָה, ‘righteousness’ (Isa 45:8; 51:5; 61:10), and its role as a reward (Isa 62:11). יֵשַׁע comes to those that need it at Isa 51:5.

A.5 The connotation at Isa 51:5 may be ‘victory’, which is certainly the implication of 2 Sam 22:36 where it is in a battle context. It may be significant for the battle context in 2 Sam 22:26 that the nomen regens is מָגֵן, ‘shield’.

A.6 The sense of ‘saving’ for יֵשַׁע only appears foremost at Hab 3:13, Ps 18:3, 36(?) and Isa 17:10. Elsewhere it seems to denote ‘assistance’ (2 Sam 23:5) or ‘prosperity’ (Ps 12:6).

7. Conclusion

A.1 יֵשַׁע appears only in poetical or liturgical contexts (Lexical/Semantic Fields A.3), and therefore it is understandable that it is used in addresses to God. It frequently expresses a reciprocal relationship between God and the speaker in the expressions ‘God of my/your/our יֵשַׁע’ (Syntagmatics A.5). In such cases God is praised for the יֵשַׁע that he brings to the recipient-speaker. Such a construction is used almost exclusively with this noun amongst the cognates. The LXX, Pesh, and Vg likewise render this use by nouns denoting ‘saviour’ or (in the case of the Vg) ‘Jesus’ (Ancient Versions A.1, A.5), renderings that are rare elsewhere in the semantic field.

A.2 The Versional renderings appear to distinguish this lexeme from פלט, מלט and נצל (Versions A.3, A.4) and this also can be detected in the meaning. Whereas these latter lexemes denote movement to safety in some direction, יֵשַׁע by contrast has a stative force. As it is frequently the nomen rectum of nouns denoting defence or power, יֵשַׁע (Syntagmatics A.5; cf. Lexical/Semantic Fields A.2) seems to be a lexeme denoting a safe state rather than a movement to safety. It is, therefore, on rare occasions only that it can be glossed by ‘salvation’. This stative connotation also accounts for its use to denote general ‘prosperity’ (Ps 12:6; see Exegesis A.6). It may also account for its use only in the singular; a ‘state’ rather than ‘acts’.

A.3 In some instances יֵשַׁע may also mean ‘help’ or ‘victory’ (Exegesis A.5, A.6), but these meanings are not so frequent with this lexeme as they are with תְּשׁוּעָה.


For the abbreviations see the List of Abbreviations.

Andersen 2001
Francis I. Andersen, Habakkuk (AB), New York: Doubleday.
Clines 1989
David J.A. Clines, Job 1–20 (WBC, 17), Dallas, TX: Word.
Dahood 1979
Mitchell Dahood, ‘Two yiphil causatives in Habakkuk 3, 13a’, Orientalia 48:258–59.
Fabry 1990
Heinz-Josef Fabry, ‘ישׁע, II:2 Qumran’, TDOT 6:447-48.
Freedman 1972
David N. Freedman, ‘The Broken Construct Chain’, Biblica 53:534-36.
Glenny 2017
W. Edward Glenny, ‘Minor Prophets: Septuagint’, THB 1B:614–22.
Gordis 1978
Robert Gordis, The Book of Job: Commentary, New Translation, and Special Studies, New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America.
Jellicoe 1968
Sidney Jellicoe, The Septuagint in Modern Study, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Margoni-Kögler 2017
Michael Margoni-Kögler, ‘Hieronymus philologus: Einblicke in sein Bibelübersetzen: Prinzipien, Praxis, Relevanz’, Vulgata in Dialogue 1:31-69.
Naveh and Magen 1997
Joseph Naveh and Yitzhak Magen, ‘Aramaic and Hebrew Inscriptions of the Second-Century BCE at Mount Gerizim’, Atiqot 32:37–56 [Hebrew], 9*–17*.
Sawyer 1972
John F.A. Sawyer, Semantics in Biblical Research: New Methods of Defining Hebrew Words for Salvation (SBT 2nd series, 24), London: SCM.
Sawyer 1990
John F.A. Sawyer, ‘ישׁע’, TDOT 6:441-63.
Smelik 1995
Willem F. Smelik, The Targum of Judges (OTS, 36), Leiden: Brill.
Ward 1959
William H. Ward, Habakkuk (ICC), Edinburgh: T&T Clark.
Watson 1980
Wilfred G.E. Watson, ‘Gender-Matched Synonymous Parallelism in the Old Testament’, JBL 99:321–41.
Watts 1987
James D.W. Watts, Isaiah 34-66 (WBC 25), Waco,TX: Word.
Wernberg-Møller 1957
Preben Wernberg-Møller, ‘Two Difficult Passages in the Old Testament’, ZAW 69:71–73.
Westermann 1969
Claus Westermann, Isaiah 40-66 (OTL), London: SCM.
Ziegler 1967
Joseph Ziegler, Septuaginta: Vetus Testamentum Graecum. XIII: Duodecim Prophetae, 2nd ed., Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.


  1. Numbering according to Beentjes BBSH

  2. The English renderings of the Greek are based on GELS, s.v.; LEH3: s.v.

  3. The English renderings of the Syriac are based on Sokoloff, SLB, s.v. 

  4. The English renderings of the Aramaic are based on Jastrow, DTT, s.v.; and checked against Sokoloff, DJBA, s.v. and Sokoloff, DJPA, s.v. 

  5. For this translation, see Margoni-Kögler 2017:61-64. 

  6. The English renderings of the Latin are based on Lewis & Short, LD, s.v

  7. On the phenomenon of inversion of renderings, see Smelik 1995:268-70. 

Semantics of Ancient Hebrew Database