Magen: the SHIELD of your Salvation

SHIELD: magen (masculine noun). (Strong’s 4043)

Original word: מָגֵן

Sounds like: maw-ghen

This afternoon I joined with others, in Charlottetown PEI, to pay our respects to the victims of the senseless attack at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, USA. It is just one strike in a very very VERY long line of anti-semitic attacks throughout history. It seems that the Jewish people have been targeted since the very moment that YHWH blessed them as the chosen people… the people from whose line salvation would come. That has been a heavy burden to bear. But the resilience of the Jewish people never ceases to astound me. There is always hope and they hold onto it like a cherished, wounded, bird. The Psalmist writes:

Psalm 6:6-9

I am weary from groaning;

all night I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears.

My eyes fail from grief; they grow dim because of all my foes.

Depart from me, all you workers of iniquity, for YHWH has heard my weeping.

YHWH has heard my cry for mercy; YHWH accepts my prayer.

What holds this chosen family together is the hope that one day their sorrow will end:

Isaiah 60:20

Your sun will no longer set, and your moon will not wane;

for YHWH will be your everlasting light, and the days of your sorrow will be over.

When King David was persecuted by his own son Absalom (who wanted to kill his father and take the throne for his own) he cried out to YHWH:

Psalm 3:1-4

O YHWH, how my foes have increased! How many rise up against me!

Many say of me, “God will not deliver him.” Selah.

But You, O YHWH, are a shield [ma’gen] around me,

my glory, and the One who lifts my head.

To YHWH I cry aloud, and He answers me from His holy hill.

A shield won’t stop every attack but it does its best to surround and protect. In Biblical times there was great value placed on shields. In the description of King Hezekiah’s wealth shields are listed amongst the most valuable things in his collection:

2 Chronicles 32:27

Hezekiah had very great riches and honor, and he made treasuries for his silver, and for gold, and for precious stones, and for spices, and for shields [u-l’ma’gee’neem], and for all kinds of valuable articles.

King Solomon put great emphasis on the making of shields:

2 Chronicles 9:15-16

King Solomon made two hundred large shields [tzeenah] of hammered gold; six hundred shekels of hammered gold went into each large shield [ha-tzeenah]. He also made three hundred small shields [ma’gee’neem] of hammered gold; three hundred shekels of gold went into each shield [ha-ma’gen]. And the king put them in the House of the Forest of Lebanon.

Interestingly, there is a different word for large shields [tzeenah], but the word for small shield remains ma’gen. Regardless of size, Solomon’s shields were so valuable that they were the only things mentioned in a list of items plundered by their enemies:

2 Chronicles 12:9

So King Shishak of Egypt attacked Jerusalem and seized the treasures of the house of YHWH and of the royal palace. He took everything, including the gold shields [ma’gee’neh] that Solomon had made.

Etruscan Shield
Etruscan shield from 8th Century BCE

Shields were signs of strength and wealth, making them the perfect item to highlight God’s rich and powerful protection. The first time we see the word shield in the Torah is just after Abram has dealt with war and faced Melchizedek, the peaceful Priest-King. In Genesis 15 we read:

Genesis 15:1

After these events, the word of YHWH came to Abram in a vision:

“Do not be afraid, Abram. I am, to you, a shield [ma’gen]your very great reward.”

God compares Himself to a shield. He is protection and He is also reward, which is fitting considering the shield is amongst the most valuable items of reward in plunder.

God as our shield is a prolific word picture all through the Tanakh.

In the Torah we read:

Deuteronomy 33:29

Blessed are you, O Israel!

Who is like you, a people saved by YHWH?

He is the shield that protects you, the sword in which you boast.

Your enemies will cower before you, and you shall trample their high places.”

In the Nevi’im (prophets) we read:

2 Samuel 22:2-4

“YHWH is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer.

My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,

my shield [ma’geenee], and the horn of my salvation.

My stronghold, my refuge, and my Saviour,

You save me from violence.

I will call upon YHWH, who is worthy to be praised;

so shall I be saved from my enemies.”

This is part of David’s prayer found in 2 Samuel 22. It connects rock to stronghold, shield to refuge, and salvation with a Saviour. In the same prayer of David we read:

2 Samuel 22:29-31, 36

For You, O YHWH, are my lamp; YHWH enlightens my darkness.

For in you I can charge an army; with my God I can scale a wall.

As for God, His way is perfect; the word of YHWH is flawless.

He is a shield [ma’gen] to all who take refuge in Him…

      …You have given me the shield [ma’gen] of Your salvation;

and Your gentleness exalts me.

David connects YHWH’s Salvation to this image of shield/refuge. In Psalm 18 we hear these same words repeated:

Psalm 18:35

You have given me the shield [ma’gen] of Your salvation;

Your right hand upholds me, and Your gentleness exalts me.

The Psalms are the first collection of writings in the Ketuvim, and it’s a collection full of shield imagery:

Psalm 115:9-13

O Israel, trust in YHWH! He is their help and shield [u-mageenam].

O house of Aaron, trust in YHWH! He is their help and shield  [u-mageenam].

You who fear YHWH, trust in YHWH! He is their help and shield  [u-mageenam].

YHWH is mindful of us; He will bless us.

He will bless the house of Israel; He will bless the house of Aaron;

He will bless those who fear YHWH— small and great alike.

Psalm 119:114

You are my hiding place and my shield [u-ma’geenee];

I put my hope in Your word.

In Psalm 84 the Psalmist calls God to look at their shield, for upon it is the face of the Messiah.

Psalm 84:9-12

See our shield [ma’gee’nenu], O God, and look upon the face of Your anointed (messiah).

For better is one day in Your courts than a thousand elsewhere.

I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of the wicked.

For the God YHWH is a sun and a shield [u-ma’gen];

YHWH gives grace and glory;

He withholds no good thing from those who walk with integrity.

O YHWH of Hosts, how blessed is the human who trusts in You!

Centuries before Yeshua (Jesus) appeared on earth, a man named Agur, son of Jakeh,  asked five questions and then made a beautiful, bold, statement:

Proverbs 30:4-5 (Words of Agur)

Who has ascended to heaven and come down?

Who has gathered the wind in His hands?

Who has bound up the waters in His cloak?

Who has established all the ends of the earth?

What is His name, and what is the name of His Son— surely you know!

Every word of God is pure;

He is a shield [ma’gen] to those who take refuge in Him.

You KNOW the name of your God and you know His Son’s name! He is the shield that surrounds you, and He is the and the Salvation that you seek.

Next week: Sun

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