TREASURED POSSESSION: segullah. Feminine noun. (Strong’s 5459).
Original word: סגלה
Sounds like: s’gool-lah
In my birthday card from my parents this year, my Mum wrote that I was their segullah. She loves that I’m passionate about Biblical Hebrew and the gesture meant a lot to me. I promised her that I would do a posting on segullah and, as it is her birthday on February 23rd, this week seemed like the perfect time to look into the word. (Happy Birthday Mum!)
The first time segullah popped up in the Bible was in Exodus. In the third month after leaving Egypt the Hebrew people entered the wilderness of Sinai. There they camped at the foot of the mountain while Moses went up and spoke with YHWH.
YHWH told Moses to say to the sons of Israel…
“You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession [s’gullah] among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”
If the people kept His covenant and obeyed His voice they would be His own special possession amongst all the people… a holy, set-apart, nation.
Often segullah only gets translated as “possession”, but it’s much more than that. Segullah wasn’t something you owned and stuck on a shelf, like a vacation trinket. This possession (segullah) was extremely valuable and worthy of a place of honour. When David gave his possessions to his son Solomon, to build the Temple, we come to understand that these possessions were more than trinkets, they were treasured belongings:
1 Chronicles 29:2-5
[David:] Now with all my ability I have provided for the house of my God the gold for the things of gold, the silver for the things of silver, the bronze for the things of bronze, the iron for the things of iron, wood for the things of wood, onyx stones and inlaid stones, stones of antimony and stones of various colours, and all kinds of precious stones and alabaster in abundance. In addition, in my delight in the house of my God, the treasure [s’gullah] I have of gold and silver, I give to the house of my God, over and above all that I have already provided for the holy temple, namely, three thousand talents of gold, from the gold of Ophir, and seven thousand talents of refined silver, to overlay the walls of the buildings; gold for the things of gold and silver for the things of silver, that is, for all the work done by the craftsmen. Who then is willing to consecrate himself this day to YHWH?”
These were no random possessions; David was giving up his treasure. Segullah was a kind of possession that was valuable and cherished. So when YHWH called people His segullah He was saying that they were His richly adored, valuable belongings. We belong to YHWH; He treasures us, cherishes us, loves us… and He does not want to part with us.
David’s son Solomon misunderstood the true meaning of segullah. He accumulated great amounts of riches: houses, vineyards, gardens, parks, ponds, slaves, flocks and herds, singers, and concubines, but were they really segullah to him?
Ecclesiastes 2:8a, 10-11
[Solomon:] I also amassed for myself silver and gold, and the special treasure [u-s’gullat] of kings and provinces… All that my eyes desired, I did not refuse them. I did not restrain my heart from any pleasure, for my heart was pleased because of all my labour; and this was my reward for all my labour. So I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labour which I had exerted, and behold, all was futility and striving after wind, and there was no benefit under the sun.
Solomon forgot the point. It wasn’t treasure that made him special, it was that he was treasured by God. Owning wealth didn’t make him wealthy; he was already wealthy as one of God’s treasured possessions.
His treasured Imagers
What made humans particularly special, above the other animals of the earth, was that they were YHWH’s image bearers. Genesis 1:27 told us that all humans were made to be YHWH’s reflection on earth. On top of that, the Jewish people were chosen to be the carriers of YHWH’s plan of Salvation. Through the Jewish nation the Anointed One (Mashiach/Messiah) who would come to redeem all of humanity.
Because the Jewish people, and all the rest of humanity, were to reflect the image of God, there were certain things they were not to do. Anything contrary to the image of God was to be off the table for His imagers. YHWH had always represented Himself as the God of Life and Order. Death and Chaos were the chief attributes of the Adversary (ha-Satan). Therefore humans were never to represent chaos or death in their lives:
“You are sons of YHWH your God; you shall not cut yourselves nor shave a bald spot above your forehead for the dead. For you are a holy people to YHWH your God, and you YHWH has chosen to be for Himself a people, a special treasure [s’gullah] above all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.”
Why were humans not to alter themselves to honour the dead with cutting, shaving or tattooing (Leviticus 19:28)? Because they were to be the image bearers of God, and God was the God of Life who defeated death. Altering ourselves to commemorate death was counterintuitive to our status as the image of God. As His treasured possession we were to reflect LIFE, never death.
As a special, set-apart, nation of priests, the Jewish people were to uphold God and represent Him on earth. When they defeated the pagan nations they were to clear out the old idols:
Deuteronomy 7:5-6 (see also Deuteronomy 26:17-19)
“…this is what you shall do to them: you shall tear down their altars, smash their memorial stones, cut their Asherim to pieces, and burn their carved images in the fire. For you are a holy people to YHWH your God; YHWH your God has chosen you to be a special treasure [s’gullah] above all the people who are on the face of the earth.”
YHWH was very strict about the dissolution of idols. Images made by human hands had no divinity in them. YHWH created humans to be His imagers… they were God’s representatives and they carried the breath of their Creator. Statues did nothing, but humans could bring life to God’s word. As YHWH’s imagers, we were worth much more than the idol images made of gold and silver:
Psalm 135:1-4, 13-21
Praise the name of YHWH; Praise Him, you servants of YHWH,
you who stand in the house of YHWH, in the courtyards of the house of our God!
Praise YHWH, for YHWH is good;
Sing praises to His name, for it is lovely.
For YHWH has chosen Jacob for Himself, Israel as His own possession [li-s’gullatoh]…
…Your name, YHWH, is everlasting,
the mention of You, YHWH, is throughout all generations.
For YHWH will judge His people and will have compassion on His servants.
The idols of the nations are nothing but silver and gold, the work of human hands.
They have mouths, but they do not speak; they have eyes, but they do not see;
they have ears, but they do not hear, nor is there any breath at all in their mouths.
Those who make them will become like them, yes, everyone who trusts in them.
House of Israel, bless YHWH;
House of Aaron, bless YHWH;
House of Levi, bless YHWH;
You who revere YHWH, bless YHWH.
Blessed be YHWH from Zion, who dwells in Jerusalem.
The line in this poem, those who make them [idols] will become like them [idols], is very telling. YHWH made humans to be His living, breathing, imagers; they were to reflect, and be like, YHWH. But if these human imagers used their own hands to make idols they would reflect, and be like, the idols that they made: blind, deaf, lifeless, and standing for nothing.
Refining the Treasure
Humans were YHWH’s special treasure but that did not guarantee an easy life. As we fully understand, humans go through hardship and suffering all the time. It was not God’s will that humans suffer, that comes out of the choices we make and the world we live in. Although we make terrible choices, YHWH walks alongside us in our suffering and uses situations to strengthen us. We go through a refining process, and each refining moment helps us become a purer reflection of who we were meant to be. Through refining we can glitter like gold because that’s what the Creator wants for us:
Zechariah 13:2, 8-9
“And it will come about on that day,” declares YHWH of armies, “that I will eliminate the names of the idols from the land, and they will no longer be remembered; and I will also remove the prophets and the unclean spirit from the land…
…“And it will come about in all the land,”
“that two parts in it will be cut off and perish; but the third will be left in it.
And I will bring the third part through the fire,
refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested.
They will call on My name, and I will answer them;
I will say, ‘They are My people,’ and they will say, ‘YHWH is my God.’”
God considered every human to be his treasured possession, but not every person has wanted to be under the guardianship of YHWH. He would let those go, who wanted to be let go. If they chose not to be the property of YHWH, they would forfeit life and order and choose death and chaos instead. They would be cut off, as they chose to be, and would perish when their day on earth was done.
You have to want to be His treasured possessions to be so. Those who call on YHWH’s name would be gathered under His protection and cherished like the most glorious treasure that they were made to be.
Malachi 3: The Refiner, The Robber & The Compassionate Father
In Malachi 3 YHWH spoke of His Messenger, (in Hebrew mal’aki,) which was also the Hebrew word for my Angel. This was the Messenger/Angel of YHWH:
“Behold, I am sending My messenger [My angel], and he will clear a way before Me. And the Lord, whom you are seeking, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says YHWH of armies.
“But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire, and like launderer’s soap. And He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to YHWH offerings in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to YHWH as in the days of old, and as in former years.
YHWH would send His angel (the Angel of YHWH) to clear a path to Him, and when the Angel of YHWH arrived He would be like a refiner’s fire to purify His treasure.
YHWH wanted to hold onto His treasured people and He had every right to keep His possession to Himself. But He was, and is, a God who gave His beloved people the right to choose their own direction. They could stay with Him or they could rob Him of His treasure:
“From the days of your fathers you have turned away from My statutes and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,” says YHWH of armies.
“But you say, ‘How shall we return?’
Would anyone rob God? Yet you are robbing Me!
But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’
In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the entire nation of you!”
By rejecting YHWH’s authority, humans were robbing YHWH of His treasure. If they didn’t give of themselves to Him and let themselves be refined, they couldn’t become the treasure and offering they were meant to be.
But those who valued, admired, and respected YHWH ultimately allowed themselves to be His treasure and YHWH would lovingly claim them as His segullah:
Then those who feared YHWH spoke to one another, and YHWH listened attentively and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear YHWH and esteem His name.
“And they will be Mine,” says YHWH of armies, “on the day that I prepare My own possession [my treasured possession: s’gullah], and I will have compassion for them just as a man has compassion for his own son who serves him.”
So you will again distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him.
YHWH would have compassion on all who loved Him, just as a human father had compassion for his compliant child. But regardless of whether we are compliant or not, God loves all His children; they are His greatest treasure… and He wants to hold onto all of them.
Yeshua: Purifying the Treasure
Of course God’s greatest treasure that He could give to humanity was a part of Himself… His Son, Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah. In his letter to Titus, the apostle Paul reiterated the writings of Malachi. YHWH would send His own Son, Yeshua, to be the purifier of souls:
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously, and in a godly manner in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Messiah Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own (treasured) possession [Greek: periousion], eager for good deeds.
Yeshua came to dwell among humans as a newborn. And He would grow up as we do, to experience everything we experience. At the same time, He was no ordinary human. His birth story gave hints to His uniqueness. In His infanthood He was visited by foreign magi who presented Him with three treasures:
When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And after they came into the house, they saw the Child with His mother Mary; and they fell down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
These treasures were symbolic: gold for kingship, frankincense (incense) for priesthood, and myrrh for funerary embalming oil. Yeshua was King, Priest, and Sacrificial Lamb.
In keeping with the theme of treasure, we should not be surprised that Yeshua was betrayed by a friend for a handful of silver (Matthew 26:15). Judas could not see that Yeshua was the treasure that we were given, and that we were treasure to YHWH. Judas betrayed Yeshua for trinkets, not real treasure. Silver had no worth compared to the value of friendship, and love, and acceptance. Feeling that he had lost all of those things, he took his life with silver still in his possession.
A thousand years before Yeshua arrived on the scene, king David gave up great amounts of wealth to build the Temple. YHWH also gave up His most treasured possession (His Son) to build up the living Temple of believers (2 Corinthians 6:16).
We were the living, breathing, temple of YHWH and Peter heightened the metaphor. Yeshua was the precious, living, cornerstone of the Living Temple but He was rejected by the people:
1 Peter 2:4-10
And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by people, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus the Messiah. For this is contained in Scripture:
“Behold I am laying in Zion a choice stone, a precious cornerstone, and the one who believes in Him will not be put to shame.”
This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for unbelievers, “A stone which the builders rejected, this became the chief cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offence”; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this they were also appointed.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession [Greek: peripoiesin], so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvellous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Peter had directly quoted Exodus 19:5-6 in this passage, which was the first time segullah was used in the Bible. We were YHWH’s chosen, treasured, possession, and He sent Yeshua the Messiah to save us so we could live in the light of His love and become the living temple, reflecting the Creator to every human on the planet.
An Inheritance of Treasure
Treasure was meant to be shared and passed on. When we die, if we have an possessions of worth, we leave our inheritance to those we love. YHWH bequeathed humans with overwhelming treasure:
In Him we also have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things in accordance with the plan of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in the Messiah would be to the praise of His glory.
In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of the promise, who is a first instalment of our inheritance, in regard to the redemption of God’s own (treasured) possession [Greek: peripoiēseōs], to the praise of His glory.
If we put our hope and trust in YHWH, the first instalment of our inheritance would be the Holy Spirit… having the breath of God activated within us. But our inheritance goes beyond a stronger connection to our Creator while we live out our lives. YHWH redeemed us, His special possession, so that we could inherit the treasures stored up for us after we walk through our lives on this planet. We await the treasure of coming face to face with YHWH after we take our final breath on earth.
Knowing we are mortal and there is a last breath to be had, gives perspective to what we value as wealth. Yeshua pointed out that treasures on earth are nothing compared to what awaits us in heaven:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Consider what real wealth is. It is not gold or bitcoin or real estate. It is the relationship that YHWH wants to have with you. You are the segullah (treasured possession) of your Creator. Never forget how precious and valuable you are!
Next week: Revisiting HEALER