To ISOLATE, to QUARANTINE, to SHUT, to CLOSE: Sagar. Verb. (Strong’s 5462).
Sounds like: sag (rhymes with tag) -are, sag’are
Is there any word more reflective of today’s climate, than sagar, meaning, to shut, to close, to quarantine, to isolate? We’re all going through it. Between working from home, winter storms, and required isolation after leaving the province… I’ve spent many days sheltered behind my Canadian weather-worn blue door.
Not surprisingly, the Hebrew word for prison (mas’ger (Strong’s 4525)) comes directly out of the root sagar:
[David:] “Bring my soul out of prison [mi-mas’ger], so that I may give thanks to Your name; the righteous will surround me, for You will look after me.”
Today many feel like isolation is a form of imprisonment. For others, they’re quite enjoying the excuse to stay away from other humans for a while. (I lie somewhere in the middle, but lean towards the latter).
But this Hebrew word isn’t just about isolation. The Hebrew language is very intuitive. Words are allied together by a root. Sagar is the root used to reflect a wide variety of things that were closed up or isolated. For example:
- When Eve was created, she came out of the side of Adam and then his flesh was closed up/shut (wai-yi-s’gor) (Genesis 2:21).
- When Ehud attacked Eglon king of Moab with a sword, the fat of the king’s belly closed over (wai-yi-s’gor) the blade and sword hilt. It was isolated in the stomach of the king (Judges 3:22). Ehud then left the king (and the sword) and shut (wai-yi-s’gor) the door behind him (Judges 3:23). The sword was isolated in the king, and the king was isolated from his people, by a door and by death.
- Gold that was pure was described as zahav sagur, which suggested the idea that this gold (zahav) was isolated from impurities. (See 1 Kings 6:20, 1 Kings 6:21, 1 Kings 7:49, 1 Kings 7:50, 1 Kings 10:21, 2 Chronicles 4:20, 2 Chronicles, 4:22, 2 Chronicles 9:20).
- Hannah was barren because YHWH had “closed (sagar) her womb” (1 Samuel 1:5, 6).
- Job, in his agony, cursed the night he was conceived, because it did not shut up (lo sagar) the doors of his mother’s womb (Job 3:10)
Life, and the Necessity of Isolation
Job wished he had never lived, but we were always meant for living. We were created to be caretakers of this planet, and YHWH’s image bearers on this earth. We have jobs to do. But as much as we need to be “out and about”, there have been times where it was necessary to shut oneself in… to isolate from the rest of the world. Today we know this all too well.
In a time when the understanding of medicine was limited, the Bible produced a quantity of regulations to try to stop the spread of disease.
In Leviticus 13, rules were laid out to quarantine people with skin diseases. Sagar was used nine times in the chapter, including:
But if the spot on the skin of his body is white and does not appear to be deeper than the skin, and the hair in it has not turned white, the priest will quarantine [w-hi-s’gir] the stricken person for seven days. The priest will then reexamine him on the seventh day. If he sees that the sore remains unchanged and has not spread on the skin, the priest will quarantine him [w-hi-s’girow] for another seven days.
In Leviticus 14 rules were laid for quarantining a leperous house. And when Miriam and Aaron questioned Moses’ leadership, Miriam contracted leprosy. Her body matched her unclean thoughts. Moses cried out to God on her behalf and YHWH responded:
But YHWH said to Moses, “If her father had only spit in her face, would she not be put to shame for seven days? Have her shut [ti-sager] outside the camp for seven days, and afterward she may be received again.” So Miriam was shut [wa-ti-sager] outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on until Miriam was received again.
There are good, medical, reasons to isolate… it stops the spread of the disease and it slows you down, giving you a chance to heal. It is not a punishment or an imprisonment; it is a gift of time and revitalization.
Isolation wasn’t just for medical reasons. When YHWH sent the great flood to wash and revitalize the earth, He chose to isolate Noah and his family in a protective boat:
So they went into the ark to Noah, by twos of all flesh in which there was the breath of life. Those that entered, male and female of all flesh, entered as God had commanded him; and YHWH closed [wai-yi-s’gor] the door behind him.
And so Noah and crew entered the chaotic seas, protected only by God’s will and the walls of a boat. They were shut in and isolated until solid ground reappeared.
Isolation: In the Wilderness
Chaos and wilderness went hand in hand in the Bible. Everything outside of YHWH’s Garden was wilderness.
When the earth was flooded, Noah and his family faced the chaotic and wild waters. When Eve and Adam were exiled out of Eden, they went into the wilderness, which was the opposite of where they had come from (Eden). When Moses led the people out of a “safe”, but abusive, Egypt, they went into the wilderness for forty years!
After their exodus out of Egypt, and with nowhere to go, the children of Israel were left to survive in the wilderness… and that was a bleak prospect. Even the Pharaoh of Egypt would acknowledge their desperate state of isolation:
[YHWH to Moses:] “For Pharaoh will say of the sons of Israel, ‘They are wandering aimlessly in the land; the wilderness has shut [sagar] them in.’”
In Pharaoh’s mind the Hebrew people were doomed. Why? Because the wilderness had shut them in and separated them from the rest of humanity. And certainly the children of Israel did feel that way. They actually missed the comforts of Egypt, even as slaves (see Numbers 20:3-5). In the wilderness, they felt scared and alone, hungry and thirsty.
Theologically the “wilderness” wasn’t just “wild space”, it was a separation from God. But YHWH was the kind of God who went into the wilderness with His people! Yes, they had to go and face the chaos, but they would not go alone. They would not be isolated from their Saviour!
Hand Them Over… Isolate Them
Sagar was also used in war and conflict to reflect the idea of being handed over to an opponent, or delivered to an enemy.
For example, when David stood in opposition to Goliath, he gave this rousing speech:
1 Samuel 17:45-47
But David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a saber, but I come to you in the name of YHWH of armies, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day YHWH will hand you over [deliver/separate you: y-sager’ka] to me, and I will strike you and remove your head from you. Then I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that this entire assembly may know that YHWH does not save by sword or by spear; for the battle is YHWH’s, and He will give you into our hands!”
It wasn’t David who delivered them, it was YHWH.
YHWH had high expectations for humanity. He was the great Deliverer, not them. Humans were meant to join together, not to be separated and isolated from each other. To the Edomites He warned:
[YHWH:] “Do not enter the gate of My people on the day of their disaster.
You indeed, do not gloat over their catastrophe on the day of their disaster. And do not lay a hand on their wealth on the day of their disaster.
Do not stand at the crossroads to eliminate their survivors; and do not hand over [w-al ta-s’ger] their refugees on the day of their distress.
For the day of YHWH is near for all the nations. just as you have done, it will be done to you. Your dealings will return on your own head.”
Deal out injustice, and injustice will fall upon you. For the Hebrew people, they dealt out injustice far too often.
YHWH had had enough. He would finally separate Himself from them, and in doing so, respect the decisions of His people to ignore Him. It was time to shut the people out of their land:
The Lord YHWH has sworn by Himself, YHWH God of armies has declared:
“I loathe the arrogance of Jacob, and detest his citadels; therefore I will give up [hand over/isolate: w-hi-s’gar’ti] the city and all it contains.”
This time it wasn’t just separation from land, it was also separation from God. They isolated God from their lives, so now God isolated them from Him. A march into pagan land was a march away from God. They were truly isolated.
But king Hezekiah recognized their impudence and he aimed to set things straight. Hezekiah’s predecessor, king Ahaz, “closed [wai-yi-s’gowr] the doors of the house of YHWH, and made altars for himself in every corner of Jerusalem.” (2 Chronicles 28:24b), but Hezekiah would turn the tables. He would not shut God out:
2 Chronicles 29:6-11
[King Hezekiah:] For our fathers have been unfaithful and have done evil in the sight of YHWH our God, and they have abandoned Him and turned their faces away from the dwelling place of YHWH, and have turned their backs. They have also shut [sag’ru] the doors of the porch and extinguished the lamps, and have not burned incense nor offered burnt offerings in the holy place to the God of Israel. Therefore the wrath of YHWH was against Judah and Jerusalem, and He has made them an object of terror, of horror, and of hissing, as you see with your own eyes. For behold, our fathers have fallen by the sword, and our sons, our daughters, and our wives are in captivity because of this. Now it is in my heart to make a covenant with YHWH God of Israel, so that His burning anger may turn away from us. My sons, do not be negligent now, for YHWH has chosen you to stand before Him, to serve Him, and to be His ministers and burn incense.”
The people did the worst thing they could do, they shut the doors on God. But Hezekiah was a loyal king to YHWH and he would bring them back to God… to stand before Him.
The Line of David and the Open Door
Hezekiah, from the line of David, was doing what the line of David was meant to do… keeping the door to YHWH open:
“Then I will put the key of the house of David on his shoulder; when he opens, no one will shut [w-en soger], when he shuts [w-sagar], no one will open.
I will drive him like a peg in a firm place, and he will become a throne of glory to his father’s house.”
This verse was reworked in John’s Revelation. Yeshua, the anointed keyholder, would keep the door to the Kingdom open, for all to enter:
“And to the messenger of the church in Philadelphia write:
He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this:
‘I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have followed My word, and have not denied My name.’”
Yeshua opened the door back into Eden. His sacrifice would pay the entrance fee back into the Garden, to be in the Presence of YHWH.
This was why Yeshua was so upset with the Jewish leaders. They were a hindrance at the entrance of YHWH’s kingdom:
[Jesus:] “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut the kingdom of heaven in front of people; for you do not enter it yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.”
Shut the Gate!
In ancient Israel, walled cities would shut the gates at night to protect and separate themselves from invaders (Joshua 2:5). When it came to Jerusalem (also a walled city), Ezekiel had a prophetic vision about the East Gate of Jerusalem:
Then He brought me back by way of the outer gate of the sanctuary, which faces east; and it was shut [sagur]. And YHWH said to me, “This gate shall be shut [sagur]; it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it, for YHWH God of Israel has entered by it; therefore it shall be shut [sagur]. As for the prince, he shall sit in it as prince to eat bread before YHWH; he shall enter by way of the porch of the gate and shall go out by the same way.”
Yeshua (Jesus) in his final week, rode through the East Gate of Jerusalem and was greeted with shouts of “Hosanna, blessed be the name of the Lord” (Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19, John 12). It was a truimphal entry (as the saying often goes). Today the East Gate is bricked in… shut off to the world… giving credence to Ezekiel’s prophecy. The East Gate would remain shut until the King came back to open it
Closed door and gate imagery continued to bring the message home. Those who walked on the path to YHWH would find the gates open to them at the end of the road:
Isaiah 45:1-2, 5-6
This is what YHWH says to Cyrus His anointed, whom I have taken by the right hand, to subdue nations before him and to undo the weapons belt on the waist of kings; to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut [lo yi-sageru]:
“I will go before you and make the rough places smooth; I will shatter the doors of bronze and cut through their iron bars….
…I am YHWH, and there is no one else; there is no God except Me.
I will arm you, though you have not known Me, so that people may know from the rising to the setting of the sun that there is no one besides Me.
I am YHWH, and there is no other.”
God would use all sorts of advocates to open heaven’s gates to the people… even Cyrus the Great, king of Persia. Nothing would hold God back from His plan:
Isaiah 60:1-3, 11-14
“Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of YHWH has risen upon you. For behold, darkness will cover the earth and deep darkness the peoples; but YHWH will rise upon you and His glory will appear upon you.
Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising…
…“Your gates will be open continually; they will not be closed [lo yi-sageru] day or night, so that people may bring you the wealth of the nations, with their kings led in procession.
For the nation and the kingdom which will not serve you will perish, and the nations will be utterly ruined.
The glory of Lebanon will come to you, the juniper, the elm tree and the cedar together, to beautify the place of My sanctuary; and I will make the place of My feet glorious.
The sons of those who afflicted you will come bowing to you, and all those who despised you will bow down at the soles of your feet; and they will call you the city of YHWH, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel.”
Jerusalem was the predecessor of heaven on earth. It was a reflection of what God’s Kingdom would (or could) look like. Isaiah’s vision of the continually opened gates, where the nations would bow at the feet of God’s people, were again envisioned in John’s Revelation of YHWH’s new Heaven:
[Regarding the New Heaven:] I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illuminated it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; and they will bring the glory and the honour of the nations into it; and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
Heaven awaits; its doors are open and cannot be shut to those who want to enter in. Everyone who has sought a reservation in the Kingdom is written in the reservation book, and the doors will be open to them. The table awaits.
But for those who rebelled against YHWH (those on earth and those in the divine realm) YHWH would shut them out of the Kingdom. In Isaiah’s vision of the end of days (the Day of YHWH), God would isolate the rebels together, like punished prisoners, and they would not enter His house, see His face, or walk with Him:
Isaiah 24:10-11, 20-22
The city of chaos is broken down; every house is shut up [quarantined: sugar] so that no one may enter.
There is an outcry in the streets concerning the wine; all joy turns to gloom. The joy of the earth is banished…
…The earth trembles like a heavy drinker and sways like a hut, for its wrongdoing is heavy upon it, and it will fall, never to rise again.
So it will happen on that day, that YHWH will punish the rebellious angels of heaven on high, and the kings of the earth on earth.
They will be gathered together like prisoners [the quarantined: w-sug’ru] in the dungeon, and will be confined in prison [mas’ger]; and after many days they will be punished.
We must live our lives carefully. We ought not to be against God, but for God. Our hearts need to be open to all the possibilities God presents before us. However, there are many who close their hearts to God, isolate themselves from His existence, and therefore close their heart to the Kingdom:
Psalm 17:1-3, 7-10
[David to YHHW:] Hear a just cause, YHWH, give Your attention to my cry; listen to my prayer, which is not from deceitful lips. Let my judgment come forth from Your presence; let Your eyes look with integrity.
You have put my heart to the test; You have visited me by night; You have sifted me and You find nothing; my intent is that my mouth will not offend…
…Show Your wonderful faithfulness, Saviour of those who take refuge at Your right hand from those who rise up against them.
Keep me as the apple of the eye; hide me in the shadow of Your wings from the wicked who deal violently with me, my deadly enemies who surround me.
They have closed [sag’ru] their unfeeling hearts, with their mouths they speak proudly.
As followers of YHWH, we have to be careful not to isolate our heart from others. With our open hearts we can lead others to the Kingdom doors. Our actions must speak louder than our words:
1 John 3:16-18
We know love by this, that He (Jesus) laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers and sisters. But whoever has worldly goods and sees his brother or sister in need, and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God remain in him? Little children, let’s not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.
Yeshua used a parable (a metaphoric story) to bring the point home. There were ten maidens with lamps going to a marriage feast. Five wisely took extra oil as a precaution; the other five foolishly went without. When the bridegroom was delayed the five maidens who did not bring extra oil ran out. They had to run off and buy extra oil from the merchants. The result was not good for them:
“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the groom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. Yet later, the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’
But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’
Be on the alert then, because you do not know the day nor the hour.”
Be prepared! Do not shut yourself out of the Kingdom. Now is the time to ask for entrance… to reserve your spot. You don’t want to find out that you didn’t make a reservation, and miss the feast.
If you already have called on God to save you a space, and you are walking on the Kingdom path, then your job is to show others the Kingdom through your actions. Be the guiding light who unlocks the Kingdom doors. By your kindness, and your actions, you will open the doors to YHWH’s mighty Kingdom for others to make a reservation. And in that Kingdom we will walk with YHWH and see His face, just like Eve and Adam did in the Garden, before their exile:
…they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illuminate them; and they will reign forever and ever.
Adam and Eve were in the Garden Kingdom with YHWH, but by their own actions they had to leave. The door was shut behind them. But YHWH found a way to open the door again for them. By their own hand they chose Wilderness and Death, but by His sacrifice Yeshua would bring them back to the Garden of Life and eternal living.
Isolation from God cannot happen for those who walk in the light of His love. No matter what darkness surrounds you, His light will shine all the brighter. You are not alone!
Don’t isolate yourself from YHWH; don’t shut God out. That is a death sentence. Just make sure you stay on the path and keep the door open, because you have a reservation and the table is set and waiting:
[Jesus:] Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and I will dine with him, and he with Me.
Next week: Revisiting LIFE