REMNANT/REMAINDER/THE LEFT-OVERS: To be left: yatar/watar, verb (Strong’s 3498); shaar, verb (Strong’s 7604); sh’ar, masculine noun (Strong’s 7605); sh’erit, feminine noun (Strong’s 7611).
Root: שאר & יותר
Sounds like: ya’tahr/wa’tahr & sha’ahr
Remnant is one of those Biblical words that gets mentioned a lot in our churches and synagogues, but we don’t often stop to think about it. What is the importance of a remnant? Why is there such an emphasis on this word?
There are two verbs that point to the idea of being a remnant. Yatar generally means something that is left-over or remaining. For example, during the ten plagues of Egypt, the locusts left nothing remaining:
…they (the locusts) ate every plant of the land and all the fruit of the trees that the hail had left [hoh’tir הותיר]. Therefore nothing green was left [remained: nohtar נותר] on tree or plant of the field throughout the land of Egypt.
The other verb, usually translated as “remnant”, “remained”, or “left” , is sha’ar. This was the Hebrew word used to describe Noah’s status after the flood. He, and his family, were the remainders… the remnant:
So He wiped out every living thing that was upon the face of the land, from mankind to animals, to crawling things, and the birds of the sky, and they were wiped out from the earth; and only Noah was left [remained: wa-yi-sha’er וישאר], together with those that were with him in the ark.
Noah was the first to be called a remnant/remainder. Another early mention of a remnant came from the story of Joseph. When he was sent into slavery by his brothers, he could have held a grudge, but instead he saw his story as part of God’s grand design. His exile from his family meant that he could save a remnant of his family from famine:
Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come closer to me.” And they came closer. And he said, “I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold to Egypt. Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me ahead of you to save lives. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. So God sent me ahead of you to ensure for you a remnant [sh’erit שארית] on the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household, and ruler over all the land of Egypt.
Joseph was a very forgiving brother. He recognized that his suffering at the hand of his own family meant that he could save his family… a remnant of God’s chosen people. Without his suffering they would not be able to continue living; they would die, hungry and thirsty, in the famine. (The story sounds rather familiar to the story of Jesus, if you think about it.) Joseph indicated that remnants were tools used by YHWH. God had plans for those “left-over”; He would use His remaining people to put His divine actions into place.
Elijah the Remainder
The prophet Elijah was a good example of a remnant left to express God’s power to the masses. He was destined to face-off against the worshippers of Ba’al.
1 Kings 18:22
Then Elijah said to the people, “I alone am left [remain: nohtar’ti נותרתי] as a prophet of YHWH, while Baal’s prophets are 450 men. Now have them give us two oxen; and have them choose the one ox for themselves and cut it up, and place it on the wood, but put no fire under it; and I will prepare the other ox and lay it on the wood, and I will not put a fire under it. Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of YHWH; and the God who answers by fire, He is God.” And all the people replied, “That is a good idea.”
Of course we know the result. The worshippers of Ba’al could not get their god to respond, but Elijah’s God lit the fire even when Elijah made it almost impossible. Elijah was the left-over follower of YHWH who would highlight YHWH’s divinity, proving that one follower of YHWH was more powerful than all the followers of all the foreign gods in the known kingdoms.
Elijah repeatedly described himself as a remnant of YHWH. After his great moment against the priests of Ba’al, Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, was furious. She sent out her people to kill Elijah. Fearing for his life Elijah hid in a cave:
1 Kings 19:9-10
Then he came there to a cave and spent the night there; and behold, the word of YHWH came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
And he said, “I have been very zealous for YHWH, the God of armies; for the sons of Israel have abandoned Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left [remain: wa-ee’wa’ter ואותר]; and they have sought to take my life.”
YHWH then faced Elijah in a gentle wind and asked him, again, why he was in a cave. Elijah repeated his earlier words exactly:
1 Kings 19:14
Then he said, “I have been very zealous for YHWH, the God of armies; for the sons of Israel have abandoned Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left [remain: wa-ee’wa’ter ואותר]; and they have sought to take my life.”
God had heard Elijah the first time, but this time YHWH told Elijah to return to Damascus and hide no longer. YHWH would deal with Jezebel and He would find a remnant of people to follow Him. Elijah was not alone:
1 Kings 19:18
[YHWH to Elijah:] “And I will leave [w-hi-sh’ar’ti והשארתי] seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Ba’al and every mouth that has not kissed him.”
Centuries later, Paul wrote about Elijah’s misunderstanding of being the lone remnant in his letter to the Roman:
Do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have torn down your altars, and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.”
But what is the divine response to him? “I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Ba’al.”
In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant [Greek: leimma λεῖμμα] according to God’s gracious choice.
Paul was not alone. There was a remnant “of God’s gracious choice,” of which we are a part.
The Needed Remnant
Fortunately for us, YHWH always left a remnant. He had to because He made a promise that Abraham’s offspring would bless the whole world (Genesis 22:18). And He made a promise that David’s kingdom would never end (2 Samuel 7:16). And He made a promise that His Servant, the blessing from Abraham’s line, would bring forth justice to the whole earth (Isaiah 42:1-9). If YHWH wiped out His people, He would not be able to fulfill any of His promises.
So the people endured, but only those who held onto their covenant commitment to God would remain:
So you will walk in the way of good people and keep to the paths of the righteous.
For the upright will live in the land, and the blameless will remain [yi-wat’ru יותרו] in it; but the wicked will be eliminated from the land, and the treacherous will be torn away from it.
Of course, not every Israelite held onto their covenant commitment to YHWH. Many turned away from God and switched allegiances. They began to worship the gods of their neighbours. They broke the covenant with YHWH and chose to no longer be under His protection. Death would be their endgame:
“And death will be chosen rather than life by all the remnant that remains [ha-sh’erit ha-ni-sh’arim השארית הנשארים] of this evil family, that remains [ha-ni-sh’arim הנשארים] in all the places to which I have driven them,” declares YHWH of armies. “You shall say to them, ‘This is what YHWH says:
‘Do people fall and not get up? Does one turn away and not repent?
Why has this people, Jerusalem, turned away in continual apostasy?
They hold on to deceit, they refuse to return.’”
YHWH always gave them a chance to return, but they did not. They forfeited their right to be God’s remnant, and that was a disastrous choice:
2 Kings 21:12-15
Therefore this is what YHWH, the God of Israel says: ‘Behold, I am bringing such a disaster on Jerusalem and Judah that whoever hears about it, both of his ears will ring. I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria and the plummet of the house of Ahab, and I will wipe Jerusalem clean just as one wipes a bowl, wiping it and turning it upside down. And I will abandon the remnant [et sh’erit את שארית] of My inheritance and hand them over to their enemies, and they will become as plunder and spoils to all their enemies, because they have done evil in My sight, and have been provoking Me to anger since the day their fathers came from Egypt, even to this day.’”
Scattering the Remnant & Bringing their Conduct upon their Heads
The remnant still existed, but they would be scattered across the known world:
[YHWH to Hezekiah:] “Behold, the days are coming when everything that is in your house, and what your fathers have stored up to this day, will be carried to Babylon; nothing will be left [lo yi-wa’ter לא יותר],” says YHWH.
[YHWH:] “I will execute judgments on you and scatter all your remnant [sh’eritek שאריתך] to every wind. Therefore as I live,” declares the Lord YHWH, “because you have defiled My sanctuary with all your detestable idols and with all your abominations, I definitely will also withdraw and My eye will have no pity, and I also will not spare. A third of you will die by plague or perish by famine among you, a third will fall by the sword around you, and a third I will scatter to every wind, and I will unsheathe a sword behind them. Then My anger will be spent and I will satisfy My wrath on them, and I will be appeased; then they will know that I, YHWH, have spoken in My zeal, when I have spent My wrath upon them. Moreover, I will make you a site of ruins and a disgrace among the nations that surround you, in the sight of everyone who passes by. So it will be a disgrace, an object of abuse, a warning, and an object of horror to the nations that surround you when I execute judgments against you in anger, wrath, and raging reprimands. I, YHWH, have spoken.”
The people had turned to the foreign gods of rage and chaos, so YHWH gave back to them what they desired. They could only recognize YHWH as the true God when they faced His wrath. They were blind to the God of mercy and so God gave them no mercy.
Ezekiel lived through the Babylonian exile. Like Elijah, Ezekiel sometimes felt like he was the only remnant left:
And as they were striking the people and I alone was left [w-ney-sha’ar ונאשאר], I fell on my face and cried out, saying, “Oh, Lord YHWH! Are You going to destroy the entire remnant of Israel [et kal sh’erit Israel] by pouring out Your wrath on Jerusalem?”
Then He said to me, “The guilt of the house of Israel and Judah is very, very great, and the land is filled with blood, and the city is full of perversion; for they say, ‘YHWH has abandoned the land, and YHWH does not see!’ But as for Me, My eye will have no pity nor will I spare, but I will bring their conduct upon their heads.”
YHWH would bring “their conduct upon their heads”. This was their choice; they followed the gods of death, they would face death. Again, Ezekiel cried out to YHWH on behalf of the people:
Then I fell on my face and cried out with a loud voice, and said, “Oh, Lord YHWH! Will You bring the remnant of Israel [et sh’erit Israel את שארית ישראל] to a complete destruction?”
Here was YHWH’s reply:
[YHWH:] “Though I had removed them far away among the nations, and though I had scattered them among the countries, yet I was a sanctuary for them for a little while in the countries where they had gone.”’ Therefore say, ‘This is what the Lord YHWH says: “I will gather you from the peoples and assemble you from the countries among which you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.”’ When they come there, they will remove all its detestable things and all its abominations from it. And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, so that they may walk in My statutes, and keep My ordinances and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God. But as for those whose hearts go after their detestable things and abominations, I will bring their conduct down on their heads,” declares the Lord YHWH.
There was hope for the remnant! YHWH would soften their hearts and bring them back! The faithful followers of YHWH would live!
Seek good and not evil, so that you may live; and so may YHWH God of armies be with you, just as you have said!
Hate evil, love good, and establish justice in the gate! Perhaps YHWH God of armies will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph [sh’erit Yosef שארית יוסף] .
Bringing Back the Remnant
God had a plan and a purpose for His remnant people. They would be a blessing to the earth, just as Abraham was promised that his seed would be a blessing to the nations:
Zechariah 8:7-8, 11-13
YHWH of armies says this: “Behold, I am going to save My people from the land of the east and from the land of the west; and I will bring them back and they will live in the midst of Jerusalem; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God in truth and righteousness.
…But now I will not treat the remnant [li-sh’erit לשארית] of this people as in the former days,’ declares YHWH of armies. For there will be the seed of peace: the vine will yield its fruit, the land will yield its produce, and the heavens will provide their dew; and I will give to the remnant [et sh’erit את שארית] this people all these things as an inheritance. And it will come about that just as you were a curse among the nations, house of Judah and house of Israel, so I will save you that you may become a blessing. Do not fear; let your hands be strong.”
The prophet Jeremiah also announced this message of hope through the words of YHWH:
[YHWH:] “I Myself will gather the remnant [et sh’erit את שארית] of My flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and bring them back to their pasture, and they will be fruitful and multiply. I will also raise up shepherds over them and they will tend them; and they will not be afraid any longer, nor be terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares YHWH.
“Behold, the days are coming,” declares YHWH, “When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; and He will reign as king and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land.
In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will live securely; and this is His name by which He will be called, ‘YHWH Our Righteousness.’”
A New Covenant for the Remnant
YHWH promised to revive the remnant of His people. He would bring them to the water and relieve their suffering:
Jeremiah 31:7-12, 31-34
For this is what YHWH says:
“Sing aloud with joy for Jacob, and be joyful with the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, ‘YHWH, save Your people, the remnant of Israel [et sh’erit Israel את שארית ישראל]!’
Behold, I am bringing them from the north country, and I will gather them from the remote parts of the earth, among them those who are blind and those who limp, the pregnant woman and she who is in labour, together; they will return here as a great assembly.
They will come with weeping, and by pleading I will bring them; I will lead them by streams of waters, on a straight path on which they will not stumble; for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is My firstborn.”
Hear the word of YHWH you nations, and declare it in the coastlands far away, and say, “He who scattered Israel will gather him, and He will keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.”
For YHWH has ransomed Jacob and redeemed him from the hand of him who was stronger than he.
They will come and shout for joy on the height of Zion, and they will be radiant over the bounty of YHWH— over the grain, the new wine, the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd.
And their life will be like a watered garden, and they will never languish again…
Following this promise of no more languish, YHWH announced a New Covenant for the remnant:
Jeremiah 31:7-12, 31-34
“Behold, days are coming,” declares YHWH, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers on the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares YHWH. “For this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares YHWH: “I will put My law within them and write it on their heart; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each one his neighbour and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know YHWH,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares YHWH, “for I will forgive their wrongdoing, and their sin I will no longer remember.”
God’s remnant people would have a New Covenant written on their hearts. They would all know YHWH as the One who forgave them.
The Forgiven Remnant
This was the greatest news! Not only would there be a surviving remnant, revived by YHWH, but they would be a forgiven remnant:
“Israel is a scattered flock, the lions have driven them away. The first one who devoured him was the king of Assyria, and this last one who has gnawed his bones is Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. Therefore this is what YHWH of armies, the God of Israel says: ‘Behold, I am going to punish the king of Babylon and his land, just as I punished the king of Assyria. And I will bring Israel back to his pasture and he will graze on Carmel and Bashan, and his desire will be satisfied in the hill country of Ephraim and Gilead. In those days and at that time,’ declares YHWH, ‘search will be made for the wrongdoing of Israel, but there will be none; and for the sins of Judah, but they will not be found; for I will forgive those whom I leave as a remnant [ah-sh’ir אשאיר].’”
The prophet Micah revelled at the mercifulness of his God’s forgiveness:
Who is a God like You, who pardons wrongdoing and passes over a rebellious act of the remnant [li-sh’erit לשארית] of His possession?
He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy.
He will again take pity on us; He will trample on our wrongdoings. Yes, You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.
The faithful remnant would no longer live under the threat of death and destruction. There was nothing left to fear:
“The remnant of Israel [sh’erit Israel שארית ישראל] will do no wrong and tell no lies, nor will a deceitful tongue be found in their mouths; for they will feed and lie down with no one to frighten them.”
Shout for joy, daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, Israel! Rejoice and triumph with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem!
YHWH has taken away His judgments against you, He has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, YHWH, is in your midst; You will no longer fear disaster.”
Yeshua: Salvation for the Remnant
That sounds lovely… to no longer fear death or disaster. But death and disaster is pretty much a staple experience for every human throughout history. How did God intend to save His people from the inevitability of death and the awaiting grave?
So as not to despair, YHWH would give them a sign:
2 Kings 19:29a, 30-31 (see also Isaiah 37:30-32)
“Then this shall be the sign for you: …The survivors that are left of the house of Judah will again take root downward and bear fruit upward. For out of Jerusalem will go a remnant [sh’erit שארית], and survivors out of Mount Zion. The zeal of YHWH will perform this.”
This depiction of a surviving plant, revived with deep roots and upward fruit, was a hopeful image. This spoke to a culture of farmers. The survivors would be well-watered, well-fed, and flourishing with vibrant fruit. It was a good end:
On that day the Branch of YHWH will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth will be the pride and the beauty of the survivors of Israel. And it will come about that the remnant [ha-ni-sh’ar הנשאר] in Zion and left-overs [w-ha-nohtar והנותר] in Jerusalem will be called holy—everyone who is recorded for life in Jerusalem.
The prophet Isaiah strongly emphasised the Remnant in his writings. He even named his first son Sh’ar Ya-shuv, meaning a “A Remnant will Return” (Isaiah 7:3). He wholeheartedly believed that YHWH would save His remnant people, and they would be like a glorious garden, rich, and plentiful, and saved from destruction:
Isaiah 46:3-4, 8-13
[YHWH:] “Listen to Me, house of Jacob, and all the remnant [sh’erit שארית] of the house of Israel, You who have been carried by Me from birth and have been carried from the womb; even to your old age I will be the same, and even to your graying years I will carry you!
I have done it, and I will bear you; and I will carry you and I will save you…
…“Remember this, and be assured; recall it to mind, you wrongdoers.
Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My plan will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’; calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of My purpose from a distant country.
Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, I will certainly do it.
Listen to Me, you stubborn-minded, who are far from righteousness. I bring near My righteousness, it is not far off; and My salvation will not delay. And I will grant salvation in Zion, and My glory for Israel.”
YHWH would plan it and He would accomplish it. He would not delay His Salvation. But what was His plan? What was He about to accomplish?
Isaiah 28:5-6, 14-18a
“On that day YHWH of armies will become a beautiful crown and a glorious wreath to the remnant [li-sh’ar לשאר] of His people; a spirit of justice for him who sits in judgment, a strength to those who repel the onslaught at the gate…
…Therefore, hear the word of YHWH you scoffers, who rule this people who are in Jerusalem, because you have said, “We have made a covenant with death, and with Sheol we have made a pact. The gushing flood will not reach us when it passes by, because we have made falsehood our refuge and we have concealed ourselves with deception.
Therefore this is what the Lord YHWH says: “Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. The one who believes in it will not be hastened (to their end).
I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the level; then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters will overflow the secret place.
Your covenant with death will be canceled, and your pact with Sheol will not stand.”
This image of YHWH becoming a beautiful crown and a glorious wreath was a way of saying that He would come as King (crown) and Victor (wreath) over the death pact that held His remnant people in bondage.
Yeshua (Jesus), whose name literally means “Salvation”, came to fulfill YHWH’s plan of salvation by cancelling humanity’s covenant with death:
John 10:10, 14-18
[Jesus:] “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came so that they would have life, and have it abundantly…
…I am the good shepherd, and I know My own, and My own know Me, just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice; and they will become one flock, with one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it back. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it back. This commandment I received from My Father.”
Yeshua was the Remnant-Saver. He would gather all the sins of His people and let their sins die with Him. He would lay down His life in order to raise up the lives of God’s remnant people.
Yeshua suffered through a Roman execution. After hours of agony, and when He recognized that the Scriptures had been fulfilled her said, “‘It is finished!’ And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.” (John 19:30b).
But the story did not end there. In victory over death, Yeshua would take back His own life and stop death from ever taking His people again.
Yeshua hinted that this would happen when Martha lamented over her brother, Lazarus’ death:
Martha then said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.”
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise from the dead.”
Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; the one who believes in Me will live, even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”
She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have come to believe that You are the Messiah, the Son of God, and He who comes into the world.”
Yeshua did raise up Lazarus from the dead, to the shock of all who witnessed it. It wasn’t long afterwards that Yeshau went to the grave Himself to deliver us all from death.
With Yeshua’s sacrifice, God’s plan was fulfilled and His remnant people were saved and redeemed. Death was not their end. God’s Garden Kingdom awaited them:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among the people, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give water to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life, without cost. The one who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be My descendant.”
It is done! You who love YHWH are the Remnant of God, saved and redeemed. Death is not the end, it’s merely a passage to the Kingdom where God waits for YOU, His long-awaited child. Oh what a day that will be!
Next week: Passover