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January 31, 2014

by: Janet Aslin, Staff Writer

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As we think of the need for restoration, it shouldn’t be surprising that “shuv” (שוב), a Hebrew verb for restore or return, appears over 1,000 times in the King James Version of the Bible. It is primarily translated as “return” (391), “again” (248) or “turn” (123). It is also translated “restore” (39) which will be our focus in this article.

Merriam Webster defines “restore” as: to give back or return; to put or bring back into existence or use; to bring back or put back into a former or original state; and to put again in possession of something. In Scripture we see the word “restore” used in the literal sense, as when property is returned to its owner or authority (the kingdom) reinstated and the figurative sense such as when we speak of relationships being restored. This word carries with it the understanding of turning from or to, bringing back, refreshing or causing to return.

Restore Property

The return of lost property is something that we are taught is “the right thing to do.” That idea is found in the Torah (Gen.–Deut.) and is solidly part of our inheritance from the Hebraic roots of our faith. For example we read, “You shall not see your brother’s ox or his sheep going astray, and hide yourself from them; you shall certainly bring them back to your brother” (Deut. 22:1, emphasis added). Judaism goes a step further as Philip Birnbaum writes in the Encyclopedia of Jewish Concepts, “Failure to restore to the owner a lost article that has been found by someone is accounted as theft in Jewish law.”

The principle of restoration does not simply apply to livestock but to land as well. As described in Leviticus 25, the Year of Jubilee was a time of restoration. Everyone was to return to his property and if it had been sold, specific and detailed instructions were given for the redemption of that property. “And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you; and each of you shall return to his possession, and each of you shall return to his family” (Lev. 25:10). In the preceding sentence, although “shuv” is translated as “return,” that is one of the keys to a complete understanding of the word restore—going back or returning to the way things were in the beginning.

Restore Position

King David, because of his love for his friend, chose to restore Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth from a place of hiding to a place of honor at the king’s table. David also declared, “Do not fear, for I will surely show you kindness for Jonathan your father’s sake, and will restore to you all the land of Saul your grandfather…”(2 Sam. 9:7).

The Tanakh (Gen.-Mal.) contains many references to the restoration of Israel, God’s chosen people. Jeremiah tells of their future restoration from captivity in Babylon, “‘They shall be carried to Babylon, and there they shall be until the day that I visit them,’ says the LORD. ‘Then I will bring them up and restore them to this place’’” (Jer. 27:22). In Isaiah we read, “Indeed He says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel…” (Isa. 49:6a).

Restore Spiritual Relationships

Psalm 51 is King David’s poignant prayer of repentance and his cry for mercy when confronted with his sin of adultery with Bathsheba. He recognizes the break in his relationship with God and cries out, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit” (Ps 51:12). Here the word “restore” is expressed in the imperative form as David desperately acknowledges his need for restoration.

Corporately we can and should acknowledge our need of restoration as we see done when the psalmist cries three times, Restore us, O God; cause Your face to shine, and we shall be saved!” (Ps. 80:3, 7, 19).

Ultimately, a connection can be made between the verb form “shuv” and its noun form “teshuva” which, in Hebrew means repentance. First we turn away from sin, we return to God and He restores our relationship with Him. Whether it is a specific sin that separates us from God or just the fact that we are living in a fallen world, “shuv” reminds us of our need to be restored.


William B. Silverman, in his book The Sages Speak, Rabbinic Wisdom and Jewish Values, relates the following illustration of the Father’s heart desire for restoration:

“A king’s son was at a distance of a hundred days’ journey from his father. Said his friends to him, ‘Return to your father.’

He said to them, ‘I cannot. The way is too far.’

 His father sent to him and said, ‘Go as far as you are able and I shall come the rest of the way to you.’

Thus the Holy One, blessed be He, said to Israel: ‘Return unto Me, and I will return unto you’ (Malachi 3:7).”

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