Biblical vocabulary: נצל (to save, to redeem), number 2

Last updated on March 3, 2022

In the first article on this subject, we discussed the Hebrew verb נצל, “natsal”. This verb – as we have seen – has much to say to us regarding God’s dealings with man. The basic meaning of the stem “natsal” is to separate, to snatch. But derived from this basic meaning, “natsal” also means: to save, to redeem, to rescue, to spare, to take, to take away, to keep away, to escape, to deliver, to rip out. It is remarkable that very often the Lord God is the subject of this verb “natsal”. In this way man may get to know Him: as the Almighty God who offers man salvation. That is how He made Himself known in the Old Testament times.

The exodus and desert history

The verb “natsal” occurs frequently in the book of Exodus. Here, “natsal” means above all else: to take away, to deliver out from danger. When Moses was called by God at Horeb to lead His people out of Egyptian slavery, He reveals Himself as the God of the forefathers who saw the tribulation of His people, heard their wailing and says, “… I have come down to natsal / deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians …” (Exodus 3:8)[1]

At first, salvation seems impossible and tribulation only increases, causing Moses to desperately remind the Lord, “… you have not natsal / delivered your people at all.” (Exodus 5:23). The Lord responds with patient love and promises, “… I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will natsal/ deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you …” (Exodus 6:6). During the night of the Exodus, Israel discovered that the Lord fulfilled all His words (compare Exodus 11:2) when the Egyptians voluntarily gave up all kinds of valuables, which they “natsal” / took with them when they left.[2]

Moses was to find that God would assist him at all times to rescue him in an emergency and he testifies to this in the naming of his second son whom he named Eliezer, which translated means “My God is help”. Moses testified on this occasion “The God of my father was my help, and natsal/ delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh” (Exodus 18:4).

Moses’ father-in-law Jethro also understands, after what he heard from his son-in-law, that it was the Lord who delivered His people from the plight in Egypt and cried out, “Blessed be the Lord, who has natsal/ delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh …” (Exodus 18:10-11). It is wonderful that this man comes to know that “the Lord is greater than all gods…”. What else has he done with this knowledge? If one is convinced that the LORD is God alone, then it requires a next step: Surrender as a lost sinner to that One God to live with Him! Knowledge of God’s omnipotence and conviction of His greatness alone does not save forever. Man must also come to the understanding and conviction that he / she needs that One God personally as Savior.


An Aramaic form of “natsal” / rescuing occurs three times in this book. This describes the Lord God as the greatest and almighty Deliverer. “… there is no other god who is able to natsal/ rescue in this way.” (Daniel 3:29). These are the words of the proud self-centered Nebuchadnezzar, after the three God-fearing Jewish boys who did not worship his golden image were “natsal” / delivered by God’s omnipotence from the fiery furnace into which he had them thrown. It was later King Darius, who had Daniel thrown into the lions’ den, imprisoned in his own laws, and proved unable to “natsal” / save him from it. After God’s omnipotence kept Daniel in that den, Darius confessed that it is God who “natsal” / redeems… (Daniel 6:15; Daniel 6:28)[3]

In the Psalms

Many times, our verb “natsal” / to deliver sounds in the Psalms. Central to this is that God offers man salvation in all kinds of misery and sorrow. The psalmist confesses, “… a warrior is not natsal / delivered by his great strength” (Psalm 33:16). David begs “Natsal/ Deliver me from sinking in the mire …” (Psalm 69:14). He prays “My times are in Your hand; natsal/ rescue me from the hand of my enemies …” (Psalm 31:15). We also hear that prayer in Psalm 119:170: “Let my plea come before you; natsal/ deliver me according to your word.” God offers the lost man eternal life through the sacrifice of the cross of the Lord Jesus. Therefore, “O Lord, who is like You, natsal/ delivering the poor …” (Psalm 35:10). Whoever finds that the Lord saves from distress confesses with the psalmist: “For He has delivered me…” (Psalm 54:7).


[1] Only the verb “natsal” is mentioned here (and in all other cases), but not in the pertinent verbal form.

[2] The verb. “natsal” here does not refer to (violent) “robbery”, but to the concept: to take away something that is given up. Compare Exodus 34:6 where it is mentioned that the Israelites “natsal”/ discard their jewelry.

[3] In the words “… there was no one who could rescue…” (Daniel 8:4, Daniel 8:7), there is also a form of “natsal”.

© Copyright dr. Annechiena Sneller-Vrolijk

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