God is our Divine Deliverer

D proved a surprisingly difficult letter to develop into descriptions of God. So many English words that start with the letter D use a prefix such as de- or dis- to negate the root of the word they are added to. There are many words that describe God that use a prefix that negates the root word, but they tend to use in- (or im). God is immortal, immutable, incomprehensible, incorruptible, ineffable, infallible, infinite, and invisible.

These are entirely the opposite of words such as despicable, decadent, defunct, degenerate, desperate, discouraging, disparaging, or disappointing. I can think of contexts in which it would make sense to speak of God as demanding (of our obedience),  disdainful (of people and nations who think they are great but do not recognize that all they have comes from God), or dangerous (to those who defy Him). But then I would have to be careful to explain the context, and someone might see the initial description but miss the explanation.

I first thought of using the word dependable, which would certainly apply to God. But I was also trying to find words that could be found in a single passage of Scripture, or synonyms of them. Perhaps there is a verse that would give me Dependable Deliverer, but I didn’t come across one. Besides, at least one of the phrases in my list should point out that the Person being described is in fact divine.

There are many passages I could have chosen that praise our Divine Deliverer, but I chose Psalm 18:2

The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.
He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

(In case you’re wondering, I got the word divine from the use of the word God in the second line. Divine means “of or pertaining to a god.”)

One thing that intrigued me as I looked through the many uses of the word deliver in the Bible was that it was used in two rather different ways. One sense refers to a rescue, enabling someone to escape from danger. This is how I am using it here, and what we mean when we use the word deliverer.

But there are also many verses where it speaks of God delivering someone into an enemy’s hands (whether delivering Israel’s enemies into their hands or, when Israel has been disobedient, delivering Israel into the enemy’s hands). I wondered how the same word came to be used both to mean escaping from the enemy and being handed over to the enemy.

I looked up a number of verses in Strong’s concordance, both from the Old and New Testaments, and learned that this peculiarity is in the English translation, not the original. Both Hebrew and Greek use different words for the two different meanings translated deliver in English.

So I started looking up the etymology of deliver. It wasn’t hard to find out that it comes from the Latin deliberare, but here I found differing opinions on the meaning of that word. (You think people who write reference materials know what they’re talking about, but either some of them don’t, or deliberare also had two meanings.) Most of them said what I had assumed, that it meant to set free, related to the Latin word liber, meaning free.

This source, however, disagrees. It says that deliberare meant to deliberate, to weigh options in the balance, from the Latin libra, meaning scales. Deliver came to mean to see free because so many uneducated people knew some Latin but not very well, so they assumed they knew what the word meant and they were mistaken. Lots of words develop that way, so it’s not surprising that this should be one of them. What is surprising is that my Random House unabridged dictionary doesn’t seem to know this.

What also surprised me is that I still haven’t found, either online or in any of my books on word origins, is how our word deliver came to mean not only see free but to bring to or hand over. So if you happen to know, please let me know. It’s not that important, of course, but I am curious now.

Of course, none of that has much to do with God being our Divine Deliverer. But the idea seems pretty straightforward, as long as you’re not confusing a deliverer with a delivery man, so I didn’t see what I could add. Besides, I really was intrigued by my discoveries delving into the development of our word deliver.

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One Response to God is our Divine Deliverer

  1. Karen O says:

    Very interesting!

    As for “deliberate”, it has the meaning you mentioned, but also if we change the pronunciation a bit, we get a word that means, roughly, “on purpose”.

    Such as in “It was a deliberate action, not an accident.”

    Words are fascinating.

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