What is a Pledge?
Having established that there are earthly things which are tangible and temporal and heavenly things that are aionian, shrouded in mystery, Paul moves into a discussion of the two kinds of body that we have.
Recall from a few verses earlier in 2 Cor. 4:16 how Paul wrote about the outer man that is decaying and the inner man that is being renewed day by day. Paul was transitioning into a commentary on the two kinds of body in chapter 5. He begins in 2 Cor. 5:1,
1 For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal [aionian] in the heavens.
Paul refers to each of these bodies as a “tent,” a “house,” and a “building.” Later, he calls these bodies “clothing.” Regardless of the specific term used, these are all metaphors that apply to the dwelling place of the inner and outer man.
Paul says that “the earthly house” is being “torn down,” because it is temporal, or temporary. In other words, the outer man, which was begotten by our earthly father with corruptible seed, is mortal. It gets old over time and eventually dies, because that was the sentence imposed upon Adam for the original sin.
By contrast, we also have another “building from God, a house not made with hands, aionian in the heavens.” This house is not in earth—at least not yet. It is “in the heavens.” This house is immortal and aionian, which in this case means “hidden,” because the Greek word aionian is the equivalent of the Hebrew word olam, “hidden.” Hence, the house of our inner man is hidden in the heavens.
Paul continues in 2 Corinthians 5:2-4, saying,
2 For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven; 3 inasmuch as we, having put it on, shall not be found naked. 4 For indeed, while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed, but to be clothed, in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
Paul says that in this earthly house “we groan” and are “burdened,” because we are torn between our survival instinct and our desire to be clothed with the heavenly garments. In other words, we are currently clothed with a fleshly garment, but our desire is to be clothed with the garments that are presently hidden in the heavens.
Our desire is based on the knowledge that those heavenly garments would give us immortality. When we finally receive those garments, then “what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.”
When we were begotten by our heavenly Father with incorruptible and immortal seed, a new creation man was conceived. It was a son of God which is immortal and incorruptible in itself. Yet this new man continued to be clothed with mortal and corruptible flesh.
That inner man is still veiled by human flesh, as Paul established in chapter 3. That flesh-veil is being removed little by little as we die daily and as “we are afflicted in every way” (2 Cor. 4:8). In other words, through affliction and death, we are being unclothed. The good side to being unclothed is that the Old Covenant veil is being removed as we grow in faith in the promises of God. The down side to being unclothed is that it exposes our mortality and provokes our survival instinct, causing us stress.
So if we have identified with this new creation man, we are caught in an embryonic transition between conception and birth. We are indeed new creatures, begotten by God, but we have not yet been “born again.” Few teach the distinction between begetting and birthing, and so they have no way of understanding this embryonic transition experienced by those who are of the household of faith.
The Story of Judah and His Pledge
Paul then introduces a radical thought in 2 Cor. 5:5,
5 Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge [arrabon].
The Spirit of God has been given to us “as a pledge.” The KJV and other translations usually render this “an earnest,” which implies a down payment on some sort of purchase. But that translation is off target. Paul uses the Hebrew word arrabon here, even though he is writing his letter in Greek. He does this in order to convey a specific meaning from the divine law. He does not want this truth to be lost in translation into Greek, so he taught his Greek audience this Hebrew word arrabon.
The story of the birth of Judah’s twin sons, Zerah and Pharez, in Genesis 38 uses the Hebrew word arrabon twice. It is our best illustration of the meaning of this word. In the story, we are told that Judah married a Canaanite woman named Shua (Gen. 38:2), who bore him three sons: Er, Onan, and Shelah. When the oldest son was grown, he found a wife for him, and her name was Tamar. Gen. 38:7 says,
7 But Er, Judah’s first-born, was evil in the sight of the Lord, so the Lord took his life.
Since Er had no children, the law said that the next oldest son, Onan, was to take her and have children with her. In this way, the oldest son would be the inheritor of Er’s property. That son would be the biological son of Onan, but the legal son of Er. So Gen. 38:8 says,
8 Then Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife, and perform your duty as a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.”
It is of interest to note that this took place long before the time of Moses, who legislated this law in Deut. 25:5-10, and yet Judah too knew this law. In other words, this law preceded the time of Moses. It is, in fact, a law of sonship which has application in a New Covenant setting.
Jesus died childless, and Heb. 2:11 says that “He is not ashamed to call them [us] brethren.” Jesus was begotten by God through the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:18), and we too have been begotten by the same Father. Hence, He is our older Brother.
As Jesus’ younger brothers, we have a responsibility to raise up offspring for our older Brother in order to build up His house (Deut. 25:9).
But getting back to the story of Judah and his sons, Onan pretended to comply with this law of sonship, but he “wasted his seed on the ground in order not to give offspring to his brother” (Gen. 38:9). So it says in Gen. 38:10 that God took his life as well.
The responsibility to raise up an inheritor (son) for Er then fell upon Judah’s youngest son, Shelah. But he was too young to be married. So Judah told Tamar to wait a few years until Shelah was old enough to marry her.
Meanwhile, however, Judah began to ponder the situation, and he apparently doubted Shelah’s character. Not wanting to lose the last of his sons, he quietly delayed giving Tamar to Shelah.
Tamar, in her own carnal way, then took steps to correct this problem. She veiled herself and pretended to be a prostitute, sitting by the road in a place where she knew Judah would soon pass as he came home in the evening after shearing sheep all day.
Her plan worked, because Judah was enticed to have relations with this woman without realizing who she was. She was veiled, and even when she was unveiled, it was too dark for him to recognize her.
Genesis 38:15 says,
15 When Judah saw her, he thought she was a harlot, for she had covered her face.
On a side note, we see that in those days harlots veiled their faces. Because Tamar had veiled her face, Judah thought she was a harlot. In view of our earlier study how veils represent the Old Covenant, we can see that those with an Old Covenant perspective are spiritual harlots and cannot bring forth the sons of God to inherit the Kingdom. Paul says in Galatians 4 that the true sons come through Sarah the New Covenant, not Hagar the Old Covenant.
Genesis 38 shows that having an Old Covenant veil over one’s face creates a harlot relationship, not a true marriage that can bring forth an inheritor/son. For this reason, women ought not to wear veils as long as they have a New Covenant relationship with God. Whereas Old Covenant cultures would accuse an unveiled woman of harlotry, New Covenant culture would recognize a veiled woman as a harlot. So Judah recognized Tamar as a harlot, because she was veiled.
When it came time to pay Tamar for her services, Judah had no money with him, for he had not expected to encounter a harlot. Thus, he was unprepared financially. Gen. 38:16, 17, 18 says,
16 … And she said, “What will you give me, that you may come in to me?” 17 He said, therefore, “I will send you a kid from the flock.” She said, moreover, “Will you give a pledge [arrabon] until you send it?” 18 And he said, “What pledge [arrabon] shall I give you? And she said, “Your seal and your cord, and your staff that is in your hand.” So he gave them to her; and went in to her, and she conceived by him.
Here is where we find the term arrabon, which is clearly seen to be a pledge on a debt. We will return to explain this shortly.
When Judah returned the next day to give the “harlot” her price and to redeem his pledge, he could not find her. She had not identified her self, nor had he asked for her identification. There was nothing Judah could do but carry on in life. Yet he must have worried about his staff and signet ring, as these were very important items.
A few months later, when it became known that Tamar was pregnant, Judah was angry with her and assumed that she had committed adultery. He did not seem to consider the fact that he had done her an injustice by delaying to give her in marriage to his third son, Shelah. So Judah proclaimed, “Bring her out and let her be burned!” (Gen. 38:24).
Tamar then informed Judah that the father of her unborn sons was the one who owned the items that he had given to her as pledges. “Please examine and see whose signet ring and cords and staff are these?” (Gen. 38:25).
At that point, Tamar gave back the pledged items to their rightful owner (Judah). It is obvious that Judah’s pledge was not an earnest (or down payment). That is, it was not a partial payment on his debt. It was a pledge that was to be redeemed (exchanged) later when he gave her a kid from the flock to pay his debt. The pledge was surety on his debt. Judah never intended for Tamar to keep the pledge as a partial payment for her services. It was not earnest money.
It is also noteworthy that there is no statement telling us that Tamar ever got the kid (sheep or goat) in payment of Judah’s debt to her. Instead, she got two “kids” (boys), which suggests that she was given double restitution.
Hence, when Paul uses the term arrabon, the NASB is correct in translating it as a pledge rather than an earnest. The implications of this in 2 Corinthians 5 are enormously important. When we understand that the Holy Spirit was given to us as a pledge on a debt, rather than as a down payment (partial payment) on a debt, we get a whole new insight into the divine plan. We will cover that in the next chapter.
Meanwhile, just to tie up the loose ends in the story of Judah, we should say that Tamar conceived twins as a result of her relationship with Judah. When the twins were born, they were named Zerah and Pharez, or Perez (Gen. 38:28-30).
Although Pharez became the inheritor of Judah’s estate (and his prophetic calling), the spiritual breach caused by the circumstances of his birth made him a bastard child by biblical law and delayed the calling of Judah for ten generations. Deut. 23:2 says,
2 No one of illegitimate birth shall enter the assembly of the Lord; none of his descendants, even to the tenth generation, shall enter the assembly of the Lord.
David was the tenth generation from Pharez. Thus, he was anointed king of Israel, and he was the first to exercise the Dominion Mandate that Jacob had given to Judah in Gen. 49:10 and 1 Chron. 5:2.