The name “ADONAI Tzidkeinu—ADONAI is our Righteousness” is familiar to many from the song “Sh’ma” by Lamb. The song opens with the words “Sh’ma Yisrael, Sh’ma Yisrael, ADONAI Eloheinu (2x); ADONAI Echad, ADONAI Tzidkeinu, ADONAI yeshuateinu (2X)”—Hear Israel, ADONAI is our God; ADONAI is one, ADONAI is our righteousness, ADONAI is our salvation.
The word tzidkeinu derives from the word tzedek, which is very difficult to translate into English. It appears in various forms hundreds of times in the Tanakh with a range of meanings such as righteous, righteousness, just, justify, justification, declare innocent. The bottom line is that human language cannot convey the full understanding of the ideas of righteousness and justification in one word. We can only see it in HaShem’s character and acts, for He is the source of all righteousness and justification.
ADONAI our Righteousness
The name ADONAI Tzidkeinu appears in the context of ADONAI’s denouncement of Israel’s leaders. First ADONAI denounces specific Israelite kings and then pronounces a “woe” against the “shepherds” (symbolic of Judah’s kings) who had destroyed ADONAI’s sheep (symbolic for the people of Israel) by not properly caring for them (23:1–2). But all is not gloomy, there is hope: ADONAI, the true shepherd, promises that He would place shepherds over his people who would care for them (v. 4). He will raise up a “righteous branch for David who will reign with wisdom and understanding and will do what is just and right in the land” (v.5). “Righteous Branch” clearly denotes Messiah (cf. 2 Sam. 7:16; Isa. 4:2; Eze. 34:23-24) ). The prophecy goes on to explain that under the rule of this king, Judah will be saved (meaning dwell in safety) and Israel will dwell in security, and his name will be called “ADONAI Tzidkeinu—ADONAI is our Righteousness” (v. 6).
A comparison is being made; the unrighteousness of the previous kings has led Israel and Judah to idolatry, corruption and destruction. However, the righteousness of the branch that will be raised up for David (the Davidic King) will remove all idolatry and destruction from Judah and replace it with ADONAI’s righteousness and blessings. A parallel passage in Ezekiel (34:23-31) explains what the blessings are that the “Righteous Branch will bring: “I [ADONAI] will make a covenant of shalom with them.” Israel will dwell in safety and security, the yoke will be broken, they will be delivered from their neighbors. He will cause the rain to fall in its season which brings rich crops and other blessings. These divine blessings are also to be conferred upon the people of Israel by means of the righteous branch.
A Wordplay Full of Irony
An interesting wordplay on the name Zedikiah, the last king of Judah, emphasizes the comparison between the ungodly kings of Judah, and the coming righteous king. Zedekiah’s name in Hebrew is tzidkiyahu, meaning “My righteousness is ADONAI.” Zedikiah’s name derives from the same root word as the adjective righteous, as in righteous branch — tzedek. The name by which the righteous King, branch for David is called, ADONAI Tzidkeinu, seems to be a deliberate play on Zedekiah’s name. This wordplay is full of irony. You see Zedekiah was an ungodly king who was rejected by ADONAI, but the ideal Davidic king would be a worthy ruler through whom ADONAI would establish justice among His people.
Yeshua is the righteous Branch and Davidic King who is called by the name ADONAI Tzidkeinu, ADONAI is our Righteousness. Under the righteous and just rule of Messiah, all Israel, along with those grafted in, will reach the destiny ADONAI has designed for us. The divine blessings will be conferred upon Israel as the people of HaShem by the righteous branch, Yeshua. Until that time we are assured of His just and righteous rule through the compound name ADONAI Tzidkeinu. This name reminds us that righteousness and justice are not just what He does, but they are who He is. No matter how much injustice or unrighteousness we see in our world near and far, we can rest assured that the Righteous Branch for David, the one called ADONAI Tzidkeinu, will establish His righteous and just rule and pour out His blessings. Whenever we are overwhelmed by ungodly rulers or people, let’s proclaim ADONAI Tzidkeinu, remembering the promises connected with that name. •