Ekballo – Sent out or Cast Out??

Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary defines the Greek compound verb ‘‘ as meaning ‘to cast, drive, expel, send or thrust out of’. The word is a composite of 2 Greek words, namely, the preposition ‘‘ meaning ‘of’ or ‘from’ and the verb ‘‘ meaning ‘cast, drive etc’. The verb ending here is presented in the first person singular. Nevertheless, once the various personal endings have been accounted for, the verb occurs 81 times in the Greek New Testament.

The majority use of  and  in the New Testament is mainly within the synoptic gospels, with a dozen or so occurrences spread across John’s gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. In addition  also appears once in Galatians whilst  occurs several times in Revelation. For the main part is translated as ‘cast out’ in the New Testament. It is exclusively the verb used when Jesus or his disciples ‘cast out’ demons. Consider the following examples:

  • That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. (Matt 8:16
  • And when the demon had been cast out, the mute man spoke. And the crowds marvelled, saying, “Never was anything like this seen in Israel.” (Matt 9:33)
  • And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. (Mark 1:34)
  • “And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Luke 11:18-20)

The implication here is of a forceful action. It is a clash of the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness. It is a power struggle that has but one winner. It is Jesus driving out demons with power and authority, expelling demonic entities from people’s lives, in a manner that is shocking to those who observe these incidents simply because such a display of authority is unprecedented.

There are however three occurrences of  in the synoptic gospels which are generally translated as a more moderate ‘sent out’ rather than a dynamic ‘cast out’. These three occurrences, two of which are in the same passage, are:

  • And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. “Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. (Luke 10:2-3)
  • Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.” (Matt 9:38)

It is clear from the above that Matthew and Luke are alluding to the same issue, that of Jesus sending out disciples into the ‘harvest’ field’ of evangelistic effort. Apparently the translation of  as ‘send out’ in these verses is likely more appropriate in context than a more dynamic translation of ‘cast out’; ‘drive out’ or ‘expel’. Or is it??

Those who are the object of the verb, ie. the disciples in this case, are in fact the very same individuals whose evangelistic efforts in the ‘harvest field’ are recorded by Dr Luke in the ‘Acts of the Apostles’. Once again in Acts 1:8 Jesus commissions his disciples with the task of evangelism yet if we switch those numbers and read Acts 8:1 we note that the going out into the ‘harvest field’ was achieved by all except the original disciples, but certainly not as conscious obedience to an act of divine ‘commissioning’.

  • But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8)
  • And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles (Acts 8:1)

Crucially, it is evident that even those who were scattered with the purpose of evangelism appear to have been ‘driven out’, ‘cast out’ or ‘expelled’ in response to persecution. It is certainly a dynamic event, a forceful action, a clash of kingdoms between which there will be but one winner. Perhaps then when Jesus commissioned his disciples as described in Matt ch 9 & Luke ch 10, he did indeed have in mind a more forceful verb than ‘send out’. Jesus still commissions his disciples today. The command to ‘go’ and to spread the good news remains. If Christians fail to fulfil this commission then Jesus is still able to perform a few forceful actions if required.

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5 Comments

Filed under GobbledeeGreek

5 responses to “Ekballo – Sent out or Cast Out??

  1. Yeah. I am researching this issue. All the Bible translations that I have checked use send. I checked four commentaries including Word Biblical, Zondervan, and NICNT and surprisingly they do not even discuss it.

    It just seems to be that we are to pray that the Lord of the Harvest will ekballo workers. I say this also because I have been is such situations. Additionally, the default position of Christians is to avoid sharing the Gospel with others. By nature we tend not to do this nor want to do this.

  2. Pingback: As the Lord of the Harves to ἐκβάλλω our workers . . . | The Meandering Mind

  3. Pingback: Ask the Lord of the Harvest to ἐκβάλλω our workers . . . « Eikon Tou Theou

  4. Although I genuinely like this post, I think there was an punctuational error close to the finish with the 3rd section.

  5. jobtwenteewun1to3

    Thanks, but I just can’t spot it. Would you mind pointing it out to me?

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