Redemption, Ransom (OT)
The reality of the 'consequence engine'
The reality of voluntary slavery
The reality of alienation
All Semitic languages have one of the Biblical words (pdh) in
them (except Aramaic), and this word has a range of meaning from 'ransom'
to 'deliver', with most usage involving a payment.
Examples from Mesopotamian laws:
Rescue from involuntary captivity or slavery, by payment of a price
2. Padah - redemption, general, but sometimes weakened to just 'deliver', found all over the ANE:
It is interesting that if a person was defrauded and then died, the
criminal would be required to pay the "guilt" penalty to the goel of
the deceased. If there was no redeemer, then the penalty would be paid
to the sanctuary (Num 5:8).
2. Indentured Servants. Also, persons could be rescued from servitude
by a monetary payment. An impoverished Israelite (again, "brother") who
was forced to sell himself into indentured servitude to a resident alien
had the same rights of redemption (goel) as existed with relationship
to land. Indentured servitude was not slavery-the resident alien was not
allowed to oppress the indentured Israelite (v 53). Israelites could not
serve in perpetuity since they were ultimately God's servants whom He had
removed from Egypt (v 55). Verses 48-49 indicate that the obligation of
redeemer devolved upon the nearest relative.
3. Cultic Offerings. A cultic offering could be reclaimed
by substituting a monetary payment. The offering of an unclean animal (Lev
27:9-13, 27), a house (vv 14-15), a field (vv 16-25), and a tithe of the
land (vv 30-31) was redeemable by the owner at full monetary value plus
4. The Firstborn. In commemoration of the tenth plague,
all firstborn were sanctified, subject to being sacrificed to God (Exod
13:15). However, under prescribed circumstances, substitutions could be
made. Firstborn asses (as unclean animals) were to be redeemed (pdh)
by sheep (13:13; 34:20; Num 18:15), but the firstborn of clean animals
could not be redeemed (Num 18:17). At the age of one month, all firstborn
male Israelites were to be redeemed (pdh) by five shekels (vv 15-16;
cf. 3:46-51), apparently by the father (Exod 13:13, 15).
5. The Wife of a Deceased Relative. In an incident
with similarities to the law of levirate marriage (Deut 25:5-10) and related
to the redemption of land, the book of Ruth assumes that a near kinsman-redeemer
was supposed "to raise up the name of the deceased upon his property" by
legally acquiring "the wife of the deceased" (Ruth 4:5, 10, with Deut 25:5-6)
and siring children who would inherit the property of the deceased.
6. The Owner of a Goring Ox. When an ox with a reputation
for goring killed a person, its owner was subject to the death penalty.
However, the owner was permitted to redeem (pdh) himself from the
death penalty if a "ransom (kpr) is laid upon him" to be given to
the deceased's next of kin (Exod 21:29-30). This law may be related to
that of the "blood redeemer" below.
7. The Blood Redeemer. The blood redeemer (goel haddam) was the closest male relative of a murdered person, as is indicated by the stories of Gideon's killing of his brothers' slayers (Judg 8:18-21; cf. 1 Kgs 16:11); of Joab's killing of Abner, his brother's slayer (2 Sam 3:27); and of Absalom's killing of Amnon, his sister's rapist (2 Sam 13:28-29)...The case of Absalom is important, since it illustrates broadened parameters of the blood redeemer, who avenged not just murder but severe harm (in this case, rape) inflicted upon a close relative.
In the case of a homicide (Num 35:12-28; Deut 19:4-6, 11-13; Joshua
20; 2 Sam 14:11), the victim's blood redeemer was responsible for putting
to death the person who had committed premeditated murder (Num 35:19);
the murderer was handed over to the blood redeemer by the elders of his
city (Deut 19:12). The accidental murderer found safety in the designated
cities of refuge (Num 35:12-15, 22-25; Josh 20:4-6)...In contrast, the
Middle Assyrian Laws (A10, B2) proclaimed that the "owner of the life"
(parallel to the biblical "blood redeemer") could take compensation in
lieu of execution.
O Lord, Thou didst plead my soul's cause; Thou hast redeemed my life. 59 O Lord, Thou hast seen my oppression; Judge my case. (Lam 3.58)
Look upon my affliction and rescue me, For I do not forget Thy law. Plead my cause and redeem me; (Ps 119.153)
For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who
have no helper. 13 He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the
lives of the needy. 14 From oppression and violence he redeems their life;
and precious is their blood in his sight. (Ps 72.12-14 NRSV, the righteous
People prayed to God concerning redemption from
You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among
the peoples. 15 With your mighty arm you redeemed your people, the descendants
of Jacob and Joseph. (Ps 77.14f)
"What gives the metaphor force is the constant presence of the price-paying
idea. But it is precisely this that is disputed by some who think that
redemption is no more than another way of saying 'deliverance'. The big
reason for thinking this is that there are some OT passages where Yahweh
is said to have redeemed his people (Ex. 6:6; Ps. 77:14f., etc.),
and it is unthinkable that he should pay a price to anyone. But too much
is being deduced. The metaphor has not been robbed of its point (cf.
the saying 'he sold his life dearly'). Sometimes in the OT Yahweh is thought
of as being so powerful that all the might of the nations is but a puny
thing before him. But redemption is not used in such passages. Where redemption
occurs there is the thought of effort. Yahweh redeems 'with a stretched
out arm'. He makes known his strength. Because he loves his people he redeems
them at cost to himself. His effort is regarded as the 'price'. This is
the whole point of using the redemption terminology." (NBD, s.v. "redemption")
"Examination of the passages in which Yahweh is the subject reveals
the interesting fact that in many places the redemption He effects is not
regarded as something He performs with effortless ease. Yet in other passages,
sometimes not far from the redemption ones, the idea is put forward that
all the might of the nations is but a puny thing, a thing of nought, in
His sight. But, though they accept this thought, when the Bible writers
think of Yahweh as Redeemer they prefer to think of Him as putting forward
a strong effort. Thus we read, 'I will redeem you with a stretched out
arm' (Ex. 6: 6); 'Thou art the God that doest wonders: Thou hast made known
thy strength among the peoples. Thou hast with thine arm redeemed thy people'
(Ps. 77 - 14, 15); 'Enter not into the fields of the fatherless: for their
redeemer is strong' (Pr. 23: 10, 11); 'Their redeemer is strong; the Lord
of hosts is his name: he shall thoroughly plead their cause' (Je. 50: 34).
This stress on Yahweh's effort seems to be the reason for applying the
redemption terminology to His dealings. The effort is regarded as the
'price' which gives point to the metaphor. Yahweh's action is at cost to
Himself. While He could, so to speak, cope with the situation with
a small expenditure of effort, yet because He loves His people He 'hath
made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations' (Is. 52: 10).' [Morris,
Preaching of the Cross, p.23]
Writhe and labor to give birth, Daughter of Zion, Like a woman in childbirth, For now you will go out of the city, Dwell in the field, And go to Babylon. There you will be rescued; There the Lord will redeem you from the hand of your enemies. (Micah 4.10)
Yet their Redeemer is strong; the LORD Almighty is his name. He will vigorously defend their cause so that he may bring rest to their land, but unrest to those who live in Babylon. (Jer 50.34)
For thus says the Lord, “You were sold for nothing and you will be redeemed without money.” . (Is 52.3, the exception that proves the rule)
I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, 7 to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. (Is 42.6)
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, Because the Lord has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives, And freedom to prisoners; (Is 61.1)
When the LORD returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes.
9 Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the LORD
has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. 10 The LORD
will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the
ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God. (Is 52.8)
IV. Understanding the core concept and range of God as Redeemer (OT)
V. Concluding Remarks
2. Redemption could be experienced by individuals and by groups (e.g,
3. Sometimes the adversity was deserved/just (e.g., crime, sin, Exile),
and sometimes not (misfortune, oppression, Exodus).
4. It always involved subjugation to a undesired fate, often very abusive.
5. It required a kinsman with more than adequate resources, will, and
commitment to you (they didn't have to do it, remember?)
6. The payment was sometimes greater than the value of what was being
7. Redemption is the area from which the concept of resurrection of
the righteous arises (redemption from the grave).
8. In the sacrifice image, the offerer brought a sacrifice which "cost
something". In redemption, the rescuer invests personal resources and effort
which "cost something" to secure the release of the redeemed.
9. Redemption from oppressors often involved judgment and kinsman outrage.
10. By the close of the OT, Israel knew that her enemies included herself...
11. This would have actually resulted in 'equality'.
12. Redemption involves the beautiful concepts of
b. a rescuer who cares for you and takes the initiative in coming to
c. coming "home" to where you belong.