The Great Irruption - The Work of Christ

Redemption, Ransom (OT)

I. Introduction

The reality of oppression

The reality of the 'consequence engine'

The reality of voluntary slavery

The reality of alienation

II. Redemption in the ANE:

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:

Recovery of confiscated property due to debt, by payment of a price
  Rescue from penalty for a crime (slavery, marking), by payment of a fine
  Rescue from slavery/control due to debt, by payment of that debt
  Rescue from penalty for a crime (death), by payment of a price (fine?)  
  Rescue from penalty for a crime (death), by payment of a price (fine?)  
III. OT usage
  A. The terms:
  1. Ga'al - redemption, strictly based on goel kinship (not found in ANE):
  "to do the part of the kinsman and thus to redeem his kin from difficulty or danger" [TWOT]

2. Padah - redemption, general, but sometimes weakened to just 'deliver', found all over the ANE:

B. Where this was applied legally in the OT (text modified from ABD):
  1. Land and Houses. Physical property such as land and houses could also be reclaimed through monetary payment. The Israelites were considered tenants on God's land, with the right to produce. Therefore, transfer of property always reverted to the original tenant or his heirs at the jubilee (Lev 25:8-23). If an impoverished Israelite (termed "brother" in Leviticus 25) was forced to sell his land to raise cash, his near redeemer (i.e., kinsman) was supposed to redeem it (v 25). If the Israelite did not have a redeemer, but had subsequently gained enough wealth, then of course he himself could redeem it (vv 26-27); otherwise, the land would automatically return to him at the jubilee year (v 28). In contrast, Eshnunna #39 (Babylonia, 1770 BC) states that a man only had the right to redeem his house when the purchaser wished to sell it.

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 20 percent.

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.

Do not move the ancient boundary, Or go into the fields of the fatherless; 11 For their Redeemer is strong; He will plead their case against you. (Prov 23.10, with God as redeemer, cf. Prov 22.23)

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 King)

C. God as Redeemer
  1. In individual circumstances:
  "The concept that God was the ultimate redeemer-rescuer of the individual and of the collective body from adversity was deeply entrenched in Israelite thought already during the pre-exilic period. Jacob's blessing of Ephraim and Manasseh (Gen 48:16) provides a good illustration in its reference to "the angel who redeemed (g'l) me from all evil" (cf. Isa 29:22, "The Lord who redeemed [pdh] Abraham"). God redeems (pdh) from unspecified "troubles" (2 Sam 4:9; 1 Kgs 1:29; Ps 25:22). [ABD]

People prayed to God concerning redemption from

(a) enemies
(b) the wicked (c) oppressors (d) death/grave (e) punishment for sin
  2. The Exodus (God as goel in Exodus 6.6f)
  "Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, 'I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. 7 'Then I will take you for My people, and I will be your God; and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. (Ex 6.6ff)

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, Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, p.23]

3. The restoration from the Exile:
  This is what the LORD says- your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: "For your sake I will send to Babylon and bring down as fugitives all the Babylonians, in the ships in which they took pride. 15 I am the LORD, your Holy One, Israel's Creator, your King." 16 This is what the LORD says- he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, 17 who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: 18 "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. (Is 43.14ff)

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)

4. The eschatological future:
  I will signal for them and gather them in. Surely I will redeem them; they will be as numerous as before. 9 Though I scatter them among the peoples, yet in distant lands they will remember me. They and their children will survive, and they will return. (Zech 10.8)

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)

D. Observations:


IV. Understanding the core concept and range of God as Redeemer (OT)

    A. The core image:
    1. Restoring someone or something to its intended status and condition,
    2. by obtaining legal right over that someone/something,
    3. (to which you are bound by kinship)
    4. EITHER through investing personal resources of greater or equal value to the debt owed,
    5. OR through personal legal and forceful effort of greater or equal power than that of the illegitimate captor,
    6. often removing them/it from abusive/adverse (and unavoidable) treatment by a superior
    7. and/or from a dispossessed/alien situation.

  B. What were the classes of 'adversaries' we looked at in the intro:
    D. Finding the range: applying this concept to sample statements of the OT:
    1. "The angel who has redeemed me from all evil (Ge 48:16)

    3. "And you shall redeem with a lamb the first offspring from a donkey; and if you do not redeem it, then you shall break its neck. You shall redeem all the first-born of your sons. (Ex 34:20)

    5. "or his uncle, or his uncle's son, may redeem him, or one of his blood relatives from his family may redeem him; or if he prospers, he may redeem himself. (Le 25:49)

    7. "but because the Lord loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the Lord brought you out by a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. (Dt 7:8)

    9. "And David answered Rechab and Baanah his brother, sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, and said to them, 'As the Lord lives, who has redeemed my life from all distress, (2 Sa 4:9)

    11. "In famine He will redeem you from death, And in war from the power of the sword. (Job 5:20)

    13. "Or, 'Deliver me from the hand of the adversary,' Or, 'Redeem me from the hand of the tyrants'? (Job 6:23)

    15. "He has redeemed my soul from going to the pit, And my life shall see the light.' (Job 33:28)

    17. "But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol; For He will receive me.(Ps 49:15)

    19. "He will redeem my soul in peace from the battle which is against me, For they are many who strive with me.(Ps 55:18)

    21. "So He saved them from the hand of the one who hated them, And redeemed them from the hand of the enemy. (Ps 106:10)

    23. "Redeem me from the oppression of man, That I may keep Thy precepts. (Ps 119:134)

    25. "And He will redeem Israel From all his iniquities. (Ps 130:8)

    27. "So I will deliver you from the hand of the wicked And I will redeem you from the grasp of the violent." (Je 15:21)

    29. "For the Lord has ransomed Jacob, And redeemed him from the hand of him who was stronger than he. (Je 31:11)

    31. "There you will be rescued; There the Lord will redeem you from the hand of your enemies. (Mic 4:10)

    33. Woe to them, for they have strayed from Me! Destruction is theirs, for they have rebelled against Me! I would redeem them, but they speak lies against Me. 14 And they do not cry to Me from their heart When they wail on their beds; For the sake of grain and new wine they assemble themselves, They turn away from Me.(Hos 7.13--about the Northern Kingdom, before the Assyrian captivity)


V. Concluding Remarks

1. The concept of redemption was rooted in (a) legal practice and (b) the Exodus. The average Israelite would have been repeatedly reminded of this in daily economic and religious life. And this familiarity shows up in the spiritual lives of the psalmists, as they call upon God to redeem them from the situations they find themselves in.

2. Redemption could be experienced by individuals and by groups (e.g, the nation).

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 redeemed.

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

a. freedom

b. a rescuer who cares for you and takes the initiative in coming to free you

c. coming "home" to where you belong.

From: The Christian ThinkTank...[] (Reference Abbreviations)