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A Note on “Ransom”


A wealth of Hebrew understanding pertaining to “redemption” lies behind lutron (“ransom”), a concept deployed by Jesus himself.


Note the three major Hebrew words for “redemption”:

1] pdh (padah)

2] kpr (kippur)

3] g’l (goel)


1: (pdh)  Redemption is a mighty act of God bringing deliverance from oppression, as in the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt and the house of bondage, and also as in deliverance from the power of death.


It stresses both a redemption out of the oppression of evil and out of the judgement of God upon it, but with a special emphasis on

(a)    the cost of redemption through the substitutionary offering of life,

(b)   the dramatic nature of the redeeming act as a sheer intervention (a “rescue mission”) on the part of God in human affairs.


It is an act of redemption from unlawful bondage, stripping the enthraller of usurped authority and vaunted right.


(There is no suggestion of a ransom being paid to someone.  This is a secular concept of redemption not found in scripture.)



2: (kpr)  This term speaks of the sacrificial aspect of redemption, the sacrifice by which propitiation is effected and the barrier of sin and guilt between God and humankind done away with (expiated.)


God is always the subject first and the object only secondarily (lest it appear that something other than God can avert God’s wrath.)


The emphasis here is atonement as judgement upon the wrong through the offering of life, as well as restoration to favour and holiness before God.



3: (g’l)  This term speaks of redemption out of destitution or forfeited rights or bondage, undertaken by an advocate who is related to the person in need either through kinship or covenant love.


Here the focus is on the person of the redeemer, the “goel.”  The redeemer claims the cause of the person in need as his own cause.




In the older testament all three overlap. All three are used to speak of the redemption of Israel out of Egypt.  All three are also used in Isaiah 40 (the promise of a new exodus when God will redeem his people through his anointed servant, the servant mediating the covenant, being afflicted with the judgements of God, and bearing the iniquities of the people as he is made an offering for sin.)  The newer testament doesn’t make systematic use of these three, but they are all taken for granted and woven together in the apostles’ understanding of Jesus Christ.