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Redeemer, Redemption

REDEEMER, REDEMPTION. Redemption is deliverance from the power of an alien dominion and enjoyment of the resulting freedom. In its original sense and in its Biblical usage redemption is intimately associated with the ideas of ransom and substitution. It often involves the idea of restoration to one who possesses a more fundamental right or interest. The heart of the Biblical message of redemption is the deliverance of the people of God from the bondage of sin by the perfect substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ and their consequent restoration to God and His heavenly kingdom. A redeemer is one who possesses the right or who exercises the right of redemption. The Bible presents Christ as the redeemer of God’s elect.

1. The Biblical data. Generally speaking the word “redeem” in the OT is the tr. of the words פָּדָה, H7009, and גָּאַל֒, H1457. The former was used for the money payments required by law in Israel for the redemption of the first-born (Exod 13:2, 11-16), i.e., the payments which released from the obligation imposed after the Exodus that every first-born son and male animal be dedicated to the service of God (Exod 21:8; Lev 25:47-49; 27:27; Num 3:46-49; 18:15ff.). The word פָּדָה, H7009, was used also of the release of persons from slavery (Exod 21:8; Lev 25:47-49). The latter word, גָּאַל֒, H1457, was used of the recovery of property which had passed into other hands (Lev 25:26; Ruth 4:4ff.) and also of the commutation of a vow (Lev 27:13, 15, 19, 20) or a tithe (27:31). God is spoken of as the redeemer (go’el) of Israel, esp. in Isaiah. Outside of Isaiah go’el is applied to God (Job 19:25; Pss 19:14; 78:35; Prov 23:11; Jer 50:34).

In the OT the idea of redemption is closely associated with the laws and customs of the Israelite people. If a life was taken, a kinsman had the right of avenging or redeeming the blood of the victim (Num 5:8; 1 Kings 16:11). According to the theocratic arrangement in Israel, the land belonged to God and the Israelite families only possessed the right to use the fruit of the land (usifruct). If a family forfeited this use because its parcel of land had to be sold or because there was no heir, the parcel was returned to the family at the year of jubilee, which came every fifty years (Lev 25:8-17). Prior to this year the nearest kinsman had the right and the responsibility to redeem the property, i.e., to liquidate the debt so that the property might be restored to its original owner (25:23-28). Closely related to this custom was that of Levirate marriage. The brother-in-law or other near kinsman of someone who had died without leaving a male heir was obliged to marry the widow of the deceased in order to preserve the family name and property rights. In the marriage of Boaz and Ruth both of the above customs were involved. The idea of redemption also appears when a person has been deprived of something which belongs to him as part of his personal integrity. Thus Naomi called the son born to Boaz and Ruth a redeemer because he delivered her from the reproach she had incurred because her family had no surviving male heir (Ruth 4:14). The birth of an heir now delivered her honor, as it were, from an alien dominion and restored it to her.


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