Posted By Thomas Perez. July 16th, 2011 at 7:51pm. Copyright 2011.
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:
“If there is either a soldier or a fisherman taken captive while on a royal campaign, a merchant redeems him and helps him to get back to his city–if there are sufficient means in his own estate for the redeeming, he himself shall redeem himself; if there are not sufficient means in his estate to redeem him, he shall be redeemed by his city’s temple; if there are not sufficient means in his city’s temple to redeem him, the palace shall redeem him; but his field, orchard, or house will not be given for his redemption. [Law of Hammurabi, LH 32, 1750 BC]
Rescue from involuntary captivity or slavery, by payment of a price
“If an obligation is outstanding against a man and he therefore sells his slave woman who has borne him children, the owner of the slave woman shall weigh and deliver the silver which the merchant weighed and delivered (as the loan) and he shall thereby redeem his slave woman. [LH 119, 1750 BC]
Recovery of confiscated property due to debt, by payment of a price
“If a man’s wife should steal something with a value greater than 300 shekels of lead from the house of another man…If her husband is in agreement, he shall hand over the stolen goods and he shall ransom her; he shall cut off her ears. If her husband does not agree to her ransom, the owner of the stolen goods shall take her and he shall cut off her nose. [MAL A 5, 1076 BC]
Rescue from penalty for a crime (slavery, marking), by payment of a fine
“If a man [wants to give in marriage] his debtor’s daughter who is residing in his house as a pledge, he shall ask permission of her father and then he shall give her to a husband. If her father does not agree, he shall not give her. If her father is dead, he shall ask permission of one of her brothers and the latter shall consult with her (other) brothers. If one brother so desires he shall declare, ‘I will redeem my sister within one month”; if he should not redeem here within one month, the creditor, if he so please, shall clear her of encumbrances and shall give her to a husband… [MAL A 48, 1076 BC]
Rescue from slavery/control due to debt, by payment of that debt
“If a man, who has not yet received his inheritance share, takes a life, they shall hand him over to the next-of-kin (“owner of life”). Should the next-of-kin so choose, he shall kill him, or, if he chooses to come to an accommodation, then he shall take his inheritance share. [MAL B 2, 1076 BC]
Rescue from penalty for a crime (death), by payment of a price (fine?)
“[If either] a man or a woman enters [another man’s] house and kills [either a man] or a woman, [they shall hand over] the manslayers [to the head of the household]; if he so chooses to come to an accommodation, he shall take [their property]; and if there is [nothing of value to give from the house] of the manslayers, either a son [or a daughter]… [MAL A 10, 1076 BC]
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.
“If a relative is murdered, the goel haddam, avenger of blood (usually the son of the deceased), has the duty to kill the murderer or a member of the latter’s clan (Num 35.19). In essence this redeems the blood of the dead clansman, that is, it restores the clan’s equilibrium and wholeness disrupted by the murder.” (NIDOTT) [cf. Gen 4.10: “And He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.]
“The avenger of blood is a relative of the slain who will take it on himself to protect the family rights, to avenge his relatives of the loss suffered by the family. In fact, the term go’el often translated “redeemer,” has this basic idea; the go’el is principally the “protector of family rights” (see Lev 25:48; Ruth 3:13). A redeemer is one who redeems the loss sustained by the family. This can be by payment of a price; it may also be in taking of life. In the latter case, one is an “avenger of blood” (go’el haddam vv. 19, 21). In his rage against the loss of a family member, the go’el haddam might rashly kill the offender before he found out the circumstances of the death. If the death was not premeditated, or was quite accidental, then the killing of the offending party would add wrong to wrong. Basically, then, the provision of the cities of asylum was another instance of the mercy of the Lord in his provisions for the needs of his people in the world setting in which they lived. We notice that this text does not demand that a relative act as a blood avenger; the assumption is that in this culture this is precisely what he will do. Given the culture, then, the provision is merciful and righteous. (EBCOT, in. loc. Num 35)
“While the biblical law clearly indicates the responsibility of the ‘blood avenger’ to avenge the death of a kinsman, this practice of blood feud could be disruptive to the administration of justice, and thus the six cities of refuge were established to provide a ‘cooling off’ phase as well as due process for the accused. Two witnesses were necessary to convict (Num 35:30), and then it became the responsibility of the ‘blood avenger’ to execute the felon (Num 35:19-21; Deut 19:12). No ransom for the convicted murderer was possible. This contrasts with laws formulated elsewhere in the ancient Near East. Both the Hittite laws and the Middle Assyrian laws provide for the payment of a ransom to buy back the life of the murderer.” [BBC, in. loc. Num 35]
Note also that this applies to less-than-murder legal situations:
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
Thou wilt pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me; For Thou art my strength. 5 Into Thy hand I commit my spirit; Thou hast ransomed me, O Lord, God of truth. (Ps 31.4-5)
Why dost Thou hide Thy face, And forget our affliction and our oppression? 25 For our soul has sunk down into the dust; Our body cleaves to the earth. 26 Rise up, be our help, And redeem us for the sake of Thy lovingkindness. (Ps 44.24ff)
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)
And do not hide Thy face from Thy servant, For I am in distress; answer me quickly. 18 Oh draw near to my soul and redeem it; Ransom me because of my enemies! (Ps 69.17)
(b) the wicked
Do not take my soul away along with sinners, Nor my life with men of bloodshed, 10 In whose hands is a wicked scheme, And whose right hand is full of bribes. 11 But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity; Redeem me, and be gracious to me. (Ps 26.9ff) Evil shall slay the wicked; And those who hate the righteous will be condemned. 22 The Lord redeems the soul of His servants; And none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned. (Ps 34.21f)
“So I will deliver you from the hand of the wicked, And I will redeem you from the grasp of the violent.” (Jer 15.21)
Redeem me from the oppression of man, That I may keep Thy precepts. (Ps 119.134)
23 Or, ‘Deliver me from the hand of the adversary,’ Or, ‘Redeem me from the hand of the tyrants’? (Job 6.23)
This is the way of those who are foolish, And of those after them who approve their words.. 14 As sheep they are appointed for Sheol; Death shall be their shepherd; And the upright shall rule over them in the morning; And their form shall be for Sheol to consume, So that they have no habitation. 15 But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol; For He will receive me. (Ps 49.15ff)
Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits; 3 Who pardons all your iniquities; Who heals all your diseases; 4 Who redeems your life from the pit; (Ps 103.2)
In famine He will redeem you from death, And in war from the power of the sword. (Job 5.20)
(e) punishment for sin
Israel, hope in the Lord; For with the Lord there is lovingkindness, And with Him is abundant redemption. 8 And He will redeem Israel from all his iniquities. (Ps 130.7f)
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)
Sometimes God redeems by legally prosecuting enemies and those who would steal land and orphans’ fields (Prov 23:10-11). Sometimes the redemption is accomplished by bringing judgment on the enemies for violations of rights. God “judged” Egypt (Ex 7.4; 12.12; Num 33.4), and future redemption is linked to vengeance on the oppressors (“For the day of vengeance was in my heart, and the year of my redemption has come. (Is 63.4)).
The goel was still always the nearest adult male kinsman with the right and the ability of redemption. Thus, God as goel at the very least points to God’s close relationship to Israel, probably as father (Isa 63:16) or husband (Isa 54:5-8).
It should be remembered that the enslavement of Israel by Egypt and other oppressions are not comparable to the indentured servitude of Leviticus 25 (vv 3, 53; cf. Deut 15:12-15). In the case of the indentured servant, the redeemer has no animosity toward the temporary master of his kinsman, but rather has the duty to pay off his kinsman’s debt or hire. Thus, the conditions of Leviticus 25 are not mirrored in the concept of redemption from Exile.
It seems obvious that the divine redemption from Egyptian slavery in order to bring Israel to Canaan became the model for the return from the Babylonian Exile (Jer 16:14-15 = 23:7-8). The most plausible socio-legal root for God’s redemption of Israel, whether from Egyptian slavery, Babylonian Exile, or anonymous oppressors and enemies, is the law of the blood redeemer. The goel haddam comes with a sword (Num 35:19, 21) and fury (Deut 19:6) to avenge his beloved relative, a portrait which is similar to the depiction of God as the redeeming, vengeful warrior in Isaiah (e.g., 49:25-26; 51:9-11; 59:16-20).
All socio-legal cases of goel, with the exception of cultic offerings, concern an impoverished Israelite (Leviticus 25) or one who is severely abused (requiring the intervention of the goel haddam). It is a logical step to include all the deprived members of society. Thus, it is not surprising that God is portrayed as the redeemer of the oppressed, the widow, the stranger, and the poor (Deut 24:17-18; Ps 72:12-14; Prov 23:10-11).
Ultimately, the association of God’s redemption with rescue and mercy gives the individual hope that God will redeem one from punishment for sin (Hos 7:13; Isa 44:22; Ps 130:7-8), and even from death (Hos 13:14; Ps 49:16; 103:4; Job 5:20; 33:28).
IV. Understanding the core concept and range of God as Redeemer (OT)
A. The core image:
Restoring someone or something to its intended status and condition,
by obtaining legal right over that someone/something,
(to which you are bound by kinship)
EITHER through investing personal resources of greater or equal value to the debt owed,
OR through personal legal and forceful effort of greater or equal power than that of the illegitimate captor,
often removing them/it from abusive/adverse (and unavoidable) treatment by a superior
and/or from a dispossessed/alien situation.
B. What were the classes of ‘adversaries’ we looked at in the intro:
The reality of oppression and capture
The reality of the ‘consequence engine’
The reality of voluntary slavery (cf. 2 Kgs 17.17: “and they sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD”)
The reality of alienation
C. Finding the range: applying this concept to sample statements of the OT:
“The angel who has redeemed me from all evil (Ge 48:16)
“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)
“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)
“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)
“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)
“In famine He will redeem you from death, And in war from the power of the sword. (Job 5:20)
“Or, ‘Deliver me from the hand of the adversary,’ Or, ‘Redeem me from the hand of the tyrants’? (Job 6:23)
“He has redeemed my soul from going to the pit, And my life shall see the light.’ (Job 33:28)
“But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol; For He will receive me.(Ps 49:15)
“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)
“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)
“Redeem me from the oppression of man, That I may keep Thy precepts. (Ps 119:134)
“And He will redeem Israel From all his iniquities. (Ps 130:8)
“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)
“For the Lord has ransomed Jacob, And redeemed him from the hand of him who was stronger than he. (Je 31:11)
“There you will be rescued; There the Lord will redeem you from the hand of your enemies. (Mic 4:10)
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
b. a rescuer who cares for you and takes the initiative in coming to free you
c. coming “home” to where you belong.