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Redeem, Redemption, Redeemer

Holman Bible Dictionary

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To pay the required price to secure the release of a convicted criminal, the process therein involved, and the person making the payment. In early use the idea and the words related to legal and commercial activities. They provided biblical writers with one of the most basic and dynamic images for describing God's saving activity toward mankind.

Old Testament Three Hebrew words express the legal and commercial use of the redemptive concept. Padah was used only in relation to the redemption of persons or other living beings. For example, if a person owned an ox which was known to be dangerous but did not keep the ox secured and the ox gored the son or daughter of a neighbor, both the ox and the owner would be stoned to death. If, however, the father of the slain person offered to accept an amount of money, the owner could pay the redemption price and live ( Exodus 21:29-30; compare Exodus 21:32 ). Numbers 18:15-17 shows how religious practice adopted such language.

The Hebrew ga' al indicated a redemption price in family members involving the responsibility of a next-of-kin. See Jeremiah 32:6-15 ). Such commercial practices easily passed over into religious concepts. God would redeem Israel from her iniquities.

The third Hebrew word kipper or “cover” came to extensive use in strictly religious concepts and practices. It is the word from which “Kippur” is derived in “Yom Kippur,” Day of Atonement, or Day of Covering, perhaps the most sacred of the holy days in Judaism. The verbal form in the Old Testament is always used in a religious sense such as the covering of sin or the making of atonement for sin. See Amos 5:12 ) or ransom (Exodus 21:30 ). In Psalm 49:7-8 it is used in the sense of ransom in association with padah (redeem).

The doctrine of redemption in the Old Testament is not derived from abstract philosophical thought but from Hebrew concrete thinking. Religious redemption language grows out of the custom of buying back something which formerly belonged to the purchaser but for some reason had passed into the ownership of another. The original owner could regain ownership by paying a redemption price for it. In the Old Testament the terms and ideas are frequently used symbolically to emphasize dramatically the redemptive or saving activity of God. The basic Old Testament reference is the Exodus. At the sea God redeemed His people from slavery in Egypt (for example, Exodus 6:6; Exodus 15:13; Deuteronomy 7:8; Psalm 77:15 ).

God similarly redeemed Israel from the Babylonian captivity by giving Egypt, Ethiopia, and Seba to King Cyrus (Isaiah 43:3; compare Isaiah 48:20; Isaiah 51:11; Isaiah 62:12 ). Job knew that he had a living Redeemer (Job 19:25 ). Psalmists prayed for redemption from distress (Psalm 26:11; Psalm 49:15 ) and testified to God's redeeming work (Psalm 31:5; Psalm 71:23; Psalm 107:2 ). The Old Testament witness is that God is “my strength and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14 ).

New Testament The New Testament centers redemption in Jesus Christ. He purchased the church with His own blood (Acts 20:28 ), gave His flesh for the life of the world (John 6:51 ), as the Good Shepherd laid down His life for His sheep (John 10:11 ) and demonstrated the greatest love by laying down His life for His friends (John 15:13 ). The purpose of Jesus in the world was to make a deliberate sacrifice of Himself for human sin. He did something sinful people could not do for themselves. He brought hope to sinners, providing redemption from sin and fellowship with the Eternal Father. As the Suffering Servant, His was a costly sacrifice, the shameful and agonizing death of a Roman cross. New Testament redemption thus speaks of substitutionary sacrifice demonstrating divine love and righteousness. It points to a new relationship to God, the dynamic of a new life, God's leniency in the past, and the call for humility for the future.

In other ways and language the centrality of redemption through the death of Jesus Christ is expressed throughout the New Testament from the Lamb of God who lifts up and carries away the sin of the world (John 1:29 ) to the redeeming Lamb praised by a multitude because He was slain and by His blood redeemed unto God's people of every kindred, tongue, and nation (Revelation 5:8-14 ). See Christ; Jesus; Atonement; Reconciliation.

Ray Summers

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Redeem, Redemption, Redeemer'. Holman Bible Dictionary.​dictionaries/​eng/​hbd/​r/redeem-redemption-redeemer.html. 1991.