By Olen Holderby
Isaiah 59:20 predicts, “And the redeemer shall come to Zion”; however, the word “redeemer” is not found in the New Testament, though the idea is there. Paul tells us that the Lord “gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity” (Fit. 2:14). The one who redeems would certainly be a redeemer. One who pays the price of redemption would, also, be called a redeemer; and Peter tells us that this is what Christ did (1 Pet. 1:18-19). But, do we really comprehend these terms and their implications?
Old Testament Background
We introduce, just here, three Hebrew words which have to do with our subject:
1. Padah “Buy (off), ransom, redeem” (verb).
2. Gaal To “act as kinsman, redeem” (verb).
3. Gael Sometimes used to refer to the one doing the redeeming, thus “redeemer” (noun).
Both padah and gaal are used to suggest the idea of “release by the payment of a price,” or “buy back” (ISBE, 4:61). A good understanding of these Hebrew words, in their Old Testament setting, can be highly beneficial.
Redemption of the “first-born”: “First-born” males of both man and beast were to belong to the Lord, set apart to his service (Exod.13:2, 12). This was alluded to in Luke 2:23, at the birth of Jesus. “First-born” clean animals were to be sacrificed on the altar, to the Lord; but “first-born” unclean animals could not be sacrificed. They had to be redeemed by clean animals which could be sacrificed (Exod. 13:13). Such an animal, not redeemed, must die; rendered of no use to its owner. The animal used to redeem the unclean animal would be the redemption price to be paid.
“First-born” male children could not be sacrificed; but were to be redeemed (Num.18:15ff). “Five shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary” was the redemption price for each such male child. This same redemption price is used in reference to the Levites (Num. 3:44-51); and this was given to the priests.
Please notice that in each case a redemption price was to be paid; and some one had to pay that price! Whoever paid that price could be referred to as a redeemer.
Redemption of land: First, we should remember that they were not to sell the land in perpetuity; but, one might be forced to sell because of poverty (Lev. 25:33). There were three ways in which the land might be redeemed: (1) A kinsman might redeem it (Lev. 25:23ff; Ruth 2:20; 3:9, 12, 13; 4:lff). This kinsman would be called the gael (the one paying the price), the redeemer. (2) The seller himself, could redeem his land if be became able to do so. (3) If the first two options were not used, the land remained with the buyer until Jubliee (end of 50 years); then, it would return to its original owner (Lev. 25:10, 28). In each of these cases there was a price to pay and someone had to pay that price; that price payer would be a redeemer.
Redemption of dwellings: Houses within city walls were to be redeemed within one year of the date of sale. If outside the city walls, it could be redeemed at any time. “Jubilee” would return them to their original owners. We have the same reasoning here as with the “first-born” and with lands (Lev. 25).
All this shows at least three things: (1) “Redemption” refers to the recovery of persons or things, (2) A redemption price was necessary for this recovery, and (3) An intermediary (gael) acted to secure the recovery or redemption.
Applied to God’s Dealings with Israel
Both padah and gaal are used to refer to salvation wrought by God for Israel. The Lord, as the kinsman practicing the gaal, is seen in Exodus 6:6; 15:13; while he is seen in Deuteronomy 7:8 as paying the ransom, buying them off (padah) from under Pharaoh. Many passages could be cited, showing Israel being redeemed from various calamities, but deliverance from Egyptian bondage is the central theme. “Redemption,” in the Old Testament is not to be thought of as merely deliverance; it also reflects very pointedly on the “mode” of deliverance more inclusive than what we, today, may think.
Though space will not permit us to discuss it, Galatians 3:24, properly viewed, reflects this same thought. They simply could not effect redemption for themselves; thus, some one had to make arrangements, pay the price, for their redemption.
Gael is often applied to the Lord in the Old Testament (see Job 19:25; Ps. 19:14; Isa. 41:14; Jer. 50:34, etc). With this, the idea of redemption is carried to its highest level. God speaks of himself as their “kinsman,” arranging their redemption, and paying the ransom price. However, we must not ever forget that Israel had certain conditions to be met to show their acceptance and their appreciation of the offered redemption.
Out of this background comes at least two things: (1) Moses’ instructions to the Jews concerning the redemption of the “first-born,” land, and houses. We have already discussed these. (2) Old Testament prophecy of a future Redeemer (Isa. 59:20; Rom. 11:26). Let number two register well with us!
Redemption in the New Testament
The New Testament uses several Greek words refer-ring to redemption, reflecting the same meanings as their Hebrew counterparts.
We have already noticed that Christ gave himself as a ransom for our iniquities; He substituted himself for the price which we were “suppose” to pay (Tit. 2:14). We have also noticed Peter’s view of the same thought (1 Pet. 1:18-19). In our deep poverty we could not redeem ourselves; thus, Christ as our kinsman, steps forward and pays the price in our stead. Paul expresses agreement with Peter in both Ephesians 1:7 and Romans 3:24-26. “Ye are bought with a price,” says Paul (1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23). The price is not identified in these verses, but there can be no doubt, “.. . for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood. . .” (Rev. 5:9).
“Redemption” is redemption from sin, from all phases of the bondage to which sin confines us. We are in the power of the archenemy of God, Satan; but, our eyes can be opened, we can be turned from the power of Satan unto God, and receive the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 26:18).
Now, do we get the picture? Christ is united as both the padah and gaal, recovering us from sin, by playing the role of our “kinsman” (gael), offering himself as the intermediary, securing redemption for us (Heb. 2:14-18; Phil. 2:6-8). Us! We could not do it for ourselves; we were lost and doomed to eternal torment. Our kinsman steps for-ward and obtains eternal redemption for us (Heb. 9:12). True, as Israel of old, we have conditions to be met to show our acceptance and our appreciation of the offered redemption. Thanks to God, Christ is the padah, the goal, the gael all, for us!
Ought we not, then, to be eternally grateful, and ever happy to do his bidding? All else is nothing (Heb. 12:1-2).
Guardian of Truth XLI: 20 p. 18-19
October 16, 1997