Root: פדה (padah)
Root: כפר (kopher)
Sounds like: paw’dah and koh’fehr
Today is my oldest daughter’s 18th birthday. Grace Anwen has been an incredible gift in my life. I love her beyond description, and I would lay down my life for her and her sister. Today is Resurrection Sunday, when many around the world celebrate Yeshua’s (Jesus’) immense sacrifice when He laid His life down, so that we could truly live. He broke the chains so we would no longer be slaves to death, but could live beyond it… back in the Presence of the Creator. But He had to pay an incredible ransom for each and every one of us… a redemption price that only He could pay.
We’ve already looked at the most common word translated as redeemed (ga’al), but two other prevalent words, which reflect the idea of a ransom, are kofer and padah. These two words are often translated interchangeably as either ransomed or redeemed.
Ransom and redeem are very close words. The payment of ransom is the action. To be redeemed means the ransom has been paid. God paid the price so that we could be called redeemed.
What does it mean to be ransomed? Well, consider the Hollywood view: a child of wealthy parents is taken hostage. The kidnappers demand money from the affluent family so they can “buy back” their child.
In the Bible God “buys back” His children so that they can be called Redeemed.
But what does God have to buy us back from?
In the Garden of Eden humans had a choice. They could remain as the children of God, walking alongside Him in the Garden, or they could choose to try to do life on their own.
They chose “life on their own”, attempting to become little gods of their own making…and making a large mess of the world in the process.
YHWH ransoms [podeh YHWH] the souls of His servants, and none of those who take refuge in Him will suffer for their guilt.
Essentially, humans kidnapped themselves from their Creator. Out of their own choosing they became slaves to sin and death. God had given them the choice, it was not what He wanted to happen, and He knew it was not what was best for humans. So He allowed them to kidnap themselves, but He also planned on paying the ransom to bring them back to Him… to pay for their mistakes. But that ransom had a pretty hefty buy-back price.
Paying Your Own Ransom
In the days of Moses, at census time, each individual twenty years old and over was to contribute a ransom for himself to YHWH. This ransom was to make atonement for sin and the payment was the same, whether you were rich or poor; each life had the same and equal value:
YHWH also spoke to Moses, saying, “When you take a census of the sons of Israel to count them, then each one of them shall give a ransom [ko’fehr] for himself to YHWH, when you count them, so that there will be no plague among them when you count them. This is what everyone who is counted shall give: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), half a shekel as a contribution to YHWH. Everyone who is counted, from twenty years old and over, shall give the contribution to YHWH. The rich shall not pay more, and the poor shall not pay less, than the half shekel, when you give the contribution to YHWH to make atonement for yourselves. And you shall take the atonement money from the sons of Israel and give it for the service of the tent of meeting, so that it may be a memorial for the sons of Israel before YHWH, to make atonement for yourselves.”
This offering was for an atonement… atoning for the poor choices they made, from Eden to the present day. Humans needed to be responsible and own up to their mistakes. And a regular ransom payment kept people’s awareness of their sins at the forefront.
Do Not Ask for a Ransom
God could ask for a ransom, but humans, who were all equal in the eyes of God, could not rightfully ask for a ransom from each other, because asking for a ransom was like asking for a bribe. It was to get something you didn’t deserve. It was taking something away from someone in order to benefit financially.
For I know your offences are many and your sins are great, you who are hostile to the righteous and accept bribes [ransom: kofehr], and turn away the poor from justice at the gate.
Therefore at such a time the prudent person keeps quiet, because it is an evil time.
Seek good and not evil, so that you may live; and so may YHWH God of armies be with you, just as you have said!
Hate evil, love good, and establish justice in the gate! Perhaps YHWH God of armies will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.
Humans, all equal in the eyes of God, had kidnapped themselves from their Creator; there was a cost to that decision. They needed rules to hold back the chaos. There were 613 laws set out in the Torah, such as the following:
‘If anyone kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death on the testimony of witnesses, but no person shall be put to death on the testimony of only one witness. Moreover, you shall not accept a ransom [kofehr] for the life of a murderer who is condemned to death, but he must be put to death.
There was no “pay back price” for murderers. Murderers, whether rich or poor, could not buy their way out of it.
Humans had found themselves enslaved to many things: their own sinful nature, their enemies, and death. So it’s not surprising that it was a common prayer to ask to be ransomed. They prayed to be redeemed from slavery and from exile: slavery to sin and exile from the Garden; slavery to the Egyptians and exile out of civilization and into the wilderness; slavery to the Assyrians, and exile out of the Northern Kingdom; slavery to Babylon and exile out of Jerusalem. Life was a series of servitude and exile for the Hebrew people.
Many times they felt abandoned by their God, but yet they still prayed to YHWH. Because who else could they turn to?
Why do You hide Your face and forget our affliction and oppression?
For our souls have sunk down into the dust; our bodies cling to the earth. Rise up, be our help, and ransom/redeem us [u-p’dehnu] because of Your mercy.
David, who was consistently in a muddle, constantly turned to God in prayer:
Psalm 69:16-18 (see also Psalm 25:19-22)
[David:] Answer me, YHWH, for Your mercy is good; according to the greatness of Your compassion, turn to me, and do not hide Your face from Your servant, for I am in distress; answer me quickly.
Come near to my soul and redeem it [g’alah]; ransom me [p’dehni] because of my enemies!
David prayed with assurance. He knew that God would, indeed, ransom them:
[David:] As for me, I shall call upon God, and YHWH will save me.
Evening and morning and at noon, I will complain and moan, and He will hear my voice.
He will redeem/ransom [padah] my soul in peace from the battle which is against me, for they are many who are aggressive toward me.
I Will Ransom Them
David’s assurance was justified. God had ransomed them before in Egypt (Micah 6:4) and He would ransom them again. During the time of the Prophets the people of YHWH faced the Assyrians and the Babylonians, amongst many other enemies. They felt the sting of defeat, but YHWH would rescue them:
[YHWH:] “So I will rescue you from the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem/ransom [u-f’ditika] you from the grasp of the violent.”
YHWH had no intention of letting His people stay under the yoke of oppression. He would free them at the expense of their enemies:
But now, this is what YHWH says, He who is your Creator, Jacob, and He who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you [g’al’tika]; I have called you by name; you are Mine!
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you.
For I am YHWH your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour; I have given Egypt as your ransom [kaf’r’ka], Cush and Seba in exchange for you.
Since you are precious in My sight, since you are honoured and I love you, I will give other people in your place and other nations in exchange for your life.
He Ransomed Us
Life in early Israel was fraught with danger. The Egyptians, the Canaanites, the Assyrians, the Moabites, the Babylonians, there was always an enemy that they needed God to redeem them from. And they were redeemed, over and over, by YHWH. Much of the Biblical poetry celebrated the fact that God redeemed them from their enemies.
The poetry of Zechariah had YHWH joyously announcing that He save them from their enemies and bring them back home:
[YHWH:] “And I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph, and I will bring them back, because I have had compassion on them; and they will be as though I had not rejected them, for I am YHWH their God and I will answer them…
…I will whistle for them and gather them together, for I have redeemed [p’ditim] them; and they will be as numerous as they were before.
When I scatter them among the peoples, they will remember Me in distant countries, and they with their children will live and come back.
I will bring them back from the land of Egypt and gather them from Assyria; and I will bring them into the land of Gilead and Lebanon until no room can be found for them…
…And I will strengthen them in YHWH, and in His name they will walk,” declares YHWH.
But the Hebrew people knew… they didn’t just need redemption from their enemies, they also need redemption from their sins:
I wait for YHWH my soul waits, and I wait for His word.
My soul waits in hope for the Lord more than the watchmen for the morning;
yes, more than the watchmen for the morning.
Israel, wait for YHWH; for with YHWH there is mercy, and with Him is abundant ransom [p’dut].
And He will ransom [yi-f’deh] Israel from all his guilty deeds.
Paying for all the guilt of Israel was no small redemption price. This was an abundant ransom that YHWH would pay… the steepest debt imaginable!
Ransomed from Death
There was redemption from enemies, redemption from sin, but the greatest ransom that needed to be paid was a redemption price for death.
Shall I ransom [ehf’dem] them from the power of Sheol?
Shall I redeem [eh-g’alem] them from death?
Death, where are your thorns?
Sheol, where is your sting?
Death was the greatest destruction. Eve and Adam were safe in Eden, but the moment they stepped foot out of the Garden they were subjected to death. Only God could save them now.
When Job suffered greatly he had three friends who tried to explain away the reasons for Job’s suffering. A fourth friend, Elihu, did not come up with reasons why Job was the cause of his own predicament, instead he presented the wonderment of God’s divine grace. He asked Job, “Why do you complain to Him [YHWH] that He does not give an account of all His doings?” (Job 33:13).
Does YHWH need to justify His actions to anybody? This is a God who saves us from death, what right do we have to demand anything else from Him? Elihu reflected on the mortality of humanity:
[Elihu to Job:] “A person is also rebuked by pain in his bed, and with constant complaint in his bones, so that his life loathes bread, and his soul, food that he should crave.
His flesh wastes away from sight, and his bones, which were not seen, stick out. Then his soul comes near to the pit, and his life to those who bring death.
If there is an interceding angel for him, one out of a thousand, to remind a person of what is right for him, and he is gracious to him, and says, ‘Free him from going down to the pit, I have found a ransom [kofehr]’; let his flesh become fresher than in youth, let him return to the days of his youthful vigour; then he will pray to God, and He will accept him, so that he may see His face with joy, and He will restore His righteousness to that person.
He will sing to people and say, ‘I have sinned and perverted what is right, and it is not proper for me. He has redeemed [ransomed: padah] my soul from going to the pit, and my life will see the light.’”
Elihu’s interceding angel found a ransom for Job’s life… a reason to celebrate youth and live joyfully. His soul would not be destined for the pit… His life would see the Light of God!
It was one thing to save people from their enemies, but to pay for their sins and ransom them from death had a steep redemption price. In fact it was a priceless request:
Psalm 49:7-10, 13-15
No one can by any means redeem another or give God a ransom [kaf’row] for him— for the redemption of his soul is priceless, and he should cease imagining forever— that he might live on eternally, that he might not undergo decay.
For he sees that even wise people die; the foolish and the stupid alike perish and leave their wealth to others…
…This is the way of those who are foolish, and of those after them who approve their words. Selah
Like sheep they sink down to Sheol; death will be their shepherd; and the upright will rule over them in the morning, and their form shall be for Sheol to consume so that they have no lofty home.
But God will ransom [yi-f’deh] my soul from the power of Sheol, for He will receive me. Selah
We are like sheep with death being our shepherd, but God would ransom our souls from Sheol and offer Himself as our Shepherd. YHWH would save us from the pit, but how? What was this priceless redemption fee that had to be paid?
Redemption Price for the First Born Son
The “redemption price” was the cost of the ransom, and according to the Torah every firstborn from the womb, whether human or animal, had a redemption price.
God demanded the firstborn be dedicated to Him:
Every firstborn of the womb of all flesh, whether human or animal, which they offer to YHWH, shall be yours; however you must redeem [redeem-redeem: padoh ti-f’deh et] the human firstborn, and the firstborn of unclean animals you shall redeem [ti-f’deh].
As to their redemption [u-f’duyaw] price, from a month old you shall redeem [ti-f’deh] them, by your assessment, five shekels in silver by the shekel of the sanctuary, which is twenty gerahs. But the firstborn of an ox, the firstborn of a sheep, or the firstborn of a goat, you shall not redeem [lo ti-f’deh]; they are holy. You shall sprinkle their blood on the altar and offer up their fat in smoke as an offering by fire, for a soothing aroma to YHWH.
God hated human sacrifice, but a sacrifice had to be made. Instead of death they could pay a redemption price for their unholiness. But sheep and ox and goats were holy, they could pay the price, and they did.
Lambs, goats and oxen were the traditional animals used in ancient Jewish sacrifices. The lamb was sacrificed for the Passover so that all the firstborns would be saved. YHWH announced that all firstborns, animal and human, would be destroyed in Egypt as the tenth plague… but He provided a way of protection for the Hebrew people. They were to sacrifice a lamb and paint its blood on the door-frame, and death would pass-over the home and they would be saved.
Yeshua: Ransom Payer
Centuries later Yeshua (Jesus), the firstborn, would become the sacrificial lamb to pay the redemption price. He preached humility and kindness and servitude, and He taught His disciples that He would lay down His life for the lives of others:
Mark 10:42-45 (see also Matthew 20:24-28)
Calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles domineer over them; and their people in high position exercise authority over them. But it is not this way among you; rather, whoever wants to become prominent among you shall be your servant; and whoever wants to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom [Greek: lytron] for many.”
And that is exactly what happened. Yeshua was betrayed by the disciple Judas for 30 pieces of silver, arrested by the Romans, put through a set of mock trials, and sent to His execution on the cross:
Now there was also an inscription above Him, “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.”
One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Messiah? Save Yourself and us!”
But the other responded, and rebuking him, said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our crimes; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!”
And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour, because the sun was obscured; and the veil of the temple was torn in two. And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” Having said this, He breathed His last.
Yeshua was the innocent holy One, the pure sacrifice to pay the redemption fee. His final prayer, “into Your hands I commit My spirit,” was actually a recitation of one of the Psalms. Every Pharisee in the crowd would have recognized Yeshua’s words and they would have also known the next line:
Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have ransomed me [paditah], O YHWH, God of truth.
These are the words Yeshua (Jesus) spoke on the cross!! In other words… Yeshua WAS the ransom. There was a cost and He paid it dearly so that we could be free.
John the Baptizer called Yeshua “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Yeshua became the final Passover Lamb who would give His life so that death would pass over us. We would go to the grave, like Yeshua did but like Yeshua, we would not stay there. By His sacrifice the chains of death were broken and we were free!
1 Peter 1:17-21
…You were not ransomed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of the Messiah. For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
The cost for your life wasn’t paid in money (there was not enough worth in money), it was paid in a life… a life for a life. Life is the thing that has the most value, far beyond anything else. It is the only thing worth dying for.
And Yeshua did just that. He came exactly when He needed to, and died so we could live.
1 Timothy 2:6
For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and mankind, the man Messiah Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.
How beautiful is the gift we’ve been given… a chance to walk in the Garden with our Creator, face to face, because Yeshua gave His life in order to break the chains that tethered us to death. We’re free, folks! Praise be to YHWH and the Son that set us free!
Next week: Revisiting WOMB