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פִּדְיוֹן – ransom, redemption price

Semantic Fields: Deliverance   
Author(s): Alison Gray
First published: 2007-08-31
Last update: 2024-06-30 (Raymond de Hoop)
Citation: Alison Gray, פִּדְיוֹן – ransom, redemption price,
               Semantics of Ancient Hebrew Database (https://pthu.github.io/sahd), 2007 (update: 2024)

For a fuller discussion of the lexical field ‘Deliverance’ as a whole, see on this site the ‘Overview of SAHD entries for ‘Deliverance’ words by Graham I. Davies.

Introduction

Grammatical type: n.m. Occurrences: 2x HB (1/0/1); 0x Sir; 0x Qum; 0x inscr. (Total: 2).

  • Torah: Exod 21:30.
  • Ketubim: Ps 49:9.

Text doubtful:

B.1 פִּדְיוֹם in the MT of Num 3:49 is presumably intended as a by-form of פִּדְיוֹן (for nouns with afformative ם-, see GK §85t). But it is more likely a corruption of פְּדוּיִם (cf. Sam) by metathesis in the consonantal text.

Qere/Ketiv: none

1. Root and Comparative Material

A.1 See פדה: Root and Comparative Material.

2. Formal Characteristics

פִּדְיוֹן is a qitlān form (or qatalān); see Joüon and Muraoka, GBH, §88Mb-c.

3. Syntagmatics

A.1 פִּדְיוֹן is the subject of the verbs יקר, ‘to be precious’, and חדל, ‘to be lacking’ (Ps 49:9).

A.2 פִּדְיוֹן is the object of the verb נתן, ‘to give’ (Exod 21:30).

A.3 פִּדְיוֹן is nomen regens of נַפְשׁוֹ, ‘his life’, referring to the victim of a goring-ox (Exod 21:30) and of נַפְשָׁם, ‘their life’ (Ps 49:9), subject not specified, but ‘human beings’ is implied by 49:8.

4. Ancient Versions

a. Septuagint (LXX):

  • λύτρον, ‘sum payable as ransom’ pl.: Exod 21:30;
  • λύτρωσις, ‘act of redemption’: Ps 49:9.

A.1 The two renderings divide equally between ‘price of redemption’ and ‘act of redemption’.

B.1 According to Field ἄλλος, ‘another’, represented פִּדְיוֹן in Ps 49:9 by ἀντίλυτρον, but as he observes this is more likely to be a displaced rendering of כֹּפֶר in v. 8.

b. Peshitta (Pesh):

  • ܦܘܪܩܢܐ (pwrqnʾ ): Exod 21:30; Ps 49:9;

c. Targum (Tg: O/N/PsJ/K):

  • פורקנא, ‘redemption, salvation’: Exod 21:30O,N,PsJ; Ps 49:9K.

d. Vulgate (Vg):

  • pretium, ‘price’: Exod 21:30;
  • pretium redemptionis, ‘redemption price’: Ps 49:9.

5. Lexical/Semantic Fields

A.1 See פדה: Lexical/Semantic Fields.

A.2 פִּדְיוֹן is closely associated with כפר, ‘ransom price’ (Exod 21:30, Ps 49:8-9), which has its usual non-cultic sense.

6. Exegesis

A.1 פִּדְיוֹן (Exod 21:30; Ps 49:9) seems to be synonymous with פדוים, although both times it occurs specifically with נפשׁ. Exod 21:30 concerns the owner of a dangerous ox which has not been kept secure and has killed a human. The owner is subject to the death penalty, but he may be allowed to pay a ransom. This practice is found elsewhere in the Ancient Near East, in the Laws of Eshnunna (§54) and in the Code of Hammurapi (§251). The פדיון (ransom) therefore, is the price (כפר) a man must pay for the victim’s life. In Ps 49:9, פדיון also seems to mean ‘price’, although it is in a different context. Psalm 49 is a Wisdom Psalm on life and death, particularly focussing on wealth and power. It clearly states that a brother cannot redeem (פדה) a man (Ps 49:8). He cannot give God his price (כפרו), which is presumably his ransom price. פדיון then qualifies כפרו in the preceding verse. In the face of death, wealth will not help you, for the value (פדיון) of (eternal) life (v. 9) is too great – it is something which only God can give (v. 15). This use of פדיון is very similar to the socio-legal usage and leads to an almost literal understanding of God paying a ransom price to the power of Sheol, which is not found explicitly elsewhere in the HB (but cf. Hos 13:14).

A.2 The contexts suggest that while the emphasis of פְּדוּת is on the power of redemption/to redeem and it is always used in relation to God, פִּדְיוֹן on the other hand is used with human subjects. It denotes an actual ransom ‘price’ given in exchange for life (Exod 21:30), as is פדוים in Num 3:46-51.

7. Conclusion

פִּדְיוֹן means the price that is paid for the redemption of a life. Neither of its two occurrences is in a cultic context. This contrasts with the wholly cultic use of פדוים.

Bibliography

For the abbreviations see the List of Abbreviations.

Cazelles 2001
Henri Cazelles, ‘פדה’, TDOT 11:483-90.
Gray 2016
Alison Gray, ‘פדה’, ThWQ 3:259-63.
Hubbard 1997
Robert L. Hubbard, ‘פדה’, NIDOTTE 3:578-82.
Stamm 1940
Johann J. Stamm, Erlösen und Vergeben im Alten Testament, Bern: Francke.
Stamm 1976
Johann J. Stamm, ‘פדה’, THAT 2:389-406.
Semantics of Ancient Hebrew Database