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גְּאֻלָּה – (price/right of) redemption

Semantic Fields: Deliverance   
Author(s): Alison Gray
First published: 2007-08-01
Last update: 2023-10-01 (Raymond de Hoop)
Citation: Alison Gray, גְּאֻלָּה – (price/right of) redemption,
               Semantics of Ancient Hebrew Database (, 2007 (update: 2023)

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.


Grammatical type: n.f.
Occurrences: 14x HB (9/3/2); 0x Sir; 2x Qum; 0x inscr. (Total: 16).

  • Torah: Lev 25:24, 26, 29 (2x), 31, 32, 48, 51, 52;
  • Nebiim: Jer 32:7, 8; Ezek 11:15;
  • Ketubim: Ruth 4:6, 7;
  • Qum: 4Q504 5 ii 4; 4Q506 124:4;
  • Text doubtful: Ezek 11:15; 4Q504 5:ii.4.

Text Doubtful

A.1 אַנְשֵׁי גְאֻלָּתְךָ ‘men of your redemption’ in Ezek 11:15 is difficult, reflected by the disagreement in the Versions: οἱ ἄνδρες τῆς αἰχμαλωσίας σου (LXX) and ܐܢܫܐ ܕܫܒܝܬܟ (ʾnšʾ dšbytk) (Pesh) ‘men of your captivity’, reading גָלוּתְךָ ‘your fellow exiles’ (root גלה), whereas the Vg has viri propinqui tui ‘your kindred’, and Tg קריבך ‘your relatives’, agreeing with MT (so BDB, 145). See Exegesis, A.5.

A.2 4Q504 5:ii.4 נהגה גאל[תנו —] from a speech addressed to God, has been reconstructed using a parallel text 4Q506 124:4 ׄ[... נהג]ה֯ גאלתנׄו, ‘let us/we will celebrate our redemption’.

Qere/Ketiv: none.

1. Root And Comparative Material

A.1 See גאל, 1. Root And Comparative Material.

A.2 The theological meaning of גְּאֻלָּה, ‘redemption’ (political liberation and independence) can also be found on ‘Freedom’ and ‘Redemption’ coins from the First Revolt against Rome (AD 66-70), bearing the inscription לגאלת ציון, ‘for the redemption of Zion’ and coinage from the Bar Kochba revolt (AD 132-5) with the inscription שנת אחת לגאלת ישראל ‘year one of the redemption of Israel’ (for detailed references see Schürer 1973:605-06). Similar expressions (always with ישראל) occur in the dates of legal documents from the period of the Second Revolt found in the caves of Wadi Murabaʿat (Mur 22 1:1; 24 2:2, 4:2, 5:1; 29 1:1; 30 2:1[8]; very likely also in other places where the papyrus is damaged), again corresponding to חרות in some similar Aramaic documents (DJD ii:118-48). DCH ii:296, also refers to another occurrence in a 'Bar Kochba IOU' (further examples [DJD ii:139 n. 2] and discussion in Horbury 2011).

2. Formal Characteristics

A.1 qetullā form (Joüon-Muraoka, GBH, §88Ck). It always occurs in the singular in the OT. This formation is found with a number of other legal terms (see further Horst 1961b:153 n. 21).

3. Syntagmatics

A.1 גְּאֻלָּה is several times the subject of verb היה (Lev 25:29 [2x], 31, 32, 48).

A.2 גְּאֻלָּה is the object of verb נתן, ‘to give, grant’ (Lev 25:24); מצא (Lev 25:26, + כְדֵי); שוב hiph. (Lev 25:51, 52); גאל (Ruth 4:6); and חוג (4Q504 5ii:4; 4Q506 124:4).

A.3 גְּאֻלָּה is nomen regens of עוֹלם, ‘the right of redemption for ever’ (Lev 25:32); and it occurs with the suffixes ‘his, its’ referring to a piece of land (Lev 25:26), a house (Lev 25:29 [2x]) or an enslaved person (Lev 25:51, 52); ‘your’ referring to Ezekiel (Ezek 11:15); ‘my’ referring to the next of kin (Ruth 4:6); and ‘our’ referring to the speakers of the ‘the Words of the Luminaries’ (members of the Qumran community? 4Q504 5:ii.4; 4Q506 124:4).

A.4 גְּאֻלָּה is nomen rectum of כְּדֵי, ‘according to the sufficiency of redemption’ (Lev 25:26); מִשְׁפַּט (לִקְנוֹת +), ‘the right of redemption (to buy)’ (Jer 32:7); and, if the text is correct, אַנְשֵׁי ‘men of your redemption/kin group’ (Ezek 11:15).

A.5 גְּאֻלָּה occurs in the nominal clauses: לְךָ מִשְׁפַּט הַגְּאֻלָּה לִקְנוֹת, ‘the right of redemption to buy is yours’ (Jer 32:7); and לְךָ הַגְּאֻלָּה, ‘the right of redemption is yours’ (Jer 32:8).

A.6 גְּאֻלָּה is followed by the prepositions: לְ, ‘to’ of possession + 3 sf. ‘it’, referring to the house(s) earlier in the verse (Lev 25:31), לְ + לְוִיִּם, ‘the Levites’ (Lev 25:32); לְ + 3 sf. ‘him’, referring to one’s brother (אָח) from v. 47 (Lev 25:48); לְ + 2 sf. ‘you’, referring to Jeremiah (v. 6) (Jer 32:8); לְ + 2 sf. ‘you’, referring to Boaz (v. 5) (Ruth 4:6); לְ + הָאָרֶץ ‘for the land’ (Lev 25:24); מִן ‘part of’ + כֶּסֶף מִקְנָתוֹ, ‘price of the sale’ (Lev 25:51).

4. Ancient Versions:

a. Septuagint (LXX):

  • ἀγχιστεία, ‘claim as nearest of kin’:1 Ruth 4:6, 7;
  • [αἰχμαλωσία, ‘captivity’: Ezek 11:15];
  • λύτρον, ‘sum payable as ransom’: Lev 25:24, 26, 51, 52;
  • λύτρωσις, ‘redemption, ransom’:2 Lev 25:29 (2x), 48;
  • λυτρωτός, ‘redeemable’: Lev 25:31, 32;
  • παραλαμβάνω, ‘to take over, inherit’: Jer 32:7 (39:7LXX);
  • πρεσβύτερος, ‘older of age’: Jer 32:8 (39:8LXX).

A.1 λύτρον is used in the LXX to translate the nominalizations of כפר, גאל, and פדה. In Classical Greek λύτρον denotes ‘price of release, ransom’ (LSJ, 1067b), the ‘means of release’ implied by the suffix –τρον, and was used for the sum paid to ransom prisoners of war and slaves (Procksch and Büchsel 1967:340).

A.2 The choice of words in the LXX seems to vary according to context, λύτρον being used when the emphasis is on a particular sum of money and λύτρωσις and λυτρωτός when the rights of redemption are being discussed.

A.3 It is no surprise that ἀγχιστεία appears in Ruth, as the main verb used to translate גאל in Ruth is ἀγχιστεύω ‘to be next of kin’. Together with πρεσβύτερος, which is used elsewhere of the eldest child (e.g. Gen 19:31; 27:1; 44:12) and is here a free rendering assuming the equivalence of גְּאֻלָּה to the rights of the firstborn, ἀγχιστεία reflects the kinship aspect underlying גְּאֻלָּה (see entry on גאל, 4. Ancient Versions).

A.4 παραλαμβάνω in Jer 32:7 (39:7LXX) is a generalising rendering which ignores the technical meaning of גְּאֻלָּה (cf. Pesh, Tg).

b. Peshitta (Pesh):

  • ܘܠܐ\ܘܠܝ (wlʾ/ wly), ‘(it is) fitting’:3 Jer 32:8;
  • ܝܪܬܘܬܐ (yrtwtʾ), ‘inheritance, heirship’: Jer 32:7; Ruth 4:6, 7;
  • ܦܘܪܩܢܐ (pwrqnʾ), ‘saving, salvation, redemption’: Lev 25:24, 26, 29 (2x), 31, 32, 48, 51, 52; Isa 63:4;
  • [ܫܒܝܬܐ (šbytʾ), ‘captivity’: Ezek 11:15].

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

  • אחסנתא, ‘property, inheritance’:4 Jer 32:7J ,8J; Ruth 4:6K;
  • פורקן, ‘redemption (money)’: Lev 25:24O,PsJ, 26O,PsJ, 29 (2x)O,PsJ, 31O,PsJ, 32O,PsJ, 48O,PsJ, 51O,PsJ, 52O,PsJ;
  • פרקן, ‘redemption’: Ruth 4:7K;
  • פרקון, ‘redemption (money)’: Lev 25:24N, 26N, 29 (2x)N, 31N, 32N, 48N, 51N, 52N;
  • קריב, ‘near, related’: Ezek 11:15.

A.1 Both the Peshitta and the Targums prefer the root ܦܪܩ (prq)/ פרק, ‘to remove, release from, save’, rather than than שׁיזב (TgJ) or ܦܨܝ/ܦܨܐ (pṣʾ/pṣy) (Pesh) (see entries on root גאל and ישׁע), with the exception of passages in Ruth (4:6 [TgK, Pesh], 7 [Pesh]) and Jeremiah (32:7, 8 [TgJ, Pesh]), where the choices of ܝܪܬܘܬܐ (yrtwtʾ), ܘܠܐ (wlʾ) and אחסנתא respectively emphasise the claim to inheritance or possession.

d. Vulgate (Vg):

  • licentia redimendi, ‘freedom to redeem’:5 Lev 25:29;
  • possum redimi, ‘to have right to redeem’: Lev 25:32, 48;
  • pretium, ‘value, price’: Lev 25:51;
  • pretium ad redimendum, ‘price to redeem’: Lev 25:26;
  • privilegium, ‘privilege’: Ruth 4:6;
  • propinquus, ‘relative, kinsman’: Ruth 4:7; Jer 32:8; Ezek 11:15;
  • propinquitas, ‘kinsman’: Jer 32:7;
  • redemptio, ‘a buying off, redemption’: Lev 25:24;
  • redimo, ‘to buy back, repurchase’: Lev 25:31.

No rendering: Lev 25:52.

A.1 It appears that the Vulgate does not have one particular word with which to translate גְּאֻלָּה, but has sought to translate each occurrence with more specific phrases.

5. Lexical/Semantic Fields

A.1 See גאל: 5. Lexical/Semantic Fields.

A.2 In Jer 32:8 גְּאֻלָּה is conjoined with מִשְׁפַּט הַיְּרֻשָּׁה ‘right of inheritance/possession' as either an equivalent or a related idea, confirming that גְּאֻלָּה can denote a ‘right of redemption’ (cf. the phrase מִשְׁפַּט הַגְּאֻלָּה in v. 7).

A.3 Like the verb גָּאַל (see entry on גאל: 5. Lexical/Semantic Fields, A.1), גְּאֻלָּה is closely associated with the verb קנה ‘buy’ (Jer 32:7-8).

A.4 In 4Q504 5 ii 4, 4Q506 124:4 גְּאֻלָּה is associated with (forgiveness of?) sins; the verbs פדה, סלח and נצל hiph. appear elsewhere in the text to refer to God’s action.

6. Exegesis

A.1 Several times גְּאֻלָּה means simply ‘redemption’, in the context of family and property law (Lev 25:24, 26; Jer 32:7; Ruth 4:7). A generalised development of this meaning occurs in 4Q504 5ii:4; 4Q506 124:4 (compare also the slightly later use for the ‘liberation’ of Israel cited in Root and Comparative Material, A.2). But it also has some derived meanings which are reflected in the varied renderings of LXX and Vg.

A.2 The meaning ‘right to redemption’ is clear in Jer 32:8 in view of the preceding phrase and also the fuller expression מִשְׁפַּט הַגְּאֻלָּה in v. 7. This meaning is also indicated by the context in Lev 25:31-32 and 25:48, and perhaps also in 25:29 (but see A.3). In Ruth 4:6 it may be present (cf. Vg privilegium, NRSV), but ‘do my redeeming’ is also possible.

A.3 In Lev 25:29 the meaning of גְּאֻלָּה could be ‘the period of redemption’ (cf. JPS for the second occurrence).

A.4 The meaning ‘price of redemption’ is required by the context in Lev. 25:51-52 (cf. יָשִׁיב, and also LXX and Vg here; likewise BDB and Horst 1961a:219).

A.5 In Ezek 11:15, if MT is correct (Cooke 1936:127, supports the reading גָלוּתְךָ, based on LXX and Pesh), the sense of גְּאֻלָּה must be something like ‘family, kin-group’ (cf. Tg, Vg), as representing those who would have had the responsibility of ‘redemption’ as גֹּאֲלִים. Zimmerli (1979:261; following Horst 1953:337-38) defends this interpretation and argues for its appropriateness in Ezekiel’s exilic situation: it conforms well to the mention, just before, of Ezekiel’s ‘brothers’ and the implied interest in the family’s ancestral land is a natural one in the circumstances of exile, especially in the face of counter-claims like that made at the end of Ezek 11:15. It is certainly possible that such a collective meaning developed from the more common meaning ‘(right of) redemption’, but this remains the only place where it may be attested.

B.1 Horst (1961b:153) defines the meaning of גְּאֻלָּה as ‘Recht bzw. Pflicht zur Lösung (zur Rückkauf)’, ‘right or obligation of redemption (of repurchase)’, and he is followed by Ringgren (1977:352) and Stamm (1971:383). This is undoubtedly correct for some passages (above, A.2), but in others it either does not fit the context or is only one of two possibilities (see A.1, A.3-4).

B.2 The meaning ‘price of redemption’ (cf. A.4) is given by BDB (145) for גְּאֻלָּה also in Lev. 25:26, but it is the presence of כְּדֵי there which indicates the amount required and גְּאֻלָּה most likely has the sense ‘redemption’.

7. Conclusion

גְּאֻלָּה is an expression that is much less widely attested in the OT than the verb גָּאַל: it appears only in laws and accounts of legal practice in the realm of family and property law (even the questionable case in Ezek 11:15 would have to be related to this). It is never used to refer to blood-vengeance, cultic restitution or divine action. At Qumran it was used once (two parallel texts) with the theological sense of ‘salvation, liberation’ by God, as is also attested in Hebrew of the 1st and 2nd cent. A.D.: see Root and Comparative Material. גְּאֻלָּה has, as both the Versions and exegetical considerations confirm, various related shades of meaning. It is the word for the practice of ‘redemption’ in the technical legal sense that involves a close family member (cf. the list in Lev. 25:48-49). But it also means ‘right of redemption’ and ‘price of redemption’ several times, and it may mean ‘period of redemption’ and ‘kin-group’ too.


For the abbreviations see the List of Abbreviations.

Cooke 1936
George A. Cooke, The Book of Ezekiel (ICC), Edinburgh: T&T Clark.
Gray 2011
Alison Gray, ‘גאל’, ThWQ 1:556-59.
Horbury 2011
William Horbury, ‘Liberty in the Coin Legends of the Jewish Revolts’, in: James K. Aitken, Katharine J. Dell, and Brian A. Mastin (eds.), On Stone and Scroll: Essays in Honour of Graham Ivor Davies (BZAW, 420), Berlin: de Gruyter, 139-52.
Horst 1953
Friedrich Horst, ‘Exilsgemeinde und Jerusalem in Ez viii-xi. Eine literarische Untersuchung’, VT 3:337-60.
Horst 1961a
Friedrich Horst, Gottes Recht (Theologische Bücherei, 12), München: Kaiser.
Horst 1961b
Friedrich Horst, ‘Zwei Begriffe für Eigentum (Besitz) – נַחֲלָה und אֲחֻזָּה’, in: Arnulf Kuschke (ed.), Verbannung und Heimkehr: Beiträge zur Geschichte und Theologie Israels im 6. und 5. Jahrhundert v.Chr. – Wilhelm Rudolph zum 70. Geburtstage dargebracht, Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 135-60.
Hubbard 1997
Robert L. Hubbard, ‘גאל’, NIDOTTE 1:789-94.
Milgrom 2001
Jacob Milgrom, Leviticus 23-27 (AB, 3), New York: Doubleday.
Procksch and Büchsel 1967
Otto Procksch and Friedrich Büchsel, ‘λύω etc.’, TDNT 4:328-56.
Ringgren 1977
Helmer Ringgren, ‘גאל’, TDOT 2:350-55.
Schürer 1973
Emil Schürer, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ (175 B.C.-A.D. 135), a new English version, revised and edited by Géza Vermes and Fergus G.B. Millar, vol. 1, Edinburgh: T&T Clark.
Stamm 1971
Johann J. Stamm, ‘גאל – erlösen’, THAT 1:385-96.
Zimmerli 1979
Walter Zimmerli, Ezekiel 1: A Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel, Chapters 1-24 (Hermeneia), Philadelphia: Fortress.


  1. The English renderings of the Greek are based on GELS, s.v.; LEH3, s.v. 

  2. GELS, 437, ‘act of procuring release from bondage, “redemption” … claim on that which is currently not in one’s possession’. LEH3, 378, ‘ransoming, redemption’; NETS, ‘ransom’. 

  3. The English renderings of the Syriac are based on Sokoloff, SLB, s.v. 

  4. The English renderings of the Aramaic are based on Jastrow, DTT, s.v.; and checked against Sokoloff, DJBA, s.v. and Sokoloff, DJPA, s.v. 

  5. The English renderings of the Latin are based on Lewis & Short, LD, s.v. 

Semantics of Ancient Hebrew Database