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גְּאוּלִים – redemption

Semantic Fields: Deliverance   
Author(s): Alison Gray
First published: 2007-08-01
Last update: 2023-10-01 (Raymond de Hoop)
Citation: Alison Gray, גְּאוּלִים – 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:
Occurrences: 1x HB (0/1/0); 0x Sir; 0x Qum; 0x inscr. (Total: 1).

  • Nebiim: Isa 63:4.
  • Text doubtful: –

Text Doubtful

B.1 It is possible to parse the form as pass. part. of the verb (cf. Duhm and Whybray ad loc.), and DCH records it as such, while allowing the nominal parsing as an alternative (DCH ii:293-94). But most modern commentators (so Marti, Volz and recently Blenkinsopp) and translations (e.g. RSV, NRSV) treat it as a noun, as do BDB (145) and HALOT (168, with ref. to BL 517y and Köhler 1921). The parallel נקם and the versional renderings (see below) support this.

B.2 Budde (1909:661-62; cited by Köhler without reference) proposed the emendation גמולי, but it has not found favour with others.

Qere/Ketiv: none.

1. Root And Comparative Material

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

2. Formal Characteristics

A.1 qatūl: Joüon-Muraoka, GBH, §88Ec (abstract or action nouns), §136f-i (on the use of the plural to represent intensity, abstraction or action).1 Cf. also פְּדוּיִם.

3. Syntagmatics

A.1 גְּאוּלִים is nomen rectum of שׁנת, ‘the year of redemption’ and the whole phrase is the subject of the verb בוא (Isa 63:4).

A.2 The form attested is גאולי, ‘my redemption’: the pronoun here, as throughout Isa 63:1-6, refers to God.

4. Ancient Versions:

a. Septuagint (LXX):

  • λύτρωσις, ‘redemption, ransom’:2 Isa 63:4.

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 when the action or right of redemption is being discussed.

b. Peshitta (Pesh):

  • ܦܘܪܩܢܐ (pwrqnʾ), ‘saving, salvation, redemption’:3 Isa 63:4.

c. Targum (Tg: J):

  • פורקן (עמי), ‘redemption (of my people)’:4 Isa 63:4.

A.1 Both Pesh and Tg prefer the root ܦܪܩ (prq)/ פרק, rather than שׁיזב (TgJ) or ܦܨܝ/ܦܨܐ (pṣʾ/pṣy) (Pesh), to render גאל (see entry on root גאל; cf. ישׁע), with the exception of passages in Ruth (4:6 [TgK, Pesh], 7 [Pesh]) and Jeremiah (32:7 [TgJ, Pesh], 8 [TgJ]), where the choices of ܝܪܬܘܬܐ (yrtwtʾ) and אחסנתא respectively emphasise the claim to inheritance.

A.2 Here Tg has added עמי to make clear whose ‘redemption’ is involved.

d. Vulgate (Vg):

  • redemptio, ‘a buying back, redemption’:5 Isa 63:4.

5. Lexical/Semantic Fields

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

A.2 גְּאוּלִים occurs in poetic parallelism with נָקָם, ‘vengeance’ (Isa 63:4). The parallelism is not synonymous: the two terms represent the different effects of the same action respectively for Israel’s enemies and Israel itself (cf. Tg).

6. Exegesis

A.1 Marti (1900:392) compared ‘the year of my גְּאוּלִים’ to the laws on the jubilee year in Lev 25:28-34, 47-55, where the verb גאל is used several times.

B.1 Merz (1916:68) introduced a sense based on the idea of the גֹּאֵל as an avenger of blood: ‘(the year of) those to whose avenging I am obligated’. Köhler (1921:316) took this in a more plausible direction (‘year of’ is not very likely to be followed by a genitive of the person, and the sense which Merz proposed for the part. is forced) by comparing נערים and בתולים (cf. also זקנים) as ‘time-words’ formed on this pattern and proposing ‘time when one acts as an avenger of blood’ (likewise KBL, 162; HALOT, 168; Westermann 1969:383). But, although the parallel with נָקָם, ‘vengeance’, can be seen as favouring this interpretation, it is not decisive (see above, 5) and the combination with ‘year’ seems to make this temporal dimension of meaning otiose. Volz retains the traditional understanding as an abstract noun (1932:261).

7. Conclusion

The single occurrence of גְּאוּלִים in BH leaves some doubt as to which of the uses of the verb it is related to. A case has been made for ‘(time of) avenging’ instead of the traditional understanding ‘redemption’, which sees it as a synonym of גְּאֻלָּה in one of its senses, but it is not compelling.


For the abbreviations see the List of Abbreviations.

Blenkinsopp 2003
Joseph Blenkinsopp, Isaiah 56-66 (AB, 19b), New York: Doubleday.
Budde 1909
Karl Budde, ‘Das Buch Jesaia Kap. 40-66’, in: Ernst Kautzsch (ed.), Die Heilige Schrift des Alten Testaments (3rd ed.), vol. 1, Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 609-71.
Duhm 1892
Bernhard Duhm, Das Buch Jesaia (HKAT), Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.
Gray 2011
Alison Gray, ‘גאל’, ThWQ 1:556-59.
Hubbard 1997
Robert L. Hubbard, ‘גאל’, NIDOTTE 1:789-94.
Köhler 1921
Ludwig Köhler, ‘Jes 63 4’, ZAW 39:316.
Marti 1900
Karl Marti, Jesaja (KHAT), Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck.
Merz 1916
Erwin Merz, Die Blutrache bei den Israeliten (BWAT 20), Leipzig: Hinrichs.
Procksch and Büchsel 1967
Otto Procksch and Friedrich Büchsel, ‘λύω etc.’, TDNT 4:328-56.
Ringgren 1977
Helmer Ringgren, ‘גאל’, TDOT 2:350-55.
Stamm 1940
Johann J. Stamm, Erlösen und Vergeben im Alten Testament, Bern: Francke.
Stamm 1971
Johann J. Stamm, ‘גאל – erlösen’, THAT 1:385-96.
Volz 1932
Paul Volz, Jesaia 2: Kapitel 40-66 (KAT, 9.2), Leipzig: Deichert.
Westermann 1969
Claus Westermann, Isaiah 40-66: A Commentary (OTL), London: SCM.
Whybray 1975
Roger N. Whybray, Isaiah 40-66 (NCB), London: Oliphants.


  1. Cf. BL, 517y and Köhler 1921:316. 

  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. Sokoloff, SLB, 1172. 

  4. Jastrow, DTT, 1148; Sokoloff, DJPA, 427. 

  5. Lewis & Short, LD, 1539. 

Semantics of Ancient Hebrew Database