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פָּדָה – to liberate, set free, redeem

Semantic Fields: Deliverance   
Author(s): Alison Gray
First published: 2007-08-31
Last update: 2024-06-30 (Raymond de Hoop, Paul Sanders)
Citation: Alison Gray, פָּדָה – to liberate, set free, redeem,
               Semantics of Ancient Hebrew Database (, 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.


Grammatical Type: vb qal, niph., hiph., and hoph.
Occurrences: 58x HB (qal: 19/14/20; niph.: 2/1/0; hiph.: 1/0/0; hoph.: 1/0/0); 2x Sir; 18x Qum; 0x inscr. (Total: 78).

  • Torah – qal: Exod 13:13(3x), 15; 34:20(3x); Lev 27:27; Num 18:15(3x), 16, 17; Deut 7:8; 9:26; 13:6; 15:15; 21:8; 24:18;
  • Torah – niph.: Lev 19:20; 27:29;
  • Torah – hiph.: Exod 21:8;
  • Torah – hoph.: Lev 19:20;
  • Nebiim – qal: 1 Sam 14:45; 2 Sam 4:9; 7:23(2x); 1 Kgs 1:29; Isa 29:22; 35:10; 51:11; Jer 15:21; 31:11; Hos 7:13; 13:14; Mic 6:4; Zech 10:8;
  • Nebiim – niph.: Isa 1:27;
  • Ketubim – qal: Pss 25:22; 26:11; 31:6; 34:23; 44:27; 49:8(2x), 16; 55:19; 69:19; 71:23; 78:42; 119:134; 130:8; Job 5:20; 6:23; 33:28; Neh 1:10; 1 Chron 17:21(2x);
  • Sir 51:2, 12;
  • Qum: CD-A 16:8; 1QHa 4:20; 10:32, 35; 11:19; 1Q45 1:2; 4Q171 1-2 ii:18; 4Q374 3:2; 4Q504 4:7; 4Q511 36:3; 6Q9 59:1; 11Q5 22:15; 11Q19 54:16; 59:11, 12; 63:6.

Text doubtful:

A.1 4Q158 7-8:14 [... ם]דה לע[והפ] is a passage from the Reworked Pentateuch based on Exod 21:8. There are large sections of text missing but the context seems to suggest that the reading [והפ]דה is correct.

A.2 4Q368 2:12 ד֯ה֯[תפ… from Apocryphon Pentateuch A seems very likely, as the broken context is clearly based on Exodus 34 (cf. v. 20).

A.3 4Q511 36:3 לפדויים could be either the noun פְּדוּיִם or the pass.part. of the verb. Since the text is not a legal text, the latter seems more likely.

B.1 It is proposed in BHS that the qal form תִפְדֶּה in Num 18:15, 16, 17 should be emended to the hiph. תַפְדֶּה, since the subject is the priest and the meaning should be ‘let so. redeem’ (cf. Exod 21:8 and Vg here). But MT is retained by BDB (804); and Gray (1903:231, 233) hesitantly accepts the exceptional use of the qal. On the interpretation of MT see below Exegesis A.1.

B.2 In Num 18:16a פְּדוּיָו is taken by BDB (804) as the pass.part. of the verb, but the context favours the view of, e.g., Gray (1903:231 with ref. to p. 31) that it is from the noun פְּדוּיִם.

B.3 In Ps 49:8 BHS proposes (after Gunkel 1926:211; Kraus 1978:517, and followed by Craigie 1984:357) to read niph. יִפָּדֶה instead of the qal of MT, against all the Versions. But this is consequent upon the emendation of אָח at the beginning of the verse to אַךְ, which is scarcely necessary and supported by only a few mss. The sense given to the niph., ‘redeem oneself’, is also unparalleled.

B.4 It has been suggested that פְּדָעֵהוּ in Job 33:24, from the obscure hapax legomenon פדע, should be read פְּדֵהוּ (e.g. Dhorme 1967:502; BDB, 804b). This does, however, involve the assumption of a substantial and unexplained corruption in MT. An easier correction is to read פְּרָעֵהוּ, with some mss (so Driver and Gray 1921:248-49).

B.5 The listing in Abegg, Bowley, and Cook 2003 includes 4Q270 2 ii:8(2x) and ii:9 (from a ms of the Damascus Document) under the verb פדה, but the contexts clearly indicate that the noun פְּדוּיִם is intended here, and this is how the forms are analysed in DJD XVIII:145-46.

Qere/Ketiv: none.

1. Root and Comparative Material

A.1 In Biblical Hebrew the related nouns פְּדוּיִם, ‘ransom, means of liberation’, פְּדוּת, ‘(action or power of) redemption’, and פִּדְיוֹן, ‘ransom price of human life’, occur, and the first two are also found at Qumran (see the separate entries). The root also appears 15x in Biblical PNN: פְּדָיָהוּ, ‘YHWH has liberated’ (1 Chron 27:20); פְּדָיָה, ‘YHWH has liberated’ (2 Kgs 23:36; 1 Chron 3:18, 19; Neh 3:25, 8:4, 11:7); פְּדָהְאֵל, ‘El has liberated’ (Num 34:28); פָּדוֹן, ‘ransom’ (Ezra 2:44; Neh 7:47), פְּדָה־צוּר, ‘the Rock has liberated’ (Num 1:10, 2:20, 7:54, 59, 10:23); as well as in epigraphic PNN (AHI-1, 469-70; AHI-1, 208-09).

A.2 פדה is common to all the other Semitic languages except for Aramaic, although there is a possible case in the Hermopolis papyri (DNWSI, 902).

A.3 Arabic: the cognate of פדה is fadā, which means ‘to redeem’ by the payment of something of equivalent value, with a substantive meaning ‘ransom’.

A.4 Ethiopic: there is the verb fdy, ‘release (debt), repay, restore, reward’, and the noun fdyt ‘repayment’ (Dillmann 1865:1378-80), and in Old S.Arabian the verb fdy, ‘buy, redeem (debt), acquire’ (SD, 43: cf. Conti Rossini 1931:217b, who adds the noun fdyt, ‘purchase’).

A.5 Akkadian has the vb. padû/pedû,, meaning ‘to spare/release’ (AHw, 2:808b). There is also the PN ilī-ipdianni, ‘my god has spared/freed me’, and the form pi-di-šú occurs in a prayer to Ishtar to ‘deliver him from the jaws of destruction’ (Lambert 1959-60:53, l.163). In Enuma Elish VII.29 padû refers to the release of rebellious gods from their service to other gods, following the creation of humans (cf. parallel in VI.34 wašāru ‘to release’).

A.6 In Ugaritic the vb. pdy seems to bear the same legal sense of ‘to redeem’, in the legal document text RS 16.191 + 272 = KTU 3.4:2, 12. In this passage, a man named Iwrkl ‘redeems’ seven people from the hand of the people of Beirut (birtym) and will hold their estate until he can be repaid. Yaron writes: ‘pdy, like its Hebrew equivalents padah and ga’al, does not mean “to set free”, “to manumit”, but “to redeem”, “to ransom” … It will always refer to a three-cornered situation, involving apart from the redemptor and the person redeemed, also the person from whose power (or the place whence) the redeemed is ransomed’ (Yaron 1960:84). Stamm, however, questions whether this is the only use of pdy in Ugaritic, because of the existence of personal names such as pdy (pa-di-ya) and bn-pdy (bin-pí-di-ya) (DULAT1, 664; but there the etymology is ‘uncertain’). If these correspond to the Hebrew פדה, it could mean ‘liberate’ as well as ‘redeem’. The personal name pdy is possibly of the qatīl type ‘redeemer/liberator’ or ‘redeemed/liberated’ rather than ‘he (the god) has freed/delivered’ (Stamm 1976:390).

A.7 In Punic there is the PN bʿlpdʾ, ‘Baal freed/redeemed him’ (Benz 1972:97, 389, under PDY/W, with further references), which seems to correspond to the theophorous names in Ancient Hebrew. This may also be true of the Philistine (hypocoristic: Phoenician?) PN borne by a king of Ekron, pdy, now attested not only in a transcription into Akkadian (ANET, 287-88) but in two inscriptions from the site (Gitin, Dotan, and Naveh 1997; Gitin and Cogan 1999).

2. Formal Characteristics

Lamedh-He verb, triliteral root.

3. Syntagmatics

A.1 The human subject of פדה qal may be:

a) in a cultic context ‘you’ 2 of Moses commanding the people (Exod 13:13[3x]); ‘you’ 2 of the LORD commanding Moses (34:20[3x]); ‘I’ 1 sg. of the people speaking (Exod 13:15); ‘you’ 2 of the LORD commanding Aaron (Num 18:15[3x], 16, 17); 3 subject unspecified but אישׁ understood (Lev 27:27); אישׁ, ‘someone’ (CD-A 16:8);
b) in legal and quasi-legal contexts הָעָם, ‘the people’ (1 Sam 14:45); אישׁ/אָח, ‘man’ (Ps 49:8, see Text Doubtful B.3 above).

A.2 The direct objects following פדה qal in cultic and legal contexts are:

  • כָּל־פֶּטֶר חֲמֹר, ‘every first-born donkey’ (Exod 13:13; 34:20);
  • בְּכוֹר בָּנֶיךָ/כָּל בְּכוֹר אָדָם בְּבָנֶיךָ, ‘every first-born of your sons’ (Exod 13:13, 15; 34:20);
  • בַּבְּהֵמָה הַטְּמֵאָה, ‘unclean animal’ (Lev 27:27);
  • בְּכוֹר־הַבְּהֵמָה הַטְּמֵאָה, ‘first-born of unclean animals’ (Num 18:15);
  • בְּכוֹר־שׁוֹר ... כֶּשֶׂב ... עֵז, ‘first-born cow... sheep... goat’ (Num 18:17);
  • יוֹנָתָן, ‘Jonathan’ (1 Sam 14:45);
  • אִישׁ/אָח, ‘man’ i.e. human life (Ps 49:8);
  • שבועת אסר, ‘a binding oath’ (CD-A 16:8).

A.3 The prepositions used in these cases with פדה qal are:

  • בְּ, ‘with’ + שֶׂה, ‘sheep’ (Exod 13:13, 34:20),
  • בְּ, ‘at’ + עֵרֶךְ, ‘assessment’ (Lev 27:27; Num 18:16).

A.4 פדה qal is also used with a divine subject:

a) in the first person when יהוה is speaking (Jer 15:21; Hos 7:13; 13:14; Mic 6:4; Zech 10:8; 11Q19 59:11, 12);
b) in the second person referring to יהוה (Deut 9:26; 21:8; Pss 31:6; 71:23; Neh 1:10; 1QHa 10:32, 35; 11Q19 63:6); אדוני, ‘Lord’ (1QHa 11:19); and in petitions to יהוה/ אֱלֹהִים (Pss 25:22; 26:11; 44:27; 69:19; 119:134; 1QHa 4:20; 4Q504 4:7) and in a hypothetical petition (Job 6:23); subject unspecified (text missing), but presumably God (1Q45 1:2);
c) in the third person יהוה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, ‘the Lord your God’ (Deut 15:15; 24:18); יהוה (Deut 7:8; 13:6; 2 Sam 4:9; 1 Kgs 1:29; Isa 29:22; Jer 31:11; Job 5:20; 33:28; Pss 34:23; 55:19; 78:42; 130:8); אֱלֹהִים (2 Sam 7:23[2x]; Ps 49:16; 1 Chron 17:21[2x]); אלהיכה, ‘your God’ (11Q19 54:16); אל, ‘God’ (4Q171 1-2 ii 18).

A.5 In these contexts, פדה qal takes as direct objects:

  • עַם, ‘people’ (2 Sam 7:23[2x]// 1 Chron 17:21[2x]);
  • 2 sf. referring to עַמִּי, ‘my people’ (Mic 6:4);
  • יִשְׂרָאֵל, Israel (Ps 25:22);
  • 2 sf. ‘you’ (=Israelites; Deut 7:8; 13:6; 15:15; 24:18);
  • 3 sf. ‘them’ (=Israelites; Ps 78:42; 11Q19 59:11, 12);
  • יַעֲקֹב, ‘Jacob’ (Jer 31:11);
  • 3 sf. referring to Ephraim (Hos 7:13; 13:14; Zech 10:8),
  • עַמְּךָ וְנַחֲלָתְךָ, ‘your people and your possession’ (Deut 9:26);
  • עֲבָדֶיךָ וְעַמֶּךָ, ‘your servants and your people’ (Neh 1:10);
  • 1 pl. sf. ‘us’ (Ps 44:27);
  • אַבְרָהָם, ‘Abraham’ (Isa 29:22);
  • 2 sf. referring to Jeremiah (Jer 15:21);
  • 1 sg. sf. ‘me’ referring to Job (Job 6:23);
  • 2 sf. referring to Job (Job 5:20);
  • אוֹתִי/ 1 sg. sf. ‘me’ referring to the Psalmist (Pss 26:11; 31:6; 69:19; 119:134);
  • נֶפֶשׁ, ‘soul/life’ (2 Sam 4:9//1 Kgs 1:29; Pss 49:16; 55:19; 71:23; Job 33:28; 1QHa 10:35; 11:19);
  • נֶפֶשׁ עֲבָדָיו, ‘life of his servants’ (Ps 34:23);
  • נפש אביון, ‘life of the poor person’ (1QHa 10:32);
  • 1 pl. sf. ‘us’ (unspecified; 4Q504 4:7);
  • 3 sf. ‘them’ referring to כוהן ואנשי עצתו, ‘the priest and the men of his council’ (4Q171 1-2 ii 18);
  • object unspecified/ text missing (1Q45 1:2; 4Q374 3:2).

A.6 פדה qal with a divine subject takes the following prepositions:

  • בְּ, ‘with’ + גָדְלֶךָ, ‘your (Yahweh’s) greatness’ (Deut 9:26); + כֹחֲךָ גָּדוֹל וּבְיָדְךָ הַחֲזָקָה, ‘your [Yahweh’s] great strength and your mighty power’ (Neh 1:10); + שָׁלוֹם, ‘peace’/‘safety’ (Ps 55:19);
  • לְ, ‘as’ + עַם, ‘people’ (2 Sam 7:23);
  • לְמַעַן, ‘for the sake of’/‘because of’ + חַסְדֶּךָ, ‘your kindness/mercy’ (Ps 44:27); + אֹיְבַי, ‘my enemies’ (Ps 69:19);
  • מִן (of separation), ‘from’ + בֵּית עֲבָדִים, ‘house of slavery’ (Deut 7:8; 13:6; Mic 6:4; 11Q19 54:16); + שָׁם, ‘there’ (=Egypt; Deut 24:18); + צָרָה, ‘adversity’ (2 Sam 4:9; 1 Kgs 1:29; Ps 78:42); + מִצְרַיִם, ‘Egypt’ (2 Sam 7:23 = 1 Chron 17:21); + מָוֶת, ‘death’ (Job 5:20); + יַד־שְׁאוֹל, ‘power of Sheol’ (Hos 13:14; Ps 49:16); + כַּף־עָרִצִים, ‘grasp of the ruthless’ (Jer 15:21; Job 6:23); צָרוֹת, ‘troubles’ (Ps 25:22); + קְרָב, ‘battle’ (Ps 55:19); כֹּל עֲוֹנֹתָיו, ‘all its [Israel’s] iniquities’ (Ps 130:8); + עֹשֶׁק אָדָם, ‘human oppression’ (Ps 119:134); + יְדֵי חֶרֶב, ‘power of the sword’ (Job 5:20); + עֲבֹר בַּשָּׁחַת, ‘from going down in the pit’ (Job 33:28); + יד אדירים, ‘hand of the powerful’ (1QHa 10:35); + שחת, ‘pit’ (1QHa 11:19); + שאול אבדון, ‘Sheol of Abaddon’ (1QHa 11:19); כף שונאיהמה, ‘the hand of those who hate them’ (11Q19 59:11); + ידם, ‘their hand’ (4Q171 1-2 ii:18).

A.7 פדה qal act. part. occurs in Qumran as a substantive פודך, ‘your redeemer’, as a title for God when it is the object of the verb שבח, ‘to praise’(11Q5 22:15).

A.8 פדה qal pass.part. also occurs as a substantive פְּדוּיִים, ‘those redeemed’, and is the subject of the verbs שׁוּב, ‘to return’, and בּוֹא, ‘to come’ (Isa 35:10= 51:11). It is also in a construct relationship with יהוה (Isa 35:10= 51:11). In 4Q511 36:3 the context is largely lost, but the nature of the text makes it more likely that לפדויים is rather the qal pass.part. than a noun, meaning ‘ransom-price’ (see Text Doubtful, A.3 above).

A.9 The human subject of פדה niph. is כָּל־חֵרֶם אֲשֶׁר יָחֳרַם מִן־הָאָדָם, ‘anyone committed to the ban’, in a cultic context (Lev 27:29); שִׁפְחָה, ‘slave-girl’, in a socio-legal context, with the only instance of a hoph. inf.abs. (Lev 19:20) and צִיּוֹן, ‘Zion’, in an eschatological context (Isa 1:27) with the preposition בְּ, ‘with’ [means] + מִשְׁפָט, ‘justice’, and צְדָקָה, ‘righteousness’ (Isa 1:27). These examples imply that the meaning of the niph. was always passive (so BDB): Ps 49:8 (see above Text Doubtful, B.3) would be exceptional if it were a reflexive niph..

A.10 The human subject of פדה hiph. is אָדוֹן, ‘master’ (Exod 21:8), and its object is sf. ‘her’ referring to a man’s daughter sold as a slave (Exod 21:8). A similar instance is found at 4Q158 7-8:14 although a large amount of text is missing. The subject and object are assumed to be the same.

4. Ancient Versions

a. Septuagint (LXX) and other Greek versions (αʹ, σʹ, θʹ):1


  • ἀλλάσσω, ‘substitute, replace’: Exod 13:131st,2nd; Lev 27:27;
  • ἀφορίζω, ‘to set apart’: Isa 29:22;
  • λύτρον pl., ‘sum payable as ransom’: Num 18:15;
  • λυτρόω middle, ‘to release, redeem’: Exod 13:133rd, 15; 34:20[3x]; Num 18:15, 17; Deut 7:8; 9:26; 13:6; 15:15; 21:8; 24:18; 2 Sam 4:9; 7:23[2x]; 1 Kgs 1:29; Jer 15:21; 31:11; Hos 7:13; Mic 6:4; Zech 10:8; Pss 25:22; 26:11; 31:6; 34:23; 44:27; 49:8[2x],16; 55:19; 71:23; 78:42; 119:134; 130:8; Neh 1:10; 1 Chron 17:21[2x]; Sir 51:2;
  • λυτρόω passive, ‘to be ransomed, redeemed’: Num 18:15; Isa 51:11;
  • προσεύχομαι, ‘to pray’: 1 Sam 14:45;
  • ῥύομαι middle, ‘to rescue’: Hos 13:14; Ps 69:19; Job 5:20; 6:23;
  • συνάγω, ‘to bring together’: Isa 35:10;
  • σῴζω, ‘to save, keep alive’: Job 33:28; Sir 51:12;
  • no equivalent: Num 18:16.


  • λυτρόω passive, ‘to be ransomed, redeemed’: Lev 19:20; 27:29;
  • σῴζω passive, ‘to be saved, attain salvation’: Isa 1:27.


  • ἀπολυτρόω, ‘to release from bondage on payment of ransom’: Exod 21:8.


  • λύτρον pl., ‘sum payable as ransom’: Lev 19:20.

A.1 The main difference between the active form of λυτρόω / ἀπολυτρόω and the middle voice is that the former is used of the person releasing someone, i.e. ‘to release on receipt of ransom’ (as in Exod 21:8), while the latter describes the action of someone providing the means for another’s release, i.e. ‘to release by payment of ransom, redeem’ (LSJ, 1067a), which is the most frequently used form used by the LXX to translate פדה.

A.2 It is interesting to note that among the other Hebrew verbs translated by λυτρόω and ῥύομαι (‘to set free, redeem, deliver’; ‘to protect’, LSJ, 694) are those defined by Sawyer as the semantic field of הוֹשִׁיעַ, namely נצל (hiph.), חלץ (piel), מלט (piel), פלט (piel), and פצה.

A.3 The use of the noun λύτρον pl. in Lev 19:20 and Num 18:15 – it is usually used in plural in Gk. – represents the inf.abs. in a common Septuagintal idiom (Thackeray 1908; Sollamo 1985).

A.4 λυτρόω is used across the whole range of literature, bearing no distinction between socio-legal, cultic or religious contexts. ῥύομαι however, is only used outside of the technical legal and cultic contexts.

A.5 ἀφορίζω + ἐξ in Isa 29:22 is slightly unusual; it appears to correspond to פדה + מִן, but carries the idea of appropriating something, or marking it off as one’s own, which is closer to the meaning of פרק, פלה hiph. or פרד. The use of ἀλλάσσω marks out cases where substitution rather than payment is involved.

A.6 Isa 35:10 is a parallel to Isa 51:11 and yet is rendered very differently in the LXX, in a very free translation, bearing little resemblance to the MT.

A.7 προσεύχομαι in 1 Sam 14:45 is not a translation of פדה. It is either a mistake on the translator’s part, or evidence of a different Hebrew Vorlage, presumably ויפלל (Smith 1904:125).


  • λυτρόω middle, ‘to release, redeem’: Exod 13:131st,2nd;
  • ῥύομαι, ‘to rescue’: Jer 15:21.


  • λυτρόω middle, ‘to release, redeem’: Exod 13:131st,2nd; Isa 29:22; Pss 49:8[2x]; 71:23;
  • ῥύομαι, ‘to rescue’: 2 Sam 4:9; Jer 15:21; Ps 78:42.


  • λυτρόω middle, ‘to release, redeem’: Exod 13:131st,2nd;
  • ῥύομαι, ‘to rescue’: Jer 15:21.

Other, ἄλλος (Symm.?):

  • λυτρόω middle, ‘to release, redeem’: Lev 27:27;
  • ῥύομαι, ‘to rescue’: Ps 44:27.

A.1 The strongest tendency among the Three is to eliminate other renderings in favour of λυτρόω.

A.2 Symmachus, however, has ῥύομαι in three non-technical instances where LXX has λυτρόω, thus preferring the less specialised equivalent.

b. Peshitta (Pesh):


  • ܢܦܩ (npq) aphel, ‘to bring out’: 1 Chron 17:21 - text paraphrased;
  • ܦܨܝ/ܦܨܐ (pṣy/pṣʾ) pael, ‘to save, deliver’: Ps 55:19; Job 6:23;
  • ܦܪܩ (prq) peal, ‘to save, liberate’: Exod 13:13[3x],15; 21:8; 34:20[3x]; Lev 19:20 [2x]; 27:27, 29; Num 18:15 [3x], 16, 17; Deut 7:8; 9:26; 13:6; 15:15; 21:8; 24:18; 1 Sam 14:45; 2 Sam 4:9; 7:23[2x]; 1 Kgs 1:29; Isa 29:22; 35:10= 51:11; Jer 15:21; 31:11; Hos 7:13; 13:14; Mic 6:4; Zech 10:8; Pss 25:22; 26:11; 31:6; 34:23; 44:27; 49:8, 16; 69:19; 71:23; 78:42; 119:134; 130:8; Job 5:20; 33:28; Neh 1:10; 1 Chron 17:211st;
  • ܫܘܙܒ (šwzb), ‘to save, deliver, preserve’: Sir 51:12.


  • ܦܪܩ (prq) ithpeel, ‘to be saved, liberated’: Lev 19:20; 27:29; Isa 1:27.


  • ܦܪܩ (prq) peal, ‘to save, liberate’: Exod 21:8.


  • ܦܪܩ (prq) ithpeel, ‘to be saved, liberated’: Lev 19:20.

A.1 There is nothing unusual about the choice of ܦܪܩ (prq) in the Peshitta, as it is the most common verb used to translate other words in this semantic field, along with ܦܨܝ/ܦܨܐ (pṣy/pṣʾ) and ܫܘܙܒ (šwzb).

c. Targum (Tg: O/N/PsJ/Frg2/J/K/11QTgJob):


  • פרק, ‘to redeem’: Exod 13:13[3x]O,N,PsJ, 15O,N,PsJ; 34:20[3x]O,N,PsJ; Lev 27:27O,N,PsJ,Frg, Num 18:15[3x]O,N,PsJ, 16O,N,PsJ, 17O,N,PsJ; Deut 7:8O,N,PsJ; 9:26O,N,PsJ; 13:6O,N,PsJ; 15:15O,N,PsJ; 21:8O,N,PsJ; 24:18O,N,PsJ; 1 Sam 14:45J; 2 Sam 4:9J; 7:23J; 1 Kgs 1:29J; 29:22J; 35:10J; 50:2J; 51:11J; Jer 15:21J; 31:11J; Hos 7:13J; 13:14J; Mic 6:4J; Zech 10:8J; Pss 25:22K; 26:11K; 31:6K; 34:23K; 44:27K; 49:8[2x]K, 16K; 55:19K; 69:19K; 71:23K; 78:42K; 119:134K; 130:8K; Job 5:20K; 6:23K; 33:28K,11QTgJob; 1 Chron 17:21[2x]K.


  • פרק ithpeel, ‘to be redeemed’: Lev 19:20O,N,PsJ; 27:29O,N,PsJ,Frg; Isa 1:27J.


  • פרק peal, ‘to redeem’: Exod 21:8O,N,PsJ.


  • פרק peal, ‘to redeem’: Lev 19:20N;
  • פרק ithpeel, to be redeemed’: Lev 19:20O,PsJ.

A.1 Twice, when פדה follows another ‘salvation’ word, e.g. Isa 51:11; Jer 15:21, it is translated by פרק, and שיזב is used to translate גאל or נצל hiph. But in Leviticus 27 (esp. vv. 27-29) and Isa 35:10-11 פרק is used to render both נצל and פדה.

d. Vulgate (Vg):


  • eripio, ‘to rescue’: Ps 69:19PsG;
  • eruo, ‘to bring out, to release’: Deut 24:18; 2 Sam 4:9; 1 Kgs 1:29; Job 5:20; 6:23;
  • libero, ‘to make or to set free’: Deut 15:15; 1 Sam 14:45; Mic 6:4; Pss 25:22PsG, 69:19PsH; Job 33:28; 1 Chron 17:21[2x]; Sir 51:2, 12;
  • muto, ‘to exchange, substitute’: Exod 13:13;
  • pretium accipio, ‘to take a price’: Num 18:151st,2nd;
  • pretium do, ‘to give a price’: Exod 34:202nd;
  • redimi facio, ‘to cause to be redeemed’: Num 18:153rd, 17;
  • redimo, ‘to redeem’: Exod 13:13[2x], 15; 34:201st,3rd; Lev 27:27; Deut 7:8; 9:26; 13:6; 21:8; 2 Sam 7:23[2x]; 29:22; 35:10 = 51:11; Jer 15:21; 31:11; Hos 7:13; Zech 10:8; Pss 25:22PsH; 26:11; 31:6; 34:23; 44:27; 49:8[2x], 16; 55:19; 71:23; 78:42; 119:134; 130:8; Neh 1:10;
  • no equivalent: Num 18:16.


  • redimo, ‘to redeem’: Lev 19:20; 27:29; Isa 1:27.


  • dimitto, ‘to let go’: Exod 21:8.


  • pretium, ‘value, price’: Lev 19:20.

A.1 In addition to redimo (its most common equivalent) the Vg uses a range of verbs to translate פדה, some of which emphasise an exchange in the ransom, e.g. muto, pretium do/accipio (similar to ἀλλάσσω, ἀπολυτρόω, in LXX) and others which give a general sense of liberation and rescue from danger, e.g. eruo and libero.

A.2 In Lev 19:20 Vg uses a noun to render the Heb. inf.abs. (cf. above LXX A.3). In Num 18:15 pretium also corresponds to an inf.abs., but the verb accipio is used instead of redimo in accordance with Vg’s recognition that in vv. 15-17 the subject of פדה is not the worshipper but the priest. It is perhaps in order to avoid a further unusual translation that in v. 16 Vg has no separate rendering of תפדה.

5. Lexical/Semantic Fields

A.1 Verbs found in parallelism with פדה are גאל, ‘to rescue’ (Jer 31:11, Hos 13:14); נצל hiph., ‘to deliver’ (Jer 15:21); מלט piel, ‘to deliver’ (Job 6:23, Sir 51:12); יצא hiph., ‘to lead out’ (Deut 7:8; 13:6); עלה hiph., ‘to bring up/out’ (Mic 6:4; 1QHa 11:19); ישׁע hiph., ‘to save’ (11Q19 59:11).

A.2 A number of different verbs and phrases are associated with פדה:
a) נתן חפשה, ‘to give freedom’ (Lev 19:20) is partially opposed to פדה, reinforcing the idea that פדה involves a ransom price, as distinct from what is freely given. This is also supported by נתן כפר, ‘to give a price’, in Ps 49:8 (cf. A.4).
b) Other ‘salvation’ words from the semantic field occur in close proximity to פדה, namely גאל, ‘to redeem’ (Lev 27:27, Ps 69:19), and נצל hiph., ‘to deliver’ (Isa 50:2; Sir 51:2; 1QHa 10:32).
c) In the context of the Exodus rescue יצא hiph., ‘to lead out’ (Deut 9:26), also occurs alongside פדה.
d) Other verbs used in close proximity with פדה are חנן, ‘to be gracious’ (Ps 26:11); עזר, ‘to help’ (Ps 44:27; 1QHa 10:35); לקח, ‘to take/receive’ (Ps 49:16); קבץ, ‘to gather’ (Zech 10:8); חשׂך, ‘to hold back’ (Sir 51:2); רבה hiph., ‘to multiply’ (11Q19 59:12); יצא hiph., ‘to lead out’ (11Q19 54:16); סלח, ‘to forgive/pardon’ (4Q504 4:7); טהר piel (4Q511 36:3).

A.3 The title of God associated with פדה in 11Q5 22:15 is עליון, ‘the Most High’.

A.4 פדה also occurs in opposition to זבח, ‘to sacrifice’, in Exod 13:15. The first-born which are not sacrificed are redeemed, using פדה to make the contrast of life and death. מכר is also used in opposition to פדה hiph. in Exod 21:8, contrasting ‘selling’ in the context of slavery with ‘redemption’ into freedom (compare the opposition of מכר and גאל in Isa 52:3).

6. Exegesis

A.1 פדה (qal/niph.), ‘to set free from death or slavery’ (with a ransom price or substitution), occurs just a few times in cultic contexts and is only used of animate objects. The occurrences fall into two groups, in which the second introduces an exception to one provision of the first:
a) פדה (qal) occurs several times in God’s commandments to Moses (Exod 13:13[3x], 15; 34:20) and in the priestly laws (Num 18:15, 17) concerning the consecration of first-born to God, cf. also 4Q270 2 ii:8-9. These laws are said to have been instituted to remember God’s deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt by slaying all the first-born of the Egyptians, but there was provision for redemption of certain offerings. The first-born of an ass may be redeemed with a lamb (Exod 13:13; 34:20), and likewise every human first-born, although no means of redemption are made explicit (Exod 13:13, 15; 34:20; Num 18:15). Num 18:15 also adds that the first-born of an unclean animal may be redeemed, and the price (פְדוּיָו) is five shekels (Num 18:16). Num 18:17 is a prohibition against the redemption of first-born cows, sheep, and goats, for they are holy. פדה in these contexts means ‘to liberate from death by means of a payment’.
b) In Lev 27:27, פדה (qal/niph.) occurs in parallel with גאל, concerning an unclean animal which may be ransomed at its assessment. Milgrom (2001:2390) seems to make an unnecessary distinction here between פדה and גאל. The basis of his argument is that since all first-born belong to God, גאל would be inappropriate, whereas פדה can be used of redemption by a ‘third party’. However, if this were an important consideration, why would גאל follow in the subsequent clause rather than פדה? It seems more likely that פדה is used primarily because of its associations with laws concerning the first-born (see above). In Lev 27:29, לֹא יִפָּדֶה is used in a similar way to reinforce the prohibition (לֹא־יִגְאַל) of the previous verse, that humans devoted to the ban may not be redeemed. The wider context for this meaning of פדה may be that of buying or re-claiming people or animals offered to God, which is also the semantic ‘territory’ of גאל.

A.2 פדה (niph./hiph./hoph.) occurs in a socio-legal context in Exod 21:8 (cf. 4Q158 7-8:14) and in Lev 19:20. The first concerns a slave-girl who displeases her master and commands that the man should let her be redeemed (פדה hiph.). The second uses פדה niph. in conjunction with hoph. (emphatic inf.abs.) to describe a slave-girl who has not been ransomed. The person who might redeem her is unspecified, which Stamm suggests may be the reason for the choice of פדה rather than גאל (1976:392). In the previous example (Exod 21:8), however, it seems clear that it would be the girl’s own family who would redeem her (her master is not allowed to sell her to עַם נָכְרִי, ‘a foreign people’). Perhaps, as in the case of Lev 27:27 (above), פדה denotes here a particular kind of ransom used in slavery laws, overlapping with גאל, ‘redemption’.

A.3 פדה (qal) occurs in a quasi-legal context in 1 Sam 14:45, where the people ‘ransom’ Jonathan’s life from the curse of death which Saul had made (14:24), although there is no mention of how he was ransomed.

A.4 פדה (qal), ‘to set free without payment’ (God as subject), is used in the context of past deliverance (2 Sam 4:9; 1 Kgs 1:29; Isa 29:22; Pss 55:19; 71:23; Job 33:28), particularly referring to the Exodus (Deut 7:8; 9:26; 13:6; 15:15; 21:8; 24:18; 2 Sam 7:23 = 1 Chron 17:21; Mic 6:4; Ps 78:42; Neh 1:10; 11Q19 54:16). A significant proportion of these occur with מִן (see below). There are two verses which suggest the means of God’s redemption, neither of which refer to any kind of payment, but rather God’s own greatness and power (Deut 9:26; Neh 1:10). Hill (1967:54) warns against the tendency of some scholars to force in the idea of God paying a ransom price when he is the subject of גאל or פדה by explaining the cost in terms of God’s power, love or self-sacrifice. He suggests that this is just an example of Christian apologetics leading to inaccurate OT theological exegesis. However, in studies of פדה, it is precisely this lack of ransom-price or exchange which is used to distinguish between the human and divine usage of פדה (Stamm 1976:396). God does not give anything in exchange when he redeems his people, he always ransoms ‘by grace’ (Tate 1990:198). Jepsen also understands liberation and redemption as a gift of God’s grace, but does not make the distinction between secular and religious uses of פדה. He argues that the option of ransom for someone under the death penalty in Exod 21:30 is an example of grace: ‘hier ist Lösung gleich Begnädigung’ (1957:157); cf. the collocation of פדה with חנן in Ps 26:11. W. Horbury (personal communication) suggested that it is not a matter of grace: God only withholds ransom payment because he does not fear retribution from Israel’s human enemies.

A.5 פדה (qal/niph.), ‘to (be) set free from guilt/condemnation’ is also found in the context of God forgiving the Israelites’ sins in an eschatological context (Isa 1:27; Pss 34:23; 130:8). In Ps 34:23, the idea of God liberating or saving the life of his servants is contrasted with condemnation and guilt (אשׁם). In Isa 1:27, Zion and those who turn back/repent (שׁוב) are the subjects of פדה niph., and the basis of liberation (פדה + בְּ) is justice (משׁפט) and righteousness (צדקה), implying the forgiveness of sins. There are different views about whose justice and righteousness this means, God’s or Zion’s: a thorough review of the issues is provided by Williamson (2006:156-58, cf. 147). The question is complicated by the fact that the verb is passive and the ‘redeemer’ is not explicitly identified. Interpretation of the בְּ here as a beth pretii (as in Exod 13:3; 34:20; Lev 27:27; Num 18:6 after פדה) leads to the view that it is ‘because of’ Zion’s practice of justice and righteousness that she is redeemed and both the use of these words earlier in the chapter and the contrast with vv. 28-29 support it. Alternatively בְּ may mean ‘by means of’ (as with פדה in Neh 1:10 and probably Deut 9:26) and indicates that God acts in justice and righteousness, as often later in the book (including 4:4 and 5:16). Williamson favours the former view, but notes the importance of repentance in v. 27b and the probability that God is still seen as the redeemer. Ps 130:8 is one of the occurrences of פדה with מִן in a promise that God will redeem Israel from all her guilt/iniquities.

A.6 פדה with מִן, ‘to set free from enemies, slavery, illness, death’ (God as subject), occurs 17 times. In five of these instances, the context is the Exodus, thus the meaning seems to be ‘to set free’ from the enemy (Ps 78:42), the house of slavery (Deut 7:8; 13:6; Mic 6:4), the hand/grip of Pharaoh (Deut 7:8) and Egypt (Deut 24:18). פדה occurs in parallelism twice with יצא hiph. (Deut 7:8; 13:6) and once with עלה hiph. (Mic 6:4), which confirms the meaning of ‘liberate’ or ‘rescue’ in פדה. The phrase מִן + יַד/ כַּף occurs frequently with פדה. Sometimes the oppressors are human (Deut 7:8; Jer 15:21; Pss 55:18; 119:134; Job 6:23; 1QHa 10:35; 4Q171 1-2ii18; 11Q19 54:16; 59:11) and elsewhere the power is illness or death (Hos 13:14; Ps 49:16; Job 5:20; 33:28; 1QHa 11:19). It is in this sense that the theophorous names פדי and פדיהו are understood (Stamm 1976:401-02).

A.7 פדה, ‘to liberate from oppressing forces’ occurs several times with צר(ה), which seems to represent general adversity, both individual (2 Sam 4:9; 1 Kgs 1:29) and national (Ps 25:22). Jepsen notes that פדה seems to be used when people need liberating from ‘Bindungen’ (1957:154-57), from which they cannot escape themselves. But Stamm (1976:395) observes that Jepsen’s idea of ‘unsichtbare Bindungen’ is untenable in the light of Exod 21:8, 30; Lev 19:20; Deut 7:8, in which פדה is used to mean ‘Befreiung aus direkter und konkreter menschlicher Macht’ (Stamm 1976:396). However, such a description would perhaps fit in the case of Ps 130:8, where פדה + מִן is used for liberation from iniquities.

A.8 D.J. Reimer (personal communication) has drawn attention to the striking fact that, in addition to seven further occurrences in the Psalter, six Psalms have forms of פדה in their final (25:22; 34:23; 44:27; 130:8) or penultimate (26:11; 71:23) verses. They include two cases where the psalm is acrostic and the verse in question stands outside the alphabetic pattern (25:22; 34:23). Whether or not they are secondary additions, this certainly makes for a finale here in which a concern with ‘redemption’ is particularly prominent. In Psalm 130 פדות also occurs in v. 7. In half the cases the verb expresses a request (25:22; 26:11; 44:27), in one a past rescue (71:23), in one a confident hope (130:8) and in one a general truth (34:23). The beneficiaries may be the psalmist(s) (26:11; 44:27; 71:23), ‘Israel’ (25:22; 130:8) or Yahweh’s ‘servants’ (34:23). Redemption is sought from troubles in general (25:22: צרות), sin and judgement (34:23; 130:8), or enemies (71:23). There is therefore some diversity of focus and situation in the use of the shared concept. Further research into this and into correlations with other uses of the root would be very worthwhile.

A.9 Qumran has some unusual uses of פדה:
a) The qal act.part. פודך, ‘your redeemer’, appears as a title for God in 11Q5 22:15. Although this is a very common occurrence with other verbs in the semantic field, such as ישׁע hiph. and גאל, the act.part. of פדה occurs only twice in the OT and never as a title.
b) In the Damascus Document (CD-A 16:8) פדה is used of an oath which cannot be ‘redeemed’, that is, it cannot be revoked or invalidated, even if the consequence (‘price’) is death. This idea is not found in the OT usage of פדה. The opposite to this (CD-A 16:9) is קום hiph., ‘fulfil’. Given the connotations of פדה, a monetary payment in substitution might be involved (cf. bNed. 28a-8: Rabin 1954:76).
c) פדה is also used at Qumran of a future liberation, of the Priest and his followers (4Q171 1-2 ii:18), the exiled Jews (11Q19 59:11-12) and ‘you’ with unclear reference (6Q59:1).

7. Conclusion

A.1 The general sense of פדה seems to be very broad, namely, ‘to liberate’. Stamm argues that the ‘original’ meaning of פדה is found in the context of liberation and deliverance (supported by early texts: 2 Sam 4:9; 1 Kgs 1:29; Hos 7:13; 13:14) and was only later adopted by socio-legal language. He suggests this by analogy with Akk. paṭāru (1976:397) which is also found in both legal and general contexts. However, the fact that the specific socio-legal and cultic uses of פדה and the emphasis on exchange or monetary ransom are not found when God is the subject (except Ps 49:8, see above), seems to support Jepsen’s argument for a general meaning ‘lösen’ underlying both uses.

A.2 The socio-legal and cultic uses of פדה, however, are very specific, and they sometimes seem to overlap with גאל. The uses of פדה in these contexts seem to indicate that it means ‘to liberate by means of a ransom’ from either slavery or death. פדה occurs several times with בְּ in cultic contexts, which conveys the idea of giving something in exchange. The nouns פְּדוּיִם, ‘ransom, means of liberation’, and פִּדְיוֹן, ‘ransom price of human life’, bring out this meaning of giving something in exchange for freedom. Although the idea of payment is present in גאל (in non-theological uses), the emphasis on giving something of equivalent value seems to be particularly important to the meaning of פדה, perhaps because פדה has a distinctive use for the ransoming of first-born and for human life.

A.3 פדה + בְּ in theological contexts emphasizes God’s power to redeem and deliver (e.g., Deut 9:26; Neh 1:10). The force of פדה (when God is the subject) is in the action of deliverance. This is confirmed by the noun פדות, which has the sense of ‘(power of) liberation’. The contexts for the theological uses of פדה are both individual and national deliverance from oppressing forces, from which they cannot escape themselves. In a few cases, פדה is also used in the context of liberation from guilt and condemnation.

A.4 פדה occurs many times with the preposition מִן + כף/ יד, which emphasizes the nature of liberation as being a transfer away from an oppressing power, whether illness, death, human enemies or danger. This has parallels with several ‘deliverance’ words: נצל hiph., מלט piel, יצא hiph., and עלה hiph. and (less often) גאל, which reinforce the sense of ‘deliverance’, particularly in the context of the Exodus.


For the abbreviations see the List of Abbreviations.

Abegg, Bowley, and Cook 2003
Martin G. Abegg, James Bowley, and Edward Cook, The Dead Sea Scrolls Concordance, vol. 1, Leiden: Brill.
Benz 1972
Frank L. Benz, Personal Names in the Phoenician and Punic Inscriptions (Studia Pohl, 8), Rome: Biblical Institute Press.
Cazelles 2001
Henri Cazelles, ‘פדה’, TDOT 11:483-90.
Conti Rossini 1931
Carlo Conti Rossini, Chrestomathia Arabica Meridionalis Epigraphica edita et glossario instructa, Roma: Instituto per l’Oriente.
Craigie 1984
Peter C. Craigie, Psalms 1-50 (WBC, 19), Waco, TX: Word.
Dhorme 1967
Edouard Dhorme, A Commentary on the Book of Job, London: Nelson.
Dillmann 1865
C. F. August Dillmann, Lexicon Linguae Aethiopicae cum indice Latino, Leipzig: Weigel.
Driver and Gray 1921
Samuel R. Driver and George B. Gray, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Job (ICC), Edinburgh: T&T Clark.
Gitin and Cogan 1999
Seymour Gitin and Mordechai Cogan, ‘A New Type of Dedicatory Inscription from Ekron’, IEJ 49:193-202.
Gitin, Dotan, and Naveh 1997
Seymour Gitin, Trudy Dotan, and Joseph Naveh, ‘A Royal Dedicatory Inscription from Ekron’, IEJ 47:1-16.
Gray 2016
Alison Gray, ‘פדה’, ThWQ 3:259-63.
Gray 1903
George B. Gray, Numbers (ICC), Edinburgh: T&T Clark.
Gunkel 1926
Hermann Gunkel, Die Psalmen (HKAT), Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.
Hill 1967
David Hill, Greek Words and Hebrew Meanings: Studies in the Semantics of Soteriological Terms (SNTSMS, 5), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hubbard 1997
Robert L. Hubbard, ‘פדה’, NIDOTTE 3:578-82.
Jepsen 1957
Alfred Jepsen, ‘Die Begriffe des „Erlösens“ im Alten Testament’, in Paul Althaus et al. (eds.), Solange es »Heute« heisst: Festgabe für Rudolph Hermann zum 70. Geburtstag, Berlin: Evangelische Verlaganstalt, 153-63.
Kraus 1978
Hans-Joachim Kraus, Psalmen (BKAT, XV), Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag.
Lambert 1959-60
Wilfred G. Lambert, ‘Three Literary Prayers of the Babylonians’, AfO 19:47-66.
Milgrom 2001
Jacob Milgrom, Leviticus 23-27 (AB, 3B), New York: Doubleday.
Rabin 1954
Chaim Rabin, The Zadokite Documents, Oxford: Clarendon.
Sawyer 1972
John F.A. Sawyer, Semantics in Biblical Research: New Methods of Defining Hebrew Words for Salvation (SBT 2nd series, 24), London: SCM.
Smith 1904
Henry P. Smith, The Books of Samuel (ICC), Edinburgh: T&T Clark.
Sollamo 1985
Raija Sollamo, ‘The LXX Renderings of the Infinitive Absolute Used with a Paronymous Finite Verb in the Pentateuch’, in Natalio Fernández Marcos (ed.), La Septuaginta en la investigación contemporánea (V Congreso de la IOSCS) (Textos y estudios Cardenal Cisneros, 34), Madrid: Instituto «Arias Montano» del Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 101-13.
Stamm 1940
Johann J. Stamm, Erlösen und Vergeben im Alten Testament, Bern: Francke.
Stamm 1976
Johann J. Stamm, ‘פדה’, THAT 2:389-406.
Stec 1994
David M. Stec, The Text of the Targum of Job: An Introduction and Critical Edition (AGJU, 20), Leiden: Brill.
Tate 1990
Marvin E. Tate, Psalms 51-100 (WBC, 20), Waco, TX: Word.
Thackeray 1908
Henry St. J. Thackeray, ‘Renderings of the Infinitive Absolute in the LXX’, JTS 9:597-601.
Williamson 2006
Hugh G. M. Williamson, Isaiah 1-27, vol. 1: Commentary on Isaiah 1-5 (ICC), London: T&T Clark.
Yaron 1960
Reuven Yaron, ‘A Document of Redemption from Ugarit’, VT 10:83-90.


  1. The three versions Aquila (αʹ), Symmachus (σʹ), and Theodotion (θʹ) are given according to FieldI and FieldII

  2. TgFrg is only extant in Lev 27:27, 29, for the equivalents of the verb פדה in ms Vatican Ebr. 440, Folios 198-227. 

Semantics of Ancient Hebrew Database