The act of redeeming is motivated by divine mercy or compassion (rahamim). If we knew Hebrew, we would realize that compassion is a cognate of the word for womb (rehem). When the people of Israel heard, “With everlasting love I will have compassion on you, says YHWH your Redeemer” (Isa 54:8), they understood that the redeeming God was pouring out on them the kind of love a mother has for the child of her womb. In Phyllis Trible’s careful analysis, this journey of a metaphor from the wombs of women to the compassion of God is a powerful clue to the divine being, unfolding as it does unsuspected female dimensions of the image of God whose mercy is greater than we can imagine….
From its original financial meaning the verb “redeem” expanded and came to refer to rescue from physical, political, and spiritual bondage; from slavery, exile, and other kinds of oppression; from persecution, troubles, and enemies; from sin and from death. Individuals as well as the community as a whole were the beneficiaries of God’s redeeming care.
This rich tradition flows into Second Isaiah who used it to awaken hope of redemption in people being held captive, based on the endearing goel relationship between YHWH and Israel: “But now thus says YHWH who created you, O Jacob, who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine” (43:1).
Photo: Rhine River, Germany, March 12, 1997