Ephesians 1 and Ransom

In Him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. Ephesians 1:7-10 (ESV)

The first chapter of Ephesians contains language that draws heavily on contemporary, 1st century Jewish thought. Paul, in the many of his writings, draws upon the language of the Amidah and the Shema, elements of Jewish theological discussion that would have been a major part of his early education.

Moshe Ben-Maeir, an Israeli Messianic Jew who was active through most of the 20th century, explains a connection between Paul’s conceptual use of ransom (Greek lutra and Hebrew pidyon) redemption, and blood in a commentary on Ephesians:

“Pidyon has in it the idea of exchange, of substitution. In the Torah the Law of Ransom is stated at Exodus 13:13 & 34:20. Every firstborn male and donkey must be ransomed. In Numbers 3, 22,000 Levites became substitutes for 22,000 of Israel’s firstborn males, and the remaining 273, for whom there were no Levites, were ransomed by 1,365 shekels. In 1 Samuel 14, Jonathan came under sentence of death for transgressing a public oath his father made in his absence. Yet although King Saul condemned him to die, the sentence was not carried out, because the people objected. But law is law, not to be ignored. So they ransomed him, and thus legally prevented his being put to death.

“We too, like Jonathan, have come under the sentence of death. Jonathan was condemned to death even though he had been unaware of King Saul’s oath and order. We are condemned to death, even though we have not sinned after the manner of the first Adam (see Romans 5:12-14). Like Jonathan, we must either die or be ransomed. Jonathan and the Israel firstborn were ransomed with money. Money equals blood. One of Ihe names for money in Hebrew is damim, plural of dam, blood, because it represents man’s labor and risks. It is a Mishnaic term.

“But money cannot redeem from eternal death. Man has nothing with which to ransom himself or others (Psalm 49:8-9); God himself must redeem him from the power of the grave (Psalm 49:16). But of God it is written, ‘I have found a ransom’ (Job 33:24): and that ransom is the blood of the Messiah.” 1Moshe Ben-Maeir, How A Jew Explains Ephesians – p. 23-25

References   [ + ]

1. Moshe Ben-Maeir, How A Jew Explains Ephesians – p. 23-25

2 thoughts on “Ephesians 1 and Ransom

  1. Hi, Thanks for the quote from Moshe ben-mater. Wondering of you know where I might get a copy of How A Jew Explains Ephesians. Thx

    • Hi Zach,

      Unfortunately, the book appears to be out of print and is unavailable at most of the usual online sites. I suggest searching on eBay or Amazon.com for used copies.

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