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GOEL gō’ ĕl (גֹּאֵ֑ל, redeemer). The present active participle of the word which means “to redeem,” “to act as a kinsman,” or “to do the part of the next of kin.”

The term is found frequently in the OT as describing the person who is next of kin and his respective duties.

One of his duties is to buy back what his poor brother has sold and cannot himself regain (Lev 25:25, 26) He is also the recipient of the restitution which may be due to a next of kin (Num 5:8).

Ruth illustrates the responsibility of the redeemer to purchase land belonging to one deceased who was next of kin; to marry his widow and to raise up children for the deceased (Ruth 2:20; 4:14).

It is quite appropriate then that the term became applied to God in His relationship to men. As Redeemer He would buy back what the poor sinner sold (his life) and could not regain. God also would avenge the wrong done to believing sinners by His judgment against the devil and sin. Furthermore, like a husband, God would marry the church, His bride. All of these concepts of God are seen in Scripture. They begin in the OT but are fully developed in the New.

Jacob first spoke of God as his Goel from all evil (Gen 48:16).

Job also expressed intimate knowledge of his Goel, presumably God (Job 19:25).

The psalmist calls God his Goel and strength (Ps 19:14). Note also Psalms 78:35; 103:4.

The Book of Proverbs calls God the Goel of the poor orphan (Prov 23:11).

The LXX uses several different words to tr. the Heb. גֹּאֵ֑ל. Three of them are λυτρούμενος, ῥυσάμενός, and ἐξαιρουμενός. All are participles in form.

These words appear in the NT quite appropriately in reference to God and esp. Jesus Christ.

Christ is said to give His life a ransom (λύτρον, G3389) for many (Matt 20:28). He gave Himself up to redeem (λυτρόω, G3390) us from iniquity (Titus 2:14).

Peter tells us that we were redeemed (λυτρόω, G3390) not by gold and silver but by the blood of Christ (1 Pet 1:18 19).

Note also the use of ῥύομαι, G4861, and ἐξαιρέω, G1975, (Rom 7:24; Gal 1:4; Col 1:13; 1 Thess 1:10).

From the use of this term it is clear that quite early God’s people understood the concept of God as Goel. Christ quite appropriately, in the flesh, did become the Goel who purchased with His blood our lives and who wrought vengeance on our enemy, Satan. He further became our bridegroom and the Church, His bride.


H. Rowley, The Old Testament and Modern Study (1951), 221; Oesterley and Robinson, An Introduction to the Books of the Old Testament (1958), 83; W. Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament (1961), 309; C. Pfeiffer, Ras Shamra and the Bible (1962), 43.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

Goel is the participle of the Hebrew word gal’al ("to deliver," "to redeem") which aside from its common usage is frequently employed in connection with Hebrew law, where it is the technical term applied to a person who as the nearest relative of another is placed under certain obligations to him.

(1) If a Jew because of poverty had been obliged to sell himself to a wealthy "stranger or sojourner," it became the duty of his relatives to redeem him. Compare Le 25:47 ff and the article JUBILEE.

(2) The same duty fell upon the nearest kinsman, if his brother, being poor, had been forced to sell some of his property. Compare Le 25:23 ff; Ru 4:4 ff, and the article JUBILEE.

(3) It also devolved upon the nearest relative to marry the ú childless widow of his brother (Ru 3:13; Tobit 3:17).

(4) In Nu 5:5 ff a law is stated which demands that restitution be made to the nearest relative, and after him to the priest, if the injured party has died (Le 6:1 ).

For the figurative use of Goel ("redeemer") see Ps 119:154; Pr 23:11; Job 19:25; Isa 41:14. See also AVENGE; MURDER; REFUGE, CITIES OF.

Arthur L. Breslich