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RANSOM (Heb. כֹּפֶר, kofer), the compensation required to avoid bodily punishment or to free one's self from an undesirable state or condition (Isa. 43:3). The term kofer is related to the Akkadian kapāru ("to wipe off ") or kuppuru ("to expiate"). The substitution of a penal sum for corporal punishment was widespread in the ancient world. Thus, the Hittite Code provides for fixed damages for bodily harm; and the Bedouin, too, allowed for ransom as an alternative to blood vengeance. Except in the case of murder (Num. 35:31–34), the Israelites followed this practice too, though fixed sums do not seem to have existed in early times. Instead the principle of "measure for measure" was employed (Ex. 21:36; Lev. 24:18), together with specific standards for determining the compensation (Ex. 21:19; 22:16). Later, set amounts were established (Deut. 22:29), such as the "redemption" fees for those consecrated to yhwh (Lev. 27). To be distinguished from kofer in the sense of "ransom," which is paid to an aggrieved party, is kofer in the sense of "bribe," which is paid to a judge in the hope of influencing his decision (i Sam. 12:3; Amos 5:12).


Pedersen, Israel, 1–2 (1926), 398–99; Pritchard, Texts, 189–90; E.A. Speiser, in: jbl, 182 (1963), 301–6.

[David L. Lieber]

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