2 Nephi 1:15 –Meaning of ‘Redeem’

15 But behold, the Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell; I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love (2 Nephi 1:15).

This is one of the most important verses in the Book of Mormon and probably one of the most important in all the scriptures because it describes the single most important doctrine of the gospel: The Savior’s relationship with the righteous. That description, of course, begins with an understanding of the nature of Christ as Lord and Redeemer.

Lehi’s redemption is a continuum. It began in the past when “the Lord hath (past tense) redeemed my soul from hell,” and continues through the present, “I am (present tense) encircled about eternally (future) in the arms of his love.” The final phrase in our verse, “and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love,” may be a reference to a physical embrace, but it certainly signifies a present and eternal trust and love (hesed) which will mature to become the very nature of Lehi’s eternal being.

To be redeemed, as Lehi uses the word, means: “I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love.” This is consistent with Job and many such testimonies in the Psalms, Isaiah, and the Book of Mormon, where to be redeemed means to be brought into the presence of the Savior. Job wrote:

23 Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book!
24 That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever!
25 For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
26 And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God (Job 29:23-26).

The concept and the realization of redemption are together the crowning doctrine of the gospel. It compasses all of our eternal relationships with the Savior, his Father, and his children. Redemption is the epitome of trust, friendship, and love, and the perpetual light of all that is eternal life.


The word “redeem” has a number of different meanings in the scriptures and the book in which one looks has a great deal to do with what it means. For example, the word “Redeemer” is not found anywhere in the New Testament because the concept of a “redeemer” is a Hebrew concept and there is no Greek word which conveys that same meaning.

Even though the words translated as “redeem” from the Hebrew, and the words translated “redeem” from the Greek have different meanings, they both are valid in their own context, they just mean slightly different things. The word “redeem” in the Book of Mormon has a different meaning still, which is clearly expressed in the Book of Job, as just quoted.

From that reference in Job and from many such uses in the Book of Mormon, one can go back to the Bible, especially to the Psalms and Isaiah, and find many places where the word is used in that same way. But without the Book of Mormon as a key, one would not know that the most important scriptural meaning of the word “redeem” is that one may come into the presence of the Savior.

The oft-repeated invitation to “come unto Christ” is an invitation to accept the gift of his redemption. It should not be a surprise to note that of the 18 times the word “Redeemer” is used in the Old Testament, all but 6 are in Isaiah, whose words Nephi cherished because he, like Nephi, had seen and testified of the Savior. (see 2 Nephi 11:2-3)

In the following pages I have examined the different meanings of the word “redeem” and shown how they are used in the scriptures.


In the New Testament the Greek words that are translated “redeem” mean to purchase, buy up, or to ransom (Strong # 1805, exagorazo, and 3084, lytroo). Two examples are:

14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem (lytroo) us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works (Titus 2:14).


4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,
5 To redeem (exagorazo) them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ (Galatians 4:1-8).

The Greek word was not a religious term but it worked perfectly for the Christians who used it to mean the Savior purchases our sins and ransoms us from hell.


An Hebrew word that is translated as “redeem” also means to release, deliver, ransom. It has to do with the “oriental law of kinship” (Strong # 1350 (ga’al, gaw-al‘).

The word “redeemer” in the Old Testament is used to represent one who redeems by right or responsibility of being a kin—a brother or other relative. The Law of Moses makes relatives responsible to help each other. Examples are to buy back a relative’s lost property, marry his widow, avenger his wrongs: to deliver, purchase, ransom. The relative who performs these services is called the “redeemer.”

The book of Ruth is a good example showing that ga’al is translated as kinsman, redeem, and redeemer.” Here, the issue is which of Ruth’s kinsmen will care for her.

1 Then went Boaz up to the gate, and sat him down there: and, behold, the kinsman (ga’al) of whom Boaz spake came by; unto whom he said, Ho, such a one! turn aside, sit down here. And he turned aside, and sat down (Ruth 4:1).
6 And the kinsman (ga’al) said, I cannot redeem (ga’al) it for myself, lest I mar mine own inheritance: redeem (ga’al) thou my right to thyself; for I cannot redeem (ga’al) it (Ruth 4:6).

The word ga’al is used in a unique way in Job where the context suggest that it means to be brought into the presence of Jehovah.

23 Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book!
24 That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever!
25 For I know that my redeemer (ga’al) liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
26 And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:
27 Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me. (Job 19:23-27).


There are several excellent examples in the Book of Mormon where, as in Job, the meaning of redeem is to be brought into the presence of God. The keys to these passages are the conjunctions and verb tenses.

In the following example where the brother of Jared sees and converses with the Savior, the key words are in verses 3 and 4. The verb tenses are: “Because thou knowest [present tense] these things ye are [present tense] redeemed from the fall; therefore ye are [present tense] brought back into my presence; therefore I show [present tense] myself unto you.” “Therefore” is the conjunction that ties the whole together. With that conjunction the Savior defines “redeemed” as being brought into his presence (Ether 3:11-14).

The next example is Lehi speaking to his son Jacob. The keys are in verses 3 and 4 where “wherefore” is the conjunction. The verb tenses are “I know that thou art [present tense] redeemed, because of the righteousness of thy Redeemer; for thou hast [past tense] beheld that in the fulness of time he cometh to bring salvation unto men. And thou hast [past tense] beheld in thy youth his glory.” Verse 4 projects Jacob’s redemption into the “forever” (2 Nephi 2:1-4).

The third example is the verse with which we began this discussion. Here Lehi extends his past experience into the eternities: “the Lord hath [past tense] redeemed my soul from hell; I have [past tense] beheld his glory, and I am [present tense] encircled about eternally in the arms of his love.”(2 Nephi 1:15).

The next example is a short look into the lives of two prophet-heros, Helaman who is writing the letter and Captain Moroni who is its recipient: “may the Lord our God, who has [past tense] redeemed us and made us free, keep [“may…keep” present tense projected into the future] you continually in his presence” (Alma 58:41).

It is apparent from these examples that having been redeemed in the past, that redemption becomes a permanent part of the definition of who one is. That, according to Alma, was the primary purpose of the ancient Nephite temple drama, which appears to have been a kind of dress rehearsal for the final thing. Alma calls it “plan of redemption.”

Here, Alma is speaking to Zeezrom, However, the tenor of Alma’s words does not suggest he was trying to teach him, but rather that he was challenging Zeezrom with what he already knew to keep the covenants he had already made. Alma concludes his review of those covenants by quoting God as saying that the intent of men’s being taught the “plan of redemption” was so “these shall enter into my rest.”

28 And after God had appointed that these things should come unto man, behold, then he saw that it was expedient that man should know concerning the things whereof he had appointed unto them;
29 Therefore he sent angels to converse with them, who caused men to behold of his glory.
30 And they began from that time forth to call on his name; therefore God conversed with men, and made known unto them the plan of redemption, which had been prepared from the foundation of the world; and this he made known unto them according to their faith [pistis = covenants] and repentance and their holy works [ordinances].
31 Wherefore, he gave commandments unto men, they having first transgressed the first commandments as to things which were temporal, and becoming as Gods, knowing good from evil, placing themselves in a state to act, or being placed in a state to act according to their wills and pleasures, whether to do evil or to do good—
32 Therefore God gave unto them commandments, after having made known unto them the plan of redemption, that they should not do evil, the penalty thereof being a second death, which was an everlasting death as to things pertaining unto righteousness; for on such the plan of redemption could have no power, for the works of justice could not be destroyed, according to the supreme goodness of God.
33 But God did call on men, in the name of his Son, (this being the plan of redemption which was laid) saying: If ye will repent and harden not your hearts, then will I have mercy upon you, through mine Only Begotten Son;
34 Therefore, whosoever repenteth, and hardeneth not his heart, he shall have claim on mercy through mine Only Begotten Son, unto a remission of his sins; and these shall enter into my rest (Alma 12:28-34).

For the righteous, these scriptures issue an invitation to seek to “come unto Christ.” However, while the invitation is there, the admonition is to get on with the other things we should be doing and not focus too much attention on trying to force the Lord’s hand is this thing. Reaching that goal is a process, as the Lord explained.

67 And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things.
68 Therefore, sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God, and the days will come that you shall see him; for he will unveil his face unto you, and it shall be in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will (D&C 88:67-68).

Moroni explained that ultimately everyone will be redeemed to be judged, but not everyone will remain there. He wrote,

13 And because of the redemption of man, which came by Jesus Christ, they are brought back into the presence of the Lord; yea, this is wherein all men are redeemed, because the death of Christ bringeth to pass the resurrection, which bringeth to pass a redemption from an endless sleep, from which sleep all men shall be awakened by the power of God when the trump shall sound; and they shall come forth, both small and great, and all shall stand before his bar, being redeemed and loosed from this eternal band of death, which death is a temporal death.

14 And then cometh the judgment of the Holy One upon them; and then cometh the time that he that is filthy shall be filthy still; and he that is righteous shall be righteous still; he that is happy shall be happy still; and he that is unhappy shall be unhappy still (Mormon 9:13-14).


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