Romance and non-romance fans alike enjoy the story of Ruth. After she loses her husband, she continues to stay and care for her mother-in-law. She meets a man named Boaz who treats her well and ends up giving her a happily ever after. Although we may enjoy the story, we miss a certain nuance in the story. Boaz was her kinsman-redeemer.
A kinsman-redeemer is a male relative who has the responsibility to help a relative in need or danger. In the instance of Ruth, because she had lost her husband, she had to work for essentially scraps. Women in the Ancient world had a difficult time finding enough employment to feed themselves, let alone their other relatives. Boaz, seeing this need and his duty as her kinsman-redeemer, proposes, and marries Ruth.
In this article, we’ll explore the meaning and purpose of a kinsman-redeemer, who operates under this title in the Bible, and how Jesus fits into the role as our ultimate kinsman-redeemer.
What Is a Kinsman Redeemer?
As mentioned before a kinsman-redeemer is a male relative who helps a weaker relative in need or danger. But this goes beyond mere marriage proposals. This person avenges (in the case of a relative being murdered via manslaughter), delivers, rescues, and in many cases, redeems property. The role far extends beyond nuptial duties.
Let’s explore some verses that discuss the role’s requirements more.
Leviticus 25:25-26: “If a fellow countryman of yours becomes so poor he has to sell part of his property, then his nearest kinsman is to come and buy back what his relative has sold. Or in case a man has no kinsman, but so recovers his means as to find sufficient for its redemption, then he shall calculate the years since its sale and refund the balance to the man to whom he sold it, and so return to his property.”
If a relative runs into a debt problem, a kinsman-redeemer helps to bail them out. Leviticus 25:47-55 continues to list the terms for the kinsman redeemer and the person in need of redemption.
Genesis 38:8 talks about a man whose brother died. It was his duty, as a kinsman-redeemer, to marry his brother’s widowed wife.
If a husband died, a woman would have to fight for her life. It was almost impossible to live in Ancient times without a male guardian or husband. Therefore, a male relative of the husband had to step into the gap the husband had left behind. In the case of Boaz, he is related to Naomi (Ruth’s mother-in-law). Therefore, as a male relative of Ruth’s late husband, he qualified for the part of a kinsman-redeemer.
Examples of Kinsman Redeemers in the Bible
We know the most famous example: Boaz (Ruth 3:9). He marries Ruth, and through their offspring comes the very Savior of the world. Do we have any other examples in Scripture we can point to?
“Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. The second and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. Finally, the woman died too. Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”
Although they lead with this question to trick Jesus, we can find insight in these verses that kinsman-redeemer practices continued into the New Testament. After all, if a woman’s husband dies, as the story goes, the next one steps up to the plate.
Apart from that, we don’t have many explicit examples of kinsman-redeemers in Scripture. But due to high mortality rates and frequent wars in the Old Testament, we can assume a great many of wives lost their husbands. We do also have to keep in mind that the role does extend beyond martial duties. For instance, if someone committed manslaughter against one of my relatives, a kinsman-redeemer would seek out the death of the person who murdered them. But in the case of accidental murders (aka manslaughter), the murderer could run to a city of refuge until the Year of Jubilee.
Why Is Jesus a Kinsman-Redeemer?
We can think of one more example of a kinsman-redeemer in Scripture: Jesus. He fits this role for a number of reasons. First, and most obvious, he redeems us. He pays our debts, marries us into the family of God, and restores us.
But what beyond this points to his role as our kinsman-redeemer? In another way, he grafts us into the family of God. Ruth wasn’t Jewish, but because of her marriage to Boaz, she gets to participate in the lineage of Jesus. In the same way, we get to become a part of God’s family and he redeems us in every way, just like a perfect kinsman-redeemer could.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/kkshepel
Hope Bolinger is an acquisitions editor at End Game Press, and the author of almost 30 books. More than 1500 of her works have been featured in various publications. Check out her books at hopebolinger.com for clean books in most genres, great for adults and kids.
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