“Blessed be he of the Lord, who has not forsaken His kindness to the living and the dead!” Ruth 2:20
I have a confession. I’m really envious of those couponing people I see at the grocery store. They have an overflowing basket of groceries and end up paying only $5! Tell me I’m not alone. How do they do it? I guess somehow they’ve learned how to be expert redeemers.
But there is someone even better at redeeming, and His name is Jesus. He’s our redeemer, but did you know He’s more specifically our kinsman-redeemer? What does that even mean? What is a kinsman-redeemer?
The book of Ruth gives us a great example of what a kinsman-redeemer is and why having one in the person of Jesus is so important to our eternal lives.
Let’s do a quick review of Ruth’s story.
The book begins with Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi. Both women have lost their husbands as well as Naomi’s two sons. The Bible isn’t crystal clear how they died, but it was due to a famine in the land at the time. The result left Naomi and her daughters-in-law without a male protector or a source of income.
Naomi decided to leave Moab and return to her native Bethlehem, so she told her daughters-in-law to go back to their families. One daughter went, but Ruth begged to stay with Naomi, so they traveled back to Judah together.
Life without a male in the family was very difficult for a woman at that time. Typically, there was scorn and shame, and she was doomed to poverty since it was only males who could make any money or own property. But what were Naomi and Ruth supposed to do? They had no choice but to try to make it on their own.
Thankfully, God always had everything under control. He led Naomi to a forgotten relative of her husband’s.
His name was Boaz.
Ruth and Boaz
Boaz had a farm, and it was harvest time. His workers were busy bringing in the crops, but, as was the law in the Torah, the corners of the field were left untouched (Leviticus 19:9-10; 23:22). Those areas were reserved for the poor to gather food for themselves. This is where we find Ruth. She was harvesting the corners of Boaz’s fields.
Ruth went to the fields for about a year, and she became a well-known presence. Finally, Boaz asks about her, and he allows her to glean along with his servant girls. He explains he’s impressed that she left her family and country to journey to a foreign land so she could take care of Naomi. But, his unusual favor toward her seems to indicate he thought she was not only brave and honorable but also attractive.
Then one day, Naomi suggests to Ruth that she put on her finest clothes and go to Boaz, waiting until he is finished eating and drinking. She instructs Ruth to uncover Boaz’s feet after he lies down and then lie down next to him.
Boaz is startled awake in the middle of the night, and he finds Ruth at his feet. She asks him to spread the corner of his garment over her to indicate he would marry her and be her kinsman-redeemer. He agrees to it, blesses her, and allows her to continue sleeping there for the rest of the night.
What is a Kinsman-Redeemer?
In Hebrew, the word for kinsman-redeemer is Go’el HaDahm. It comes from the word lig’ol, which means “to redeem.”
As the name implies, a kinsman is a family relation, usually the next of kin if there is no brother or another male in the immediate family. And according to the dictionary, a redeemer is someone who buys, buys back, recovers, pays off, or exchanges something for goods.
Putting it all together, a kinsman-redeemer is someone, usually the nearest relative, who is charged with the duty of restoring or recovering the rights of another and avenging any wrongs in exchange for something.
By law, the kinsman-redeemer had two main responsibilities: (1) to redeem family property that had changed ownership, and (2) to marry a childless widow and raise children in her dead husband’s name.
Ruth was not related to Boaz in any way, but Naomi was. Naomi initiated Ruth’s actions when she went to lie down next to Boaz on the threshing floor, which means Ruth was within the law.
Making It Official
Becoming a kinsman-redeemer was commonly done in the presence of the town elders to make it official. We find this in Ruth 4:9-10 after Naomi’s closest relative gives Boaz permission to take his place. Boaz then announces to the elders…
“Today, you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelech, Killion, and Mahlon (Naomi’s husband and sons). I have also acquired Ruth the Moabitess, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from the town records. Today, you are witnesses!”
Boaz, the kinsman, redeemed his relative’s wife, Naomi, and restored her dead husband’s property and good name in exchange for Ruth’s hand in marriage. Now, neither woman will be alone, and neither has to pick the fields to survive.
What makes this story even better is that Boaz and Ruth actually did love each other. It wasn’t just a sterile transaction. Even better because God is so good, they ended up giving birth to a son named Obed, who eventually became the grandfather of King David. And, as we know, David’s lineage led the way for Jesus’ birth.
Jesus Our Kinsman-Redeemer
Jesus is also a kinsman-redeemer, but this time to us. Since we are brothers and sisters in Christ and heirs together to the throne (Romans 8:17), that means Jesus is our brother (Hebrews 2:11). He is our nearest relative.
“Therefore, He had to be made like His brothers in every respect, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” Hebrews 2:17
Sin has separated us from the Father leaving us orphans, much like Naomi and Ruth left alone in Moab. So, Jesus came to be our kinsman-redeemer. Through His shed blood on the cross, He has bought our freedom from sin and restored our relationship with the Father. He has avenged the evil of sin.
In exchange for being a kinsman-redeemer, Boaz married Ruth. What does Jesus get? Our hand in marriage as the church. Like a bride prepared for her groom, we the church join Jesus in an eternal relationship. Now, for those who believe, we will never be alone. Jesus’ declared faithfulness to us proves it.
“I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband…Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:2-4
Through Jesus’ grace and sacrifice on our behalf, we are redeemed (we have redemption) from sin, and we will enjoy eternal life with God as His bride.
We are Just Like Ruth
Ruth’s story is remarkably like ours. In her, we see someone who is unable to help herself and needs rescue. She must request someone specific to be her kinsman-redeemer so he could restore and protect her in exchange for her hand in marriage.
We are all like Ruth. All of us are in need of rescue, and we cannot do it ourselves. We need a kinsman-redeemer named Jesus. He’s the one who loves us so much He willingly paid the price for our sin, which is death. And, He has made us His bride so we can enjoy His grace and blessings for eternity.
Jesus’ offer of being a kinsman-redeemer is for everyone, not just a few chosen people. His grace is for all who seek rescue from sin and long for the freedom of salvation. Jesus has declared that anyone who calls out to Him will be saved (Joel 2:32; Romans 10:13). No strings attached, and no questions asked. Just simple salvation with a promise of full restoration.
Jesus is truly our kinsman-redeemer.
Praise the Lord for His goodness and love.
In 2001, Pastor John MacArthur wrote a great sermon about Jesus being our kinsman-redeemer. His website, Grace to You, reprinted the sermon in its entirety. It’s very informative and full of great Bible history. You can either read or listen to the whole thing right here. Enjoy!