Kinsman-Redeemer; Redemption; Ruth 2:20-23
We need to be reminded that we don't learn to love God or to express love for other people easily. It goes against our sinful nature. It is a process of spiritual growth and it is only those who are maturing in Christ that really come to a point where they begin to understand who God is and can truly learn to love Him. True love for God is that this sentimental idea that is so common today. It is not an emotional thing, it is always expressed in learning about God, knowing God, and in obeying His commandments. It is expressed in kindness, not just to those who deserve it but to those who are undeserving.
In the life of Ruth we have seen that Ruth has dealt faithfully with her husband who is now dead and with her mother-in-law, Naomi. She exemplifies that. As they come back into the land, into Bethlehem, they are poor, impoverished and at the bottom of the social ladder. They have no man to work for them, no man to provide for them, and they are as needy as anyone can be. And yet Ruth is going to demonstrate the life of the believer in time of need, personal crisis and adversity. She is going to trust God. She demonstrates the faith-rest drill by trusting God and doping what God expects her to do. She is trusting God because she knows that God has set up a system in the Mosaic law to take care of the poor, the widows and the orphans.
A principle we saw last time was that often the coldest darkness in life precedes the warmest light. We go through hard times but sometimes we have to go through those difficult times, and God takes us through that suffering, in order for us to learn certain dynamics in the Christian life in order to put things into practice. When adversity comes along it gives us an opportunity to trust God.
Another point in terms of summary, we never know how long it will take but God's grace always supplies for us abundantly and generously. This is where we wrapped up last time. Ruth has gone out into the fields and she has been gleaning, and as she was recognized by Boaz. Boaz then treated her in grace. He gave her moiré than was necessary, and yet he didn't violate the principle of personal responsibility, he didn't violate her working. He didn't just give her food, he recognized she still needed to work but he made it easier on her. She went home with approximately 25 or 30 pounds of grain instead of 5 or 10 pounds of grain, and so this impressed Naomi, and Naomi is beginning to wake up and recognize that maybe the Lord is not unfaithful and maybe the Lord is actually going to provide for them, and maybe there is actual hope in the future.
In Ruth 2:20 we are introduced to a couple of crucial principles that will be illustrated for us in the next two chapters of Ruth. Doctrine explained in the New Testament is frequently illustrated for us historically and experientially in the Old Testament. There is a historical picture of a doctrine in the Old Testament and there is the doctrine explained in detail in the New Testament. That is true for the doctrine we are now going to be examining—redemption. So when you are a parent or a prep-school teacher and you come to teach any doctrine, you need to go back into the Old Testament and find out how God began to reveal this doctrine to us, and in what ways it is illustrated in the lives of the Old Testament saints. That is easy for children to understand because it is not so abstract.
We are going to see that the foundation illustration in the Old Testament for redemption is the Exodus event. You can't really fully understand what Christ did on the cross and what is taught about redemption in the New Testament without going back to Exodus, because Exodus is the picture that God used to teach redemption to Israel in the Old Testament.
Ruth 2:20, "And Naomi said unto her daughter in law, May he be blessed of the LORD, who has not withdrawn his kindness to the living and to the dead. And Naomi said unto her, The man is near of kin unto us, one of our next kinsmen."
In the first statement by Naomi here we run into a bit of a translation problem that can produce a lack of clarity. She starts off, "May he be blessed," and we have to understand who is the "he" here. It refers to Boaz, because Ruth has just explained to Naomi how Boaz has looked upon her with favor. Naomi responds, "May he be blessed." Then we have the phrase, "of the LORD, who has not withdrawn his kindness." To whom does the "who" refer? Does it refer to the Lord or does it refer back to the person who is to be blessed? The general rule of grammar is that whenever you have a pronoun that is referring back it always goes to the most immediate antecedent, so the nearest antecedent here to the "who" "is the LORD." So the phrase "who has not withdrawn his kindness" is a reference to the Lord. Naomi is recognizing that it is Yahweh who has not withdrawn His kindness.
Then she comes to the phrase "to the living and to the dead." This is a typical Hebrew way of speaking which means that you take two words that are opposites and use them together to express the totality of something. She is talking about the fact that God has not withdrawn His kindness to anyone, and if we take it literally, "to the living" is referring to herself. She is beginning to recognize that God has not withdrawn His kindness—chesed, He has not withdrawn His faithful, loyal love. This is crucial to understanding who God is. In the Old Testament, if there is one word that is used to sum up all of who God is, it is this word chesed. It is a word that is very difficult to bring over into the English because it is so loaded with meaning in the Hebrew. Naomi begins to recognize that back in chapter one she was out of line thinking that God had brought them back empty. She had blamed God for all of her problems. But God never does withdraw His chesed; God is always faithful. And this reminds us of the integrity of God.
This is crucial to understanding what will get into at the end of the verse where it talks about His redemption, the kinsman-redeemer. So when we look at the essence of God we are reminded that God is sovereign. That means that God rules the heavens and the earth and all of human history. Nothing that happens to us, no matter how harsh, no matter how chaotic it may seems at the time, nothing that happens in our lives is outside of the control of God. He is sovereign. All creatures ultimately answer to Him and no one can do anything without His permission.
God is righteous and just. This is often expressed with the old English "holy" which derives from the Hebrew word qaddash and literally means to be set apart. It is used in various forms to instruments in the temple that are set apart for His use, to priests who are set apart for God's use, and in this sense it relates to the uniqueness of God. When it talks about "God is holy" it talks about the fact that he is unique, and He is unique in terms of His character. The righteousness of God represents His absolute perfect standards. God is perfect and can do nothing less than perfection. His justice represents the application of that standard. So God is righteous and He is just.
He is also love, and this is expressed in the Hebrew with two different words. The first is ahab, and the second is our word chesed. We see a connection here often. The psalmist says, "Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne, chesed and truth go out from it." So we see a connection between righteousness, justice chesed love, and then another category of God's character, which is His veracity—He is absolute truth.
The core of God's being relates to His integrity. We have seen that the righteousness of God expresses the standard of His character, and the justice of God is the outworking or the application of that standard. So that what the righteousness of God approves then the justice of God blesses. But what the righteousness of God rejects the justice of God condemns. Nevertheless God is faithful. He is faithful to Himself, therefore He is going to give His creatures an opportunity for salvation. So His love is the basis for His actions in human history and it is expressed toward undeserving creatures as grace. So grace provides a solution. What the righteousness of God rejects the justice of God condemns. The love of God produces a solution expressed in grace and revealed to us in the truth of His Word. So we have to go to His Word to find out who God is and what His plan of salvation is for us.
We need to look at the next key word here which is the word goel. Naomi says, "The man is near of kin unto us, one of our next kinsmen." The key word that she uses here is goel. This is a crucial word and a key word for understanding the entire relationship of Boaz to Ruth and what is going to take place. When Ruth hears this it comes loaded with all kinds of meanings and baggage that is going to give her a real sense of hope and a real sense of a future. This man that whose field she "just happened" into is a goel for her. That word is often translated "kinsman-redeemer." It is a technical term related to family law in the Mosaic law, and there are five areas of responsibility that are stressed for the goel. In some passages the emphasis is more on the kinsman aspect, and in other passages the emphasis is more on the redeemer aspect. But if it is all wrapped together it is basically saying that if you are related to someone you have a responsibility under divine institution number three to take care of them.
Too often today in our society it is easy to forget, we live fragmented lives, we live in a society where as a result of technological advances over the last two centuries we look at people in terms of individual units and we find ways to evade family responsibilities, not only taking care of elderly parents but also to responsibilities that continue through life for siblings, for cousins, for other family members. We have lost sight of the whole idea of family taking care of family, especially in time of crisis. This was one of the key ways God provided for the stability of society in the Old Testament. Once we start losing that and having a breakdown in the family then we start seeing a collapse inside divine institution number five, the national entity.
The five responsibilities of the kinsman-redeemer
1) He has a responsibility toward the property of the family. The Word of God recognizes the importance of personal ownership of property. The kinsman-redeemer was to make sure that the inheritance—the possession of land that God had given to each Israelite in the land—was never lost to the family, that the hereditary property of the family never passed out of the family and was never lost. God made sure that every member in Israelite society had land. The kinsman-redeemer was to protect the family, and we are going to see that that is a key idea in redemption—protection. The Word of God recognizes personal ownership of property, and so that shows that socialism and communism have no place in any kind of society that is grounded on the Word of God. Socialism and communism are never authorized by the Word of God because the Word of God recognizes the right of personal ownership of property and to enjoy the benefits and the blessings of personal ownership of property. Ownership of property brings with it a certain amount of responsibility, to use it wisely and not to use it merely selfishly.
2) He was to protect the liberty of the family. There is a connection between freedom and owning property. There were times under the Mosaic law that if a family became indebted then in order to pay things back they could put themselves in to slavery. Modern liberalism wants to look at an institution like slavery and say that it is bad, and by definition evil. But God doesn't regulate evil. That means that when God regulates slavery in the Old Testament He says that slavery in principle is not evil. It may be practiced in evil ways. For example, racial slavery, slavery that you can't get out of or the person can't buy himself out of, is evil. God provided a system of slavery that was a protection in the Old Testament, where a person could go into slavery for a period of time but they always had a way to buy themselves out, or a kinsman-redeemer could come and buy them out. Not only that, but at the end of fifty years, the year of jubilee, all slaves were free. If you sold your property in order to get the money to pay off debts, in the year of jubilee it was returned back to the family so that the family never lost its property. So it was not the kind of harsh slavery that we often associate with. It was a way to provide security for people who had been irresponsible and could no longer live in society because they had given up all their security. So the goel, the kinsman-redeemer, was to maintain the freedom of individuals within the family by buying back those who had been sold into slavery because of poverty. If he had the resources then he could purchase their freedom. So the purchase of freedom is another aspect that is inherent in the concept of the kinsman-redeemer. We find this covered in Leviticus 25:47ff. "And if a sojourner or stranger wax rich by you, and your brother that dwells by him become poor, and sell himself to the stranger or sojourner by you, or to the stock of the stranger's family: after that he is sold he may be redeemed again; one of his brothers may redeem him: either his uncle, or his uncle's son [the extended family or clan can pick up the goel's right], may redeem him, or any that is near of kin unto him of his family may redeem him; or if he prospers, he may redeem himself. And he shall reckon with him that bought him from the year that he was sold to him to the year of jubilee: and the price of his sale shall be according unto the number of years, according to the time of a hired servant shall it be with him. If there are still many years behind, he shall refund part of his purchase price in proportion to them for his own redemption. And if few years remain to the year of jubilee, then he shall calculate with him, in proportion to his years he is to refund the amount for his redemption. Lie a man hired year by year he shall be with him: he shall not rule with severity over him in your sight." So there were rules for the master. He was not to be oppressive in his ownership of a slave. Verse 54, "And if he be not redeemed in these years, then he shall go out in the year of jubilee, both he, and his sons with him." So there was always this out. Verse 55, "For the sons of Israel my servants whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God." The picture here is that the land is owned my the Lord, everything is owned by the Lord, and He is parceling that out to the families and to the individuals, and if they fail because of irresponsibility or whatever reason and they lose it, then it is not lost permanently and it reverts back to the family during the year of jubilee because the ultimate owner is the great King who is simply parceling this out to His vassals.
3) He is to be concerned with the life of the family. He is to track down and execute murderers of near relatives. He is called the blood avenger in the Old Testament. Numbers 35:12; 19, 27. There were cities of refuge provided where they could escape and live and not die, but if they were outside the city of refuge then he could take their life legitimately. The Bible recognizes capital punishment. In Numbers 35:12 the word for "avenger" is goel. So that is a part of the meaning of the word, he is an avenger. He is the one who is going to be executing justice here.
4) He was to make sure the family had a future. That means that he was to receive money for restitution for any deceased crime victim. If the victim of a crime died then money was to be taken in by the goel as restitution for that crime and that would provide for the future of the family. Assuming the crime victim was not able to take care of the family in the future this financial restitution would provide security for the future of the family. Numbers 5:8.
5) Justice. The goel was responsible to make sure that justice was served in any legal matter involving a relative. This is seen in various passages: Job 19:23; Psalm 119:154; Jeremiah 50:34. In Job 19 Job says: " know that my redeemer lives." He has gone through unjust suffering in his eyes, undeserved suffering. "…and at the last he will take his stand on the earth." This is referring to the justice that God executes on the earth. This is the court of last and final appeal, and when all is said and done God is the one who will bring about justice for the family, and whatever has happened in my life that is undeserved and unjust it will all be made right by the Lord at the final judgment. Psalm 119:154, "Plead my cause, and redeem me; revive me according to thy word." The terminology, "plead my cause," comes right out of Hebrew legal terminology, to plead a cause in a courtroom. Notice how the concept of justice and pleading a cause is related to redemption. He is praying to God to exercise His role as the goel for mankind, and here it also has the idea of protection. Jeremiah 50:34, "…he will vigorously plead their case." That is from the Hebrew rib, and has to do with presenting a case in a courtroom. He will vigorously plead their case, and that is His role as redeemer. He pleads their case in the supreme court of heaven, "so that he may bring rest to the earth, but turmoil to the inhabitants of Babylon." This takes place just prior to the Babylonian captivity and is a promise that God ultimately will bring justice against the Chaldeans (Babylonians).
So the goel emphasizes family responsibilities and the emphasis is on the corporate unity of the family. Notice that the goel is related to three divine institutions: the first divine institution, which is responsibility; the third divine institution, which is family; and the fifth divine institution, which is the nation. We could also add in the fourth divine institution because he was to execute justice, so it is related to human government. The function of the family unit and family responsibility is inherent to the stability of any nation.
The concept of goel goes far beyond the practice in a human dimension, it goes into the whole doctrine of redemption. So we will look at the doctrine of redemption as it is developed out of this illustration.
1) Redemption terminology. There are two Old Testament words used for redemption. Padah is the first word and it means to ransom, to deliver, to rescue someone. The core idea is to pay a price for the transfer of ownership. Whenever we think of the word "redemption" we should think of the payment of a price for the transfer of ownership from one person to another. It is a financial term. Though it always emphasizes payment of a price the goal is always freedom, to free something, whether it is an individual, an animal, or an object. So it emphasizes the payment of a price to free someone or something from a state such as slavery, death or destruction. The second word is the verb ga'al which means to deliver, to save, to redeem, to remove an object from a dangerous situation as an extension of being redeemed from indenture or slavery—Exodus 6:6. It means to buy back, to purchase back an item or a person with money or goods that had been sold at a prior time—Leviticus 25:25. So this also emphasizes the payment of a price. It has as a secondary meaning the idea of protection. Then the noun form is goel, and that is the form we find in Ruth. It means kinsman-redeemer, redempter. That is, a relative who buys an object from indenture or slavery or possession and control, as an obligation to help a widow (Ruth 4:6), and another part of the obligation is to marry the widow. Redeemer as a title of God would focus on the fact that He has redeemed or bought back a person from unfavorable circumstances and so now has provided relationship with the one who redeemed. Job 19:25; Psalm 19:14; 78:35; 103:4; Proverbs 23:11; Isaiah 41:14; 43:14; 44:6. The same ideas come from New Testament words which all come from two root words. One is LUTROO [lutrow], and there are various forms with different prepositions. The first is ANTILUTRON [a)ntilutron] which means the payment for the freedom of a slave or a prisoner. In 1 Timothy 2:6 it indicates substitution—HUPER [u(per] plus the genitive of advantage. So it is payment as a substitute. The second form of this word is APOLUTROSIS [a)polutrwsij], which also means deliverance procured by the payment of a ransom. It means to release a slave upon payment of a ransom. The third word is LUTRON [lutron], the root noun, and it means the payment of a ransom. It is the ransom price Christ paid for freedom. The verb is LUTROO [lutrow], which means to pay the ransom, to deliver by ransom, to liberate, and in the middle voice it is used to mean redeem. There is another noun LUTROSIS [lutrwsij] which means redemption, deliverance, or freedom. Then there is another noun. LUTROTES [lutrowthj] which refers to the redeemer, the liberator, the deliverer, the one who pays for freedom—in Acts 7:35 it refers to Moses as the redeemer of Israel, and that took place at the Exodus. The next word is AGORAZO [a)gorazw], which means to buy or to purchase in the market place.