The Biblical Kinsman Redeemer
As Described from the Book of Ruth
In my book, the main character is an impoverished orphan who dreams of becoming a knight. He learns the tale of the biblical Ruth’s kinsman redeemer during mass and wishes he had one to pay for his knightly training. But what is a kinsman redeemer?
The book of Ruth is a small but important part of the Bible—small as it has four chapters; important because it illustrates the virtuous lineage of David, one that traces down to Jesus. In addition, one of its themes is valuable in understanding ancient inheritance customs and its influence to modern law. The theme of the kinsman redeemer.
The term kinsman redeemer (goel in Hebrew; guardian-redeemer in other sources) refers to a person charged with the duty of restoring their nearest relative’s rights. Their obligations include redeeming the relative from slavery, repurchasing a relative’s property if it was sold due to poverty, receiving the restitution of an injured relative who died, avenging a murdered relative, and marrying a relative’s widow in order to have and raise a son, in case they could not gain any son to pass on their name. The book of Ruth expands on that last one from the perspective of the widow.
Naomi Meets Ruth the Moabite
The story starts with a famine in Bethlehem, and to escape it, an Israelite family emigrates to the neighboring country of Moab. After arriving, the father passed away, leaving behind his two sons and his wife, Naomi. So that their family line can continue, the sons married two Moabite women—one of which was Ruth; thus, she became a part of their family. Ten years later, tragedy struck again as both sons died, widowing the women, just like their mother-in-law, Naomi.
When Naomi heard that the famine in Bethlehem had ended, she decided to return, bidding her daughters-in-law to go back to their own mothers and remarry. But Ruth, in a display of devotion, vowed to be with Naomi wherever she will go. And so both women went together to Bethlehem.
Ruth Meets Her Family’s Kinsman Redeemer
As a fortunate happenstance, Naomi’s deceased husband had a relative of good standing, wealth, and land. His name was Boaz.
Ruth sought work in order to support Naomi and herself. Impressed by the young woman’s loyalty to her mother-in-law, Boaz favored Ruth and allowed her to glean his fields, and he placed her under his protection as well. Naomi rejoiced at this, for she knew that Boaz was a kinsman redeemer of their family. She instructed Ruth to appeal to Boaz about him being their kinsman redeemer and to have him take Ruth as his wife.
Ruth did as she was told, but although Boaz was attracted to the woman’s noble character, he knew of another kinsman redeemer who had a greater claim than his. Boaz met the other claimant and discussed his duties with him. Upon knowing that he would have to marry Ruth, which was in conflict with his estate and interests, the man deferred to Boaz. With no other legal obstacles in the way, Boaz married Ruth.
Soon after, Ruth gave birth to a son, thereby ensuring the line of their family will go on—their kin redeemed. Their descendants would include David and Solomon, the great kings of Israel—and Jesus Christ, redeemer of the world.