Dec 4, 2009

A Study of Bethlehem: The Kinsman-Redeemer

Chuck MisslerBy Chuck Missler

The book of Ruth is a book of only four brief chapters that is both a classic love story and also an essential book of prophecy. One cannot understand Revelation Chapter 5 without it. It even has implications for our Christmas season.


The family of Elimelech, due to a local famine, leaves its home in Bethlehem and immigrates to Moab. The two sons marry local girls, but the father and the two sons subsequently pass away, leaving his wife, Naomi, and her two daughters-in-laws destitute. Hearing that things are now better back home, Naomi decides to return to her native Bethlehem. She urges the two young girls to remain in their homeland and begin new lives, but Ruth refuses and insists on accompanying Naomi.

When property is sold in our culture, title is usually passed 'in fee simple,' in perpetuity to the buyer. However, Israel's land was granted, in the days of Joshua, to the tribes to be retained within the family. (That's one of the reasons genealogies were so important.)

When someone 'sold' a property to pay debts, or whatever the transaction was what we would view as a lease: there were provisions for the land to eventually return to the family. A 'title deed' included the terms that a kinsman of the family could perform to 'redeem' the property to the family.

The Law of Levirate Marriage

There was also an unusual procedure to assure the continuation of a family in the event of the death of a husband without issue. If a widow had no son, she could request the next of kin to take her and raise children to continue the family bloodline.

It is from this background that we understand Naomi's opportunity in Ruth Chapter 3. She realizes that Boaz is a kinsman; therefore, there was an opportunity to regain the family properties lost by her deceased husband 10 years earlier and also a chance for Ruth to have a new life.

A Nearer Kinsman?

It seems that there is a nearer kinsman who would have to first step aside for Boaz to assume his role. This is a cloud over the otherwise joyous proceedings. Boaz takes on the task of confronting this nearer kinsman, in front of the city council, to force the issue.

When a widow requested the next of kin to perform the role of the goel, or kinsman-redeemer, he wasn't forced to. In fact, there were three conditions to be met:

  1. He had to be qualified as a kinsman;
  2. He had to be able to perform;
  3. He had to be willing.
There were two issues at stake: the redeeming of the land for Naomi and the taking of Ruth to wife. As far as the land is concerned, the man appears to be willing. But for some undisclosed reason, he is unable to perform where Ruth is concerned. That clears the way for our hero, Boaz, to fulfill his role as the goel.

A Closer Look

This elegant love story is a classic in literature, and it also gives us some interesting insights into the life of ancient Israel.

But if we look more closely, we will discover that it is much more than that. The plan of God appears to be hidden among its colorful symbols and roles. The Bible frequently deals in symbols, models, or 'types.' As we examine the role of Boaz as the goel, or kinsman-redeemer, we can easily see how he, in some ways, pre-figures our own kinsman-redeemer, Jesus Christ. Through his act of redemption, Boaz returns Naomi (Israel) to her land, and also takes Ruth (a Gentile) as his bride. This suggests a parallel with the Church as the Gentile bride of Christ.

The parallels between Boaz, Naomi, and Ruth with Christ, Israel, and the Church have been widely recognized, and it is remarkable to notice how many additional details of the story are consistent with this viewpoint...

For further study on this remarkable book, see our additional studies on Ruth.

Related Links

The Kinsman-Redeemer - Koinonia House
A Glorious Macrocode: The Book Of Ruth - Koinonia House
Book of Ruth - Bible Survey -
Ruth & Esther: Women of Faith, Bravery, and Hope (MacArthur Bible Studies) - John MacArthur (Book)
Romance of Redemption (Basic Bible Studies) - Chuck Missler (Audio)