Request your free, three-month trial to Tabletalk magazine. You’ll receive the print issue monthly and gain immediate digital access to decades of archives. This trial is risk-free. No credit card required.Try Tabletalk Now
Already receive Tabletalk magazine every month?
Verify your email address to gain unlimited access.
Pawn shops, foreclosures, and bankruptcy highlight the reality of financial crisis that people experience in our day. Have you ever needed financial assistance? Maybe you have asked a family member to help pay your credit-card bill, student loan, or mortgage payment. Or maybe a family member has asked you to help pay off a debt.
The need for financial help is a useful way to introduce the idea of the kinsman redeemer. In short, a kinsman redeemer is a relative who, at his own expense, pays off the debts of another. But this theme points beyond finances, because our greatest need is not for someone to pay off financial debts—however great that need might be—but for someone to redeem us from the debt our sins have incurred. This is how the Old Testament idea of the kinsman redeemer bears on our understanding of redemption through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
The idea of a kinsman redeemer is laid out in the Levitical laws, displayed by men such as Boaz and Jeremiah, and fulfilled by Jesus, who paid for our sins with His precious blood.
Instructions for a kinsman redeemer are given in Leviticus 25, in close connection to the Year of Jubilee, when debts are forgiven, family land is returned, and prisoners are set free. If an Israelite went into debt, he might have to sell his inherited land or perhaps even sell himself into slavery. If this were to happen, a close relative would pay the price to redeem the land and/or buy him out of slavery (the closer the family relation, the greater the obligation to act as a kinsman redeemer). The cost of redemption was calculated proportionately to the Year of Jubilee.
In the book of Ruth, the obligations of a kinsman redeemer play out in a real-life scenario. Naomi’s husband and sons had died in Moab, and after many years Naomi and Ruth arrive in Bethlehem. Boaz is a near kinsman and is honored to be asked to act as the redeemer, but there is a closer relative who has the first right. When the closer kinsman declines because the cost of redemption and marrying Ruth would put his own estate at risk, Boaz, at great cost to himself, pays the price to redeem the land and takes Ruth as his wife.
This theme surfaces again in the life of the prophet Jeremiah. In response to Jeremiah’s complaint, God says, “I will . . . redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless” (Jer. 15:21). Later, Jeremiah himself becomes another important example of a kinsman redeemer when he pays the redemption price for his cousin’s land (32:6–15), giving hope for the future.
This brief overview from Leviticus, Ruth, and Jeremiah paints the picture to help us see and understand our own need for redemption. Because of our sins, the cost of this redemption is remarkably high, but the Lord Jesus Christ paid this price in full. We see that clearly in a brief survey of the following New Testament passages.
Early in His earthly ministry Jesus was teaching in the synagogue in Nazareth. He read these words from Isaiah 61: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. . . . He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives . . . to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18–19). Jesus was making a reference to the Year of Jubilee and to His own work of redemption when He said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21).
The Apostles properly understood Jesus’ saving work along the lines of redemption. In Galatians 3:13, Paul says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.” Peter also speaks of the redemption that Jesus accomplished, emphasizing the high price that was paid. We read in 1 Peter 1:18–19, “You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”
The New Testament emphasizes that we are spiritual debtors. The only acceptable price for the debt of our sin is the precious blood of Jesus. When that price was paid, the debt was canceled and sinners were set free. What is remarkable is that the incarnate Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters (Heb. 2:11). He really is our kinsman redeemer. Praise God for such a great redemption.