Most people enjoy love stories. The best love stories are usually set in tragic circumstances but finish with a happy ending. The Old Testament account of Ruth is one such tale of love.
The Responsibility of Redemption
The book of Ruth begins with the tragic deaths of a husband and two sons, leaving a wife and two daughters-in-law without any male provision and protection. In response, the wife, Naomi, and one daughter-in-law, Ruth, returned from Moab to Naomi’s homeland, Israel, hoping to find sustenance.
In God’s providence, Ruth met Boaz, the owner of a field in which she was gleaning to provide for Naomi and herself. Ruth’s hard work impressed Boaz and moved his heart to care for her. She discovered that he was Naomi’s near relative who could therefore provide for both the women as a kinsman-redeemer, but he was not their closest relative.
Boaz promised to redeem Ruth by purchasing the land of Elimelech, Naomi’s husband and Ruth’s father-in-law, provided another closer relative did not purchase it first (Ruth 3:9–13). Boaz then raised the matter of redemption with the closer relative, who declined to redeem the family because of the requirement to marry Ruth, a Moabite woman. He deferred to Boaz through a formal transaction, giving him the right of redemption, which Boaz happily exercised, taking Ruth as his wife (4:1–11).
This ancient custom provided for families without an heir, protecting their identity and interests and providing for their personal needs. The kinsman-redeemer took on the family’s obligations and defended them. As indicated by the title, a kinsman-redeemer had to be a near relative who could meet the obligation of redemption. In Boaz’s case, this obligation included the purchase of property.
Our Only Qualified Redeemer
In Ruth’s life story, a kinsman-redeemer met the relational and material needs of an impoverished family. For humanity, our kinsman-redeemer’s responsibility is much greater because our situation is much graver.
Just as the kinsman-redeemer had to be a near relative, so Christ had to become man, a genuine member of the human race, to redeem humanity.
Humanity is sinful (Romans 3:9–18, 23) and subject to judgment (Hebrews 9:27), so we need redemption and reconciliation. These provisions are beyond any Old Testament kinsman-redeemer, but the qualifications and role of such a person provide a picture of this much-needed, greater Kinsman-Redeemer: Jesus Christ.
Just as the kinsman-redeemer had to be a near relative, so Christ had to become man, a genuine member of the human race, to redeem humanity (Leviticus 25:48–49; Ruth 3:12–13; John 1:14; Galatians 4:4; Hebrews 2:14–16; 10:5). As the son of Mary, conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus was and still is genuinely human (Matthew 1:18–25; Luke 1:26–38).
To redeem sinners from the curse of the Law, Christ had to become a man under the Law and live in perfect obedience to the Law (Galatians 3:13–14; 4:4–5). Jesus Christ’s humanity makes Him a near relative, but more is required of Him.
Further, just as the kinsman-redeemer needed to meet the obligations of redemption, so Christ had to pay the full price of redemption (Leviticus 25:25–27; John 19:30; 1 Peter 1:18–19). Only Christ could redeem us (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 7:25; cf. Ruth 4:4–6). Humanity’s sin debt to God required the death of a sufficient substitute, and only Jesus Christ, both human and divine, could pay that debt (John 1:1–14; Romans 5:12–21).
Humanity’s sin debt to God required the death of a sufficient substitute, and only Jesus Christ, both human and divine, could pay that debt.
A perfect man without divinity could provide only for one human being, not all of humanity. The death of Jesus, who is God incarnate, was infinite in value, sufficient for the entire human race. He was the only near relative capable of acting as humanity’s Kinsman-Redeemer.
Willing and Able to Save
Only one matter remains for a kinsman-redeemer: his willingness to redeem. The nearest relative was unwilling to redeem Ruth because of its impact on his family and inheritance. This rejection allowed Boaz to exercise his right of redemption, which he gladly did.
A kinsman-redeemer must be willing and able to redeem for any benefit to flow to those in need. In like manner, Christ had to be willing to redeem; thankfully, He did so willingly, even at the cost of His life (John 10:17–18; Galatians 2:20; Hebrews 10:7–10).
In Jesus Christ, we have the perfect Kinsman-Redeemer. He is our near relative, willing and able to redeem us, which has made salvation available to all who trust in Him for forgiveness and reconciliation (John 3:16; Romans 10:9–10).