Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Kinsperson Redeemer

Notes from research I did to supplement printed material for a study based on the book of Ruth, emphasizing the Kinsperson Redeemer concept. In the world of the Hebrew Bible as well as today in this "world of the earth" (as Job 37:12 reads in Hebrew), we constantly encounter and engage in real battles with forces not of this earth. Sometimes they're obvious and visible, though more often they're not; in my experience they tend to be conventional circumstances and commonplace situations, and in my extensive experience, they frequently need redeeming!

In the Jubilee text of Leviticus 25, regarding "untrimmed vines" and other matters, God commands:
You shall count off seven weeks of years—seven times seven years—so that the period of seven weeks of years gives you a total of forty-nine years. Then you shall sound the horn loud; in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month—the Day of Atonement—you shall have the horn sounded throughout your land and you shall hallow the fiftieth year. You shall proclaim release throughout the land for all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you: each of you shall return to his holding and each of you shall return to his family. That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you: you shall not sow, neither shall you reap the aftergrowth or harvest the untrimmed vines, for it is a jubilee. It shall be holy to you: you may only eat the growth direct from the field. . . . Do not wrong one another, but fear your God; for I the Lord am your God.

If your kinsman is in straits and has to sell part of his holding, his nearest redeemer shall come and redeem what his kinsman has sold.
The nearest redeemer, closest kin had the responsibility of redeeming his kinsman's lost opportunities. Personal note: "lost opportunities," for whatever reason, is exactly what I need to get bought back!

Continuing with the topic: If a person was forced into slavery, his redeemer purchased his freedom. In the case of overwhelming debt, the kinsman stepped in to redeem his homestead and let the family live.

Another note from me: in Hebrew culture, "debt" and "Sin" essentially are synonymous.

More from the actual notes: If a family member died without an heir the kinsman married the widow and grew a son in order to hand down his name to future generations (Deuteronomy 25:5-6; Genesis 38:8; Ruth 3-4). In case of murder, the redeemer acted as blood avenger and pursued the killer (Numbers 35:12-34; Deuteronomy 19:1-3). Originally kinsman marriage applied only to brothers, but by Ruth's time it had extended to any close relative.

Another word: reclaim, get back, regain, retrieve, recover, repossess, recoup, rescue - notice all those "re" words, and they all have economic implications!

The Kinsperson Redeemer:
  • Had to be close kin, near relative to the one needing redemption.
  • Had to be able to pay the ransom or redemption price in full—to "possess the ability to redeem."
  • Had to be willing to redeem the fallen relative out of love and free will as an act of grace; he couldn't be coerced or forced.
  • Had to be free and unbounded himself
Here's a compendium of references I discovered in my research, coupled with margin notes from my old RSV:

The English words "kinsman" (Ruth 3:9) and "redeemer" (Job 19:25) both translate the Hebrew goel. The word means "to set free" and has two different meanings:
  1. To redeem or buy back what was lost.
  2. To require blood, to avenge—only someone near of kin could seek vengeance.
In Hebrew, Kofer means the redemption price; Goel described things consecrated to God (Leviticus 27:13-31), about God as redeeming humanity (Exodus 6:6; Isaiah 43:1; 44:22; 48:20; 49:7), and those persons redeemed by God (Isaiah 35:9; 51:10; Job 19:25). The right of redemption and the office of redeemer belonged to the nearest kinsman, or "near of kin, near relative" (Leviticus 25:25; Ruth 3:12; 4:1, 6, 8, etc.). "I am the LORD . . . I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments" (Exodus 6:6).

Related to the familiar agora/town square/marketplace, the word agorazo means "to buy," or "to buy in the bazaar"; exagorazo means, "to buy out of the marketplace" with the intention the person so purchased might never return to such a state of slavery again, so that unbounded liberty became a permanent state of being: *delivered* from bondage into freedom.
  • Leviticus 25:25
  • Job 19:25 Though Job complained that no one came to redeem him, he still proclaimed Yahweh would be his Goel/Redeemer! "As for me, I know that my redeemer (kinsman) lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth" (Job 19:25).
  • Ruth 4:3-6 Boaz redeemed Ruth
Distribute; dispense = distribution; dispensation

Go on over to the groc store and redeem your cents-off (is that all you get?!) coupon!

Ransom; release; deliverance; liberation
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1 comment:

Karla MG said...

Wowza! Mighty fine stuff here Leah! I love this, I've never encountered this perspective on redemption. Time for me to get back to the books! This kind of lesson-learning is life-giving to me...it's freeing and redeeming! I so love learning the intricacies of Hebrew Scripture! And Ruth has been a "faved character" for years! (Her story was our "primary" wedding scripture, and the basis for the bulletin cover we selected!) :D Cool...more insights to take with me into my Immersion experience! --K