Jun 5, 2013

The Ultimate Kinsman-Redeemer

3 Min Read

The narrative at the center of the book of Ruth (Ruth 3:1-8) depicts the scheming of Naomi and Ruth to attract the attention of Boaz, their kinsman-redeemer. The rest of the story (and history) hinges on Boaz's response to their efforts. What will it be? Will he prove himself a kinsman-redeemer and redeem these needy women? Will he portray righteousness and Christ-likeness?

As the story unfolds, Ruth follows her mother-in-law's advice and after perfuming and adorning herself with fine clothing, she hides herself in Boaz's threshing house until he has feasted and drunk. Then, once he has fallen asleep, Ruth positions herself at Boaz's feet and waits for him to notice her. Startled, Boaz awakens and immediately questions Ruth's identity. Ruth replies with her identity and directly announces her mission; she proposes marriage to Boaz by requesting that he fulfill his role as kinsman-redeemer.

The role of kinsman-redeemer is found in Leviticus 25, in the case of an Israelite man's death in which he fails to leave behind a son, the brother of the deceased man is commanded to take his widow as wife and both redeem the land and provide a son to carry on the deceased father's name. This is Boaz's alleged position as indicated by Naomi in Ruth 2:20 and it is this responsibility that Ruth pleads with Boaz to fulfill. Being the godly man that he is, Boaz graciously receives Ruth's offer, but communicates that he is not the nearest kinsman-redeemer (Ruth 3:12). However, he promises that as soon as morning breaks, he will look into the situation. Additionally, he supplies Ruth with six measures of barley. Through a series of events, the door opens for Boaz to fulfill his position as kinsman-redeemer. With the greatest hesed (compassionate loving-kindness), Boaz rises to the task of becoming kinsman-redeemer.

Boaz foreshadows Jesus Christ, the ultimate kinsman redeemer who will redeem a bride for himself—the church.

It is worth noting Ruth's position in the Hebrew Bible. It is placed directly succeeding Proverbs. As the book of Proverbs illustrates the wisdom of a righteous man, it concludes with chapter 31—the description of the virtuous woman. Ironically, Boaz is wisdom personified. He is a wise man, who acts with respect and dignity even in the most tempting situation. Interestingly, Ruth, a Moabitess, is personified as the godly woman. In fact, the very language used to describe the Proverbs 31 woman of character whose "works praise her in the gates" (Prov. 31:31), is used regarding Ruth in 3:11, which literally reads "all the gate of my people knows that you are a woman of worth." It is as if the compliers of the Hebrew Bible placed the book of Ruth directly after Proverbs to describe the marriage between the wise man and the virtuous woman.

The story of Ruth portrays God's blessing on the righteous. This outcome was only accomplished though, through Boaz's righteous response. Through his actions, Boaz communicates Christ. His person and character illustrate the incredible hesed that Christ possesses for his people, as well as, the great measures he is willing to take to redeem his bride. Though Ruth arrives at Boaz's bed, empty-handed and humbled to the core, Boaz treats her with respect and kindness (3:10-13). Disgraced by her position and despised for her ethnicity, the young Moabite woman appears to have little to offer. Yet, despite all this, Boaz views her as a worthy woman (3:11). Though Ruth comes from a family that has turned their backs on the Lord, the Lord turns his face towards Ruth and reveals himself to her through Boaz. Boaz foreshadows Jesus Christ, the ultimate kinsman redeemer who will redeem a bride for himself—the church.

As a redeemer, Boaz not only takes Ruth as a wife, but he also fulfills the levirate law by producing a son to carry on Elimelek's family line. We see Ruth's need fulfilled in Ruth 4:13, which reads, "So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son." But, this wasn't merely a son. This was a special son who would preserve the royal line from which not only the great king David would descend through, but most importantly through whom would descend the greatest king—King Jesus! This is why the language of Isaiah 9 that Handel so brilliantly expressed in the Messiah joyfully anticipates the birth of a son. A son who would be named Jesus, "for he will save his people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21). It was this son who would redeem his elect as the ultimate kinsman-redeemer. Though Boaz redeemed the line of Elimelek, Jesus would come to redeem all the people of God. It was him to whom Boaz's position pointed to, for in the person and work of Christ was found the true definition of kinsman-redeemer.