Was the kinsman-redeemer obligated to redeem?

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JTB.SDG

Puritan Board Sophomore
Hi,

It seems that they are obligated to do so relating to buying back the land for a brother who had to sell his away (Lev. 25:25); and also for the brother (or near kinsman) of a man who died and hadn't had any sons (Deut.25:5-7). It also seems to be the same case with the avenger of blood, who is the kinsman of a murdered person (Numb. 35:9-21); IE, this isn't optional, the kinsman is obligated to put him to death.

But in the English translation of the case of redeeming a poor Israelite from slavery, it seems like it's the language of being optional (Leviticus 25:47-49). Any thoughts on this? Especially from those who are good with the Hebrew? My best guess is that we can assume this was also obligatory, in light of the other duties of the kinsman-redeemer being described as such; and that it's language is a bit different because it's also in this passage that exactly who the nearest kinsman is, is being defined for us. So the focus here isn't as the other passages to emphasize whether it's optional or not, but rather the focus is defining exactly who the nearest kinsman-redeemer in all these cases would be.
 

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Junior
But in the English translation of the case of redeeming a poor Israelite from slavery, it seems like it's the language of being optional

Let me suggest you look over chapter 4 of Ruth. Particularly the verses I've quoted below regarding the redeemer.

Ruth 4:5‭-‬6 ESV
Then Boaz said, “The day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the widow of the dead, in order to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance.” Then the redeemer said, “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I impair my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it.”

Of course he may just have been shirking his responsibilities. But there doesn't seem to be any negative feedback given to him about his refusal as the first in line to be the redeemer.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
I don't feel as if Israelite society was set up to allow or perpetuate blood feuds. So, in the case of the avenger of blood--as it was one duty of a goel or kinsman-redeemer--it strikes me that this must have been an office, either because of one's place in birth relation, or in the clan. In other words, however they knew who the person was, or to whom an appeal should be made (as Boaz does), someone didn't just take the duties upon himself.

If one accepted the call, then he bore the honor and the responsibility, the risk and the reward. It cannot be the case that a man who wanted revenge could just take up the cause. Such a role had to be his by the office he previously accepted, or it had to fall to him in some kind of order. So then, the rights of redemption could not be simply claimed by Boaz; but he had to make sure that someone with priority declined. The "so-and-so" (no-name) did not step up, and so Boaz is the one memorialized.

My impression, therefore, is that the obligation belonged to the office; and anyone who took the office (according to whatever the prescribed, orderly pattern was) assumed the duties of it. But it was not an office that a man might not decline (though it might cost him some honor).
 

JTB.SDG

Puritan Board Sophomore
Thanks Bruce and Ed for your thoughts. I was just wondering about the implications for us today as well as thinking through Christ as our kinsman-redeemer. As you mentioned, Ed, it does seem the kinsman-redeemer could opt out. Though the language in these passages does seem to be pretty binding. And if they do opt out in the case of failing to do the duty of the husband's brother, I think they were spit in the face. I appreciate thinking of it in terms of "the duty of" the kinsman-redeemer as I think about the church and how God calls us to love one another. But in thinking of Christ as our kinsman-redeemer, we know he was under no compulsion or obligation to do what He did.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Thanks Bruce and Ed for your thoughts. I was just wondering about the implications for us today as well as thinking through Christ as our kinsman-redeemer. As you mentioned, Ed, it does seem the kinsman-redeemer could opt out. Though the language in these passages does seem to be pretty binding. And if they do opt out in the case of failing to do the duty of the husband's brother, I think they were spit in the face. I appreciate thinking of it in terms of "the duty of" the kinsman-redeemer as I think about the church and how God calls us to love one another. But in thinking of Christ as our kinsman-redeemer, we know he was under no compulsion or obligation to do what He did.
Jon,
It's true in the absolute sense, that God can in no way be obligated to the creature, Rom.11:35.
All the same, God obligates himself by covenant/promise. He cannot deny himself, 2Tim.2:13.

If the obligation attends the office, then when the Son voluntarily takes the office, he binds himself to the obligations he created for that office.
Likewise, if the obligation of the KR was not attached to some person, notwithstanding that this same individual stood in line to the office, he cannot be said to have denied his obligation the way someone who took up the office would have.

I think the figure in Ruth 4 is someone who might have had some noblesse oblige, an informal social expectation. We don't have the evidence, but he might have enjoyed some social standing by way of eminence, a birthright recognition perhaps. He had some concern for his own inheritance, Rt.4:6; and this individualistic regard caused him to pass up the chance to fulfill the KR office--something that might have done for him contrary to his fears, and consonant with blessings that flow in the streams of obedience

Boaz then stood up, not only to take advantage of the opportunity attached to the land; but to shoulder the burden of providing extra for a son (and mother) who would represent not his own future interest, but the interest of others. I think there's something grand in his gesture, a mixture of doing what one is under no obligation to do, but taking on the obligation so that it becomes something that must be done.
 
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