The kinsman-redeemer (Ruth 3)

Bilderesultat for boaz and ruth

In ancient Israelite society the following well-defined legal obligations fell to the next of kin, known as the go’el or kinsman-redeemer”.

  • Redemption of property (Numbers 27:8-11). Family lands could not be permanently sold out of family possession. A destitute relative could sell inheritance land to pay debtors, but landless people were efectively reduced to servitude. It fell to the go’el to redeem lands and family members by payment of outstanding debts. Where no go’el existed, the land could be sold outside the family, evetually reverting back in the Jubilee year.
  • Levirate marriage (Deuteronomy 25:5-10). In the event of the death of a man without an heir, a surviving brother was obligated to redeem (i-e. marry) the widow and raise up an heir for the deceased. This implied a financial and emotional commitment that not all brothers were willing to undertake. The go’el could seek legal exemption from the obligation, but such exemption was considered a dereliction of duty and involved considerable disgrace.
  • Vengeance for the wrongful death of a family member (Numbers 35:9-21). In a society lacking a standing police force, the responsibility for executing a death sentence for the murder of a family member would fall to the go’el haddam or “avenger of blood (gulit)”. Mosaic Law prohibited indiscriminate vengeance, allowing the accused to flee to a city of refuge, where his case would be elevated by the city elders. However, no mercy was shown to those who had deliberately committed murder.

 

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