Male relative who, according to various laws found in the Pentateuch, had the privilege or responsibility to act for a relative who was in trouble, danger, or need of vindication.
Although the term "kinsman-redeemer" is used only seven times in the NIV (all in the Book of Ruth) and "avenger of blood" is used twelve times, the Hebrew verb ga'al , from which both of these terms are translated, is used over 100 times and rendered by such additional terms as "redeemer" or "near relative." The Hebrew term designates a male relative who delivers or rescues (Gen 48:16; Exod 6:6); redeems property (Lev 27:9-25) or person (Lev 25:47-55); avenges the murder of a relative as a guiltless executioner (Num 35:9-34); and receives restitution for wrong done to a relative who has since died (Num 5:8). The unique emphasis of the redemption/salvation/vindication associated with the kinsman-redeemer is the fact that this action is carried out by a kinsman on behalf of a near relative in need. This idea is most clearly illustrated in the Book of Ruth.
God is Israel's Redeemer, the one who will defend and vindicate them. The idea that God is a kinsman to Israel can be defended by those passages of Scripture that identify him as Israel's Creator and Father (Exod 4:22-23; Deut 32:6), Deliverer (Exod 20:2), owner of the land (Lev 25:23), the one who hears innocent blood crying out for vengeance (Deut 19:10; 21:6-9), and the King who has made his covenant with the people (Exod 6:2-8). David, in his use of the term (Psalm 19:14; 103:4), doubtless has in mind the actions of his great-grandfather Boaz (Ruth 4:9-10).
In the psalms God often redeems in the sense of rescuing from danger. In Job 19:25 the term "redeemer" in context refers to God who, as friend and kinsman of Job, through faith will ultimately defend and vindicate him. The same idea of vindication (this time with the term translated "Defender") is used in Proverbs 23:11.
Although the doctrine of redemption from sin is taught extensively in the New Testament, it is not connected closely with the Old Testament concept of kinsman-redeemer. Christ can, however, be regarded as an example of a kinsman-redeemer since he identified himself with us and redeemed us because of our need. Hebrews 2:11 states that "Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers." Jesus is not only our redeemer from sin, but as Hebrews 2:16-18 and 4:14-16 point out, he is a kinsman to us and understands our struggles. Thus he is able to help us in our times of need.
Stephen J. Bramer
See also Redeem, Redemption
Bibliography. R. L. Harris, TWOT, 1:144-45; D. A. Leggett, The Levirate Goel Institutions in the Old Testament; H. Ringgren, TDOT, 2:350-55.