Usually refers to a blood relative based on Israel's tribal nature. The most important relationship was that of the father to the oldest son.
Certain obligations were laid on the kinsman. In the case of an untimely death of a husband without a son, the law of levirate marriage becomes operative—that is, the husband's brother was obligated to raise up a male descendant for his deceased brother and thus perpetuate the deceased's name and inheritance. The living brother was the dead brother's goel—his redeemer (Genesis 38:8;
Ruth 3:9-12). See Levirate Law.
The kinsman was also the blood avenger. A wrong done to a single member of the family was considered a crime against the entire tribe or clan. The clan had an obligation, therefore, to punish the wrongdoer. In the case of a murder committed, the kinsman should seek vengeance. According to the imagery of ancient people, the blood of the murdered man cried up from the ground for vengeance, and the cry was heard loudest by that member of the clan who stood nearest to the dead in kinship; therefore, the closest of kin followed through with the blood avenger responsibility (compare
Genesis 4:1-16, especially
Genesis 4:10). See Vengeance
The kinsman was also responsible to redeem the estate which his nearest relative might have sold because of poverty (Leviticus 25:25;
Ruth 4:4). It was the kinsman's responsibility also to ransom a kinsman who may have sold himself (Leviticus 25:47-48).
The Old Testament Book of Ruth is the most striking example of a kinsman who used his power and Jewish law to redeem. Boaz demonstrated one of the duties of the kinsman—that of marrying the widow of a deceased kinsman. A correlation is sometimes made between the redemption of Ruth by Boaz and the redemption of sinners by Christ. See Avenger; Cities of Refuge; Redeem, Redemption, Redeemer.