Leviticus 25 and the Subject of Redemption (kinsman redeemer)

For everything there is a purpose, and a time and season under the heaven.  This is a slight paraphrase to a well-known passage out of Ecclesiastes, and a nod to the song popular back in the late 60’s/early ’70’s, Turn Turn Turn.

I bring this up today, because of having landed in Leviticus 25.

Leviticus 25 is one of those chapters that cynics will point to when they accuse Christians of believing in a religion that supports slavery!  Generally, such accusations lack a major understanding of just how the concept of employment worked back in the days Scripture was written.  Even this chapter of Leviticus makes some clear distinctions that must not be overlooked.

First, Moses made clear distinctions between servants and slaves, or bondmen/women in the King James Version.  He made distinctions between hired help and slaves, writing that God referred to hired help as servants, going so far as to state that Israel was His servant, to do and obey His bidding.  We have hired help today.  In fact, most of us in the workforce would be classified as hired help.  We go to work every day to do the bidding of someone else for several hours and then come home.  We get paid for our trouble and with that pay, we feed our families and pay the bills.

Second, God expressly outlined for Moses, how masters were to treat both their servants and their slaves.  If every master down through the ages followed these directives closely, the concept of hired help versus slaves might never have been an issue.  But God frowned on mistreatment no matter what a person’s status was under a master of any type!  The idea that God would support merciless masters treating their farm hands with complete and utter disdain and debasement flies in the face of God-breathed Scripture.

In Chapter 25 of Leviticus, we come across a passage discussing the concept of redemption.

Leviticus 25:47-49  And if a sojourner or stranger wax rich by thee, and thy brother that dwelleth by him wax poor, and sell himself unto the stranger or sojourner by thee, or to the stock of the stranger’s family:  48  After that he is sold he may be redeemed again; one of his brethren may redeem him:  49  Either his uncle, or his uncle’s son, may redeem him, or any that is nigh of kin unto him of his family may redeem him; or if he be able, he may redeem himself.

Songdove Books - Ruth and BoazThis would be the first time in Scripture, where this concept of redemption by a kinsman is mentioned.  In order for future generations to understand this concept, the need to be redeemed had to present itself first.  Notice above that an Israelite who was poor, could hire himself out, or sell himself to a rich family in order to earn enough to feed his family.  If he earned sufficient funds, he could negotiate with his master for the price of redemption and in effect, buy himself out of that master’s enterprise.  This shows that God expected that masters would pay their staff.  If this was not an expectation, someone who went to work for them could not buy himself out of their operations.

This concept of redemption would also be played out in the book of Ruth, when Boaz approached Naomi’s next of kin regarding redemption of her ancestral land.  It was necessary that the next of kin fulfill their duties before someone outside the family stepped in.

Ruth 4:3-6  And he said unto the kinsman, Naomi, that is come again out of the country of Moab, selleth a parcel of land, which was our brother Elimelech’s:  4  And I thought to advertise thee, saying, Buy it before the inhabitants, and before the elders of my people. If thou wilt redeem it, redeem it: but if thou wilt not redeem it, then tell me, that I may know: for there is none to redeem it beside thee; and I am after thee. And he said, I will redeem it.  5  Then said Boaz, What day thou buyest the field of the hand of Naomi, thou must buy it also of Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance.  6  And the kinsman said, I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I mar mine own inheritance: redeem thou my right to thyself; for I cannot redeem it.

This event in Ruth held true to God’s commands in Leviticus 25:24-25  And in all the land of your possession ye shall grant a redemption for the land.  25  If thy brother be waxen poor, and hath sold away some of his possession, and if any of his kin come to redeem it, then shall he redeem that which his brother sold.

The Psalmist brings a new twist to this concept of redemption in Psalm 49:

Psalms 49:6-9, 14-15  They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches;  7  None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him:  8  (For the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever:)  9  That he should still live for ever, and not see corruption.  14 Like sheep they are laid in the grave; death shall feed on them; and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning; and their beauty shall consume in the grave from their dwelling.  15  But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me. Selah.

If you read the entire chapter of Psalm 49 alongside Leviticus 25, you see other parallels as well regarding the use of men’s riches and their apparent wisdom.  But the above verses are pulled specifically as we deal with this concept of redemption.

Ruth was, by marriage, the only remaining rightful heiress to Naomi’s inheritance.  According to God’s directives, family inheritance stayed with the family and was returned to the family if sold, when the year of Jubilee came around again.  Therefore, Boaz’s desire to marry Ruth meant that Naomi’s inheritance would go with Ruth into Boaz’s family, causing Naomi’s inheritance to cease and become that of Boaz instead.

servantsIndischer_Maler_um_1595_001When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, their inheritance, that of the entire earth God had given them to rule over, had been sold into the hand of satan.  In order to redeem mankind, their inheritance had to be redeemed as well.  But mankind could not redeem itself from the clutches of sin, that required the act of a near kinsman.  The Jewish people took to calling this person, “the kinsman redeemer”.  God had already spelled out the wages of sin in the Garden, telling Adam and Eve that in the moment they disobeyed, their spirits would die.  Paul writes in Romans 6:23 that the wages of sin is death!

Now it wasn’t that Adam and Eve were poor and needed to sell themselves to satan in order to feed their family.  They became ensnared in satan’s trap because of greed.  They allowed his questioning behaviour to create doubt about God’s intentions and words, and they allowed themselves to think they knew better than God and could take matters into their own hands.  In such a state, they plunged all of humanity into a worse state than that of the poor man who hires himself out to feed his family.  At least he was in position, hopefully, to one day redeem himself and return home.  But when one becomes enslaved to sin, the only hope of redemption is through death’s door.  The price of freedom from sin was just too high for mankind to pay on their own, and God needed a way to explain that.  This chapter in Leviticus spells it out quite plainly.  When a servant could not redeem himself, he needed a near kinsman to do it for him.

But who would do it for sinful humanity??!!

Thanks to Boaz following God’s laws and honouring God’s redemption outline, Ruth would enter the lineage of the only One who could rightfully claim to be mankind’s near kinsman and pay the price of redemption.

Romans 6:23  For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Truly King David had a New Testament concept of God and His relationship with mankind!  He says in Psalm 34:22  The LORD redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate.

Psalms 103:1-6  A Psalm of David. Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.  2  Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:  3  Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;  4  Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;  5  Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.  6  The LORD executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.

Psalms 107:1-2  O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.  2  Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy;

Who is this enemy David speaks of?  The enemy of our souls is none other than the serpent from the Garden of Eden who, thanks to the Fall of Man, became master over all the earth rather than man.

100’s of years would go by with the prophets regular prophesying the advent of this coming Kinsman Redeemer, and then 400 years of silence ensued where God didn’t speak a word to His people.  Then we come to the birth of John the Baptist.

Luke 1:67-75  And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying,  68  Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people,  69  And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David;  70  As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began:  71  That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us;  72  To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant;  73  The oath which he sware to our father Abraham,  74  That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear,  75  In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.

Can you see the progression from the Torah to just six months before the birth of Christ?

The Apostle Paul would carry this further in his letter to the Galatian church:

Galatians 3:7-14  Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.  8  And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.  9  So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.  10  For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.  11  But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.  12  And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.  13  Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:  14  That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

Songdove Books - LambThe curse of the law was that it pointed to just how sinful we human beings truly are.  Only by maintaining the law perfectly could one even hope to attain the righteousness God could look upon and accept.  But the sacrificial system was necessary precisely because God knew it would be impossible for mankind to perfectly maintain the law’s demands.  Jesus Christ became our Kinsman Redeemer, because He would be the ONLY One who could live the perfect life, and pay the price of redemption as the perfect, sinless Son of God.  Only Jesus Christ could walk through death’s door, reclaiming mankind’s inheritance for himself and in the process redeeming mankind from the jaws of sin and death.

We read in Titus 2:11-14  For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,  12  Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;  13  Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;  14  Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

Peter in his letters to the churches, makes further reference to this concept of redemption as he writes to new believers in Christ:

1 Peter 1:18-20  Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;  19  But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:  20  Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,

The traditions referred to, were the ways outlined by God way back in the Torah, during the giving of the Law.  The Jewish people already knew about the sacrificing of animals to atone for their trespasses, and the use of the word redeem was used during those directives as well.  The blood of an unblemished lamp was necessary to atone for the sins of the nation.  In addition, each child born first, or that “opened the womb” in KJV language, was to be redeemed by a lamb in the book of Exodus as God began handing down the law.  The firstborn son of every family was also set apart for the purposes of God as well.

In both these cases, Christ became the firstborn among many through His resurrection, and redeemed mankind through His death and resurrection.

So we see the pattern.  We see God expecting that masters will be fair with those under their care.  We see that it was possible to redeem one’s self from servitude or have a near kinsman redeem them.  We see this behaviour for one’s inheritance as well.

Revelation 11:15  And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.

We can be slaves to sin, or servants of the Most High God!  We can die in our sins, or live forever with Christ throughout eternity!  We can languish without ever being able to redeem ourselves and walk free from satan’s clutches, or we can accept the gift of Salvation offered through Christ’s shed Blood, and walk free forever!

satan has lost his grip both on humanity and on humanity’s earthly inheritance!  These have both passed into the hands of Christ, and one day Christ will set foot on the Mount of Olives as King of kings and Lord of lords!  Where will you be on that day?  Prison, or Praise?