Christmas Thoughts: Ruth & God, the Kinsman-Redeemer


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My Christmas thoughts have taken me to the genealogy in Matthew of the lineage of Jesus and the curious inclusion of five women in that patriarchal history. They stand out, not only as women in a patriarchal society, but as examples of faith and of God’s redeeming love.

Tamar and Rahab, the first two women in the list, were unlikely examples. Tamar prostituted herself with Judah, and Rahab was actually a prostitute. That God would use such sinful and lowly women is shocking, if not remarkable. Their stations in life and their choices before the encounters which defined them were humble and base.

Their faith, however, is the story. They believed God. They made a choice to trust God and His promise. Though they were both flawed and of low station in life, they are remembered in the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world who will also rule all that God has made at the end of this age. Though they were women in a patriarchal society, they are remembered side by side with the men.

The real story is God and His redeeming work in the lives of people and in the history of world. No story is more pregnant with God’s redemptive work than the story of Ruth, who is the third women listed in the genealogy of Jesus.

Ruth was a Moabite. She was not one of “God’s people”, but she married an Israelite, the son of Naomi and Elimelek, a man from the tribe of Judah in the City of Bethlehem. Because of famine in the land, Elimelek and Naomi went to live in Moab where they had two sons who married to Moabite women, Ruth and Orpah. Then Elimelek died. And, both of Naomi’s sons died, leaving the mother-in-law and her two daughters-in-law.[1]

The plight of a widow in that culture and time was bleak. It would have been worse than a single mother-in-law and two single daughters-in-law today. Naomi decided to head back to the land she was from and gave her daughters-in-law the option to remain in Moab. Ruth, however, famously said, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.”[2]

One of the Levitical laws required the owners of fields to leave the grain remaining at the edges and the gleanings of the harvest for the poor and the foreigners residing among them.[3] Knowing this, Ruth offered to go out and gather grain for her mother-in-law. Unknowingly, she chose the field of Boaz, a kinsman from the same clan of Naomi’s deceased husband. Boaz, knowing how Ruth had been loyal to Naomi, took her under his protection.[4]

But there was something else going on there. In taking Ruth under his wing, Boaz became her guardian-redeemer, or kinsman-redeemer.[5] In the process, he became Ruth’s husband, and Ruth became like Tamar with Judah who bore Judah a son, Perez, after her husband died.[6] “The kinsman-redeemer is a male relative who, according to various laws of the Pentateuch, had the privilege or responsibility to act on behalf of a relative who was in trouble, danger, or need. The Hebrew term (go el) for kinsman-redeemer designates one who delivers or rescues (Genesis 48:16Exodus 6:6) or redeems property or person (Leviticus 27:9–2525:47–55).”[7]

Ruth’s story foreshadows the coming of Jesus who has become our kinsman-redeemer. In Jesus, God, our Father, offers redemption to all mankind. Jesus paid the price for the redemption of all who call on Him by His own life. He satisfied God’s perfect justice by accepting the punishment for the sins of mankind, and, in doing so, purchased us for Himself – all who are willing to be called His own.

When we celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmastime, we celebrate the ultimate redemption story. Everyone else was a precursor and foreshadow of the real thing. God did the redemptive work Himself. He emptied Himself of His glory and station[8] to become human, and as one of us he submitted Himself to the task of redeeming us all by His death. God became the kinsman-redeemer of His own creation.


[1] Ruth 1

[2] Ruth 1:16

[3] Leviticus 23:22

[4] Ruth 2

[5] Ruth 3:9-18 & 4:1-12 Boaz actually offered to the closer relatives of Elimelek the opportunity to redeem Naomi and Ruth and all property left to them from their husbands, but none of the closer relatives took him up on it, so Boaz stepped in to redeem them, and Ruth became his wife.

[6] Ruth 4:12; and see Genesis 38


[8] “Philippians 2:6-8Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,  being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,  even death on a cross.”

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One Comment on “Christmas Thoughts: Ruth & God, the Kinsman-Redeemer”

  1. […] the women in the genealogy that Matthew included in the beginning of his Gospel. Tamar, Rahab and Ruth are all stories of redemption foreshadowing the ultimate redemption story when God entered into our […]


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