Ruth 2:20 (NIV)
20 “The Lord bless him!” Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. “He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.” She added, “That man is our close relative; he is one of our guardian-redeemers.”
Ruth 3:12 (NIV)
12 Although it is true that I am a guardian-redeemer of our family, there is another who is more closely related than I.
Ruth 4:3-6 (NIV)
3 Then he said to the guardian-redeemer, “Naomi, who has come back from Moab, is selling the piece of land that belonged to our relative Elimelek. 4 I thought I should bring the matter to your attention and suggest that you buy it in the presence of these seated here and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, do so. But if you will not, tell me, so I will know. For no one has the right to do it except you, and I am next in line.”
“I will redeem it,” he said.
5 Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the land from Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the dead man’s widow, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property.”
6 At this, the guardian-redeemer said, “Then I cannot redeem it because I might endanger my own estate. You redeem it yourself. I cannot do it.”
We can see here when we look at the book of Ruth in the Bible, that the idea of a guardian-redeemer is mentioned several times. The question we need to ask is what exactly is a guardian-redeemer?
A guardian-redeemer was a close, influential relative to whom members of the extended family could turn to for help, usually when the family line or possessions were in danger of being lost. In the book of Ruth, Boaz was the guardian-redeemer for Naomi and then consequently, for Ruth as well. Boaz was a part of the family and it was his duty to make sure that Naomi and Ruth were taken care of.
Boaz was responsible for buying back the family land that had been sold during a crisis. This command was laid out by God in the book of Leviticus.
Leviticus 25:25 (NIV)
25 “‘If one of your fellow Israelites becomes poor and sells some of their property, their nearest relative is to come and redeem what they have sold.
Boaz was responsible for buying back relatives who had become enslaved. Again, we see that this command was laid out by God in the book of Leviticus.
Leviticus 25:47-49 (NIV)
47 “‘If a foreigner residing among you becomes rich and any of your fellow Israelites become poor and sell themselves to the foreigner or to a member of the foreigner’s clan, 48 they retain the right of redemption after they have sold themselves. One of their relatives may redeem them: 49 An uncle or a cousin or any blood relative in their clan may redeem them. Or if they prosper, they may redeem themselves.
Boaz was responsible for providing an heir for one of his dead brothers. God gives this command in the book of Deuteronomy.
Deuteronomy 25:5-10 (NIV)
5 If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband’s brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her. 6 The first son she bears shall carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel.
7 However, if a man does not want to marry his brother’s wife, she shall go to the elders at the town gate and say, “My husband’s brother refuses to carry on his brother’s name in Israel. He will not fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to me.” 8 Then the elders of his town shall summon him and talk to him. If he persists in saying, “I do not want to marry her,” 9 his brother’s widow shall go up to him in the presence of the elders, take off one of his sandals, spit in his face and say, “This is what is done to the man who will not build up his brother’s family line.” 10 That man’s line shall be known in Israel as The Family of the Unsandaled.
Boaz was responsible for avenging the killing of a relative. The book of Numbers tells of this command by God.
Numbers 35:19-21 (NIV)
19 The avenger of blood shall put the murderer to death; when the avenger comes upon the murderer, the avenger shall put the murderer to death. 20 If anyone with malice aforethought shoves another or throws something at them intentionally so that they die 21 or if out of enmity one person hits another with their fist so that the other dies, that person is to be put to death; that person is a murderer. The avenger of blood shall put the murderer to death when they meet.
Lastly, Boaz was responsible for caring for relatives in difficult circumstances. God spells this out in the book of Jeremiah.
Jeremiah 32:6-25 (NIV)
6 Jeremiah said, “The word of the Lord came to me: 7 Hanamel son of Shallum your uncle is going to come to you and say, ‘Buy my field at Anathoth, because as nearest relative it is your right and duty to buy it.’
8 “Then, just as the Lord had said, my cousin Hanamel came to me in the courtyard of the guard and said, ‘Buy my field at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. Since it is your right to redeem it and possess it, buy it for yourself.’
“I knew that this was the word of the Lord; 9 so I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel and weighed out for him seventeen shekels of silver. 10 I signed and sealed the deed, had it witnessed, and weighed out the silver on the scales. 11 I took the deed of purchase—the sealed copy containing the terms and conditions, as well as the unsealed copy— 12 and I gave this deed to Baruch son of Neriah, the son of Mahseiah, in the presence of my cousin Hanamel and of the witnesses who had signed the deed and of all the Jews sitting in the courtyard of the guard.
13 “In their presence I gave Baruch these instructions: 14 ‘This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Take these documents, both the sealed and unsealed copies of the deed of purchase, and put them in a clay jar so they will last a long time. 15 For this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Houses, fields and vineyards will again be bought in this land.’
16 “After I had given the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah, I prayed to the Lord:
17 “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you. 18 You show love to thousands but bring the punishment for the parents’ sins into the laps of their children after them. Great and mighty God, whose name is the Lord Almighty, 19 great are your purposes and mighty are your deeds. Your eyes are open to the ways of all mankind; you reward each person according to their conduct and as their deeds deserve. 20 You performed signs and wonders in Egypt and have continued them to this day, in Israel and among all mankind, and have gained the renown that is still yours. 21 You brought your people Israel out of Egypt with signs and wonders, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with great terror. 22 You gave them this land you had sworn to give their ancestors, a land flowing with milk and honey. 23 They came in and took possession of it, but they did not obey you or follow your law; they did not do what you commanded them to do. So you brought all this disaster on them.
24 “See how the siege ramps are built up to take the city. Because of the sword, famine and plague, the city will be given into the hands of the Babylonians who are attacking it. What you said has happened, as you now see. 25 And though the city will be given into the hands of the Babylonians, you, Sovereign Lord, say to me, ‘Buy the field with silver and have the transaction witnessed.’”
The idea of the guardian-redeemer is also used at different times to refer to God and His redemption of Israel. God was the guardian-redeemer for the people of Israel.
These following passages from the Bible demonstrate this:
Exodus 6:6-8 (NIV)
6 “Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. 7 I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. 8 And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.’”
Job 19:25 (NIV)
25 I know that my redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
Psalm 19:14 (NIV)
14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Psalm 69:18 (NIV)
18 Come near and rescue me;
deliver me because of my foes.
Isaiah 43:1 (NIV)
43 But now, this is what the Lord says—
he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
In these passages, God is Israel’s nearest redeemer, stepping in to bring the nation back into His family when the people could not do it themselves.
The word guardian-redeemer finds it’s ultimate fulfillment in the coming of the Messiah. We see this in the book of Isaiah.
Isaiah 59:20 (NIV)
20 “The Redeemer will come to Zion,
to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,”
declares the Lord.
Jesus is our near guardian who came to buy us back into God’s family. In the New Testament the concept is reflected in the various words for redeem, which suggests paying a ransom, making a purchase or saving from a loss.
What Jesus did for us is the most amazing act of love and kindness ever done from one human to another. We have this Jesus on our side to love and protect us for all our days and all we have to do is simply believe in Him. That sounds like pretty Good News to me.