“Cover me, for you are my kinsman-redeemer”
In the book of Ruth a kinsman-redeemer is referred to four times. After young Ruth had been out in Boaz’s
field gathering remnants of wheat and barley stalks, she returned home to her mother-in-law Naomi and
explained how all this came about. Naomi was visibly moved, and in her wisdom she recognized that the
provider for Ruth’s good fortune was none other than her cousin through marriage. His name was Boaz.
A kinsman was someone’s nearest blood relative. Back in those days there was great honor among families
and they took care of each other. Sadly, much of that honorable philosophy is ignored today. People were
just as able to fall into bad times then as now, and even though they might not have been described as
homeless, they were well familiar with poverty. Homelessness around 1000 BC did not include the
connotation of mental illness which has often been ascribed to homeless people today. If the kinsman had
the means, then the kinsman also had a duty, and that was to absorb the debts of any relatives who had
fallen into poverty, not being able to fend for themselves.
In the Hebrew language the word for kinsman and redeemer is interchangeable, “goel,” which is why we
combine and hyphenate them in English. So, in the time period when this story occurred, a kinsman is the
one responsible for being the redeemer of a family either stuck in poverty or unable to pay their debts for
whatever reason. Typical of Biblical families, Naomi and Ruth were not husband, wife, and 2 ½ children as is
always hoped by fundamentalist believers who entertain only one narrow- minded concept of a family.
A kinsman-redeemer not only had the responsibility of taking care of the debts of his less fortunate relatives,
but he could also acquire any inheritance they had coming such as property or a business. He could also
avenge deaths and take the widow of a dead relative as his own. When Naomi realized that she had such a
person, her second cousin Boaz, she knew her worries were over. For her part, she did have real estate
which she could turn over to him, keeping her end of the bargain so to speak. Smart move on her part,
returning to Bethlehem where she at least had the possibility of this kind of thing happening.
And although Naomi was older and beyond normal marrying age, her daughter-in-law Ruth was the perfect
Naomi made a wise decision. She put herself in position, in line for a golden opportunity, played the odds,
and lived happily ever after. Had she done nothing, the odds are that she would have remained in poverty
and taken Ruth down with her. There are times when the Holy Spirit will whisper “move on, take a chance.”
We can take a page out of Naomi’s story book. Is the book of Ruth all about Ruth? No.