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What was a guardian-redeemer?

Ruth 2:20; 3:12; 4:3–6

A guardian-redeemer was a close, influential relative to whom members of the extended family could turn for help, usually when the family line or possessions were in danger of being lost. He was responsible for buying back family land sold during a crisis (see Lev 25:25), buying back enslaved relatives (see Lev 25:47–49), providing an heir for a dead brother (see Dt 25:5–10), avenging the killing of a relative (see Nu 35:19–21) and caring for relatives in difficult circumstances (see Jer 32:6–25).

The idea of the guardian-redeemer is also used at times to refer to God and his redemption of Israel (see Ex 6:6–8; Job 19:25; Ps 19:14; 69:18; Isa 43:1). 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 ultimate fulfillment in the coming of the Messiah (see Isa 59:20). 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 suggest paying a ransom, making a purchase or saving from loss.

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