What were the responsibilities of a near kinsman in the Jewish law?

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In the Jewish system, there were laws and traditions concerning transfer of property, protecting inheritance, providing for the poor, and those that were misjudged. There were several important responsibilities devolved upon a near kinsman. These duties are:

  1. Buy back the property a near kinsman had sold to a creditor, or to someone else, to meet the creditor’s demands (Ruth 4:4; Jeremiah 32:7). “‘If one of your brethren becomes poor, and has sold some of his possession, and if his redeeming relative comes to redeem it, then he may redeem what his brother sold” (Leviticus 25:25). This legislation favored the poor and encouraged him to work for the recovery of his property. God sought to prevent some people from becoming very rich and others very poor. Had God’s original plan for the land and for servitude been followed, extremes of poverty and wealth would have been unknown.
  2. Redeem one near kinsman who had of necessity sold himself into slavery, “after he is sold he may be redeemed again. One of his brothers may redeem him; or his uncle or his uncle’s son may redeem him; or anyone who is near of kin to him in his family may redeem him; or if he is able he may redeem himself” (Lev. 25:48, 49).
  3. Avenge the blood of a near kinsman, if slain by an enemy “The avenger of blood himself shall put the murderer to death; when he meets him, he shall put him to death” (Num. 35:19).  This avenging will take place only outside the city of refuge.
  4. Marry the childless widow of a near kinsman as in the story of Ruth. “Stay this night, and in the morning it shall be that if he will perform the duty of a close relative for you—good; let him do it. But if he does not want to perform the duty for you, then I will perform the duty for you, as the LORD lives! Lie down until morning” (Ruth 3:13). Boaz agrees to Ruth’s proposal of marriage and agrees to become the trustee of the property on behalf of the offspring of this union.

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In His service,
BibleAsk Team


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