What were the responsibilities of the nearest kin in the Jewish law?

In Judaism, there were laws and traditions concerning transfer of property, protecting inheritance, providing for the poor, and for those that were misjudged. Of these laws, several important responsibilities laid upon the nearest of kin. These are listed as follows:

Responsibilities of the Nearest Kin

(1) Buy back the property a near kinsman had sold to a creditor, or to another person, to fulfill the creditor’s requirements (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). Clearly, this law was a kind action to the poor. And it also motivated him to work for buying back his property. Thus, the Lord tried to prevent some people from becoming very rich and others very poor. Had God’s original design for the land and for service been followed, extremes of forms of poverty and wealth would have been minimized.

(2) Redeem one near of kin who because 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 killed 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).  But, this revenge will take place only outside the city of refuge.

(4) Marry the childless widow of a near kinsman as in the story of Ruth. When Ruth asked Boaz to carry on his duty to her as a kinsman, Boaz answered 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). Thus, Boaz agreed to Ruth’s proposal of marriage and agreed to become the trustee of the property on behalf of the child that would come out of his union with Ruth.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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