The Book of Ruth, part 23, Laws of Redemption
Jun 27, 2019
There are many who believe that Jesus Christ is our Redeemer, but most believers today do not know the laws of redemption. When I was a child, we often sang the old hymn, I Will Sing of My Redeemer,” but no one thought to teach on the laws of redemption. I had to learn these laws many years later when I embarked on a serious study of the law as a whole.
Yet knowing the redemption laws in Leviticus 25 is imperative if we are to understand the Book of Ruth. We must also know the laws of sonship in Deuteronomy 25. The story of Ruth combines these two laws to reveal the plan of God, the scope of redemption, the path to sonship, and the qualifications and character of those who would be like Jesus. Virtually all commentators agree that Ruth has great New Testament revelation, but they lack the revelation of the law to fully understand the message of this book.
The Redemption Provision
Leviticus 25:1-13 lays down the basic laws of Sabbath years culminating with the year of Jubilee every fiftieth year. All properties lost during the time of the seven Sabbath cycles were to return to their original trustees after the seventh Sabbath ten days after the start of the fiftieth year. Normally, this was the Day of Atonement, but in the fiftieth year it was celebrated as the Jubilee.
Leviticus 25:14-17 establishes that when land was sold, it was to be valued according to its production value times the number of years before the next Jubilee. Sabbath years were excluded from the count, since these were land-rest years where no one was supposed to sow or reap.
Leviticus 25:18-22 deals with the problem of potential lack of faith in God’s provision. Many might be tempted to continue farming during a Sabbath year, but God promised to give them a double crop in the sixth year to sustain them during the seventh year. In this way, everyone was assured a one-year vacation every seven years. Their lack of faith was shown in that the nation as a whole did not enforce this law until Judah returned from its 70-year Babylonian captivity (2 Chronicles 36:20, 21).
Leviticus 25:23, 24 gives us the basis of all the land laws, introducing the laws of redemption.
23 The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me. 24 Thus for every piece of your property, you are to provide for the redemption for the land.
God owns the land by right of creation and by the basic labor laws that help to define His nature. Everyone has the right to own, control, and use the fruit of his labor as he sees fit. God created the land itself, so He lays claim to His labor. Men use God’s land to produce wealth, and after giving Him a tithe (as a return on His labor), men own the remaining 90 percent as the reward for their own labor. The tithe is to be used in support of God’s government, and governments do not have the right to tax the people beyond their allotted ten percent—not even if they claim to use that tax for the public good.
Because God owns all the land—and, indeed, the whole earth (Jeremiah 27:5)—He retains the right to regulate it according to His own nature. Asserting that inherent right, He set forth the laws of redemption in Leviticus 25:24, and men have no right to ignore or reverse those laws.
So Leviticus 25:25-55 sets forth the laws of redemption. The next chapter tells us the blessings for obeying His laws and the curses for disobedience. Then the final chapter in the book adds final details in regard to valuations of people and animals when they are sold or redeemed. Because God owns all the land, He also owns all who are made of the dust of the ground. Therefore, He retains the right to regulate slavery, telling them that no man really owns a slave any more than he owns the land. He is a trustee under God and must treat both land and people with respect and integrity.
Man is of the Earth
Adam was formed of the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7) and named accordingly. The Hebrew word for earth is adamah, so he was named Adam. Man was thus intimately connected to the ground from the beginning, and this is also why the laws of redemption tie the people to their land. Land itself was not to be sold, but the production could be sold until the Jubilee. With the land went the families who were tied to that land.
That is why Boaz could tell the court—and everyone in the court acknowledged this—that whoever redeemed Elimelech’s property had to redeem Ruth and Naomi as well. They came with the land as part of a package deal, because Adam himself was of the earth. The Apostle Paul himself acknowledged this, saying in 1 Corinthians 15:47,
47 The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven.
One could just as easily translate this to read, “the first Adam, is from the earth, adamah,” because Adam literally means earthy, or from the earth.
The implications of this law are seen in the story of redemption in the Book of Ruth, where Boaz would not allow the nearer kinsman to redeem the land without also redeeming those who were connected to it. The wider implication of this law, prophesying the scope of the divine plan, is that the story of Ruth and Naomi is a microcosm of the story of Adam himself.
Hence, because Ruth and Naomi had to be redeemed along with their small piece of property, so also did Jesus have to redeem all of mankind along with the animals and the earth itself. For this reason, among the details given in the last chapter of Leviticus, we read how even animals were assigned certain values in determining their price of redemption (Leviticus 27:9, 26, 27, 28, 32). Animals, too, were made of dust and are thus connected to the land according to the law.
In Leviticus 25:47-49 we read,
47 Now if the means of a stranger or of a sojourner with you becomes sufficient, and a countryman of yours becomes so poor with regard to him as to sell himself to a stranger who is sojourning with you, or to the descendants of a stranger’s family, 48 then he shall have redemption right after he has been sold. One of his brothers may redeem him, 49 or his uncle, or his uncle’s son, may redeem him, or one of his blood relatives from his family may redeem him; or if he prospers, he may redeem himself.
The law establishes the rights of both God and men. In this case a near kinsman has the right of redemption. Such rights are mentioned again in other contexts in Leviticus 25:29 and 32. While any friend or concerned citizen may redeem another, only a near kinsman has the right of redemption. Hence, if property (that is, its production value along with the people connected to the land) has been sold to a stranger, a friend may offer to redeem these, but the stranger would retain the right to refuse the offer. But if a near kinsman makes the same offer, the stranger does not have the right to refuse.
In the story of Ruth, we are not told the identity of the one who had purchased the property from Elimelech before he moved to Moab. The story focuses upon redemption rights. In other words, whoever had purchased the property ten years earlier was largely irrelevant to the story, because he had no right to refuse a near kinsman who had sufficient money to redeem the property.
In the big picture, we know that Adam’s estate was “sold” on account of sin-debt, as illustrated by Jesus’ parable in Matthew 18:25. Adam’s estate was the whole earth, for he had been given authority to rule all things (Genesis 1:26, 28). Jesus came as the “Son of Man” (i.e., Son of Adam) to redeem all that had been sold.
Jesus bought and paid for the entire world by His own blood. Was that payment sufficient to pay for the sin of the whole world? Yes, indeed (1 John 2:2). His life was worth far more than the total debt for the sin of Adam and the whole world.
But did He qualify as a near-kinsman? Yes, indeed, for “He is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Hebrews 2:11). He thus refused to come as an angel but took upon Himself flesh and blood (Hebrews 2:14) in order to identify with the earth. On a secondary level, He also came of the seed of Abraham (Hebrews 2:16) in order to identify more specifically as a near-kinsman to Israel.
On every level of legal interpretation, Jesus qualified as Redeemer. Whoever had purchased the earth in the days of Adam, whoever it was that enslaved the people to sin (Romans 7:14), had no legal right to refuse the great Redeemer. The price was paid on the cross, and sin lost its power to enslave.
The real question for believers today is whether or not Jesus will follow the law as established in the Book of Ruth. Will He take the property and not the people who are tied to the land? Will He pick and choose who to save and who to leave in slavery to the stranger? No, the law does not allow that, as Boaz clearly states.
For this reason, not only the law and the prophets but also the apostles themselves in the New Testament clearly present to us that in the end, all things will be subject to Jesus Christ. We read in 1 Corinthians 15:27, 28,
27 For He has put all things in subjection under His feet…. 28 And when all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all.
By the end of time, all things will be subject to Christ, even as it was in the beginning when all things were subject to Adam. Paul was quoting Psalm 8:6,
6 Thou dost make him to rule over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things under his feet.
This is confirmed in Ephesians 1:22 and again in Hebrews 2:6-8,
6 But one has testified somewhere, saying, “What is man that Thou rememberest him? Or the son of man, that Thou art concerned about him? 7 Thou hast made him for a little while lower than the angels; Thou hast crowned him with glory and honor, and hast appointed him over the works of Thy hands; 8 Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet.” For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him.
It is clear that Jesus is the King of the Earth and that all things are to be subjected to His authority. Nothing was left out, because He purchased all that Adam had lost. Not only all of the land but also all of the people who came from that land were redeemed. Many believers have been told that Jesus will rule the earth, but they have been led to believe that most of humanity will be lost forever. Such people do not know the law, nor do they understand the divine plan for God to be “all in all.”
This is part 23 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Ruth" To view all parts, click the link below.