In Job 19:25 the patriarch says:
"For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth."
The Hebrew word translated redeemer here is goel, which literally means redeemer; but since a redeemer had to be near of kin to the person redeemed, the word also came to mean near kinsman. Thus the full meaning of the word is kinsman-redeemer.
The office of the goel is set forth in the Mosaic law, and comprised a four-fold function: (1) to redeem an impoverished brother's inheritance; (2) to redeem a poor brother himself from bondage; (3) to avenge a murdered brother's blood by slaying the murderer; (4) and to marry a deceased brother's widow and build up his brother's house. Each of these functions finds its fulfillment in Christ, the goel of whom Job was speaking. It is our purpose to examine each of these four functions of the goel, and to point out the fulfillment of each in the work of Christ, our Redeemer.
The goel's first function is set forth in Leviticus 25:25:
"If thy brother be waxen poor, and hath sold away some of his possession, and if any of his kin come to redeem it, then he shall redeem that which his brother sold."
This aspect of the redemptive service of the goel evidently points to the work of Christ whereby he recovers for us the inheritance which we lost in Adam - the sovereignty of the earth. By his death on the cross, Christ has bought back the inheritance for us and it merely remains for him, in due time, to clear away the people and powers who are usurping that which rightly belongs to God's people. The details of this act of taking possession of the earth are set forth prophetically in the book of the Revelation, chapters 6-11. At the conclusion of chapter eleven, we read:
"And there were great voices in heaven, saying. The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ and he shall reign forever and ever. And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell on their faces and worshipped God, saying, We give thee thanks, 0 Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power and hast reigned. And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them that destroy the earth."
This passage obviously marks the time when the usurpers of the earth will have been dealt with, and Christ will have been seated on the throne to rule over the earth. That his redeemed ones will be associated with him in this reign is declared in Rev. 5:9:
"And they sung a new song, saying. Thou art worthy to take the book and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on (or over) the earth."
The second aspect of the goel's redemptive work is described in Lev. 25:47-49:
"And if a sojourner or stranger wax rich by thee, and thy brother that dwelleth by him wax poor, and sell himself unto the stranger or sojourner by thee, or to the stock of the stranger's family: after that he is sold he may be redeemed again. One of his brethren may redeem him: Either his uncle or his uncle's son may redeem him, or any that is nigh of kin unto him of his family may redeem him; or if he be able, he may redeem himself."
This passage describes the situation in which the poor brother has sold himself into bondage, and the services of the goel are called upon to redeem him. Here Christ's redemption of the believer's person is pictured. Note that the goel must not only be able to redeem, he must also be near of kin to the person to be redeemed. It is first stated that one of his brethren may redeem him. The Hebrew word for brother suggests common origin, similarity or likeness. The word was applied not only to those who had a common family origin, but also to those who had a common tribal origin and even to those who were of the same national origin. The word is even applied to inanimate things that are similar, or that match each other. For example, in Exodus 25:20, the cherubim carved upon the mercy-seat are thus described:
"And the cherubim shall spread out their wings on high covering the mercy seat with their wings, with their faces one to another."
The last phrase reads literally in the Hebrew: with their faces (being) each toward its brother. Thus even things which were alike, or formed a set were called brothers so that to the Hebrew mind, the idea of brother must have suggested likeness, similarity, or affinity. In this connection, compare Hebrews 2:11-17:
"For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee. And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me. Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same, that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels, but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people."
This passage affirms that God, in the person of Christ, became near of kin to those whom he was to redeem - that he became like them. This likeness was foreshadowed by the legal qualification for a redeemer, one of his brethren may redeem him.
But note also that in Leviticus 25:49 it is stated that:
"Either his uncle or his uncle's son may redeem him..."
Now, there are degrees of relationship which are closer than uncle and cousin. Why should an uncle or uncle's son be singled out for particular mention? The answer is found in the literal meaning of the Hebrew word for uncle. The word is dod, and not only means uncle, but also beloved, or one who loves, or is loved, a lover. It is the word used by the bride in the Song of Solomon to refer to her beloved. The passage in Leviticus suggests, one who loves him, or the son of one who loves him, may redeem him. As to the identity of this uncle, or one who loved enough to redeem, consider John 3:16:
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
Remember also I John 4:10:
"Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and gave his son to be the propitiation for our sins."
That the sinner is indeed held in bondage is affirmed by Jesus, himself, in John 8:34:
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant (Greek: doulos - bondslave) of sin."
The third function of the goel was to avenge the death of a murdered brother. This obligation is laid down in Numbers 35:15-19:
"These six cities shall be a refuge, both for the children of Israel, and for the stranger, and for the sojourner among them; that everyone that killeth any person at unawares may flee thither. And if he smite him with an instrument of iron, so that he die, he is a murderer; the murderer shall surely be put to death. And if he smite him with throwing a stone, wherewith he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death. Or if he smite him with an hand weapon of wood, wherewith he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death. The revenger of blood himself shall slay the murderer: when he meeteth him, he shall slay him."
The expression revenger of blood, is literally of blood. The passage thus shows that one of the functions of the goel was to avenge the death of a murdered kinsman. To understand this phase of the redemptive work of Christ, we must remember that the entire human race has been murdered, spiritually, in Adam, by that arch enemy of God and man, Satan. By inducing Adam and Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit, the penalty for which disobedience was death, Satan slew the entire human race. Moreover, the infliction of physical death itself is ascribed to Satan, of course, under the permissive will of God:
"That through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil."
Heb. 2: 14b.
This part of the redemptive work of Christ, our goel, is yet future, for while He has by His death, defeated Satan, and guaranteed his eventual destruction, it will not be until after the millennium that our Goel of blood shall meet the murderer and slay him:
"And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever."
The fourth and last function of the goel was to marry the widow of a deceased brother and build up the brother's house (by begetting a son who would succeed in the name of the deceased brother). This requirement is found in Deuteronomy 25:5-10:
"If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband's brother shall go in unto her, and take her unto him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband's brother unto her. And it shall be, that the first-born which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel. And if the man like not to take his brother's wife, then let his brother's wife go up to the gate unto the elders, and say, My husband's brother refuseth to raise up unto his brother a name in Israel, he will not perform the duty of my husband's brother. Then the elders of his city shall call him, and speak unto him and if he stand to it, and say, I like not to take her; then shall his brother's wife come unto him in the presence of the elders, and loose his shoe from off his foot, and spit in his face, and shall answer and say, so shall it be done unto that man that will not build up his brother's house. And his name shall be called in Israel, the house of him that hath his shoe loosed."
Although the word goel is not used in this passage, it is implied in the fact that those involved in the situation are brethren. Furthermore, the book of Ruth makes it plain that Boaz, in marrying the widow of his kinsman, Mahlon, was doing the part of a kinsman toward her. The expression is more accurately acting as . In considering how Christ fulfills this aspect of the goel's function, we must note the words of Paul in Romans 7:1-4:
"Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God."
Here we are told that we have become dead to the law by the body of Christ, so that we might be married to Him and bring forth fruit unto God. This marriage of the believer to Christ is simply another way of expressing the vital relationship which Jesus described as the union between the vine and its branches in John 15. Let us at this point make a distinction: the church is the future bride of Christ; while the individual believer is presently married to Him as one who has become a widow, and has been married by the goel, or near kinsman. This relationship is affirmed in our text, and should occasion us no difficulty of understanding. The overall relationship of Christ to the believer is a complex one, and must needs be pictured in various ways. He is the shepherd, we are the sheep. He is the master, we are the servants. He is the High Priest we are the ordinary priesthood. In like manner our union with Him is spoken of by Paul as the relationship between a husband and wife.
Thus Christ, as our goel, has redeemed us from the slavery of sin. He has redeemed our inheritance, the earth; and will, in due time, present it to us freed of every encumbrance. By His death He has guaranteed the destruction of him who has the power of death, Satan, the murderer of the human race. Moreover, He has married each believer, i.e. become joined to him in vital, fruit-producing union, that we might bring forth fruit unto God.
John H Mattox