My Kinsman Redeemer Lives
One of the most wonderful declarations of faith in the Bible is set in the context of severe suffering and affliction. Having lost all of his possessions and children, having been subject to the rejection of his wife, and having become the object of the condemnation of his friends, Job cried out,
"I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see for myself,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
My heart faints within me" (Job 19:25–26).
These verses have been subject to no small debate throughout church history. Many have rejected a Christological reading based on faulty conclusions about the message of Job. Some have suggested that Job couldn't be referring to Christ since he sees God as his adversary. This is to miss the fact that Job clearly states his hope of seeing God face to face in verse 26. The hope of the beatific vision is based on the hope of redemption. Others suggest that Job couldn't be speaking about Christ since that would mean that he is admitting sinfulness. However, nowhere in the book of Job are we meant to conclude that he was sinless. Far from it, Job sacrifices for himself and his children. This is an explicit acknowledgement of sinfulness and the need for the promised sacrifice of God. Furthermore, Job repents of his speech at the end of the book--intimating that he is sinfully ignorant of the ways of the Lord.
Instead of rejecting the Messianic hope in these verses, the better part of Reformed theologians have advanced the Christological interpretation. For instance, Thomas Manton wrote,
"Job’s confession of faith, which was very ancient [states]: Job 19:25, 26, ‘I know that my Redeemer lives, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh I shall see God.’ His Redeemer was true man, as appears by his title Goel; and because he shall stand on the earth, and be seen by his bodily eyes; true God, for he calls him so: ‘I shall see God."
Again, Manton wrote,
"Christ is called Goel: Job 19:25, ‘For I know that my Redeemer liveth;’ Isa. 59:20, ‘The Redeemer shall come to Zion.’ Christ is our kinsman; not only true man, but the Son of man. True man he might have been if God had created him out of nothing, or he had brought his substance from heaven; but he is the Son of man, one descended from the loins of Adam, as we are; and so doth redeem us not only jure proprietatis, by virtue of his interest in us as our creator; but jure propinquitatis, by virtue of kindred, as one of our stock and lineage, as the Son of Adam as well as the Son of God; for Jesus Christ, of all the kindred, was the only one that was free and able to pay a ransom for us."1
Jonathan Edwards, taking up the meaning of the Hebrew word Goel, explained the Christological connection in the following way:
"'My redeemer,' גֹּאֲלִי. The word also, as it was used among the Hebrews, signified near kinsman, as in Ruth 3:12. “And now it is true that I am thy near kinsman, goēl; howbeit there is a kinsman, goēl, nearer than I.” V. 13, “Tarry this night, and it shall be in the morning, that if he will perform unto thee the part of a kinsman, or if he will redeem thee, יִגְאָלֵךְ, well; let him do the kinsman’s part, יִגְאָֹל. But if he will not do the part of a kinsman to thee, לְגָאֳלֵךְ, then I will do the part of a kinsman to thee, וגְאַלְתִּיךְ.” So the word is the same, 1 Kgs. 16:11. “As soon as he began to reign, he slew all the house of Baasha; he left none of his kinsfolks, וְגֹּאֲֹלָיו.
There were four things the goēl was to do for his kinsman unable to act for himself. 1. He was to marry the widow of the deceased kinsman to raise up seed to his brother, as Christ marries the elect church that was left a widow by the first Adam, the first surety, and by the law or first covenant, the first husband having no seed (Rom. 7:3–4). 2. He was [to] redeem the inheritance of his poor kinsman (Lev. 25:25). So Christ redeems the inheritance which we sold. 3. He was to ransom his poor kinsman in bondage, paying the price of his redemption. Lev. 25:47, “If thy brother wax poor, and sell himself,” v. 48, “after that he is sold, he may be redeemed again; one of his brethren may redeem him.” V. 52, “According unto his years shall he give him again the price of his redemption.” Thus does Christ redeem us from bondage after we have sold ourselves. 4. He was to avenge the blood of his slain kinsman on the slayer. Thus does Christ avenge our blood on Satan."2
Similarily, Thomas Boston explained how Christ is the kinsman Redeemer to whom Job speaks. He wrote,
Our Lord Jesus Christ, the second Adam, giving his consent to the covenant, as proposed to him by the Father, sisted himself Kinsman-redeemer in the covenant: Job 19:25, “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth.”
Under the law, when a man was not able to act for himself, to assert and use his own right, one that was akin to him, had a right to act for him, coming in his room, and standing up in his right. And such a one was called his Goel; which properly signifies a Kinsman-redeemer. Hence that word is sometimes rendered a kinsman; as Numb. 5:8, “If the man have no (Goel) kinsman to recompense the trespass unto.” Ruth 3:12, “I am thy (Goel) near kinsman: howbeit there is a (Goel) kinsman nearer than I.” Sometimes it is rendered a Redeemer; as Prov. 23:11, “Their (Goel) Redeemer is mighty.” Isa. 47:4, “As for our (Goel) Redeemer, the Lord of hosts is his name.” One’s acting in that capacity, is called doing the kinsman’s part, or redeeming, to wit, by right of kin, Ruth 3:13; and 4:6. Howbeit, such a one might refuse to do the kinsman’s part; as Ruth’s kinsman-redeemer did, who resigned his right to Boaz, and in token thereof drew off his own shoe, and gave it him, Ruth 4:6, 7, 8.
Now, Christ the second Adam saw sinners, his ruined kinsmen quite unable to act for themselves. Not one of them all was able to redeem himself, and far less his brother. Withal, the angels, near akin to them in the rational world, durst not meddle with the redemption; being sure they could not have missed to mar their own inheritance thereby, nor have delivered their poor kinsmen neither. If he should have declined it, and drawn off his shoe to them, or to any other of the whole creation, there was none who durst have ventured to receive it, or his foot in it. 'I looked,' saith he, 'and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore mine own arm brought salvation,' Isa. 63:5. He took on himself the character of their Kinsman-redeemer; and of him as such Job speaks in the forecited passage, which I conceive to be thus expressed in the original: 'I know, my Kinsman-redeemer lives: and the latter one he shall stand up upon the dust.' In which words Job comforts himself with a view of Christ as his Kinsman-redeemer living, even in his day, in respect of his divine nature; and as the latter or second one, (in opposition to the former or first, Exod. 4:8, 9; Deut. 24:3, 4.) namely, the latter or second Adam Redeemer, in opposition to the former or first Adam destroyer; firmly believing, that the one uniting to himself a human nature, should as sure stand up upon the dust of the earth, and do the kinsman’s part for him; as the other, having the breath of life breathed into his nostrils, stood up upon it, and ruined all."3
Many scholars believe that Job knew of the promised Christ by oral revelation, since he was probably a descendat of Esau (Gen. 36:28; Lam. 4:21). If he were a descendant of Esau (living in the city of Uz), it would be altogether reasonable to conclude that Job would have received the promises God made to Abraham about the coming Redeemer. If Jesus could say that Abraham rejoiced to see His day, the same can be said of Job.
The canonical setting of the book of Job and the relationship it sustains to Genesis 3:15 also further supports a Christological understanding of Job's declaration. To strip it of the canonical context would be to empty it of its meaning. Job, like the rest of the Old Testament, is a revelation of Jesus Christ (Luke 24:27). When we understand the redemptive historical connection, we can sing with joy filled hearts:
"I know that my Redeemer lives, glory, hallelujah!
What comfort this sweet sentence gives, glory, hallelujah!
Shout on, pray on, we’re gaining ground, glory, hallelujah!
The dead’s alive and the lost is found, glory, hallelujah!"
1. Thomas Manton, The Complete Works of Thomas Manton, vol. 18 (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1874), 432.
2. Jonathan Edwards, The “Blank Bible”: Part 1 & Part 2, ed. Stephen J. Stein and Harry S. Stout, vol. 24, The Works of Jonathan Edwards (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2006), 441.
3. Thomas Boston, The Whole Works of Thomas Boston: Human Nature in Its Fourfold State and a View of the Covenant of Grace, ed. Samuel M‘Millan, vol. 8 (Aberdeen: George and Robert King, 1850), 412–413.