God Is The Kinsman-Redeemer Of His People
God is morally obligated to avenge His family as their Kinsman-Redeemer. The law that willful murder must be avenged is set forth in Numbers 35:16-21: “The avenger of blood shall himself put the murderer to death when he meets him,” (RSV).
This passage is quite simply put and so straightforward as to require little explanation except for the term “avenger of blood,” the go’el. The go’el was the nearest kinsman, who also had the rights and obligations of Redeemer. As Redeemer, he could buy back a field that had been lost through indebtedness and marry a childless widow in order to raise up an heir for the deceased family member as illustrated in the Book of Ruth. He could buy back a person who had been sold into slavery for indebtedness. This term is frequently used of God as the Redeemer of His people. It is in this sense that we must understand the admonition found in Leviticus 19:18:
“You shall not take vengeance or bear any grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord,” (RSV).
For people living within the Covenant relationship, God was their nearest Kinsman, their Go’el. They were not, therefore, to usurp His office by taking upon themselves the role of avenger. (This passage is quoted in Rom. 12:19 and Heb. 10:30.)
Blood Vengeance Is Also A New Testament Doctrine
That the laws concerning the shedding of blood were taken seriously in the New Testament era is well attested. In the trial of Christ Pilate declared that he was “innocent of the blood of this Man,” while the Jews cried out: “His blood be on us and on our children!” (Matt. 27:24-25).
Even Judas realized that he must pay the penalty: “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood,” (Matt. 27:4). But the chief priests and elders refused to fulfill the law, so he destroyed his own life.
Peter and the other apostles were very bold to accuse the Jews of blood guilt. This bothered the High Priest: “You intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. But Peter … answered, ‘The God of our fathers raised Jesus whom you killed by hanging him on a tree,’” (Acts 5:28-30). (See also Acts 2:23; 3:15; 4:27, RSV.)
Stephen was very bold in his accusation before the Council:
“Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered,” (Acts 7:52 RSV).
For this witness, they added yet another crime, the slaying of innocent Stephen.
God Is Also Morally Obligated To Cleanse The Land Of Innocent Blood
Not only was God the Avenger of Blood for the sake of His covenant people, but He was also morally and legally obligated to avenge innocent blood to cleanse the land from defilement for He is the Owner and Occupant of the land:
“You shall not thus pollute the land in which you live; for blood pollutes the land, and no expiation can be made for the land, for the blood that is shed in it, except by the blood of him who shed it. You shall not defile the land in which you live, in the midst of which I dwell; for I the Lord dwell in the midst of the people of Israel,” (Num. 35:33-34. See also Deut. 19:11-13, RSV.)
God’s concern for the land is again expressed in Deuteronomy 32:43 RSV: “Praise His people, O you nations; for He avenges the blood of His servants, and takes vengeance on His adversaries, and makes expiation for the land of His people.”
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