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Avenger

AVENGER. The Hebrew word goēl has a two-sided application of its basic meaning. At heart it is a very gracious word: It refers to the “next of kin” who possesses the right to take on himself whatever need may have overwhelmed his kinsman or kinswoman. We see this at its human best in the [[Book of Ruth]] (3:12-13; 4:2-10) and at its highest when the Lord himself is called our goēl (Isa.43.14). But there is a darker side. Suppose someone has committed the ultimate crime against us and we lie dead through murder. What then? The goēl comes to take our part and to exact the vengeance that the law demands (Num.35.11-Num.35.34). This is how the word that means “redeemer” also means “avenger.” OT law was rightly dominated by the concept of equality: an exact equivalence between crime and punishment. It expressed this in characteristically vigorous terms—for example, “an eye for an eye” (Exod.21.23-Exod.21.24; Lev.24.20; Deut.19.21). We should note that these passages all refer to punishments