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ch. 4:1-12   ch. 4:13-22

Boaz Marries Ruth (ch. 4:1 - 12)   

 

As we see in verse 1, while Ruth was waiting at home with Naomi, Boaz went to the city gates of Bethlehem.  The city gates were important in towns back then.  You could compare the city gates to our city halls and court houses in 21st century western society.  That is where all the city business took place.  That is where court procedures took place.  That is where the elders of the city sat during the day to here and to take care of the business of the day.  By this time there were normally 10 elders for each town or city.  The idea of 10 elders evolved into the rule that before an Israeli could have an official meeting of the saints, that is, a religious type meeting, there had to be at least 10 men in the meeting.

 

Also in verse 1 we see that Boaz waited patiently for the closer relative, the closer kinsman redeemer to walk by.  When he did, Boaz pulled him aside, along with the elders to discuss the matter at hand, as seen in verse 2.  Some suggest that Boaz himself might have been an elder.  We know that from Ruth 2:1 that he was a man of stature in the community.  We can't say for sure since the text doesn't specifically say that he was an elder. 

 

We have some problems in verse 3.  The NIV says that Naomi owns some land and that she is now selling the land.  This might well be a matter of translating the Hebrew text based on one's interpretation of the text, and not a pure translation.  Due to Hebrew verb tenses, either Naomi owned the land and was selling it, or else, the land was already sold in the past, most likely by her husband.  I tend to believe the latter, because it makes more sense.  I think it is clear that Naomi and Ruth were poor.  In chapter 1 Naomi said that she returned to Bethlehem empty, with nothing.  If they weren't poor, and if Naomi owned land, Ruth would not have been gleaning the fields.

 

At this point I will comment on Hebrew verb tenses because it does play an important part in chapter 4.  There are only two tenses, completed, and in the process of being completed.  In English we have three tenses, past present, and future.  Not so in Hebrew, thus the problem we see here.  In chapter 4, concerning the land relating to Naomi that was to be bought by the kinsman redeemer, both verb tenses are used in the first  few verses.  Therefore, translators have to decide which verb tense to use to be consistent.  You  can't have one verse saying that the land was already sold and needs to be redeemed back to Naomi, and another verse saying the land hadn't already been sold and Naomi is selling the land.  Either Naomi owned the land or she didn't.  The Hebrew text is confusing on this point.  The only way to translate then is to interpret from what you understand the context to be.  I believe Naomi was poor and had no land and therefore the kinsman redeemer had to buy it back for her.  I don't believe that she owned the land and was now selling it as the NIV states. 

 

Before we go further, we need to realize that no one in Israel really owned land.  Only God owned the land.  Israelis owned the right to use the land.  They bought the right to use it.  This makes the year of Jubilee more understandable.  Every 50 years the use of the land would return, or should have been return, to the one who originally had the right to use it.  The problem is that for most of the time, if not all of the time, Israel never really walked with their Lord long enough to experience the Year of Jubilee.

 

As I've already brought forth, in verse 3, the NIV says that Naomi owned some land.  In verse 4, the NIV says that Boaz suggested that the closer kinsman redeemer buy the land from her.  Again, this is a translation problem. I don't believe Naomi owned the land for the reasons I've already stated.   

 

Note also in verse 4 the words "our brother", that Boaz spoke to the closer kinsman redeemer.  Some suggest that because of the use of the word "brother", Boaz and the closer kinsman were brothers of Elimelech.  On the other hand, many people simply believe the use of the word "brother" means brother, as in, "Israeli brother", or, "brother in Judah". They don't mean that the two kinsmen were biological brothers, born from the same mother.  That being said, maybe these two men were Elimelech's brother, making Boaz Ruth's uncle-in-law.    

 

We should also note at this point that Ruth is not the centre of the story, not the centre of what is happening.  The land and Naomi is the important one here.  The Jew and the rightful ownership of the use of the land is the important issue, not the Gentile widowed Ruth.

 

Verse 4 simply states that Boaz suggested the next in kin that could be the kinsman redeemer could buy the land.  The next in kin agreed.  Things suddenly change in verse 5 when Boaz tells the next of kin that if he redeems the land, on the day of the sale, he must marry the dead man's wife.  That' s Ruth.  At that the next in kin changes his mind.

 

In verse 6 the next of kin tells Boaz that he cannot marry Ruth or buy the land because it would endanger his own estate.  That makes sense.  If he marries Ruth, according to the Law of Moses and the tradition of Israel , even though this is not a Levirate Marriage, the first born male from this marriage would actually be seen as the son of Ruth's deceased husband.  Thus the land and possibly anything else this next of kin own would be in the name of Ruth's first husband, and this man felt that he could not take that chance.  He would lose everything to another man.

 

Some suggest that the reason why the next closes kinsman couldn't marry Ruth is because he was already married.  This might be, but the text doesn't say that.  If he were married, you'd wonder why Boaz would not have already known that, and why he would have asked the man to marry Ruth.

 

Verse 7 is in brackets.  It's like an after thought. When it says, "in earlier times", the "earlier times" were the days of Ruth and Boaz.   The word "earlier' is in relation to the fact that the book of Ruth was probably written around the time of King, David, or Solomon, as was the book of Judges.  Or, it might well have been edited even later than that.  No one seems really sure.

 

Whoever and whenever the book of Ruth was written, the author stated that "in earlier times" when a property deal was made, one party took off his shoe or sandal and gave it to another to finalize the deal.  In verse 8 the nearest kinsman redeemer took off his sandal and gave it to Boaz, even though he did not buy the land.  What is probably happening here is that in order for Boaz to buy the property, the unnamed next of kin had to decline it.  In actuality, or, in one sense of the word, his decline was part of the transaction.  He had to decline in order for the sale to go through.

 

There is another thought that some insert here as well, but I'm not sure is really warranted.  When it came to a brother-in-law declining to marry his dead brother's wife as seen in the Levirate Marriage laws, that was seen as a shameful act.  He would remove one sandal and the widow would spit in his face and throw the sandal away.  This would represent the fact that the refusal to marry was seen as a disgraceful thing in Israel.  The man would forever be known as a man without a sandal.  He'd be forever disgraced. What the nearest next of kin did here might have stemmed from this.

 

In verses 9 and 10 we see Boaz making the announcement in front of the city elders and in front of all who where there.  He would buy the land from Naomi, as the NIV states.  I mentioned this earlier, but  because of the Hebrew verse tense here and in verse 3, I believe that Naomi did not own the land.  Someone else owned the land that was either sold or lost by Elimelech, Naomi's dead husband. 

 

We see Killon and Mahlon mentioned here.  These are the two dead sons of Naomi. Mahlon was Ruth's deceased husband. 

 

Boaz announced that he would redeem the land and marry Ruth at the same time.  The reason for both the land purchase and the marriage was so that Mahlon, and really most of all, Elimelech's,  lineage and the land would stay in tact. Israeli tradition was that the land should stay in the family, if not the family, at least the clan.

 

The elders of Bethlehem bless Boaz and Ruth with a blessing that is in one sense prophetic.   The first thing the elders proclaimed was their blessing that Ruth would become like Rachel and Leah, the mothers of Israel .  That would mean that she would be pretty famous, and in one since of the word she did become famous. Obviously one reason why she is famous is because many Christians and Jews have read her story over the centuries.  The other reason is that Ruth is in the lineage of the Lord Jesus, as seen in Matthews account of the lineage of Jesus.  See Matthew 1:1 to 6.

 

"May you be famous in Ephratah and Bethlehem ", they add.  It appears in the book of Ruth that Ephratah is a synonym for Bethlehem.  Naomi's husband was an Ephratahite.  There is also an Ephratah farther north on the border of Ephraim and Benjamin, where Rachel was buried.  It might be hard to know what the elders meant by using Ephratah, but it is clear about Bethlehem, because this is where Boaz, Ruth, and Naomi lived, and this is where Jesus was born.  Ruth being associated with Bethlehem and being in the lineage of Jesus is both a blessing and a prophecy.

 

This section ends in verse 12.  "May your family be like that of Perez, who Tammar bore to Judah", said the elders.  In Matthew's account of the genealogy of Jesus, in Matthew 1:3, we see that Judah, Tammar, and Perez, are all mentioned in the lineage of Jesus.  For this reason this statement would be a blessing. Beyond this, Ruth and Tammar had a similar experience.  Both their husbands had died.  You see the story of Tammar in Genesis 38.  She tricked Judah, her father-in-law into an affair and thus having a child.  This is where the similarity between Ruth and Tammar ends.

 

 

The Genealogy Of David (ch. 4:13 - 22)

 

Verse 13 states that "the Lord enabled Ruth to conceive".  This was how Hebrews thought.  If they conceived, the Lord caused the pregnancy.  If the woman couldn't conceive, that too was from the Lord.  Conception, in the minds of Hebrews was a miracle of God and He was involved in the conception just as much as the man and wife.  Maybe we should have the same thinking today.  Maybe the Lord is more involved in conception than what we might think.  Maybe we think too much in terms of just an egg cell uniting with a sperm cell.  The Hebrews might be more right than what we give them credit for.  The way the Hebrews thought on this issue tells me that human life begins at conception, not after conception. 

 

Verse 14 is important, and really, it might well reflect what this whole book is all about.  The women of Bethlehem says to Naomi, "praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a kinsman redeemer".  Note thate even though Boaz married Ruth, the women of the town says that Noami was the reciepient of the kinsman redeemer.   If you look closely at the book of Ruth, Ruth in one sense of the word is not the central character. It's really Naomi.  It was for Naomi the Jew's sake, that Boaz the Jew, married Ruth the Gentile, in order that Naomi might benefit from the kinsman redeemer.  It was her deceased husband's land that was redeemed, not Ruth's deceased husband, although it would have been his if he had lived. It was for Naomi's lineage that Boaz married Ruth.  It was all about Naomi.  If Naomi was young enough, Boaz would have married her. This is important to understand, especiall in the light of the typology of Ruth.

 

Ruth goes on with her blessing, saying, "may he become famous ".  I believe the pronoun "he" refers to Ruth's new bor son, who did become famous because he is in the lineage of Jesus.  See Matthew 1:4 to 6.

 

In verse 15 the women continue their blessing.  They state that Naomi will now be looked after in her old age.  " for your daughter-in-law who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth". What they are saying here is that Naomi will be well looked after and so will her descendents because Ruth, a Gentile, loves her so much, she bore a son for both Boaz and for Naomi, and especially for Naomi.  This son, Ruth's first born, will actually be considered as the son of Naomi and her deceased husband, due to the rules of a Levirate Marriage, even though, this in the true sense of the word is not a levirate Marriage. Because Ruth did not marry her deceased husband's brother.  

 

In verse 16 we see that Naomi "took the child, laid him in her lap and cared for him".  The JKV uses the word "nurse" instead of the words "cared for", as seen in the NIV.  The word "nurse" might give the wrong impression here.  Clearly, Naomi was not breast feeding Ruth's baby son.  The Hebrew word translated as "nurse" in the KJV and "cared for' in the NIV simply means to "hold in one's arms, to support, to carry".  There is no suggestion here of breast feeding.  There is a strong suggestion of Naomi being actively involved in the support and care for the baby boy.;

 

Verse 17 states that the women of the town said that "Naomi has a son".  We see the kinsman redeemer at work here.  Biologically, the son was Ruth's, but as I've already stated, he was considered Elimelech and Naomi's son in order to carry on the family line.

 

Note in verse 17 who actually named the baby boy.  The pronoun "they" is used here.  "They" named the son.  Who is "they"?  They refers to the women in the town and Naomi, and, possibly Ruth.  We definitely see the community mentality here.        

 

In the genealogy here there are people left out.  Only those who I suppose are important are mentioned.  This is often the case in Hebrew genealogies.

 

The fact that a Gentile saves the lineage is important when we think of the typological significance here.  Israel in one sense of the word will be saved, as the apostle Paul says in Romans 11, because the Gentiles were brought into the family of God.  How wonderful.

 

 

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