Chapter 4

Ruth Chapter 4

Scene 4: Boaz Arranges Redemption at the Gate (4:1-12)

      • Boaz went and sat at the city gate. Soon the family redeemer that he had mentioned came by and Boaz called him by name and said, “Come over here and sit down.” So, he came and sat down.

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “Most legal transactions, including property transfers, were carried out at the town gate.”

      • It is interesting to note the variation among translations regarding the way Boaz addressed this family redeemer, calling him over to take a seat. NET Notes explains:

        • The Hebrew idiom…(peloni ʾalmoni) literally means ‘such and such’ or ‘a certain one’…The idiom is used when one wishes to be ambiguous (1 Sam 21:3; 2 Kgs 6:8). Certainly Boaz would have known his relative’s name, especially in such a small village, and would have uttered his actual name. However the narrator refuses to record his name in a form of poetic justice because he refused to preserve Mahlon’s ‘name’ (lineage) by marrying his widow (see 4:5, 9-10). This close relative, who is a literary foil for Boaz, refuses to fulfill the role of family guardian and is relegated to anonymity in a chapter otherwise filled with names and in contrast to Boaz’s prominence. Because the actual name of this relative is not recorded, the translation of this expression is difficult. Contemporary English style expects either a name or title, but the purpose of the expression is to remove his name. This is usually supplied in modern translations: ‘friend’ (NASB, NIV, RSV, NRSV, NLT), ‘so-and-so’ (JPS, NJPS).”

      • And Boaz took ten men of the city’s elders and said, “Sit down here.” So they sat down. Then, he said to the redeemer, “Naomi has come back from the land of Moab, and is selling the parcel of land that belonged to our relative Elimelech. So, I thought I should inform you and say: ‘Buy it in the presence of those sitting here and of the elders of my people.’ If you want to redeem it, do so. But if not, let me know because you are the only redeemer and I am next after you.”

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “Naomi probably did not have control of Elimelech’s ancestral land, though she did have legal title. She was selling the right to redeem it, or buy it back, from whoever was currently using it…The law called for a near relative, the family redeemer, to buy land when a landowner had to sell it (see Lev 25:23-24)…”

      • Guzik adds, “When Boaz brought the matter up to the nearer kinsman, he brought it up as a matter regarding property – something any man would be interested in. Anyone would want to buy back a piece of property and keep it in the family name by keeping it for one’s self.”

      • He answered, “I will redeem it.” Then Boaz said, “When you acquire the land from Naomi, you will also acquire Ruth the Moabite- the dead man’s widow- in order to perpetuate the dead man’s name on his inheritance.”

      • Guzik notes, “The duty of the goel – the kinsman-redeemer – was more than the duty to preserve the family name of his brother in Israel. It was also to keep land allotted to members of the clan within the clan. When Israel came into the Promised Land during the days of Joshua, the land was divided among the tribes and then among the family groups. God intended that the land stay within those tribes and family groups, so the land could never permanently be sold. Every fifty years, it had be returned to the original family group (Leviticus 25:8-17). But fifty years is a long time. So, God made provision for land that was ‘sold,’ that it might be redeemed back to the family by the kinsman-redeemer. Again, the kinsman-redeemer had the responsibility to protect the persons, property, and posterity of the larger family – and all of these duties went together.”

      • However, some sources argue that Boaz’s addition of providing posterity for the deceased under the responsibilities of the kinsman redeemer was novel. For example, NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “This sentence draws heavily on Deut 25:7. Boaz connected the duties of a family redeemer…with the duties of a brother-in-law (Latin levir) to provide an heir for a deceased brother (see Deut 25:5-10…; cp Gen 38). There is no precise precedent for Boaz’s legal maneuver. The duty of the levir as stated in Deut 25:5-10 was not binding in this situation (neither Boaz nor the other kinsman was Elimelech’s brother, and Ruth was not Elimelech’s widow). Boaz was apparently using the spirit of the law concerning the go’el (family redeemer) to establish a moral, if not legal, obligation to serve as levir and provide the deceased with an heir to inherit the land…The concepts of land ownership and provision for an heir were intimately connected in ancient Israel (cp Num 27:1-11). Because Naomi was beyond childbearing age, Ruth, the widow of Elimelech’s son, would be the mother of such an heir. This maneuver apparently surprised the other kinsman (Ruth 4:6), but it is clear from what follows that Boaz’s argument, while perhaps novel, was accepted as valid.”

      • Then the redeemer replied, “I cannot redeem it myself without damaging my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption for yourself, I can’t redeem it.”

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible explains, “If he bought the land, married Ruth, and raised an heir for Elimelech, he might invest many resources only to lose control of the new land, and he might not have enough to maintain his own land. If he then failed to have a second son with Ruth as his own heir, his land would be inherited by Elimelech’s heir, and his own name would die out. Even if this kinsman had acquired the land and not Ruth…he still might lose his investment in the land to the heir born to Ruth. By acting to preserve his own name, this man became the no-name who refused to help his close relative.”

      • Now this used to be the custom in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging: to confirm a transaction, a man took off his sandal and gave it to the other. This act was legally binding in Israel.

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible points out, “The book of Ruth was not written immediately after these events. By the time Ruth was written, most people had forgotten this custom of removing a sandal and what it meant. The transfer of a sandal symbolized transferring a right of purchase to redeem the land See also Deut 25:9 for a similar (but not identical) custom in relation to levirate marriage; in both cases, the sandal apparently signified the right of redemption.”

      • So, when the redeemer told Boaz to redeem it himself, he took off his sandal. Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “Today you are witnesses that I have acquired from Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech, Chilion, and Mahlon. I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, Mahlon’s widow, to be my wife and to perpetuate the name of the deceased in his inheritance, so that his name will not disappear from among his relatives or from the gate of his birth place. You are witnesses today.”

      • Then all the people who were at the gate and the elders said, “We are witnesses. May Yahweh make the woman who is entering your house like Rachel and Leah, who built up the house of Israel together. May you prosper in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem; and through the children that Yahweh will give you by this young woman, may your house be like the house of Perez, the son Tamar bore to Judah.”

      • On the mention of Rachel and Leah in this blessing Guzik writes, “These two had thirteen children between them and were the ‘mothers’ of the whole nation of Israel. This was a big blessing to put on Boaz and Ruth.”

      • On Ephrathah, the NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “Ephrathites were from the clan of Ephrathah, centered in Bethlehem of Judah (see Gen 35:19; 1 Chr 4:4).”

      • On Perez/Tamar, the same source says, “Like Ruth, Tamar had been a foreigner; she became the mother of Perez and Zerah, through whom Judah’s descendants came.”

      • Guzik adds, “What was so special about Perez? The story of his birth is in Genesis 38:27-30.” Followed by two citations- one from Trapp and the other from Kidner:

        • That breach-maker, as the midwife called him, because he would needs be born before his brother, and carried away the first birthright: and afterwards became happy in a numerous and honourable posterity.” (Trapp)

        • Indeed, it seems that Pharez was the ancestor of the Bethlehemites in general (1 Ch. 2:5, 18, 50f.). Moreover, Pharez gave his name to the section of the tribe of Judah that was descended from him (Num. 26:20).” (Kidner)

Conclusion: Naomi Blessed with a New Family (4:13-17)

      • So Boaz married Ruth and when he was intimate with her, Yahweh enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. And the women said to Naomi, “Praise Yahweh, who has not left you without a family redeemer today, and may his name be famous in Israel. He will be a renewer of life and sustain you in your old age, for he is the son of your daughter-in-law who loves you and is better to you than seven sons.” Naomi took the baby, put him on her lap, and became his nurse. And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed, and he became the the father of Jesse, and the grandfather of David.

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “This child replaced the family Naomi had lost when her two sons died in Moab. The women of the town recognized that this child completed the circle of redemption for Naomi.” On the statement that he would “sustain” her in her “old age,” the same source continues, “(literally cause your old age to be full): With the birth of Obed, Naomi’s life was full again (cp 1:21).”

Genealogy: Extended Blessing (4:18-22)

      • These are the descendants of Perez:

        • Perez was the father of Hezron. Hezron was the father of Ram. Ram was the father of Amminadab. Amminadab was the father of Nahshon. Nahshon was the father of Salmon. Salmon was the father of Boaz. Boaz was the father of Obed. Obed was the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of David.

        • HCSB notes, “This passage is significant in the larger scope of the biblical narrative; it presents the ancestry of David, which became also the earthly ancestry of Jesus Christ (Mt 1:5-6; Lk 3:31-32; cp. Rm 1:3; Rv 22:16).”

        • It should also be mentioned that some believe it is possible that there are missing generations in this genealogy:

          • For example, ESV Archaeology Study Bible writes, “Note that from Perez to David is only 10 generations. This is hardly enough generations to go from the patriarchal period (Gen 38:29) to the time of the monarchy (2 Samuel). The lineage functions as a document of tribal and clan relationships, not a historical timeline.”

        • This article on biblical genealogies, “Was Rahab the Mother of Boaz?” specifically theorizes that these missing generations belong between Salmon/Rahab and Boaz/Ruth, meaning that Salmon and Rahab weren’t the direct parents of Boaz. The interested reader may refer to the link for details.