David Guzik Commentary on the Bible
Ruth 4 - THE MARRIAGE OF BOAZ AND RUTH
A. The nearer kinsman declines his right of redemption.
1. (Ruth 4:1-2) Boaz meets the nearer kinsman at the city gates.
Now Boaz went up to the gate and sat down there; and behold, the close relative of whom Boaz had spoken came by. So Boaz said, “Come aside, friend, sit down here.” So he came aside and sat down. And he took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, “Sit down here.” So they sat down.
a. Now Boaz went: The previous chapter left us at a dramatic point. Ruth and Boaz were obviously in love and wanted to get married, with Boaz exercising the right of the goel - the kinsman-redeemer. Yet, there was a kinsman closer to Ruth and he had priority. Would he claim the right of kinsman-redeemer towards Ruth, and keep her and Boaz from coming together?
b. Boaz went up to the gate: The gate of the city was always the place where the esteemed and honorable men of the city sat. For an ancient city in Israel it was a combination of a city council chamber and a courtroom.
i. The city gate was “A kind of outdoor court, the place were judicial matters were resolved by the elders and those who had earned the confidence and respect of the people . . . a place for business and as a kind of forum or public meeting place.” (Huey)
c. The near kinsman of who Boaz had spoken came by: Boaz surprised Ruth in 3:12 by telling her there was a nearer kinsman than himself. Now this man came by the city gates as Boaz sat there.
i. Because Ruth had quietly gone back home after being at the threshing floor at Boaz’s instruction (Ruth 3:14), Boaz’s approach to this nearer kinsman was be a complete surprise to the other man. Clearly this was a tactical advantage to Boaz.
d. Come aside, friend, sit down here: Literally, in the ancient Hebrew, when Boaz greeted the nearer kinsman he called him “Mr. So-and-so.” The writer of Ruth never identified the name of the nearer kinsman, because he was not worthy of the honor. He declined to fulfill his obligations as the nearer kinsman to Ruth.
i. “Doubtless Boaz both knew his name, and called him by it; but it is omitted by the holy writer, partly because it was unnecessary to know it; and principally in way of contempt, as is usual, and a just punishment upon him, that he who would not preserve his brother’s name might lose his own, and lie buried in the grave of perpetual oblivion.” (Poole)
2. (Ruth 4:3-4) Boaz asks the nearer kinsman to redeem the land of Naomi (and Elimelech).
Then he said to the close relative, “Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, sold the piece of land which belonged to our brother Elimelech. And I thought to inform you, saying, ‘Buy it back in the presence of the inhabitants and the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if you will not redeem it, then tell me, that I may know; for there is no one but you to redeem it, and I am next after you.’ “ And he said, “I will redeem it.”
a. Naomi . . . sold the piece of land: 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.
i. 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)
ii. 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.
iii. 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.
b. The piece of land: 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.
c. If you will redeem it, redeem it: When Boaz put it in terms of purely a land transaction, there was no hesitation on the nearer kinsman’s part. Of course he said, “I will redeem it.”
i. Certainly Ruth and Naomi were watching and listening. How their hearts must have sunk when they heard the nearer kinsman say, “I will redeem it.” They heard from his own lips that he would exercise his right at kinsman-redeemer, and that meant that he would gain not only the property in question, but also marry Ruth - instead of Boaz. But Boaz knew exactly what he was doing, and he had the situation all under control.
3. (Ruth 4:5) Boaz informs the nearer kinsman of his duty to redeem the posterity of Elimelech, if he will redeem the property of Elimelech.
Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you must also buy it from Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to perpetuate the name of the dead through his inheritance.”
a. On the day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you must also buy it from Ruth the Moabitess: Boaz then put the surprise on the nearer kinsman. He told him that he wasn’t only dealing with Naomi and the property of Elimelech, he also had to deal with Ruth.
i. Because Naomi was older and beyond the years of bearing children, the nearer kinsman was not expected to marry Naomi and raise up children to the family name of her deceased husband Elimelech. But Ruth was another matter - she was able to marry and bear children.
b. Buy it from Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to perpetuate the name of the dead through his inheritance: Boaz explained what everyone knew - that this was a package deal. If someone was going to exercise the right of kinsman-redeemer towards the deceased Elimelech, he had to fulfill the duty in regard to both the property and the posterity.
i. Because of Boaz’s wise (perhaps shrewd) way of framing the occasion, this was the first time the nearer kinsman considered this, and it was a pretty big question to take in all at once. When it was just a matter of property, it was easy to decide on; but if he must take Ruth as a wife, that was another matter.
4. (Ruth 4:6) The nearer kinsman declines his right of redemption towards the property and posterity of Elimelech.
And the close relative said, “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I ruin my own inheritance. You redeem my right of redemption for yourself, for I cannot redeem it.”
a. I cannot redeem it for myself: Though it would be great to receive the property associated with Ruth, the nearer kinsman knew that taking her into his home and raising up her children would ruin his own inheritance.
b. Lest I ruin my own inheritance: Probably, the man had grown sons that had already received their inheritance of lands. The problem of dividing that inheritance among future children he would have with Ruth was more than he wanted to deal with.
i. Also, no doubt, the man was married - and knew it would be awkward (at best!) to bring home Ruth as wife number two.
c. You redeem my right of redemption for yourself, for I cannot redeem it: These were glorious words in the ears of Ruth and Naomi. A moment before, all seemed lost when the nearer kinsman had said, “I will redeem it.” But Boaz’s plan had a surprise and an unexpected wisdom to it. And it worked!
i. Some might of have thought Boaz’s plan was foolish: to gain Ruth by offering her and her land to the nearer kinsman. How could that work? But the seemingly foolish plan did work.
B. The ceremony to document the proceedings.
1. (Ruth 4:7-8) The custom of the sandal in transactions.
Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging, to confirm anything: one man took off his sandal and gave it to the other, and this was a confirmation in Israel. Therefore the close relative said to Boaz, “Buy it for yourself.” So he took off his sandal.
a. It was the custom in former times in Israel: Deuteronomy 25:5-10 describes the ceremony conducted when a kinsman declined his responsibility. The one declining removed a sandal and the woman he declined to honor spat in his face. But in this case, because there was no lack of honor was involved, they just did the part of the ceremony involving the sandal.
b. Buy it for yourself: The nearer kinsman said, “The land is yours to redeem, because you are also willing to redeem the posterity of Elimelech by taking Ruth as wife, something I am not willing to do.”
2. (Ruth 4:9-10) Boaz’s announcement to the elders and the people.
And Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “You are witnesses this day that I have bought all that was Elimelech’s, and all that was Chilion’s and Mahlon’s, from the hand of Naomi. Moreover, Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of Mahlon, I have acquired as my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead through his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brethren and from his position at the gate. You are witnesses this day.”
a. Boaz said to the elders and all the people: Boaz joyfully proclaimed - legally sealing the transaction - that he would redeem both the property and the posterity of Elimelech, and (best of all!) take Ruth, the woman he loved, as his wife.
i. That the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brethren and from the gate of this place is a good description of the idea of preserving the posterity of the deceased.
b. Ruth . . . I have acquired as my wife: Back in chapter one, Ruth seemed to be giving up on her best chance of marriage by leaving her native land of Moab and giving her heart and life to the God of Israel. But as Ruth put God first, He brought her together in a relationship greater than she could have imagined. Today, God will bless those wanting to get married in the same way if they will only put Him first.
c. You are witnesses this day: This explains why a marriage ceremony is important, and why it should be recognized by the civil authorities. Boaz had a love for Ruth that was public, a love that wanted to be publicly witnessed and registered.
i. Sometimes, people wonder why a marriage ceremony or a marriage license is important. “Can’t we just be married before God?” But there is something severely lacking in a love that doesn’t want to proclaim itself; that does not want witnesses; and that does not want the bond to be recognized by the civil authorities. That love falls short of true marital love.
ii. So, those who say “Well, if we were on a desert island and no one was there to marry us, could we still be married before God?” need to hear the answer: “Yes - on a desert island. But you aren’t on a desert island. There are witnesses and civil authorities for you to proclaim your commitment of marital love to. God wants you to do it!”
3. (Ruth 4:11-12) The blessing of the witnesses to the wedding.
And all the people who were at the gate, and the elders, said, “We are witnesses. The LORD make the woman who is coming to your house like Rachel and Leah, the two who built the house of Israel; and may you prosper in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. May your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring which the LORD will give you from this young woman.”
a. All the people who were at the gate, and the elders, said, “We are witnesses”: No doubt, the crowd cheered! The men thought Ruth was beautiful and the women thought Boaz was handsome. Everybody could see what a romantic, loving occasion this was.
b. Like Rachel and Leah: 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.
c. Like the house of Perez: What was so special about Perez? The story of his birth is in Genesis 38:27-30.
i. Trapp on May your house be like the house of Perez: “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.”
ii. “Indeed, it seems that Pharez was the ancestor of the Bethlehemites in general (1 Chronicles 2:5; 1Ch_2:18; 1Ch_2:50 f.). Moreover, Pharez gave his name to the section of the tribe of Judah that was descended from him (Numbers 26:20).” (Kidner)
C. Happily ever after.
1. (Ruth 4:13) Ruth and Boaz have their first child.
So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife; and when he went in to her, the LORD gave her conception, and she bore a son.
a. The LORD gave her conception: The gift of children was never taken for granted in Israel. The fact that Boaz and Ruth were able to raise up a son to the deceased Elimelech was evidence of God’s blessing.
2. (Ruth 4:14-16) The blessed life of Naomi.
Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a close relative; and may his name be famous in Israel! And may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him.” Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her bosom, and became a nurse to him.
a. Blessed be the LORD: Look at blessed Naomi! She now had a grandson; she was now famous in Israel; and she got to be a nurse to her own grandson.
b. Who has not left you this day without a close relative: It was fitting that these blessings in the life of Naomi be given so much attention at the end of the book. Naomi was the one whose original returning to the LORD began all this great work of God. If Naomi had not decided to go back to Bethlehem, the land of Israel, and the God of Israel, none of this would have happened.
i. This is a marvelous demonstration of what God can do through one poor woman who gets right with Him.
ii. It is also fitting because Naomi was the one who said in chapter one, the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me . . . the LORD has brought me home again empty . . . the LORD has testified against me (Ruth 1:20-21). If only Naomi could have seen then how greatly the LORD would bless her at the end!
iii. We can’t blame Naomi - we certainly do the same kind of thing. But we should also learn from what she learned. We should learn that God’s plan is perfect and filled with love, and even when we can’t figure out what He is doing and it all seems so desperate, He still knows what He is doing. We should learn that all things work together for good for those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
3. (Ruth 4:17-22) Ruth and Boaz: Great-grandparents to David, king of Israel.
Also the neighbor women gave him a name, saying, “There is a son born to Naomi.” And they called his name Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David. Now this is the genealogy of Perez: Perez begot Hezron; Hezron begot Ram, and Ram begot Amminadab; Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon; Salmon begot Boaz, and Boaz begot Obed; Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David.
a. There is a son born to Naomi: The son of Ruth and Boaz was named Obed. He had a son name Jesse. He had a son named David. And David had a descendant named Jesus!
i. “God’s hand is all over history. God works out His purpose, generation after generation. Limited as we are to one lifetime, each of us sees so little of what happens. A genealogy is a striking way of bringing before us the continuity of God’s purpose through the ages. The process of history is not haphazard. There is a purpose in it all. And the purpose is the purpose of God.” (Kidner)
b. The father of David: Naomi’s return to Bethlehem, and the roots of David in Bethlehem, going back to Ruth and Boaz, are why Joseph and Mary had to go to Bethlehem to register in the census of Augustus (Luke 2:1-5). Ruth and Boaz are the reason why Jesus was born in Bethlehem!
i. But the consideration of Jesus in this book of Ruth doesn’t begin with the mention of King David; Jesus has been through the whole book, pictured by Boaz and the office of the kinsman-redeemer.
· The kinsman-redeemer had to be a family member; Jesus added humanity to His eternal deity so He could be our kinsman and save us.
· The kinsman-redeemer had the duty of buying family members out of slavery; Jesus redeemed us from slavery to sin and death.
· The kinsman-redeemer had the duty of buying back land that had been forfeited; Jesus will redeem the earth that mankind “sold” over to Satan.
· Boaz, as kinsman-redeemer to Ruth, was not motivated by self-interest, but motivated by love for Ruth. Jesus’ motivation for redeeming us is His great love for us.
· Boaz, as kinsman-redeemer to Ruth, had to have a plan to redeem Ruth unto himself - and some might have thought the plan to be foolish. Jesus has a plan to redeem us, and some might think the plan foolish (saving men by dying for them on a cruel cross?), yet the plan works and is glorious.
· Boaz, as kinsman-redeemer to Ruth, took her as his bride; the people Jesus has redeemed are collectively called His bride (Ephesians 5:31-32; Revelation 21:9).
· Boaz, as kinsman-redeemer to Ruth, provided a glorious destiny for Ruth. Jesus, as our redeemer, provides a glorious destiny for us.
ii. But it all comes back to the idea of Jesus as our kinsman-redeemer; this is why He became a man. God might have sent an angel to save us, but the angel would not have been our kinsman. Jesus, in His eternal glory, without the addition of humanity to His divine nature might have saved us, but He would not have been our kinsman. A great prophet or priest would be our kinsman, but his own sin would have disqualified him as our redeemer. Only Jesus, the eternal God who added humanity to His eternal deity, can be both the kinsman and the redeemer for mankind!
ii. Isaiah 54:4-8 describes the beautiful ministry of the LORD as our goel - our kinsman-redeemer: Do not fear, for you will not be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame . . . your [Kinsman] Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel . . . For the LORD has called you like a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit . . . with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you, says the LORD, your [Kinsman] Redeemer.
iii. From eternity, God planned to bring Ruth and Boaz together, and thus make Bethlehem His entrance point for the coming of Jesus as our true Kinsman-Redeemer, fully God and fully man. Spiritually, we need to come to Bethlehem and let Jesus redeem us. As it was written in the Christmas hymn, O Little Town of Bethlehem:
O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by;
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light:
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming, but in the world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.
O holy Child of Bethlehem! Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels, the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!
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