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Bible Commentaries
Ruth 4

Ellicott's Commentary for English ReadersEllicott's Commentary

Verse 1

(1) Went up.—Inasmuch as the town stood on a hill: so in Ruth 3:3, Ruth is bidden to go down to the threshing-floor.

The kinsman.—The Goel. (See Ruth 3:12).

Turn aside.—The form of the imperative is such as to give a hortatory turn, pray turn aside and sit down.

Such a one.—Heb.,p’loni almoni. This phrase is used like the English so-and-so, such-and-such, of names which it is thought either unnecessary or undesirable to give. The derivation is probably from palah, to mark out, to separate, to distinguish, and alam, to hide, giving the twofold notion of one who is indicated, though in a certain sense concealed. The phrase is used of places, 1 Samuel 21:2, 2 Kings 6:8; see also Daniel 8:13. Why the name is not recorded here does not appear; possibly it was not known to the writer, or it may have been thought unworthy of recording, since he neglected his plain duty in refusing to raise up seed to the dead. We know nothing of this unnamed person save the fact of the offering of the redemption set before him, and his refusal of it, an offer which involved the glory of being the ancestor of the Christ who was to be born in the far-off ages.

Verse 3

(3) Naomi selleth . . .—Rather, the portion of land, which belonged to our brother Elimelech. has Naomi sold. The present tense of the English Version seems to suggest that the sale is taking place at this particular time, but the meaning clearly is that Naomi, as the representative of the dead Elimelech had, so far as it was possible for an Israelite to part with a family estate, sold the land to obtain in some sort the means of living. In the year of Jubilee, the property would return to the family, on which it was, so to speak, settled, but Boaz proposes to the Goel that he should redeem the property at once. We might perhaps compare this to the owner of a freehold buying from a leaseholder under him the residue of his lease, so that he may occupy his own estate.

Verse 4

(4) And I thought . . .—literally, and I said I will uncover thy ear.

The inhabitants.—This should perhaps rather be, those who are sitting here [the Hebrew word yashabh has the two meanings of dwelling and sitting, see e.g., Genesis 23:10, where the latter meaning should certainly be taken]. So the LXX., Peshito and Vulg.

If thou wilt not.—The current Hebrew text has here, if he will not, which is clearly an error for the second person, which is read by a large number of Hebrew MSS., and by all the ancient versions.

I will redeem it.—He is willing enough to redeem the land as a good investment, forgetting, until reminded, the necessary previous condition. It involves marrying Ruth, and this he declines to do.

Verse 5

(5) What day . . .—When the person had been bought out to whom Naomi had sold the land until the year of Jubilee should restore it to her family, there remained Naomi’s own claim on the land, and after wards that of Ruth, as the widow of the son of Elimelech. But further, this last carried with it the necessity of taking Ruth to wife, so that a child might be born to inherit, as the son of Mahlon, Mahlon’s inheritance.

Verse 6

(6) Lest I mar . . .—The redemption of the land would involve the spending of money, drawn away from the Goel’s own estate; but the land thus acquired would not belong to the Goel himself, but to the son he should have by Ruth, who would yet be, in the eyes of the law, the son of Mahlon. It would, therefore, be like mortgaging one’s own estate, and that for the benefit of another. Josephus and the Targum explain it by saying that he already had a wife, and feared the discord that might arise.

Verse 7

(7) In former time.—Arguments have been built on this word in favour of our assigning a late date to the book, but the inference seems hardly warranted. The same Hebrew word occurs in Deuteronomy 2:10, Judges 1:10, &c.

Plucked off his shoe.—The idea of this act apparently is that the man resigns the right of walking on the land as master, in favour of him to whom he gives the shoe. A similar but not identical custom is prescribed in Deuteronomy 25:9.

A testimony.The testimony, the manner in which the solemn witness is born.

Verse 8

(8) Drew.—The same word in the Hebrew as plucked in Ruth 4:7.

Verse 11

(11) The Lord . . .—In this way is the nuptial blessing invoked.

Is come.—Rather, is coming.

Rachel—though the younger sister and the junior wife—is put first, probably from her death and burial having associated her with Bethlehem (see Genesis 35:16; Genesis 35:19). In this way, too, we should explain the prophecy of Jeremiah as applied by St. Matthew (Jeremiah 31:15; Matthew 2:18).

Build.—From the Hebrew word to build are derived the words for son and daughter, thus a twofold aspect in the word sometimes appears as here. (See also Genesis 16:2; Genesis 30:3).

Do thou worthily.—The Hebrew phrase (asah khayil) thus rendered, involves the notion of doing a thing with vigour and might. The khayil of a soldier is his valour—of a land, its material resources, and (Proverbs 31:10) the “virtuous woman” of the English Version is literally, woman of khayil. The good wish for Boaz here is that by his energy he may command continual prosperity.

Be famous.—Literally, proclaim a name.

Verse 12

(12) Pharez.—(See Genesis 38:29). Judah having, though unwittingly, fulfilled the Levirate obligation to the widow of his eldest son, the child thus born becomes the heir of that eldest son, and therefore the head of the house of Judah.

Verse 14

(14) Left thee without.—Literally, not allowed to cease to thee.

A kinsman.—That is, the child (See next verse). The word kinsman here is Goel, a redeemer.

Verse 15

(15) A nourisher.—(See marginal renderings).

Daughter-in-law.—The position of the nominative is emphatic.

Loveth.—The verb is a perfect, which hath ever loved thee.

Verse 16

(16) Nurse.—The verb (aman) here is that used in Isaiah 49:23, “and kings shall be thy nursing fathers.” That ordinarily used for the natural nursing of a woman is different.

Verse 17

(17) Obed.i.e., a serving one.

(18–22). This short genealogy, abruptly added, may be due to a later hand, it being thought necessary to connect David’s line fully with Judah.

Verse 18

(18) Hezron.—See Genesis 46:12.

Verse 19

(19) Ram.—See 1 Chronicles 2:9; St. Matthew 1:3. Amminadab.—It was to his daughter Elisheba that Aaron was married. (Exodus 6:23).

Verse 20

(20) Nahshon was the prince of the children of Judah in the wilderness. (See Numbers 1:7, &c).

Salmon—Heb., Salmah, though called Salmon in the next verse. In 1 Chronicles 2:11 he is called Salma. Salmon may very probably have been one of the two spies sent to Jericho, who having been sheltered by Rahab, had repaid her kindness by marrying her.

It has been observed above that the smallness of the number of the generations hardly suits the long period of years here implied, and on the whole we are disposed to believe that some links of the chain have been dropped, and if so, then doubtless in the period before Boaz. Thus we may suppose that we have here the distinguished names, others of less note being passed over. Unless this is done we are forced to increase largely the average length of a generation, and suppose that most of these generations were children of their fathers’ old age. We know from 1 Kings 6:1 that from the Exodus to the fourth year of Solomon was 480 years. If we deduct from this forty years for the wanderings in the desert, then, seeing that David died at the age of seventy, we have for the period from the entrance into Canaan to the birth of David, 480-40-70-4 = 366 years. But if Rahab bears Boaz to Salmon only a few years after the beginning of this period, we have to cover nearly 366 years with three generations, Boaz, Obed, Jesse, which entails upon us the conclusion that each of the above three begat the specified son at the age of over a hundred, and that Salmon was also well advanced in years at his marriage. This, however, seems hardly credible, and the theory that one or two generations have dropt from the list is, at any rate, reasonable.

Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Ruth 4". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ebc/ruth-4.html. 1905.
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