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Bible Commentaries
Ruth 4

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary

Verses 1-12


Ruth 4:1-12

Boaz now proceeded with his purpose. All village business of importance was decided at the gate, where the elders of the community gave advice and judgment. Boaz selected ten men to apply their wisdom to his problem and act as witnesses to his impending transaction. The Hebrew at this point seems to indicate that Naomi had already disposed of her dead husband’s property. Questions have been raised as to when she did so and how she as a widow could even own property under Hebrew law (see Numbers 27:8-11), but both Hebrew law and practice are too conflicting at this point for us to make a judgment. It is clear, however, that part of the levirate law consisted in the injunction that the next of kin should redeem by purchase the family lands (Leviticus 25:25). In the formulation of the law in Leviticus, which is late, the next of kin is identified with the brother of the deceased man, but we may assume that the range of kinship was wider in earlier times. It certainly appears to have been so in this story, for neither Boaz nor the nearest of kin was a brother of Elimelech’s son, Ruth’s husband. Boaz, however, challenged the nearest of kin to redeem Naomi’s property. Ruth, as an alien, could not inherit her husband’s property. Boaz was careful to point out that whoever redeemed the land must also marry Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of the dead son, in order to raise up seed to the dead. Boaz used the expression "buy" to express this latter act, but Ruth could not be bought, for she was no one’s property, and it seems best to assume that the storyteller means simply that buying the land carried with it obligations with regard to Ruth. It was implied in such a levirate marriage that the first-born son of the marriage should rank as the son of the dead man and not be legally his father’s son. Hence the nearest kin could hold that this would impair his own inheritance. He was unwilling to build up the house of his kinsman. Boaz, of course, was willing, so the next of kin took off his shoe as a sign that he renounced his right. Again the practice varied, for according to Deuteronomy 25:9 the widow loosed the shoe of the unwilling party and spat in his face, but the Book of Ruth represents days when such practices were varied and a norm had not yet been established.

Boaz proceeded to play the role of kinsman-redeemer. It is significant that this term should later be applied to God’s relation to his people Israel (Isaiah 41:14; Isaiah 43:14; Isaiah 44:6). Boaz purchased the land in the presence of the ten witnessing elders and took Ruth to wife to perpetuate the name of the dead. The community expressed good wishes to Boaz, assuming that more than one son would be born of the union and that the house of Boaz, as well as that of the dead, would be built up. Tamar, like Ruth, was a childless widow, and her case may have been cited both because she bore twins and as a delicate compliment to Ruth.

Verses 13-22


Ruth 4:13-22

A son was born to Boaz and Ruth through whom the name of Elimelech was perpetuated, so that it could be said that a son was born to Naomi through the selfless devotion of Ruth and the equally unselfish attitude of Boaz. Naomi’s taking the child to her breast was a sign of acceptance. The child was named Obed. There is in this story a striking illustration of how God raises the humble and uses the weak things of the world for his glory. Ruth, the childless widow and Moabitess, an alien so far as the People of God were concerned, became, in God’s purpose, the progenitor of the Davidic line and the ancestress of him who was to be the Messiah, through whom God would deliver his people and rebuild them from among all nations. Closely bound up with this is the theme that one born outside Israel’s Covenant could yet share in that Covenant and be a partaker of the faith.

The verb "to redeem" — "to act the part of kinsman" — which is applied to the selfless Boaz is used in Isaiah and Job to describe God’s activity (Isaiah 43:1; Isaiah 43:14; Isaiah 44:22; Isaiah 47:4; Isaiah 48:17; Isaiah 49:7; Isaiah 52:9; Job 19:25). Further, such redemptive activity of God comes to historical focus in the Person of Jesus Christ, the descendant in his humanity of the man who redeemed Ruth and Naomi.

The concluding genealogical table is generally regarded as a later addition to the original story. According to the story, the child was to be reckoned in the line of Elimelech, and not that of Boaz as in verses 18-22. Probably the priestly editors of Hebrew history, who were particularly fond of genealogies, were anxious to emphasize David’s Judean descent.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Ruth 4". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/ruth-4.html.
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