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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator
Ruth 4

 

 


Verses 1-5

Ruth 4:1-5

Then went Boaz up to the gate.

Friends in council

I. this is how business should be attended to.

1. Speedily.

2. Expeditiously.

3. Righteously.

II. this is how difficult affairs should be settled, delicate claims adjusted, fair rights allowed and satisfied.

1. Openly and publicly.

2. By the advice of wise men.

3. Calmly and deliberately.

4. With care and exactitude.

III. this is the way the affairs of the destitute and needy especially should be attended to. (W. Baxendale.)

Judicious methods of attaining our ends

1. The most probable means ought judiciously to be used in order to the accomplishing of our proposed ends. Thus Boaz, being restless for obtaining his promised end (Ruth 3:18), uses the likeliest means to obtain his end. Many a man loses a good end for want of right means tending to the end.

2. A marvellous providence doth attend God’s servants that do wait upon God in the way of obedience. The guiding hand of God doth make many a happy hit in the occurrences of His people. Thus the comely contexture of various providences are very marvellous to those that make observation of them. (C. Ness.)

Redemption proposed

How completely this proposal illustrates the proposition of our great Redeemer in our behalf. Thus publicly He agreed, in the presence of the angels of God, to make Himself an offering for sin. Thus legally would He fulfil all righteousness for man, and be made under the law, that He might redeem those who were under the law from the bondage of its condemnation. Thus perfectly and completely would He buy back all that man had lost, and unite unto Himself the nature which had sinned and fallen. But angels were a created nature, far nearer in relation to man. Might not the proposition be made to them? Would they not redeem the lost? Ah, willing they might be--we doubt not they were. But able they could never be. The redemption of a soul they must let alone for ever. The Son of God remained alone. His own arm must bring salvation. His righteousness must sustain Him. He was content to do the will of God, and His law was in His heart. Here was to be complete redemption. He would take the shoe, like Boaz, and acknowledge the obligation, and perform the duties of which it was the token. He would stand in the sinner’s place. He would make Himself an offering in his stead. All this exercise and work of redeeming love was in the fulness of His own grace, without any connection of yours with it. Yes; just as the proposal of Boaz was without Ruth’s presence or knowledge--made in her absence, while she was with her mother at home, and not to be made known to her until it was completed--so was this great proposal of the Son of God to be your Kinsman, and to fulfil for you all the kinsman’s obligations, made without your counsel and accomplished without your help. This is the unsearchable riches of grace. We call it sovereign grace. It ruled over every obstacle. It met every difficulty. We call it free grace. It is extended to sinful man with no conditions. It invites him, and offers its bounties to him without any qualifications whatever. It announces a redemption all complete, and begs him to receive and to enjoy it. Thus God has chosen to redeem. And thus He has chosen us to be the subjects of His redemption. (S. H. Tyng, D. D.)

Fair dealing and good principle in Boaz

There are two things especially worthy of notice in this language of Boaz.

1. The spirit of candour and fair dealing by which it is distinguished. He knew the preference which both Naomi and Ruth had for himself; he was conscious too that he no longer regarded with indifference this beautiful daughter of Moab. His fine sense of honour was not blunted either by covetousness or by inclination, nor would his conscience allow him, even when seeking a good and generous end, to have recourse to sharp practice. Here is that “clear and round dealing which is the honour of man’s nature.” He was one of those men who, at the close of a transaction, could have borne to be cross-examined regarding his part in it by an enemy.

2. Then remark how much the following of principle simplifies a man’s course. Boaz had his own wishes as to the way in which the transaction should terminate; and suppose him to have stooped, as thousands in his circumstances would have done, to crooked courses and carnal concealments, in order to make the matter end according to his wishes, what must have been his perplexity and anxiety, not to speak of his self-contempt and self-accusation! These are what Lord Bacon has called “the winding and crooked goings of the serpent, which goeth basely upon the belly and not upon the feet.” But in following the course of simple duty, and making his inclinations and preferences wait on the disposal of God, he at once retained peace of conscience, self-respect, and a good name.” His eye was single, and therefore his whole body was full of light.”(A. Thomson, D. D.)


Verses 1-22

Verse 6

Ruth 4:6

I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I mar mine own inheritance.

The endangered inheritance

Many men mar noble inheritances.

I. The inheritance of physical health. The ancients were right who spoke of a sound mind in a sound body as one of the best gifts of the gods. God has written His will upon the body as truly as upon the pages of the Bible. Every natural motion of the body is a revelation of the will and purpose of the Divine Creator. Ever since Christ was cradled in the manger at Bethlehem the body has been honoured, exalted, glorified. Ever since the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost the body has been the temple of the Third Person of the Trinity. The man who overworks his body sins against God. The man who by intemperance in eating or drinking unfits his body for discharging its normal functions degrades himself and dishonours the Almighty. It is true that many men with broken bodies have accomplished wonderful results in life. The names of John Calvin, Robert Hall, and a score more, suggest themselves as illustrations. Let no man be discouraged who has inherited a weak body. Great souls have often dwelt in frail tenements, until the tired body was laid to its rest and the great soul went up in triumph to God. But let those who have received the inheritance of physical health prize it as one of the great gifts of life, care for it as one of the sacred inheritances of life, and lay it as a willing offering at the feet of the Lord Christ.

II. The inheritance of intellectual capabilities. Of course there are great differences among men in these respects. But in our day ignorance is not simply a misfortune; it is a crime. Christian men must develop all their faculties to their highest possibilities. Every man is bound, by the most sacred obligations, to make the most of himself for time and for eternity. What a man is intellectually here will determine to some degree what he will be intellectually hereafter. The life to come is but the developed results of present conditions and attainments; that life is but the ripened fruit of the intellectual and moral seed sown in this life. Every Christian, because inspired by a sense of loyalty to Jesus Christ, will desire to develop his intellectual powers to their utmost degree. He cannot but wish to possess numerous and varied mental faculties for the salvation of men and for the greater glory of the Lord. Divine love in human hearts puts enlarged brains into human heads. Religion stimulates every noble faculty of the soul. It made John Bunyan the immortal dreamer; it made Samuel Bradburn one of the greatest workers and orators in his Church, a man of whom Dr. Abel Stevens said that “during forty years Samuel Bradburn was esteemed the Demosthenes of Methodism”; it made William Carey a profound scholar, a lofty thinker, a consecrated toiler, and an inspired genius. Christianity adorns culture with true symmetry and highest beauty; and culture, in turn, gives Christianity its fullest beauty and its grandest opportunity. They ought never to be separated. Each sweetly and divinely ministers to the other. Let no young man or woman neglect wide reading, careful study, earnest thought. Young Christians should be model students. They have Jesus Christ for their teacher and the noblest men and women in the world as their fellow-pupils.

III. The inheritance of a worthy family history. This is a gift above the worth of all mere financial values. A good name is more to be desired than gold, yea, than much fine gold. A good name is the ripe product of years of noble ancestral character. Is there a man who has wandered from his father’s and his mother’s God? Is there one who has lowered the standard of a noble family life and history? Is there one who is besmirching his name and staining his character by unholy thoughts and impure acts? In the name of that worthy family history, in the name of an ideal family life, in the name of the great God and Father of us all, I beseech him to stop and to stop now. He is marring his own inheritance. It is a blessed thing to be able to give a noble family inheritance to one’s children. Let us carefully guard it; let us sacredly preserve it; let us continually honour it; let us never so live that our children shall be ashamed of the name they bear. Let us send it down to them as an honoured inheritance to which they shall add honours from all the generations to come.

IV. The inheritance of religious possibilities. Intellectual attainments and religious experiences cannot be transmitted to our children. We can transmit our vices; but, strictly speaking, not our virtues. There is a sense, however, in which we can transmit tendencies toward good and God, or toward evil and the devil. There is a Divine truth in much that is said regarding heredity in our day. It is much for a man to be able to say, “My father’s God”; it is vastly easier for such a man to say, “My Lord and my God,” after having been taught to say, “My father’s God.” Children of Christian men and women stand upon a vastly higher plane of possibility than the children of ungodly men and women. The time may come when the natural will be much more like the supernatural than as we now see it. Indeed, there is a sense in which there is no distinction between the natural and supernatural. God is active in all spheres of nature. The possibility of being translated out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son ought to be realised in early childhood. No man, however far he may go into sin, can shake off entirely the influences of a godly parentage and of early religious training. I once talked with a man who had just recovered from a period of dissipation, and with broken voice and moist eyes, he said, “How could I so far forget myself, so greatly dishonour my sainted parents, and so wickedly disobey my father’s God?” Oh! children of God’s children, prize your privileges! (R. S. MacArthur, D. D.)


Verse 9

Ruth 4:9

I have bought all that was Elimelech’s.

Redemption accomplished

This passage brings to our view the great subject of the gospel revelation--redemption accomplished in the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ in human flesh for guilty man. Boaz took his kinsman’s shoes as a simple but solemn token of the agreement which he had now assumed. He called all the inhabitants and elders of his city to witness that he acknowledged all this responsibility, and was pledged to accomplish the redemption which was thus described and undertaken. The actual accomplishment of the work now depended upon the ability and the faithfulness of Boaz. Everything now rested upon his power and his truth. Was it not just so with the hope of man from the day of his fail to the day of the Saviour’s manifestation and victory? He had undertaken to be man’s Redeemer. Could He, and would He fulfil the wonderful promises which He had given, and upon which He had caused His people to place their trust? The history of the New Testament answers this all-important question. These sacred Scriptures reveal the facts of redemption accomplished; the work undertaken completely finished; the fidelity of the Kinsman Redeemer gloriously established; and His almighty power triumphantly made known. This is now the great message of the gospel to guilty man. It proclaims this accomplished work, and it begs man to accept and enjoy the blessings which are offered in it freely and without price. Like Boaz, Jesus bought back the whole inheritance for man. All that was lost in the first Adam is restored by the second. The Redeemer Himself now owns the inheritance which He has purchased. That which was Elimelech’s is now the property of Boaz. That which was man’s, and to be in the reward of man’s obedience, is now Christ’s, and only to be had in the freeness and fulness of His gift. It is His own inheritance, and He bestows it upon His people according to His will; according to the measure of the gift of Christ. We have everything in Him. Without Him we have nothing. He has bought back man also for Himself. His chosen flock are His purchased possession, and are to be to the praise of His glory for ever. But the people of Bethlehem were not merely the witnesses of this covenant of Boaz; they were partakers of his joy. They united in their supplications for abundant blessings upon the noble and exalted plan which Boaz had proclaimed. So angels, the witnesses of the covenant of our Redeemer, were more than silent witnesses also. When the foundation of this wonderful work was laid in the Divine covenant these morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy. When the Saviour appeared as babe in Bethlehem they filled the heavens with their songs of praise and prayer: “Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, goodwill to men.” When He was travelling in the greatness of His strength, beneath His load of sorrow on the earth, they ministered unto Him and strengthened Him for His work. (S. H. Tyng, D. D.)


Verse 10-11

Ruth 4:10-11

Ruth the Moabitess . . . have I purchased to be my wife.

The marriage of Boaz and Ruth

Two features which stand prominent in this description make it valuable for all time.

1. There is the publicity by which the interesting transaction was distinguished. All the people that were in the gate, and the elders, said, “We are witnesses.” The laws and customs of every country not in the lowest stage of barbarism or in the foulest depths of licentiousness have provided that the conjugal relation shall be formed in the presence of qualified witnesses, and in the observance of certain well-understood ceremonies and forms. This is appointed for reasons of obvious propriety, especially to enforce fidelity, and to secure permanence to the connection, and, by a line sufficiently distinct and broad, to separate virtuous marriage from all illicit and impure connections. Clandestine marriages are always disreputable in themselves. Then--

2. Let us not leave unnoticed the religious spirit in which the union was formed. The devout benedictions of the elders and the other witnesses were showered upon Boaz and his bride with all the lavish profusion of a most hearty goodwill, and prayers ascended for them to Him who in all ages has looked approvingly on virtuous wedlock. It is one of the marks of the divinity of our religion that it touches our humanity on all sides. Surely the formation of the marriage-bond pre-eminently ought to be “sanctified by the Word of God and prayer.” (A. Thomson, D. D.)

A happy marriage

Ruth’s marriage was a happy one--

1. Because they could reckon on God’s blessing, and doubtless both earnestly prayed for it.

2. Again, we may be sure it was a happy marriage, for there was a oneness of feeling between Boaz and Ruth. They both loved God. They were both journeying on one and the same road. They were partners for eternity. It matters little, whether earthly comforts be many or few; if the hearts within it are bound together by that bond which is stronger even than the tie of affection--the bond of grace--then, be assured, there will be happiness. (Bp. Oxenden.)

What a true wife ought to be

Marriage, to a certain degree, a young man is to look upon from a utilitarian standpoint. A good wife is so much capital. She makes him to be, by a kind of grace, a great deal more than he is by nature. She contributes the qualities needed in order to convert his vigour into a safe as well as productive efficiency. She introduces, for instance, into his intellectual nature that ingredient of sentiment; which intellect requires in order to be able to do its best work. Heart and brain need to conspire in order to the attainment of the true, and without caring to assert that man is naturally heartless, any more than I should wish to assume that woman is by nature brainless, yet heart in its way is just as precious as brain in its way, and woman, so long as she is untainted by the passion of wanting to be a man, will be that member of the connubial corporation that will in particular contribute to the capital stock its affectional element. Some women may resent this, but I would like to caution young men against cherishing matrimonial designs upon any woman who is likely to resent it. If what you want is a wife, and not merely a housekeeper, you must keep your eye well open for a warm bundle of femininity that will be to you in a personal way what the fire on the hearth is to you in a physical way--a fund of tropical comfort that will keep the stiffness out of your thinking, the frost out of your feeling, and the general machinery of your life in a condition of pleasurable activity. (C. H. Parkhurst, D. D.)


Verses 17-22

Ruth 4:17-22

And they called his name Obed.

Little Obed

No doubt there were circumstances connected with the birth of this child which surrounded it with a special interest. But take the birth of any child, and while few events are more common, few can occur on the earth which in sober reality are more momentous. What a mystery hangs over its wondrous constitution of thought and matter, of soul and body! What a capacity is there of sin and suffering, of holy service and blessedness l What will be its future and final destiny? The hopes of friends at such a moment are naturally sanguine, woven far more of sunbeams than of shadows. And there were circumstances which made the congratulations of Ruth’s friends peculiarly glad and hopeful; for this little smiling boy folded in his young mother’s arms was not only the heir of Boaz but of Mahlon. He was to unite the family inheritances; he was to save the name of an old and honoured family in Bethlehem from being “extinguished in Israel,” and to give to Naomi and to Ruth that position of honour and consequence in Jewish society which grew out of the maternal relation. There was now “hope concerning this tree, that it would yet bud and flourish.” This will account to us for the warmth of the language in which the birth of Obed was hailed. To some it may appear strange that the congratulations of the friendly women were addressed to Naomi rather than to Ruth, the child’s own mother. The explanation has in part been suggested already, in the fact that the birth of this child exercised so peculiar and propitious an influence over Naomi’s social position and family fortunes. It secured to her the position of a tribe-mother. It may be, too, that those kindly women had known Naomi and been her comforters in the days of her deep affliction, when she appeared in the streets of Bethlehem claiming to be called Mara--“the woman with the sorrowful spirit”; and as they beheld her on this day of revived hopes and vanished clouds the same true sympathy that had formerly made them weep with her when she wept now made them rejoice with her when she rejoiced. That we are correct in this explanation is evident from the words of the women, in which, with such glad anticipations for the future, there is also a looking back upon the sorrowful past.” There shall be unto thee “in this child “a restorer of thy life and a nourisher of thine old age.” How beautifully descriptive are these words of what children should aim to be to aged parents and relatives, and of what there is every reason to believe this child eventually became to Naomi. The former clause brings before us the picture of a tree in whose roots there remains a kind of lingering life, but which, assailed by storms and smitten by other unkindly influences, stands almost without leaf or blossom, with no birds making music in its branches, a blighted and forsaken thing. But there comes at length a genial influence of shower, and sunshine, and breeze, which quickens within it the vegetative life, and covers it with the leaves and blossoms of its earlier springs. Now, Naomi’s life had been to her for many years like a long winter. But this little child would bring back to her the recollections and the joys of her happier days; the blank in her heart would be filled up; she would find something to love and cherish without restraint, and this itself would be to her a well of happiness; she would remember Mahlon and Chilion in little Obed’s childish sports and expanding mind; her thoughts, which had been too much turned inward upon her sorrows, would hence forth go outward upon him, and the future would not so much be a prolongation of the present as a return to her sunnier days--“He shall be unto thee a restorer of thy life,” and he shall be unto thee “a nourisher of thine old age.” The meaning of this is not exhausted by supposing that Naomi would never want the means of support while Obad lived, but that his affluence would be her riches. It includes in it, besides, those thousand varied acts of respect and tenderness which we are accustomed to describe by the name of kindness. In the case of persons in advanced years many sources of enjoyment are dried up, many frailties are induced, the senses are dulled, the power of motion is diminished, not a few of their companions have been removed into the other world, and they are apt to feel, in their infirmity and inaction, as if they had become useless to their generation. It is the duty of the young, and especially of the children and descendants of the aged, to endeavour to cheer them in the autumn of their life, to anticipate their wishes, to study their feelings, to make growing frailties only another reason for growing attentions, and, by kind words and kinder acts, to shed a calm sunshine on the path by which they are travelling to the tomb. Religion, and even the instincts of our human nature, command us to “stand up before the old man,” and to put honour on the hoary head. And never do children appear more lovely than when they are thus seen nourishing the old age of a father or a mother. (A. Thomson, D. D.)

Lessons from the Book of Ruth

I. In the first place it seems to me that the Book of Ruth exhibits to us an eternal law of God’s kingdom; that in the worst and darkest times of the Church God has had his own people. Ever since God had a Church on earth true spiritual religion has never been utterly extinguished. Faith can always say with the apostle that there is “a remnant according to the election of grace.” When God’s holy dove is driven from cities and the abodes of men, that bird of sweetest note can be heard singing in remote places, even in dens and in the clefts of the rocks.

II. We may learn a lesson on the law of social life. There is throughout the book a constant reference to the Levitical law. There is the goal, the redeeming kinsman. But I wish you specially to observe the beneficence of the law. I wish that some who speak of the barbarous character of the old law would take their Bibles and read the eighteenth chapter of Leviticus. You will there see that God ordained that a portion should be reserved for the poor and the stranger. The law gave a measure of wealth to the indigent. It solved in this way one of the most terrible problems of our modern society. While it did this there was an ample margin left for the exercise of private charity. The corner of the field was defined to mean a portion that in modern language would have been a poor-rate of fourpence in the pound. It was not a system of outdoor relief, for the Book of Ruth shows us that there was great delicacy to be observed in giving. Depend upon it, as the spirit of the Old Testament works, the bitter taunt will become less and less true that England is a paradise for the rich and a purgatory for the poor.

III. There is an evangelical law connecting this book of the Old Testament with Christ Jesus our Lord.

IV. Lastly, we learn the law which pervades the life of every true believer. We may learn that our lives are not random things, and that there is no such thing as chance about the Christian’s life. This story of Ruth, like every story of the highest sort, would lead us to perfect trust in Him who wants His own dear children to lift up their hands to Him when in darkness. They must wrestle in the darkness before they can face the sunrise. God seems to keep silence when we pray. We ask, and God seems not to give us the things for which we pray. Ah! but He gives us far better. (Abp. William Alexander.)

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Ruth 4:4". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/ruth-4.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, October 30th, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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