In this post, we will work our way through Ruth 4:1-15. We will be utilizing the Complete Jewish Bible translation unless otherwise noted.

Ruth 4:1-15, “1 Meanwhile, Bo’az had gone up to the gate and had sat down there, when the redeemer of whom Bo’az had spoken passed by. “Such-and-such,” he said, “come over, and sit down”; so he came over and sat down. 2 He took ten of the city’s leaders and said, “Sit down here”; and they sat down. 3 Then he said to the redeeming kinsman, “The parcel of land which used to belong to our relative Elimelekh is being offered for sale by Na’omi, who has returned from the plain of Mo’av. 4 I thought I should tell you about it and say, ‘Buy it in the presence of the people sitting here and in the presence of the leaders of my people. If you want to redeem it, redeem it. But if it is not to be redeemed, then tell me, so that I can know, because there is no one else in line to redeem it, and I’m after you.” He said, “I want to redeem it.” 5 Then Bo’az said, “The same day you buy the field from Na’omi, you must also buy Rut the woman from Mo’av, the wife of the deceased [son], in order to raise up in the name of the deceased an heir for his property.” 6 The redeemer said, “Then I can’t redeem it for myself, because I might put my own inheritance at risk. You, take my right of redemption on yourself; because I can’t redeem it.” 7 In the past, this is what was done in Isra’el to validate all transactions involving redemption and exchange: a man took off his shoe and gave it to the other party; this was the form of attestation in Isra’el. 8 So the redeemer said to Bo’az, “Buy it for yourself,” and took off his shoe. 9 Bo’az addressed the leaders and all the people: “You are witnesses today that I am purchasing from Na’omi all that belonged to Elimelekh and all that belonged to Kilyon and Machlon. 10 Also I am acquiring as my wife Rut the woman from Mo’av, the wife of Machlon, in order to raise up in the name of the deceased an heir for his property; so that the name of the deceased will not be cut off from his kinsmen and from the gate of his place. You are witnesses today.” 11 All the people at the gate and the leaders said, “We are witnesses. May ADONAI make the woman who has come into your house like Rachel and like Le’ah, who between them built up the house of Isra’el. Do worthy deeds in Efrat; become renowned in Beit-Lechem. 12 May your house, because of the seed ADONAI will give you from this young woman, become like the house of Peretz, whom Tamar bore to Y’hudah.” 13 So Bo’az took Rut, and she became his wife. He had sexual relations with her, ADONAI enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. 14 Then the women said to Na’omi, “Blessed be ADONAI, who today has provided you a redeemer! May his name be renowned in Isra’el. 15 May he restore your life and provide for your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.”

Commentary:

We left off in the previous post with Bo’az accepting the plan of Na’omi as elaborated by Ruth. The narrator once again provided an edge of the seat conclusion to the previous passage as Bo’az departed to find this other potential kinsman redeemer and Ruth relayed to Na’omi what had taken place. Ruth 4 begins with Bo’az meeting with the other kinsman redeemer and in this post we will take a look at what happens. This is the longest passage we have discussed thus far; however, this passage needs to be examined as a whole section in order to understand what is taking place.

Ruth 4:1-2 Meanwhile, Bo’az had gone up to the gate and had sat down there, when the redeemer of whom Bo’az had spoken passed by. “Such-and-such,” he said, “come over, and sit down”; so he came over and sat down. 2 He took ten of the city’s leaders and said, “Sit down here”; and they sat down.”

In verse 1 we find that Bo’az had journeyed to the gate of the city in hopes of meeting this other potential kinsman redeemer. It must be noted that in ancient times, the gate of the city was “the forum of the city, the place where the public affairs of the city were discussed.”[1] Since Bethlehem was a small town, Bo’az certainly knew that at some point in the day most people would have to pass through the city gate and in all likelihood he would be able to meet up with this other kinsman redeemer at this location.

It is rather interesting that the narrator decides to not relay the name of this other kinsman redeemer and instead uses the Hebrew idiom peloni almoni translated as “Such and such.” F. B. Huey notes this idiom was utilized “when the writer did not deem it essential to give the person’s name. It does not mean that Boaz did not know his name.”[2]

After asking the other kinsman redeemer to come sit down, Bo’az also found ten of the city’s leaders and asked them to sit down as well. These elders, a word which comes from the Hebrew word zaqan meaning “to have a beard” were men of importance who had the authority in that town to exercise judicial and political decisions on behalf of the people of that town. Huey avers “In matters of dispute they sat and listened to the opposing parties present their cases, heard witnesses, weighed evidence, and then made their decision.”[3] Since Bo’az was about to present a matter that required an transactional element to it as well as a request for the closer kinsman redeemer to essentially grant his rights and privileges as the go’el to Bo’az, this would require witnesses to affirm this important arrangement and transference of rights and property.

Ruth 4:3-4, “Then he said to the redeeming kinsman, “The parcel of land which used to belong to our relative Elimelekh is being offered for sale by Na’omi, who has returned from the plain of Mo’av. 4 I thought I should tell you about it and say, ‘Buy it in the presence of the people sitting here and in the presence of the leaders of my people. If you want to redeem it, redeem it. But if it is not to be redeemed, then tell me, so that I can know, because there is no one else in line to redeem it, and I’m after you.” He said, “I want to redeem it.”

Bo’az begins his proposition by relaying to this kinsman redeemer the fact that Na’omi has placed up for sale the land belonging to her deceased husband Elimelekh also noting the fact that Na’omi had returned from Mo’av. It is unknown as to whether this kinsman redeemer was aware that Na’omi had placed the land up for sale but just in case he was unaware, Bo’az relays that information to this individual. Since this kinsman redeemer was next in line to acquire this property in accordance with his right as the kinsman redeemer, Bo’az was required by the law and custom to offer the acquisition of this property to this individual. He did so with the matter of fact statement “If you want to redeem it then redeem it. If not, then as the individual next in line, I will redeem it.” The kinsman redeemer responded that he desired to redeem the land.

While this may seem like a very dry and uneventful set of verses, Daniel Block notes the importance of relaying this information stating “the identification of the property in question as Elimelech’s portion is rooted in the apportionment of the land among the tribes and clans of Israel under Joshua. According to Mosaic law this land was never to leave the family, and the institution of the go’el was one of the nation’s customs designed to prevent this from happening.”[4] One element that is noticeably absent from this initial conversation between Bo’az and the other kinsman redeemer is the name of Ruth and her inclusion as part of this “transaction”.

Ruth 4:5-6, “Then Bo’az said, “The same day you buy the field from Na’omi, you must also buy Rut the woman from Mo’av, the wife of the deceased [son], in order to raise up in the name of the deceased an heir for his property.” 6 The redeemer said, “Then I can’t redeem it for myself, because I might put my own inheritance at risk. You, take my right of redemption on yourself; because I can’t redeem it.”

The exclusion of Ruth’s name as part of what would be redeemed comes to an end as Bo’az now reminds the kinsman redeemer that if he does decided to go through with redeeming Na’omi’s land, Ruth must also be included in the equation so that not only the land will be ensured to be part of the family, but also that an heir to the house of Elimelech might be produced. In response to that additional bit of detail, the other kinsman redeemer decides to back out thus legally granting in front of the witnesses assembled the rights and privileges as the go’el to Bo’az.

One wonders if Ruth and Na’omi were nearby watching and listening to these proceedings. It was likely that they both were highly disappointed to first hear of the desire of this other kinsman redeemer to execute his rights and privileges only to experience the opposite end of the emotional spectrum with the subsequent giving up of those rights with Bo’az now legally affirmed as the rightly kinsman redeemer.

Additionally, this begs the question as to why Bo’az decided to initially leave out Ruth. Was it a ploy by Bo’az to be used just in case this other kinsman redeemer actually decided to execute his rights in order to acquire Elimelekh’s land or did Bo’az have another reason in mind? Robert Chisholm suggests “by conducting the transaction in a public forum and confronting the relative with his moral obligation and his needs to save face, Boaz forced him either to reject the offer entirely or to include Ruth in the deal. Either way, Ruth would be cared for and Elimelech’s inheritance maintained intact.”[5]

Ruth 4:7-12, “In the past, this is what was done in Isra’el to validate all transactions involving redemption and exchange: a man took off his shoe and gave it to the other party; this was the form of attestation in Isra’el. 8 So the redeemer said to Bo’az, “Buy it for yourself,” and took off his shoe. 9 Bo’az addressed the leaders and all the people: “You are witnesses today that I am purchasing from Na’omi all that belonged to Elimelekh and all that belonged to Kilyon and Machlon. 10 Also I am acquiring as my wife Rut the woman from Mo’av, the wife of Machlon, in order to raise up in the name of the deceased an heir for his property; so that the name of the deceased will not be cut off from his kinsmen and from the gate of his place. You are witnesses today.” 11 All the people at the gate and the leaders said, “We are witnesses. May ADONAI make the woman who has come into your house like Rachel and like Le’ah, who between them built up the house of Isra’el. Do worthy deeds in Efrat; become renowned in Beit-Lechem. 12 May your house, because of the seed ADONAI will give you from this young woman, become like the house of Peretz, whom Tamar bore to Y’hudah.”

The narrator next relays a bit of Israelite custom that involved the removal of a shoe and the giving of that shoe to the other party as proof they both agreed to the terms of the transaction. Thus in accordance with that custom, Bo’az removed his shoe and gave it to the redeemer who once again affirmed that he had granted to Bo’az the rights and privileges he previously had to include the acquisition of the property of Elimelech and the right to acquire Ruth as his wife.

Bo’az repeated the terms of the agreement to all the witnesses gathered at the city gate noting that his acquisition of Elimelech’s land and the taking of Ruth as his wife would ensure the name of Elimelech would endure. In response, the witnesses declared a blessing upon Bo’az and his house with the added note that God would grant him progeny and future generations through Ruth.

Block aptly notes “The witnesses’ request concerning Ruth is extraordinary inasmuch as they pray that Yahweh would grant this foreign woman a place among the matriarchs of Israel along with Rachel and Leah…Little did those who uttered these words realize how prophetic the words would be…Had they been around long enough to see the fulfillment of their prayer, they would have observed the establishment of a name and a house far greater than Perez, the house of King David.”[6] This prayer of blessing continues to emphasize the reality that God has been continually at work in the events of the book of Ruth. His plan was in place, one that would include the birth of King David, a man after God’s own heart and a genealogy that would include the birth of God’s own Son, Jesus Christ who came in the flesh to deal with man’s sin and death problem.

Thus in the midst of what may seem at first glance to be nothing but the description of a somewhat boring legal transaction, we find God working yet again to bring about His perfect and divine plan in the earth and the further execution of His hesed in the life of Na’omi, Ruth, and the people of Israel.

Ruth 4:13-15, “So Bo’az took Rut, and she became his wife. He had sexual relations with her, ADONAI enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. 14 Then the women said to Na’omi, “Blessed be ADONAI, who today has provided you a redeemer! May his name be renowned in Isra’el. 15 May he restore your life and provide for your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.”

Next we find that Bo’az takes Ruth to be his wife with Ruth becoming pregnant and giving birth to a son. The women of the city give praise to the Lord for the fact that God had given Na’omi a redeemer with a further blessing given to Na’omi in her old age as well as to Ruth who they note loves her and is better to Na’omi than even “seven sons” could have ever been.

These three verse conclude this section of Ruth 4 declaring that indeed restoration and redemption had come to the house of Elimelech by the mercies, grace, and hesed of God. All credit is given to God who is praised as the One who has shown His mercy towards Na’omi and Ruth. It is also interesting that the narrator attributes the birth of a son to Bo’az and Ruth as taking place by the hand of God, something clearly noted in the phrase “Adonai enabled her to conceive. The word often translated as enabled or gave is the Hebrew word nathan meaning “be granted to, be permitted”. Set against the backdrop of Ruth being unable to give her former husband Mahlon a son, it is evident that God purposefully closer her womb during her marriage to Mahlon for the express purpose of granting her the ability to conceive following her marriage to Bo’az. As noted by Iain Dugoid, “Once again the Lord God has acted to bring redemption to his people.”[7]

Conclusion

Ruth 4:1-15 depicts the final bit of drama in this book of Ruth. After a long ordeal for Na’omi and Ruth with many twists and turns along the way, restoration and redemption has finally occurred for them both. We find in this section that a price was paid by Bo’az as the kinsman redeemer for the redemption of the house of Elimelech. This is a stark reminder of the ultimate price paid by the true Kinsman Redeemer, Jesus Christ who did far more than exchange His sandal. Jesus gave the ultimate payment for our redemption, a payment that required his very life. J. Vernon McGee reminds us “He shed his blood, and thereby sacrificed the life of this earthly body for the payment in full of man’s redemption. Twenty-one times Scripture identifies the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ as the legal tender of redemption.”[8]

In this story of Ruth we find God at work in the lives of His people to work and to will His good pleasure and His divine plan. Part of that divine plan involved the redemption of Ruth for a greater purpose, name the sending of His own Son as determined in eternity past in order to redeem His creation through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus on the cross. As you read the book of Ruth and study its pages, be ever reminded of that fact and in so doing, do as the witnesses and women did in this particular passage, namely that of giving all glory and honor to God for His hesed towards His people.

In our next post, we will discuss the final verses of Ruth with an examination of 4:16-22.

References:

[1] C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament: Volume 2 (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1996), 356.
[2] F. B. Huey, Jr. “Commentary on Ruth” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol.3: Deuteronomy through 1&2 Samuel. Edited by Frank Gaebelein. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 541.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Daniel Block, The New American Commentary: Judges-Ruth (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 1999), 708.
[5] Robert Chisholm, Jr., Kregel Exegetical Library: A Commentary on Judges and Ruth (Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2013), 675.
[6] Block, 723-724.
[7] Iain Duguid, Reformed Expository Commentary: Esther & Ruth (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2005), 185.
[8] J. Vernon McGee, Ruth: The Romance of Redemption (Wheaton: Van Kampen Press, 1954), 133.