Harry Whittaker
Judges And Ruth

30. Happy Ever After (Ruth 4)

Boaz lost no time in putting his purpose and promise into effect. Sunrise found him sitting in the gate of Bethlehem until there should pass that way the (unnamed) near kinsman. According to the rabbis, he was Elimelech’s brother and Boaz’s uncle. Calling him aside, Boaz also quickly assembled a committee of ten of the elders of the town who would authenticate by their witness any agreement that might be reached.

Then he proceeded: ‘Naomi, that is come again out of the country of Moab, hath sold the parcel of land which was our brother Elimelech’s. If thou wilt redeem it, redeem it. But if not, then tell me that I may know: for there is none to redeem it besides thee; and I am after thee’, that is, with the right of redemption. The go’el in this instance had two responsibilities: the redemption of the land which had been Elimelech’s and which might even have been disposed of before the migration to Moab; and also there was the duty of continuing the family of the dead Elimelech and Mahlon, according to the levirate law.

Boaz, in delicacy, put the smaller matter first, and met with immediate readiness on the part of the go’el. Yes, he would redeem the land, he was willing enough to buy it, and add it to his own inheritance until the year of jubilee restored it to the family which originally owned it. He was the more willing to do this since there was no immediate prospect that there would be any other heir upon whom the property might devolve; so there was a fair chance that it might become his for good.

But this very question Boaz now pointedly insisted on: “What day thou buyest the field....thou must buy it also of Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance.”

This however the kinsman was not at all prepared to do, “lest (he said) I mar mine own inheritance”. Why this vague excuse? It seems likely that such a levirate marriage involved also the maintenance of Ruth and Naomi, as well as Ruth’s child that should be born; and the added burden of these extra persons to his household was more than he was prepared to undertake. Or it may be that he was arguing from the dismal history of Elimelech’s family. The migration to Moab, and the Moabitish marriages which ensued, had all been visited with God’s displeasure. For him to continue that tradition by marrying the Moabitess would be perhaps to invite an extension of divine wrath to himself and his family.

This would also explain, maybe, why an obviously attractive young woman like Ruth had received no other offers of marriage since her appearance in Bethlehem.

Whatever the explanation, the kinsman now emphatically and formally withdrew from his rights and responsibilities. By that same act he also withdrew his name from Holy Scripture and from the high honour of appearing in the direct ancestry of the Messiah. His readiness to abandon his prerogative in these matters would be made the more easy by the absence of Ruth herself from this discussion.

“Lest I mar mine own inheritance”, this faithless fellow had said. But by his feebleness he did mar his own inheritance, for the fact that the Messianic line came through Boaz and Ruth fairly plainly implies that this kinsman’s line ceased. In deciding selfishly he decided badly.

Shame on the selfish

In Deuteronomy 25:7-10, the Law required that the go’el who thus declined to fulfil his duties to his deceased kinsman should be publicly shamed. In the gate of the city he was to be spat upon by the woman he refused to aid. However, Boaz had carefully refrained from bringing Ruth with him. So there remained only the symbolic transfer of right of redemption of the property.

This was signified appropriately by the go’el taking off his sandal and handing it to Boaz as the next near-kinsman. The shoe was an easily understood symbol of a man’s right of possession, his right to walk on the redeemed land. “Over Edom will I cast out my shoe” (Ps. 60:8) is David’s phrase for annexation of Edom after his brilliant victory against the combined forces of his enemies. When the prodigal returned home one of the signs of his reinstatement with further right to inheritance was “shoes on his feet”. “Arise, walk through the land, in the length of it and in the breadth of it, for I will give it unto thee” was God’s emphatic instruction to Abraham.

A blessed marriage

Thus Boaz at last became go’el for both Naomi and Ruth, and the entire transaction was settled in formal legal style. All who were present added their witness and their blessings, and all the people that were in the gate joined the elders in saying:

“We are witnesses. The Lord make the woman that is come into thine house like Rachel and like Leah, which two did build the house of Israel: and do thou worthily in Ephratah, and be famous in Bethlehem: and let thy house be like the house of Pharez, whom Tamar bare unto Judah, of the seed which the Lord shall give thee of this young woman.”

They spoke better than they knew, for indeed it was through the offspring of this union of Ruth and Boaz, through David the son of Jesse that God did build the house of Israel. Through his worthy descendant, Jesus (Mt. 1:5), Boaz has truly become famous in Bethlehem.

The allusion to Pharez whom Tamar bare unto Judah is also highly appropriate, for not only was this the only other levirate union mentioned in the Bible, but the grudging acknowledgement by Judah that Gentile Tamar had such a right of marriage is closely paralleled by the attitude of the unnamed kinsman in this Book of Ruth.

The marriage duly took place and, by contrast with the childless years of Ruth’s first marriage, the Lord soon blessed her with a son. What clearer demonstration that it is the Lord who gives and who withholds. The women of Bethlehem celebrated the birth of Ruth’s son as a gift from God to Naomi:

“Blessed by the Lord, which hath not left thee this day without a kinsman, that his name may be famous in Israel. And he shall be unto thee a restorer of thy life, and a nourisher of thine old age: for thy daughter-in-law which loveth thee, which is better to thee than seven sons, hath born him.”

In what sense could the child Obed be a go’el for Naomi, for now she needed neither avenger of blood nor redeemer of property? The words are surely recorded because of their implied prophecy that through Obed the line of Elimelech and Naomi and also of Boaz would be continued in a more certain fashion than through seven sons. Precisely how this would be is indicated by the immediate citation of the family genealogy from Pharez right down to David, the one whose worth was preferred about that of the other seven sons of Jesse.

And through David came Jesus, which is called Christ. “Behold my servant (Obed means servant) whom I uphold, mine elect in whom my soul delighteth.” Thus for all time the name of Ruth stands with special honour in the genealogy of the Son of God, and the Book of Ruth continues to proclaim striking lessons. It underlines the folly of marriage with those who do not share the blessing of God’s covenant. It also shows how God rewards those who with singleness of mind disregard the attractions of a favourable worldly marriage in order to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. Here also, for the thankful contemplation of the reverent reader, is ample demonstration of how God can and does overrule for good the bad decisions made by His servants in their weakness. Such is the divine condescension to human frailty.


Sat him down. Excavations of ancient city walls in Palestine have revealed signs of stone benches built into the wall of the city gate.

Such an one. LXX: Hidden one! Does this mean he had been deliberately keeping out of the way? Or is it put this way to stress how his name is blotted out of the Book of Life?
LXX: And thou must buy her also. No picking and choosing which duties to take over and which not (and so also in the ecclesia). Even if Ruth had been married to the younger brother, the rights of the family would come through because Orpah stayed in Moab a Moabitess, whereas Ruth was here in Bethlehem as Israelite.
Build. There is here a common play on the word for “son”: compare 2 Sam. 7:13.
Tamar and Rahab and Ruth are three Gentile brides all coming close together in Messiah’s genealogy.
Why should the son be called Obed, servant? According to the levirate law, Obed should have reckoned as the son of Chilion; yet there is no hint of this. Perhaps this is because there was no other child born to Boaz, and therefore Obed reckoned as his. Alternatively, it could be argued that the levirate law applied strictly: “if brethren dwell together”, (Dt. 25:5), which was certainly not the case with the family of Elimelech.
In Mt. 1 Boaz is the tenth generation from Abraham: Dt. 23:3.
This is the first mention of David. If, as seems probable, the author of Judges and Ruth was Samuel, then the last word he wrote was an expression of faith that the youth he had anointed would one day be King of Israel.

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