The Story of Ruth (Part 4)
November 22, 2022
by Peter Amsterdam
The Story of Ruth (Part 4)
In the previous article we saw that Boaz had agreed to be Ruth’s redeemer by marrying her, so that she could bear a son who would be considered the son of her first husband, Mahlon. However, there was another redeemer who was the first in line to marry her if he chose to. Boaz gave Ruth six measures of barley and sent her back to Naomi, while he went into action trying to arrange things so that he could marry her.
Now Boaz had gone up to the gate and sat down there. And behold, the redeemer, of whom Boaz had spoken, came by. So Boaz said, “Turn aside, friend; sit down here.” And he turned aside and sat down. And he took ten men of the elders of the city and said, “Sit down here.” So they sat down.1
Boaz’s first step was to speak with the first redeemer, who is not named. He headed into town and waited at the city gate. In ancient times, the city gate was often the place where business and legal transactions were conducted, along with being a place to gather and socialize. When the redeemer came to the gate, Boaz asked him to sit with him. Boaz then took ten of the city elders who were also at the gate of the city and he asked them to sit as well, so that they could be witnesses to what was about to transpire.
Then he said to the redeemer, “Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, is selling the parcel of land that belonged to our relative Elimelech. So I thought I would tell you of it and say, ‘Buy it in the presence of those sitting here and in the presence of the elders of my people.’ If you will redeem it, redeem it. But if you will not, tell me, that I may know, for there is no one besides you to redeem it, and I come after you.” And he said, “I will redeem it.”2
Boaz got right down to business. He wanted the redeemer to be aware of the situation with Naomi and Ruth and Elimelech’s parcel of land, as he was the closest relative and was eligible to purchase it. However, if he chose not to buy it, then Boaz would do so, as he was next in line. The first redeemer initially agreed to buy the land, but he was not yet aware that there were conditions to purchasing it. Boaz then gave further information.
Then Boaz said, “The day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the widow of the dead, in order to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance.” Then the redeemer said, “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I impair my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it.”3
In describing Ruth, Boaz referred to her as the Moabite as well as the widow of the dead. Most likely he was trying to make it seem like a bad idea for the redeemer to take the land and marry Ruth, because he wanted to be with Ruth.
Upon finding out that it would be necessary for him to marry Ruth, the first redeemer said that he was unable to buy the property. While it would be beneficial for him to gain Naomi’s land, having to care for Naomi as well as marrying Ruth would complicate his life and his own estate. He changed his mind about purchasing the land, and told Boaz that he was free to redeem it.
Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging: to confirm a transaction, the one drew off his sandal and gave it to the other, and this was the manner of attesting in Israel. So when the redeemer said to Boaz, “Buy it for yourself,” he drew off his sandal.4
The author of this book points to a custom which had been used in the past but was no longer in use when this book was written. In earlier times in Israel, when there was a legal transaction, one party would take off his sandal and give it to the other party. This transaction was done in the presence of others who were witnesses. One author explains: In a day when there were no permanent records of court proceedings or transcripts, witnesses were to recall transactions, and such dramatic visual effects made transactions memorable.5 When the first redeemer declared that he could not redeem the land and that Boaz could purchase it, he formalized his decision by giving his sandal to Boaz, thus making it possible for him to redeem the land and also to marry Ruth.
Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “You are witnesses this day that I have bought from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and to Mahlon. Also Ruth the Moabite, the widow of Mahlon, I have bought to be my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brothers and from the gate of his native place. You are witnesses this day.”6
After the relative’s refusal to buy the land, Boaz addressed the elders, who were witnesses to the transaction, as well as all the people who had gathered around. He emphasized that they all were witnesses, saying it twice, once at the beginning of his speech and again at the end. He confirmed that he was buying the land that had belonged to Naomi’s husband, Elimelech, and their sons, Chilion and Mahlon, and that he was going to marry Ruth, who had been married to Mahlon until his death. In marrying Ruth, Boaz would maintain the name of her first husband through the birth of Ruth’s first son.
Then all the people who were at the gate and the elders said, “We are witnesses. May the LORD make the woman, who is coming into your house, like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you act worthily in Ephrathah and be renowned in Bethlehem, and may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring that the LORD will give you by this young woman.”7
Those who were at the city gate along with the elders confirmed that they were witnesses to Boaz’s purchase of all that belonged to Naomi. They also gave a triple blessing, which was probably given by a spokesperson among the elders. First, they prayed that Ruth would be fruitful like Rachel and Leah, who between them had twelve sons. (Two of Rachel’s sons were borne by Bilhah, Rachel’s servant.)
The second blessing was that Boaz would have standing in Ephrathah and would be famous in Bethlehem, that as the patriarch of this new family he would prosper and that his name would continue in Israel. The third blessing pointed to the as-yet unconceived child named Obed, who would be born to Boaz and Ruth. The blessing was that their marriage would be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah. Perez was a direct ancestor of Boaz, which is why he is mentioned here.8
So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the LORD gave her conception, and she bore a son.9
Soon after Boaz and Ruth married, she became pregnant and delivered a son named Obed (verse 21).
Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse. And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.10
The women of Bethlehem who had known of Naomi’s past emptiness (Ruth 1:19–20) now offered praise and prayer. They praised the Lord, who had not left her without a kinsman-redeemer. Their prayer was that the child would be renowned throughout Israel. Their hope was that the child would renew Naomi’s life and would sustain her in her old age. They also commended Ruth, Naomi’s daughter-in-law, who had demonstrated unconditional love for Naomi and who was more to [her] than seven sons. The way that Ruth took care of Naomi was better than if Naomi had seven sons.
Naomi cared for the child, and alongside the parents, helped raise the boy. The women of the town referred to him as Naomi’s son. He was named Obed (which means “servant”). This was likely a shortened form of Obadiah (which means “servant of the Lord”). As it turned out, Obed was the father of Jesse, who was the father of King David, meaning that Ruth was the great-grandmother of David.
The story of Ruth ends with the genealogy from Perez to David.
Now these are the generations of Perez: Perez fathered Hezron, Hezron fathered Ram, Ram fathered Amminadab, Amminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon, Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed, Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David.11
One author sums up the book of Ruth by saying, In the end God overcomes all obstacles to bring Naomi from emptiness to fullness, to bring Boaz from being a bachelor to being a happily married man, and to bring Ruth from being an alien widow to being the great-grandmother of Israel’s greatest king!12
Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
1 Ruth 4:1–2.
2 Ruth 4:3–4.
3 Ruth 4:5–6.
4 Ruth 4:7–8.
5 W. Gary Phillips, Holman Old Testament Commentary, Judges and Ruth (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2004), 349.
6 Ruth 4:9–10.
7 Ruth 4:11–12.
8 1 Chronicles 2:3–11, Matthew 1:5–6.
9 Ruth 4:13.
10 Ruth 4:14–17.
11 Ruth 4:18–22.
12 Phillips, Holman Old Testament Commentary, Judges and Ruth, 353.