The Book of Ruth: Ruth’s Marriage to Boaz
Dr. John Boyd, Holywood, N. Ireland
Verse 1. Boaz in a business-like way commenced at once to put into effect his promise to Ruth. He went to the gate of Bethlehem, the place where all public affairs were discussed,, and all judicial decisions taken - the place of local justice. There, as he expected, he met the nearer kinsman of Elimelech about whom he had told Ruth, the one with the prior right to the redemption of all that belonged to Elimelech, which Naomi was selling. Boaz hailed this man to come and talk with him, to which request he acceded.
This form of address would normally have included the name of the person addressed. Possibly the historian withheld the name here in view of the man's subsequent action, which was not to his credit. The writer would not give the name of one who would refuse to perpetuate the name of a kinsman, lest his inheritance be marred. His name is not even mentioned, whilst Mahlon's name was perpetuated through Boaz marrying Ruth.
Verse 2. The next requirement was the collection of ten elders of the city to witness the transaction. This was quickly done. Boaz wanted everything to be done legally - even the details.
Verse 3. To the nearer kinsman than he, Boaz explained the purpose of the gathering - the redemption of a piece of land. Naomi, who had arrived lately from her sojourn in Moab, had a parcel of land that formerly belonged to her husband Elimelech, a kinsman to them both. The present tense "selleth" gives a wrong conception of the business, for Naomi, or possibly Elimelech, before he went to Moab, had been compelled by poverty to sell the property. The sale included the right to till the land until the year of Jubilee, when it would normally be returned to its owner again. One who was next of kin could redeem the land at any time before the Jubilee. The price of the re-sale was determined by the number of years to run until Jubilee, Lev. 25. 25-28.
Verse 4. This slate of affairs was brought to the notice of the nearer kinsman, who was requested to buy the land before proper witnesses - the ten elders there gathered. If he did not want to exercise his right, a definite statement to that effect would be welcome, so that to Boaz, who was next in line as go'el, would come the opportunity to redeem the property, which he was willing to do. The nearer kinsman, however, expressed his readiness to purchase it. That, of course, prevented Boaz from fulfilling his offer.
Verse 5. But Boaz had another condition to put before the first go'el, the kinsman-redeemer, Naomi was not the only person concerned in the sale of the land. Ruth, her daughter-in-law, was also involved in the transaction. The property had passed to her husband, Mahlon, and hence it was the property of Mahlon's widow as much as Naomi's. Then there enters into the picture the Levirate law, which states that a near kinsman must marry his relative's widow, and raise up seed to her deceased husband. Thus if the nearer kinsman bought the land he must also marry Ruth, and so perpetuate Mahlon's name. If Ruth had a son he would carry on the inheritance of Mahlon; he would cause the dead man's name to stand on his inheritance.
Verse 6. This the nearer kinsman was not prepared to do. If he redeemed the property on these terms it would mar his own inheritance. What is meant by marring his own inheritance is difficult to assess. The redemption of the land would cost money, as the yearly produce up to the year of Jubilee must be paid for. The purchase of the property would down-value his own inheritance in the transaction. This he was not prepared to do. If he must needs marry Ruth, the field he had purchased would become her son's, and be his inheritance from Mahlon.
Marring his inheritance may have meant losing the perpetuation of his own name in order that Mahlon's name be carried on in any son that Ruth bore. His whole concern was for his own inheritance, and selfishness was at the root of his refusal to marry Ruth. Thus the first go'el passed on to Boaz the right of redemption.
Verse 7. The ritual of passing on the right of redemption to another is now described. This seems to be different from what was prescribed when a widow's brother-in-law refused to marry her. Then she took off his shoe, and spat in his face, to humiliate him, Deut. 25. 9. But here the first go'el took off his own shoe, and handed it to Boaz., implying that the owner of the shoe did not intend to stand on the property, but gave that right to the second go1 el. Thus they confirmed matters of legal import in Israel relative to the redemption of land. The use of the words, "in former time", tells us that the custom observed by these two go'elim had disappeared by the time that the book of Ruth was written, after David's anointing. This was a long time after the marriage of David's great-grandfather, Boaz.
Verse 8. Thus the first go'el refused to do the part of a kinsman, and formally passed over to Boaz the right to redeem the land, which carried with it the obligation to marry Ruth.
Verse 9. After the legal formalities of the transfer of the right to redeem had been attested, Boaz spoke to the elders and to the others sitting around, of what the proceedings had meant to him. He formally announced that he had bought from Naomi the property that Elimelech, Chilion and Mahlon had left. Thus he exercised his right to redeem the property.
Verse 10. He had also acquired Mahlon's widow for his wife, as purchasing the field meant taking Ruth to wife. This he did, that she might have a child who would raise up Mahlon's name, be his heir, succeed him, represent him, and make his name stand upon his inheritance, that it be not excluded from the rest of the members of the tribe of Judah.
Thus we see the utter selflessness of Boaz as contrasted with the first go'el, whose one ambition was not to do anything to mar his own inheritance, v. 6. He called on the ten elders to be the legal witnesses to this transaction. It is interesting to note that the name of Boaz is found in the four occurrences of the genealogy of David in the Scriptures, rather than Mahlon's, whose name Boaz sought to perpetuate by marrying Ruth.
Verse 11. The people and the elders attested the legality of the proceedings, especially the proclamation of his intent to marry Ruth, for they followed their attestation with the pronunciation of the Jewish marriage benediction: (a) a wish for the wife to be as fruitful as were Rachel and Leah in building the house of Israel, that is, in bearing children; (b) a desire that Boaz might do worthily in Ephratah, that is, enjoy a life marked by success, materially and morally. The Hebrew word here rendered "worthily" is the same as is translated "wealth", 2. 1, and "virtuous", 3. 113 (c) a yearning that he might become famous in Bethlehem, that is, that his name might be proclaimed there. Possibly the idea is that he might have a worthy succession.
Subsequent history tells of the fulfilment of this benediction. The son Ruth bore to him, Obed, became the grand-father of the great king David, from whom sprang all the kings of Judah, and from whom sprang Mary, who bore the Saviour of the world. The success of Boaz was appreciated in Ephratah, and his name was made famous in Bethlehem by the fact that here the Son of God became incarnate, and the name of Boaz is included in the genealogy of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Verse 12, The benediction concluded with a wish that his house be built up as was the house of Pharez (R.V., Perez), his ancestor, the head of one of the families of the tribe of Judah. The generations of Pharez are given, w. 18-22, to present the numerous antecedents from Pharez, and also his successors as far as David the king, during whose reign Israel reached the zenith of its greatness. Possibly the magnitude of the house of Pharez takes its origin from the numbering of the tribes of Israel, when Pharez was seen as the largest of the families of Judah, Num. 26. 21. Also Judah had the largest number of able-bodied men of any of the tribes, both at the beginning and the end of the wilderness journey, Num. I. 27; 26. 22. When David numbered Israel he found the men of war in Judah to be more than all the rest of Israel put together, 2 Sam. 24. 9.
Verse 13. Boaz lost no time in taking Ruth as his wife. The Lord gave her conception, and she bare a son to Boaz.
Verse 14. Naomi comes into the picture once again. Strangely enough, the women of Bethlehem congratulate her on the birth of the child rather than either Ruth or Boaz. They bless Jehovah for raising up for Naomi in this son a redeemer, upon whom they beseech the blessing of God, that his name may become famous, not only in Bethlehem, v. 11, but in Israel. And so it was, for the child Obed was known as the grandfather of king David, the greatest name in Israel.
Verse 15. The child was called a redeemer for Naomi, as he was the restorer of her life, and one to give comfort in her old age. He was called the go'el of Naomi, not because he would redeem her possessions - Boaz did that; but the child was the grandson of Naomi - he would raise up the name of Mahlon upon his inheritance; and bring consequent joy to Naomi. He was her true near kinsman - her deliverer from the sorrow of a lost inheritance. Ruth was better to her than seven sons - the number of the perfect family, 1 Sam. 2. 5, because through her the names of the dead., Elimelech and Mahlon, had been perpetuated. She would yet be the tribemother of a great inheritance.
Verse 16. Naomi adopted the child as her own, a.. d nursed it.
Verse 17. Her neighbours gave the child a name, Obed (servant). They saw this as a child born to be Naomi's servant, for in her old age he would serve as her go'el, and be her support. The writer, in his reference to the relationship of Obed to David, sets before us the real purpose in telling the story of Ruth - how the link in the chain of David, and the Lord Jesus Christ in the genealogical tree of Judah, almost broken, had been preserved by God.
Verse 18. We get here the genealogical tree of Pharez to David, possibly to give us a picture of the undisputed descent of the great king of Israel. It also shows how that the voluntary sacrifice that Boaz made, the pious life of Naomi, the desire of Ruth to follow the God of Israel, and her readiness to obey the advice of her elders, all led to the inclusion of Boaz and Obed in the genealogy of Christ - teaching us that pious devotion to the will of God always produces its own reward.
Lessons from Chapter Four.
1. This whole story is a beautiful picture of the Lord Jesus Christ securing His Bride, the Church, from amongst the Gentile nations.
2. All business and legal transactions should be open and above-board, and fully attested, w. 4-5.
3. The nameless first go'el was afraid lest his name would cease if he married Ruth, but it did perish for not doing so, while that of Boaz who married her remains for all time. Compare John 12. 25.
4. The 'W«P as a Type of the Lord Jesus Christ.
(a) He must be a near kinsman, 3. 12 - Christ became Man.
(b) He needed to be able, a rich man, 2. 1 - Christ was the Almighty God - He was the Holy One.
(c) He needed to be willing, unselfish and devoted, 3. 13 - Christ ever delighted to do God's will. He gave Himself up for us all.
(d) He needed to pay the price, 4. 9 - Christ paid the price on Calvary. His blood was the price of our redemption.
(e) He frees from the bondage of poverty, 4. 15 – Christ freed us from the bondage and poverty of sin and Satan.
My Redeemer! O what beauties
In that lovely Name appear; None but Jesus, in His glories,
Shall the honoured title wear.
My Redeemer! Thou hast my salvation wrought.