The Redemption – Ruth 4:1-12

4 Boaz went to the gate of the town and sat down there. Soon the family redeemer Boaz had spoken about came by. Boaz called him by name and said, “Come over here and sit down.” So he went over and sat down. Then Boaz took 10 men of the town’s elders  and said, “Sit here.” And they sat down. He said to the redeemer, “Naomi, who has returned from the land of Moab, is selling a piece of land that belonged to our brother Elimelech.  I thought I should inform you: Buy it back in the presence of those seated here and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you want to redeem it, do so. But if you do not want to redeem it, tell me so that I will know, because there isn’t anyone other than you to redeem it, and I am next after you.”

“I want to redeem it,” he answered.

Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the land from Naomi, you will also acquire Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the deceased man, to perpetuate the man’s name on his property.”

The redeemer replied, “I can’t redeem it myself, or I will ruin my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption, because I can’t redeem it.”

At an earlier period in Israel, a man removed his sandal and gave it to the other party in order to make any matter legally binding concerning the right of redemption or the exchange of property. This was the method of legally binding a transaction in Israel.

So the redeemer removed his sandal and said to Boaz, “Buy back the property yourself.”

Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “You are witnesses today that I am buying from Naomi everything that belonged to Elimelech, Chilion, and Mahlon. 10 I will also acquire Ruth the Moabitess, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, to perpetuate the deceased man’s name on his property, so that his name will not disappear among his relatives or from the gate of his home. You are witnesses today.”

11 The elders and all the people who were at the gate said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is entering your house like Rachel and Leah, who together built the house of Israel. May you be powerful in Ephrathah and famous in Bethlehem. 12 May your house become like the house of Perez, the son Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring the Lord will give you by this young woman.” (HCSB)

Once the sun comes up, Boaz wastes no time in bringing his promise to a conclusion, regardless of whether he or the unnamed male relative is the one to redeem the land and Ruth.

This section is split into four parts.

  • Boaz preparing for “court” action, verses 1-2.
  • The court proceedings, verses 3-8.
  • Boaz’s response to the outcome of the court proceedings, verses 9-10.
  • Public reaction to the court proceedings, verses 11-12.

Verses 1-2 – Boaz preparing for court.

Boaz went to the gate of the town and sat down there. Soon the family redeemer Boaz had spoken about came by. Boaz called him by name and said, “Come  over here and sit down.” So he went over and sat down. Then Boaz took 10 men of the town’s elders and said, “Sit here.” And they sat down.

From a cultural standpoint, many important meetings or decisions took place around the gates of cities, especially small or mid-size ones. The gates were also the location of official administrative and judicial business for the local community. Boaz now begins the legal process to acquire the land that belonged to Elimelech, as well as Ruth for the purpose of marriage. The citizens of Bethlehem would recognize and understand that Boaz was there on legal business.

We also see the hand of God at work here as the first verse says, “Soon the family redeemer Boaz had spoken about came by.” This wasn’t a mere coincidence; this was the divine work of God to bring this specific man through the gate soon after Boaz had arrived and sat waiting for him.

Now that the two principal players in the legal proceeding are present, Boaz needs to gather the men as the required legal assembly for the action of redeeming the land and Ruth. A few observations on this.

  • They were citizens of Bethlehem.
  • As elders, they would be responsible for the administrative actions in the city.
  • The fact that they quickly responded to Boaz’s request signifies his stature in the community.

Now the scene is set for the legal proceedings to commence.

Verses 3-8 – The court proceedings.

He said to the redeemer, “Naomi, who has returned from the land of Moab, is selling a piece of land that belonged to our brother Elimelech.  I thought I should inform you: Buy it back in the presence of those seated here and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you want to redeem it, do so. But if you do not want to redeem it, tell me so that I will know, because there isn’t anyone other than you to redeem it, and I am next after you.”

“I want to redeem it,” he answered.

Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the land from Naomi, you will also acquire Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the deceased man, to perpetuate the man’s name on his property.”

The redeemer replied, “I can’t redeem it myself, or I will ruin my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption, because I can’t redeem it.”

At an earlier period in Israel, a man removed his sandal and gave it to the other party in order to make any matter legally binding concerning the right of redemption or the exchange of property. This was the method of legally binding a transaction in Israel.

So the redeemer removed his sandal and said to Boaz, “Buy back the property yourself.”

According to Mosaic law, the land under question was never intended to leave the family, and the concept of a kinsman-redeemer was an Israelite custom, designed to keep it in the family.

Leviticus 25:25  If your brother becomes destitute and sells part of his property, his nearest relative may come and redeem what his brother has sold.

Although the beginning of Ruth doesn’t specify, it is more than reasonable to assume that Elimelech was in financial trouble and sold the land in question before moving the family to Moab. Now, it is time for the land to return to its rightful family.

Another discussion point is contained in Deuteronomy 25:5-10 “When brothers live on the same property and one of them dies without a son, the wife of the dead man may not marry a stranger outside the family. Her brother-in-law is to take her as his wife, have sexual relations with her, and perform the duty of a brother-in-law for her. The first son she bears will carry on the name of the dead brother, so his name will not be blotted out from Israel. But if the man doesn’t want to marry his sister-in-law, she must go to the elders at the city gate and say, ‘My brother-in-law refuses to preserve his brother’s name in Israel. He isn’t willing to perform the duty of a brother-in-law for me.’ The elders of his city will summon him and speak with him. If he persists and says, ‘I don’t want to marry her,’ then his sister-in-law will go up to him in the sight of the elders, remove his sandal from his foot, and spit in his face. Then she will declare, ‘This is what is done to a man who will not build up his brother’s house.’ 10 And his family name in Israel will be called ‘The house of the man whose sandal was removed.’

From this passage, it would seem that the legal levirate obligation to marry the widow only applied to the immediate brothers of a deceased man. However, it is possible, if not highly likely, that Israelite custom would follow the pecking order in the inheritance law in cases where no immediate brother existed. Numbers 27:9-11  If he has no daughter, give his inheritance to his brothers. 10 If he has no brothers, give his inheritance to his father’s brothers. 11 If his father has no brothers, give his inheritance to the nearest relative of his clan, and he will take possession of it. This is to be a statutory ordinance for the Israelites as the Lord commanded Moses.”

From Ruth 2:1, we know that Boaz was from the clan of Elimelech but below the unnamed redeemer now meeting with Boaz.

Boaz now gets right to the point.

  • Naomi is selling the family land.
  • The unnamed man has the first right to redeem it.
  • Boaz asks for the man to make a decision regarding the redemption before the witnesses gathered.
  • Boaz asks the man to make his right then because Boaz will redeem it if the man declines.
  • Boaz is carrying through with his pledge to resolve the issue as soon as it is possible.

Thinking that it is an easy decision, the man agrees to redeem it. Now Boaz presents the complicating portion of the redemption. If the man redeems the land, he will also assume responsibility for the welfare of Ruth, which contains several issues.

  • He will assume responsibility to care for and protect Ruth.
  • Not only is Ruth a widow, but she is also a Moabite, an enemy of Israel.
  • Since Mahlon and Ruth didn’t have a child together to carry on the family name, the unnamed man will need to have a child with Ruth to carry on Mahlon’s family name.

Although the primary reason for Naomi to develop this plan was for Boaz to redeem the land and Ruth was for the protection and well-being of Ruth, we see in the last portion of verse five the most critical piece of the transaction. The continuation of the family line. The next lesson will illuminate the importance of the child.

The unnamed man is now faced with a decision, of which there are four possible courses of action.

  • He could accept the moral responsibility for Elimelech’s estate, redeem the field, marry Ruth, have children with her, and take care of Naomi.
  • He could redeem the field and pledge to marry Ruth but break the pledge after completing the deal. However, doing this would tarnish his reputation and standing in the community.
  • He could reject the offer and cede the rights to Boaz. This would not have been irresponsible as Boaz has already indicated he will redeem the land and Ruth if given the opportunity.
  • He could accept the responsibility to redeem the land but reject the responsibility to marry Ruth and have children, ceding that to Boaz. This would be dangerous on two counts. First, it would have cost him respect and honor in the community in the short-term. Second, any child between Boaz and Ruth could later claim the land costing him financially in the long-term.

Considering the economic and moral ramifications of the possible decisions, he chose the third course of action. From his response, it appears he only considered the first and third choices as viable. His decision was likely based on three main factors.

  • The economic factor.
    • Cost of redeeming the property.
    • Cost of supporting Naomi.
    • Cost of marrying Ruth.
    • He probably considered these cumulative costs as exceeding the positives of acquiring the land.
  • Implications of raising a child to carry on the name of the deceased.
    • It is possible she would have only one child.
    • The child would legally be considered a descendent of Elimelech.
    • The child would legally acquire the land in question in the current discussion.
    • The child would be eligible for at least a portion of the unnamed man’s estate.
  • Ruth was a Moabite.
    • How would the ethnic implications appear to others?
    • His estate could fall to a child that was half Moabite.

Upon reaching his decision, he removed his sandal and presented it to Boaz to signify that he had forfeited his right to redemption. The first portion of verse seven indicates that this may no longer have been an understood custom and the time Ruth was written. He also tells Boaz to buy the property himself. This concluded the court negotiation, and the decision is final and binding.

Verse 9-10

Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “You are witnesses today that I am buying from Naomi everything that belonged to Elimelech, Chilion, and Mahlon. 10 I will also acquire Ruth the Moabitess, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, to perpetuate the deceased man’s name on his property, so that his name will not disappear among his relatives or from the gate of his home. You are witnesses today.”

The land now belongs to Boaz, and he has acquired the right to marry Ruth, as well as take care of Naomi.

If anyone in the future questions Boaz’s right to the land and for marrying Ruth, he can produce both the sandal that was given to signify the legality of the transaction as well as the witnesses who were present during the proceedings. Boaz had three goals, as presented in these two verses.

  • To establish the name of the deceased on his own patrimonial ancestral land.
  • To prevent the name of the deceased from being cut off from his relatives.
  • To prevent his name from being cut off from the gate of his home.

Verses 11-12

11 The elders and all the people who were at the gate said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is entering your house like Rachel and Leah, who together built the house of Israel. May you be powerful in Ephrathah and famous in Bethlehem. 12 May your house become like the house of Perez, the son Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring the Lord will give you by this young woman.”

Considering the background of Ruth, the response by the elders at the gate is extreme in the positive sense of the word. Their response can be broken down into three parts.

  • The elders pray that Yahweh would elevate Ruth to the level of two of the matriarchs of Israel, Rachel, and Leah.
    • The term “built a house” refers to having children and establishing a family line.
    • Calling upon Yahweh to bless falls in line with Psalm 127:1a  Unless the LORD builds a house, its builders labor over it in vain.
  • They pray that Boaz would be “powerful in Ephrathah and famous in Bethlehem.” The meaning is that Boaz would be blessed in his marriage and for the marriage to prosper.
  • The reference to Tamar needs some explanation because of the background of her becoming pregnant.
    • The story of Tamar is probably the most well-known concerning levirate obligation and betrayal. This caused her to disguise herself as a prostitute and bear twins from her father-in-law, Perez and Zerah.
    • They were the ancestors of the tribe of Judah, with Perez’s descendants playing the more significant role in Israel’s history.
    • Perez is the ancestor of Boaz’s clan that is living in Bethlehem.
    • The reference to Tamar is not an endorsement of her behavior, but rather to the idea that the family line continued even though the behavior was sinful. How much greater would the blessing be for Boaz and Ruth, who had acted in the highest moral standards.
    • Their prayer is answered by the birth of David and the establishment of the eternal royal line.

Reflecting on this chapter, we see four characteristics that distinguish Boaz from the unnamed kinsman who refused to redeem the land and Ruth.

  • Willingness – Boaz didn’t hesitate in taking on his responsibility, and he settled it on the first day possible.
  • Purposeful – All of Boaz’s actions were deliberate and well-thought. He didn’t leave anything to chance and made sure everything was done correctly.
  • Faithfulness – He fulfilled all the promises he made to Ruth the night before.
  • Unselfish – His actions were to maintain the name of the deceased husband with the property in question.

Once again, we see Boaz as a typology of Christ through his redemptive actions on behave of Naomi and Ruth.  Boaz was able to be the kinsman-redeemer because of three factors.

  • He was a near relative.
  • He was able to pay the redemption price.
  • He was willing to redeem the land and Ruth.

Christ is the ultimate kinsman-redeemer.

  • Jesus became flesh and blood, becoming our “near kinsman” for all eternity.
  • Jesus paid the eternal redemption price, His blood, and life on the cross.
  • Jesus willingly went to the cross on our behalf to restore us to “land” we had before the fall, fellowship with God in His presence.

Applications.

Although not many, if any, of us will ever have an opportunity to act as a redeemer in the same manner as Boaz, we can exhibit the same characteristics.

  • Do we willingly take on our responsibilities? These could be across a broad spectrum of actions, family, job, financial, kingdom work.
  • Are we purposeful in how we plan and execute our daily tasks? This doesn’t mean we don’t rely on the Holy Spirit, but it does mean we don’t just “wing it” every day.
  • Do we display faithfulness? Do we keep our word to do the things we have promised to others?
  • Are we unselfish in our actions? Do we do things to receive something in return, or do we do things because we want to shine the light of Christ, bless others, and love our neighbors as ourselves?
  • One final application in conjunction with the Great Commission. Are we willing and purposeful in seeking opportunities to share the Gospel? Are we faithful in accurately portraying the Gospel message, not adding or taking away from it as some heretical teaching does? Do we give God glory, or do we try and take credit for the souls that are saved? 

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