Matrimony: Boaz Redeems & Marries Ruth (Ruth 4)

Court Proceedings (4.1-12)

The Hebrew sentence structure indicates a new scene. Boaz had promised Ruth that he would act “in the morning” (3.13). Naomi was confident Boaz “will not rest” until he had settled the matter. So we can conclude that there is no large span of time between the end of chapter 3 and beginning of chapter 4. Boaz is taking care of business. This scene begins with Boaz going to “the gate” of the city. Baldwin explains, “The main gate of the town served as the local law court. Planned with an open space around which benches provided places to sit in the shade of the high walls, the gate was a natural meeting place. It had the advantage of being open to the public, who could observe that justice was done.”[1] Therefore, Boaz takes his seat and waits for the kinsman-redeemer to show up.

Boaz does not wait long for the kinsman-redeemer to show up. Boaz invites the redeemer to “turn aside” and “sit down” which he does. We know very little about this man. We don’t even know the man’s name. Boaz’s address of this man has caused some fits for translators. The Hebrew translates to something akin to “Mr. So-and-So” in English. In fact, the NET translates it as “John Doe” with a footnote that includes “Mr. No-Name.”[2] The ambiguity concerning this man’s name is appropriate given the many names with which the chapter will conclude. He does nothing of significance and even refuses to perform the duty of the kinsman-redeemer.

The nearer kinsman-redeemer has taken his place. Boaz then builds the quorum so he can begin legal proceedings. In contrast with the informal calling over of John Doe, “took” seems to indicate Boaz intentionally went out to select these men. These select men will serve as witnesses. The Levirate Law does not specify how many elders are required. Two or three witnesses would suffice under the law in other legal proceedings. Boaz’s ten elders seems to indicate the importance of cases such as his. The legal assembly is convened when the ten elders take their seats.

Verses 3 and 4 are Boaz laying out the situation for John Doe. Naomi is selling the usage rights of the land which belonged to her husband Elimelech. The land was to stay in the family passed down father to sons. With the death of Elimelech and his sons, the right of inheritance would have passed on in a certain order: first, brothers, then, if no brothers, paternal uncles, and finally, if no paternal uncles, the man’s nearest relative (Num 27.9-11). John Doe is the nearest relative, though his relation is not specified. He has the right to redeem the portion of land if he so chooses. If he will not redeem it, the right passes to Boaz, the next nearest relative. The decision is John Doe’s to make.

Boaz’s decision to leave Ruth unnamed thus far in the court proceedings is noteworthy. He has only informed John Doe of the redemption of the land. The reader may wonder why Boaz has left off that very important bit of information. Lange suggests Boaz did not want to appear as though he was only bringing this up to John Doe on behalf of the widow.[3] Others suggest that Naomi only is mentioned since she is directing the negotiations and Boaz wanted to avoid suspicion of needing to marry the foreign women before first making the offer.[4] It may just be that long before Perry Mason, Boaz had a flare for the dramatic in court proceedings.

Initially, John Doe agrees to redeem the land. It is at this point that Boaz lays the remainder of the situation before John Doe: the land comes with the widow Ruth the Moabitess, “to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance” (5). As the kinsman-redeemer, though, John Doe would not only inherit the rights of the land, he would also be responsible to continue the lineage of Elimelech through the widow of one of his sons (which we will not know until verse 9), Ruth the Moabite. It is this right of inheritance which dissuades John Doe from redeeming the land. Technically, according to the letter of the Law, John Doe was not required to marry Ruth. He could redeem the land and not marry Ruth and still be within the legal demands of the Levirate Law (cf. Deut 25.5-10). However, as Block explains, Boaz “was not appealing to the letter of the law but its spirit.”[5] He is prepared to live up to the spirit of the Law; will the kinsman-redeemer?

John Doe says he cannot redeem the land “lest I impair my own inheritance” (6). His dilemma is four-fold.[6] First, he could redeem the land, marry Ruth, and take care of Naomi. Second, he could redeem the land, promise to marry Ruth, then back out of this commitment once the deal was done. Third, he could refuse to redeem the land thereby passing the right on to Boaz, something Boaz has already expressed interest in. Finally, he could redeem the land and let Boaz fulfill the levirate obligation. This course, though, would hurt him financially in the long-run if Boaz and Ruth had a son since the son would inherit the land John Doe had paid for. Factoring in all the financial and, perhaps, ethical implications, John Doe choses the third option, doing so emphatically; twice he says “I cannot redeem it” and he tells Boaz “take my right of redemption yourself.”

John Doe’s verbal declaration is followed by a non-verbal declaration which confirms and solemnizes the whole proceedings (verses 7-8). Verse 7 serves as a parenthetical explanation for the reader unfamiliar with the finalization of “redeeming and exchanging.” “In former times in Israel” may indicate that the practice had fallen out of use at the time of the writing. Keil and Delitzsch explain that the sandal became a symbol of transference of property because it was understood that one took possession of property by walking upon it with the foot.[7] Absent from the description are several elements found in Deuteromony 25.9-10: the woman being the agent of sandal removal, spitting in the face, solemn declaration (“So shall it be done, etc.”), and change of name (Unsandaled family). Of course, technically Ruth is not his brother’s wife. So this whole legal scene plays out according to the spirit of the law. Elimelech’s land will stay in the family, the widows Naomi and Ruth will be cared for, and the lineage will continue. Everything intended by the Law will be upheld.

Boaz has successfully navigated the legal proceedings (8). With the declaration for Boaz to buy the land himself John Doe removes his sandal. As the sandal is extended to him, Boaz recognizes that he has fulfilled his word to Ruth. Any anxiety Ruth suffered since she learned of a closer kinsman will dissipate with the sandal exchange. As he takes the sandal, Boaz it signals the closing of the deliberations.

What remains is the actual declaration of the legal transfer that has taken place. Boaz, in his final words in the book, then declares to the ten elders as well as to a crowd of “all the people” who have apparently gathered to watch the court case that they are witnesses. The phrase “You are witnesses today” bookends the actual declaration. Boaz emphasizes his two-fold actions: he has purchased of the land of Elimelech and “all that belonged to Chilion and Mahlon” (9) and included with the purchase is Ruth the Moabite who will be his wife (10).

Boaz has three goals for redeeming Ruth (10). First, “to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance.” This was the same proposition put to John Doe (see v.5). Second, “that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brothers.” Thus Boaz would ensure that the lineage of Elimelech did not go extinct. Third, “that the name of the dead may not be cut off…from the gate of his native place.” This would ensure that Elimelech would always have representation at the city gate. These goals are likewise witnessed by the crowd and elders.

Everyone at the gate affirm that they are witnesses to the legal proceedings. The crowds invoke a blessing from Yahweh. Rachel & Leah invoked as figures of women whose wombs were opened by the Yahweh (esp. Leah, Gen 29.31-30.24). The people recognize these two women “built up together the house of Israel. This blessing is profound since it seeks to seat Ruth the Moabite with the matriarchs of Israel. The crowds also charge Boaz to “act worthily” and “be renowned in Bethlehem.” The phrase “act worthily” could refer to either financial prosperity,[8] social standing,[9] or reproductive fertility.[10] For Boaz to “be renowned” could speak to Boaz becoming famous (so the NIV). Finally, they invoke yet another blessing from Yahweh. This time another earlier Levirate Law case is mentioned, that of Judah and Tamar (see Gen 38). There is no connection between the character of Judah and Boaz nor Tamar and Ruth. Rather, the people’s blessing must be understood through the lens of a lesser to greater. In other words, if Yahweh had blessed the sordid union of Judah and Tamar with a double portion, then certainly He will bless Boaz and Ruth who are models of a high ethical standard.

Genealogical Considerations (4.13-20)

Verse 13 serves as a time lapse report. Boaz and Ruth are married and at least nine months later Ruth gives birth to a son. Yahweh is acknowledged as the Giver of the child since He “gave her conception.” The implication is that during her decade long marriage to Mahlon Ruth was barren. Now in answer to the prayers of the crowd at the city gate Yahweh yet again “visited His people” by giving Ruth a child.

In response to the grace of Yahweh upon Boaz and Ruth the women of the city break out in spontaneous praise to Yahweh (14a). Their stirring at the beginning of the book when Naomi returned (1.19) is similarly reflected here. The women are stirred this time to utter a blessing to the God of Israel. God is to praised for not leaving Naomi without a kinsman-redeemer. So she who returned empty has been filled through this son.

The women then turn their attention to the boy and bless him (14b-15). First, they seek for his name to “become famous” in Israel (NASB). Second, they declare that Naomi’s emptiness if ended since the child will be “a restorer of life” to Naomi and, presumably when he is grown, will sustain Naomi in her old age (literally, grey hair). The bitter emptiness that death brought her has been reversed (perhaps even resurrected) in the child born to Ruth. Third, there is a statement made about Ruth. She loves Naomi, they say, and she is more valuable than seven sons, having given birth to the boy. Truly, Ruth has loved Naomi, not only in staying with Naomi through all the calamity of chapter 1, nor in finding gainful employment to support both of them in chapter 2, but also in risking her reputation and very life to follow the plan of Naomi in chapter 3. The birth of the son who is, to these women, the kinsman-redeemer (though not a technical or legal way) of Naomi is yet another demonstration of Ruth’s love for Naomi. Certainly with this blessing whatever bitterness lingered in Naomi has dissipated.

The final two verses which close out the narrative (16-17) contain a summation of the story. Naomi receives the child onto her lap and becomes his nurse. Naomi’s emptiness is filled as she takes the child onto her lap and cares for him. Finally, the women name the boy and we find out his identity in the grand scheme of things. This completes the symmetry of the book as the neighbor women who had declared “Is this Naomi?” (1.19) now declare “Naomi has a son” and give him a name. He is Obed (his name means “one who serves”), the grandfather of the man who would be King David.

So the book ends with a final genealogical account tracing the Davidic lineage. It begins with Perez, the son of Judah and Tamar. Ten generations are listed, most of them nothing else is written about these men but their name. They served their purpose in their generation then died. So too does Obed. No other stories are tied to him. He too served his purpose: a comfort to Naomi, but also carrying on the lineage of David.

[1] Baldwin, 293.

[2] English is not the only language which has had difficulty with the phrase פְּלֹנִ֣י אַלְמֹנִ֑י. The Septuagint translates to “O Stranger” and the Vulgate side steps the issue with the ambiguous phrase “he called to him by name” (NAB).

[3] John Peter Lange et al., A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Ruth (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 47.

[4] Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, vol. 1 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 175.

[5] Block, 715.

[6] See Block, 716, who summarizes a summarization of Bush’s comments.

[7] Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 2 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996), 358.

[8] The NASB emphasizes this translating וַעֲשֵׂה־חַיִל “may you achieve wealth.”

[9] So the NIV reads “may you have standing.”

[10] So the NRSV reads “may you produce children.”

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A Golden Psalm – Psalm 16

Psalm 16 begins with the inscription “A Miktam of David.” Depending upon who you ask, miktam indicates how to sing the psalm or means “a golden psalm” (also 56-60). Either way, this Psalm contains the golden truth of the resurrection. According to Peter (Acts 2.25) & Paul (Acts 13.35), this psalm is about the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

1 Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.

“Preserve me” – keep me, protect me, guard me, save me. As shepherd with his sheep, a figure David would have identified with immediately. Here he is as a sheep calling out to the Shepherd.

2I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”

Without God, all is lost. Notice – three (3) names for God used in the first 2 verses: El, YHWH, Adoni.

3As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.

“the saints…are the excellent ones”: though they have no excellence in themselves; any excellence comes from God. “In whom is all my delight” – David finds his place among the people of God. On a more profound level, since this Psalm looks forward to Christ, Christ delights in His people.

Many people love God; but do they love being with God’s people? Do they love coming to church? Even among Christians, do you delight in being with God’s people? David did; Christ does – the Savior delights in the saints.

4The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips.

Notice the contrast: with God & His people there is “delight;” but away from God with other gods is “sorrow.” Idolatry only breeds “sorrow,” woe, pain. “Run after” can mean wed. Those who “marry” other gods end up with a sorrowful marriage. “Drink offerings of blood” may allude to the sacrifice of Molech which required a child. David says he never sacrificed to another God.

5The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.

According to the Law (Num 18.20), the sons of Aaron (priesthood) and the tribe of Levi had no portion of the land. God tells them He is their portion. David says YHWH is his portion, He is more than enough. “My cup” which satisfies the thirst of the dry soul.

“You hold my lot” – “A minister may fill his pews…but what that minister is on his knees in secret before God Almighty, that he is and nothing more.” – John Owen.

6The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

As David scoped out Jerusalem and surveyed the surrounding territory, he saw the “beautiful inheritance” of land God had given His people. On a higher level, Christ (Eph 1.18), when He surveys His people, His bride, the church, He sees His “beautiful inheritance.” Indeed, we, because we know Christ, consider the various blessings we now enjoy and how those will give way to something even more profound someday, we have a “beautiful inheritance.”

7I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.

Counsel from the YHWH blossoms & grows in our heart & mind. David would meditate upon God’s counsels even at midnight, being instructed by them.

“Wise men see more with their eyes shut by night that fools can see by day with their eyes open” (Spurgeon).

8I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

Perhaps at this point in his life the 1st part of this verse were true for David. “Always” had he set YHWH before him. However, you & I know the tragic episode in David’s life with Bathsheba where David set aside the Lord. But when you set the Lord always before you, He is close by and ready to save. While David is the type, Christ is the antitype. His is a life which never set aside the Lord, but truly kept Him ever before Him.

9Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.

“Therefore” since God is continually close…there is true joy & gladness that comes from the abiding presence of God. Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit (Lk 10.21). Brother Lawrence was a humble cook in a monastery, but his book on The Practice of the Presence of God is enlightening. “It isn’t necessary that we stay in church in order to remain in God’s presence. We can make our hearts personal chapels where we can enter anytime to talk to God privately. These conversations can be so loving and gentle, and anyone can have them” (37).

10For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.

“Sheol” is the unseen realm of disembodied souls (New Testament counterpart is Hades). When a person dies, they go here as a waiting place for final judgment. When David died, that’s where his soul went and his body saw decay. How much did David understand about what he is writing here? We know it speaks of resurrection (dead body coming back to life), but that was wholly unknown to David. It will be a century or two before the first resurrection takes place (by Elijah, 1 Kings 17). He had some inkling (v.11a)…

11You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

The path to eternal life realized in Christ. Christ lived that He might die. Christ died that He might live again forevermore. Christ lives to make us partakers of His life. “In His presence” is where Christ is with all His glory & full joy.

Several generations of God’s people sang, read, pondered, and prayed this psalm. The temple was built by David’s son and then razed to ashes; the Israelites went into captivity, taking this psalm with them. 70 years later, the Israelites returned to the land, carrying this psalm with them. Temples were built, desecrated, and rebuilt. Empires rose & fell. And then, after nearly 1,000 years, one summer morning, when the feast of Pentecost was in full swing, Jerusalem was full of cheer & gladness, the time arrived to put the key in the lock & unlock the full meaning of this psalm. The same Spirit that had inspired it, interpreted it through apostolic lips.

Kiss the Son – Psalm 2

Turmoil in the world tempts us to worry and wonder. Several of the Psalms are Messianic in significance. Psalm 2 is one such Psalm. Yet each Psalm had its own meaning when originally penned. This Psalm communicated to Israel that no matter how chaotic the world scene may be, their King is the Anointed of God. That David wrote this Psalm is unquestionable (Acts 4.25). Paul affirms this is the second Psalm (Acts 13.33). Author & location are established in NT.  This Psalm’s main emphasis is to highlight God’s sovereignty over man’s depravity. How is God sovereign over man’s depravity? Psalm 2 answers this.

Man’s Depravity (1-3)

1Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?

“Nations” are heathen nations, the Gentiles. “The peoples” are all mankind. They “rage” like the waves of the ocean. Why? B/c they are opposed to YHWH. It really is that simple. Since the beginning, man has rebelled against God’s way. Throughout history mankind has plotted in vain against God.

The Roman Empire plotted to vanquish Christianity from the earth…in vain.

19th century philosophers declared God is dead…in vain.

Militant Islam seeks to eliminate Christianity by killing the infidels…in vain.

Show me the burial place of Christianity. Show me where they buried God when He died. In fact, His tomb was found open, empty, with His grave clothes still there.

2The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,

Notice that man in rebellion 1) rages, 2) plots, 3) set themselves, 4) take counsel together, & 5) speak against God (YHWH) & His Anointed. “Anointed” in Hebrew is Messiah which translated into Greek became Christos from which we get Christ. Prophets (Isa 61.1), priests (Ex 30.30), and kings (1 Sam 16.13) were all anointed. So it is with Christ.

3“Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”

In other words, “Let us be out own gods.” This has been the cry of man since Eden when Satan tempted Eve to “be like God, knowing good & evil” or “to play at God, defining good & evil.” The inclination of man’s fallen heart is to reject God’s rule, even hating His Christ. Man’s inclination is to play at God and we are surrounded by a society whose favorite pastime is to (re)define good & evil.

The Lord’s Derision (4-6)

What is God’s reaction to all the depravity & rejection from mankind?

4He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.

The Lord sits in heaven and His kingdom is over all (103.19) whether man likes it or not, whether man acknowledges it or not. In heaven, the Lord laughs. What’s so funny? God laughs these puny men to scorn and His scorn is for vengeance. He is a jealous God – jealous for His glory & the glory of His Anointed. So He mocks at man’s attempts to diminish Him or even erase Him, as though such a thing were possible. He ridicules man’s attempts to escape His cosmic sovereign rule.

5Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying,

Some have attempted to eliminate the wrath of God from their Bibles. Nevertheless, it is a Bible subject. God’s holy wrath is kindled against sin, esp. the sin of self-deification (making self God), which is what the nations are about. Be assured: The love of God has averted His wrath away from us in Christ.

6“As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”

Consider what a mess this world is in and then remember what God says here. “God’s anointed is appointed & shall not be disappointed.” He rules from Zion regardless of how chaotic the world may be.

It’s as if God says to a rebellious mankind, “Ha! Rebel against me all you want. No matter what you do, what I’ve determined will come to pass will come to pass! Look! It’s as good as done. I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill”

A man once met Horace Greely, the famous newspaper editor, on the street and said, “Mr. Greely, I have stopped your paper.” “Have you?” Mr. Greely said, “that’s too bad,” and went on his way. The next morning, Mr. Greely met the man again, and said, “I thought you had stopped the Tribune?” “So I did,” was the reply. “Then there must be some mistake,” said Mr. Greely, “for I just came from the office and the presses were running, the clerks were as busy as ever, the compositors were hard at work, and the business was going on as yesterday and the day before.” “Oh,” said the man, “I didn’t mean I had stopped the entire newspaper. I meant that I had stopped my copy of it because I didn’t like your editorials.”

In the same way, individuals who rebel against God are like the man who proudly announced to Horace Greely that he had stopped his newspaper. They think that if they reject God’s rule in their life that they will stop God’s rule in the earth. But that’s not so. Whether a person rebels against God’s rule in his life or submits to God’s rule in his life, God is going to do what He has declared. God has declared that one day, despite mankind’s rebellion; Jesus Christ will reign upon the earth as King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

YHWH’s Decree (7-9)

7I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.

This is the decree of YHWH; it is the purpose of God – for David and the kingdom of Israel (the antitype/shadow) and for Jesus & the eternal kingdom (the type/substance). Herein lay the gospel (Acts 13.33). Thru His resurrection, Jesus was declared, finally & fully, to be the Son of God.

8Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.

A common custom among ancient near east kings was to give those to whom they favored whatever they ask. Thus, YHWH is pictured as sovereign monarch even over David.

9You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

Those who refuse to bend the knee the King will break with an iron rod. The words “break” & “dash” denote strong force even tho it is merely a “potter’s vessel” which is struck. Once more the frailty of man is juxtaposed with the supreme power of God. Let’s just say you do not want to be found opposing or rebelling against God!

Man’s Devotion (10-12)

Given the unalterable, eternal purposes of God, what should man do?

10Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 11Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.

If kings should take notice, how much more the subjects. God is supreme & the wise thing to do would be to take notice that God’s eternal purposes are fixed. It would be easier for a spider to move a mountain than for puny men to thwart God’s purposes or bring to nothing His Christ. Rather, men must “Serve YHWH…and rejoice…” Submission to & service in the kingdom is the wisest course men could take. Rejoicing under the rule of God is best. But all this is with “fear & trembling” (cf Phil 2.12-13) “Fear without joy, is torment; and joy, without holy fear, would be presumption.”

12Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

“Kiss the Son,” i.e. pay homage to Him. Replace hatred with homage. In modern vernacular, “Don’t be hatin’.” Hatred toward God will only serve to ignite the wrath of God. “The way” spoken of is the way of rebellion; that way only leads to rebellion.

The 1st Psalm taught us the character of the righteous; the 2nd Psalm teaches us the character of the Righteous One. Turmoil in the world tempts us to worry & wonder – Where’s God? This Psalm answers: “Reigning in His heaven.”

This Psalm ends with a beatitude & can be translated “Blessed are all those who trust in Him.” Honor the Son by trusting in Him.