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Basic Bible: Ruth Marries Boaz

Ruth 4:1-10

When Naomi’s husband, Elimelech, departed from Bethlehem to go to Moab, he sold his land. In Israel of that day land sales were temporary, somewhat like property leases of today. Unlike leases of today, all temporary sales of land expired on the same date without regard of the date of purchase. That date was prescribed by the law of Moses to fall in the fiftieth year, the year of jubilee, with the first observance being fifty years after taking possession of the land of Canaan. All land which was sold in Israel was to be restored to the original owner or his descendants in that year. Land, however, could be redeemed before the year of jubilee if the original seller had the means to do so.

Because Elimelech died and had no living sons, a close relative had the right to redeem the land in his place. The relative, in so doing, was required to assume the responsibility of Elimelech’s son. That responsibility directly involved Ruth, the widow of Elimelech’s deceased son, Mahlon. The custom of the time (see Deut. 25:5-6) required a younger brother to take the widow of his deceased brother as his wife and raise up children in his brother’s name. The close relative, in redeeming the land, would be required to marry Ruth and raise up children in Mahlon’s name.

In chapter 3, Ruth proposed to Boaz that he assume the role of the close relative — that he take her as his wife and that he redeem the land for Mahlon. Boaz was willing to do this, but he, while a close relative, was not the closest relative (kinsman) of Elimelech. Boaz did not wish to usurp the right of the closest kinsman.

In the text before us, Boaz addresses the kinsman before witnesses.

Boaz went to the gate of Bethlehem and waited for the kinsman to come by. The gate of the city would be located upon the main thoroughfare which both residents and visitors would travel. Everyone, coming and going, passed through the gate. It was also the place where elders gathered to discuss current events and a place where important business transactions were conducted.

When Boaz saw the close kinsman pass, he hailed him and asked him to sit down. Boaz then invited ten elders to be witnesses to what he was about to propose. There is nothing in the law of Moses which would require ten witnesses. Two witnesses would be sufficient. Ten witnesses may have been a local custom when documenting important transactions. There can be no doubt: Boaz wanted what was about to happen to be well documented.

Boaz explained the situation. He informed the near kinsman that he (Boaz) was making it known, before witnesses, that he (the kinsman) had the right to redeem Elimelech’s land. Boaz told him that if he did not redeem the land, then he (Boaz) would redeem it.

The close kinsman apparently had the financial means to redeem the land and quickly stated that he would do so (v. 4). The close kinsman may or may not have realized that he was in the position to add to his wealth by redeeming Elimelech’s land before Boaz informed him of that fact. His eagerness to redeem the land suggests that he may not have known anything of Elimelech’s death or of Naomi’s circumstances and return to Bethlehem. When Boaz informed the near kinsman that redeeming the land would require him to take Ruth as his wife and to raise up children in the name of Mahlon, the kinsman balked. Raising up a son in Mahlon’s name would necessitate the transfer of all the kinsman’s property to a future son that Ruth might bear. The kinsman was willing to add to his own possessions, but unwilling to part with his own inheritance which would transfer to an unborn son of Ruth.

The close kinsman plucked off his shoe to signify that he was forfeiting all right to redeem Elimelech’s land and transferring that right to Boaz.

Boaz turned to the elders and announced that he had purchased all that was Elimelech’s, and all that was Mahlon’s, and all that was Chilion’s (Elimelech’s second son who had also perished). Boaz also announced that he had purchased Ruth the Moabitess as his wife and that he would raise up a son in Mahlon’s name such that Mahlon’s name would not be cut off from his brethren.

The story of Ruth ends with Ruth being blessed with the birth of a son, Obed. Obed was the father of Jesse, who was the father of David, of whose line was the Lord Jesus Christ.

The book of Ruth illustrates a truth that God would have us to understand and to act upon. God chose to bless Ruth because Ruth chose Him. Ruth, in choosing God, became a blessing to others. Her gathering of grain and her marriage to Boaz resulted in blessings that could only be found in following the law given by God. When we act according to God’s will, He blesses and gives increased blessings. For Ruth, the Lord multiplied her blessing by placing her in the lineage of the promised Son of David who blesses all who believe and receive Him as their redeemer.

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