The Word Made Fresh
1Boaz went to the town gate, and as soon as he sat down the man who was Naomi’s next of kin came by. Boaz said, “Come, my friend, sit down,” and he did.
2Then he gathered ten of the town’s elders and asked them to sit. 3Then he said to the next of kin, “Naomi, who has returned from Moab, is selling a field that belonged to her husband, our kinsman Elimelech. 4I thought I should tell you and ask if you wish to purchase it from her, with these elders as witnesses. If not, tell me, because you are next of kin, and after you I am her closest relative.”
The man said, “I will buy it.”
5Boaz said, “When you purchase the field from Naomi, you also redeem Ruth who is from Moab, and is the widow of Elimelech’s son. In this way the name of the dead will be remembered.”
6The man then said, “In that case I cannot redeem it without compromising my claim on my own property. I pass my right of redeeming it to you.”
7The custom in those former times in Israel was that, to confirm a deal, the one surrendering a right would remove a sandal and hand it to the one acquiring it. This was how such agreements were made legal. 8So, the man removed his sandal when he said, “I pass my right of redeeming it to you.”
9Boaz then announced to the elders and others who were witnesses, “Today you see that I have been given the right to acquire from Naomi the land that belonged to Elimelech, Mahlon, and Chilion. 10I also have received Ruth the Moabite, wife of Mahlon, to be my wife, and in so doing preserve the name of the dead for what would have been their inheritance. So, they will not be forgotten by his family or by his hometown. You are witnesses!”
11Everyone present, including the elders, said, “We are witnesses. May the LORD grant that the woman you are bringing into your house be like Rachel and Leah, who built up the family of Israel. 12May you have children in Ephrathah and make Bethlehem famous! May your family be like the family of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah!”
13Boaz and Ruth were married. The LORD blessed them, and Ruth became pregnant, and gave birth to a son. 14Then the women of the town all said to Naomi, “Praise the LORD, who has provided you with a next-of-kin. Let his name be famous in Israel! 15He is like a lifesaver to your family to bless you when you are old. Your daughter-in-law, who loves you as much as seven sons ever could, has given you a grandson!”
16Then Naomi took the child and held him close, and took care of him, 17and the women of her neighborhood gave him a name. They said, “A baby boy has been born for Naomi!” They named him Obed, who became the father of Jesse, who became the father of David. 18Here are the descendants of Perez: Perez was the father of Hezron, 19who was the father of Ram, who was the father of Amminadab, 20who was the father of Nahshon, who was the father of Salmon, 21who was the father of Boaz, who was the father of Obed, 22who was the father of Jesse, who was the father of David.
1-6: Boaz wastes no time, but goes directly to the town gate, the place where public legal transactions are made. The kinsman soon appears, and Boaz has him sit while they gather the required number of witnesses to a legal transaction. Boaz has been thinking things over carefully and begins the conversation by telling the man there is a parcel of land belonging to Elimelech, now deceased, that his widow Naomi wishes to sell. As next-of-kin, do you want to buy it, he asks. The kinsman agrees to buy the land. Then Boaz drops the other situation: buy the land, marry the widow. The kinsman balks then, saying that such an arrangement might somehow threaten his posterity. Perhaps, since the land would pass to Ruth’s child, he considers that he will lose the price of the land to his own estate that would otherwise go to his own children. In any case, he says no thanks, and Boaz is left a clear field to pursue Ruth himself, which is what he has obviously wanted to do for a while now.
7-12: The deal is sealed. Boaz has the land and the lady, and the townspeople offer their blessing. Now here is another interesting and perhaps comical twist: they say, “May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your house like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel.” Rachel and Leah were the wives of Jacob who bore twelve children. So, this blessing means, in effect, “May you and Ruth have a lot of children.” But the second part of the blessing is curious: “Through the children that the Lord will give you by this young woman, may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.” Judah was the son of Jacob, of course. Tamar was his widowed daughter-in-law who pretended to be a harlot in order to get Judah to make her pregnant (see Genesis 38). She bore twins: the first was Perez, although the other, Zerah, had appeared to be ready to come out of the womb first. Are the townspeople subtly letting Boaz know that they know about Ruth’s nocturnal visit to the threshing floor? Or are they equating Boaz, the second in line to acquire the field (and the widow), with Perez, who appeared to be the second born, but came out first? I imagine when the story of Ruth is told around the campfires of Israel, the listeners greet this “blessing” with wry smiles.
13-17: Ruth and Boaz are married and have a son. Naomi is the child’s nurse, and it is clear that Naomi has greatly benefited from Ruth’s marriage to the wealthy Boaz. The women of Bethlehem name the baby Obed, and we are told that the baby will be the grandfather of King David.
18-21: The narrative now traces the genealogy back to Perez (twin son of Tamar and her father-in-law, Judah), and lists the generations down to Boaz and Obed and on to David, about whom we will read in just a couple of weeks.
In the midst of the steady moral decline of Israel we saw throughout Judges, there are still good people who worship God and who in turn are blessed. Ruth is a stellar example of a foreigner who accepts the God of Israel as her God, and in so doing becomes an heir of God’s promises. This is, of course, in contrast to the examples in Judges of the Israelites who forsook the covenant with God and worshiped the pagan deities of other peoples, and lost God’s promises.