Ruth and Boaz Marry
1 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. 2 Then Boaz took 10 men of the towns elders and said, Sit here. And they sat down. 3 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. 4 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 isnt anyone other than you to redeem it, and I am next after you.
I want to redeem it, he answered.
5 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 mans name on his property.
6 The redeemer replied, I cant redeem it myself, or I will ruin my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption, because I cant redeem it.
7 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.
8 So the redeemer removed his sandal and said to Boaz, Buy back the property yourself.
9 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, Mahlons widow, as my wife, to perpetuate the deceased mans 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. ESV
What means more to you and me—people or possessions? Oh, I know what we’re supposed to say—“people”. Yes, we all do quite well in theory. We give the proper answer and congratulate ourselves on our knowledge. However, life isn’t about theory. Life concerns practice; it demands hard, costly choices that stretch us and our faith.
When an unnamed law expert heard the story we call the parable of the Good Samaritan, he was able to give the right answer! But Christ did not commend him for having such keen theoretical knowledge. He pointed him to a new practical way of life that would demand faith and love. Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37). In the same way, the story of Ruth is about costly love, and in this section, we see two men confronted with the need for costly, redeeming love. Let us listen, not to learn, but to live by faith in Christ.
I. Boaz sets up the process for redemption (4:1-2).
1. Boaz went to the right place to be able to function as the redeemer. The city gate was where legal matters transactions occurred. Boaz needs to be there to be able to redeem Ruth. God wants us to be in places to fulfill his will.
Apply: Christ has sent us “into the world” (Jn 17:18). We must always carry this missional perspective with us, wherever we may go.
2. The Hebrew text carries the idea of surprise. Boaz is waiting at the gate, “and just then” the other kinsman redeemer walks by. Yes, this is a small providence, but the Lord often helps his people in little ways as they do his will.
Point: Do what you’re supposed to do (the imperatives that Christ has given to his people in the New Testament Scriptures). Then wait on the Lord for his help in the details.
B. Boaz makes sure all is done legally.
1. He invites the other man to talk with him. “My friend” is too generous a translation. Better is “Mr. So and So.” The Holy Spirit does not name the man, though Boaz surely knew who he was. The significance of this will become clearer in the rest of the chapter. But the phrase used is not complimentary. Think of how you can refer to someone as “so and so” either not to reveal their identity or to imply that he/she is a “mean old so and so.”
2. He gets ten of the elders of Bethlehem to function as legal witnesses for this discussion. Their job is to make sure that all is done in a legal manner and to testify to the result, if that should prove necessary.
Illustration: Jesus relied on witnesses about his saving work: the Father (Jn 8:12-18), John the Baptist (Jn 1:29-34), and the apostles (Ac 1:8). Our ongoing mission is to be a witness for Jesus.
II. Boaz negotiates with the other kinsman redeemer (4:3-8).
From the manner in which he presented the matter, we find out that Boaz was a clever or shrewd businessman.
A. Boaz presents the need to act as a kinsman redeemer (4:3-4).
1. He tells his relative about the land that Naomi wants to sell. Clearly, she had the right to do this, since none of the elders object (cf. Lev 25:8-28). She would need to sell the land to support both Ruth and her. This probably looked like an excellent real estate deal, since Elimelech and his sons had not left any heirs. If he purchased it, at the year of Jubilee, it would permanently become his, since he was the closest relative.
2. The unnamed relative jumps at this deal. He can look good in town by helping out Naomi and keeping the property in the clan, which meant much to the people of Israel. And when Naomi is gone, the property will be his, since she is past childbearing.
Comment: Do you get the suspense of the story at this point? It seems that Ruth will not be able to marry Boaz and that the family of Elimelech might disappear from Israel. Will the story end in this sad way?
B. Boaz adds conditions to the deal (4:5).
1. Having shown what his relative is able and willing to do, Boaz proceeds to show what he is not willing to do. Boaz tells him that the cost to redeem is greater than he thought.
Comment: The people of Christ’s time had wrong ideas about the work of the Messiah. They thought that all that was involved was freeing Israel from political oppressors. “Defeat the Romans and we’re free! We believe you can do that Jesus! You can be our king” (Jn 6:15). But when Jesus explained them what God’s plan for the Messiah really was, they weren’t interested. The cost to be Messiah was greater than they thought.
2. Boaz tells “Mr. So and So” that he must also marry Ruth to maintain the name of her dead husband (and through him, Elimelech’s name also). In that culture, the first son born to Ruth would inherit all the property that had belonged to Elimelech, and thus his name would not vanish from Israel. (Recall that the people and the land where important concepts in old covenant Israel.) This reveals the full cost of this redemption. If he redeemed the land, he would not simply gain title to it at the year of Jubilee, because Elimelech would have an heir, and it would go to Ruth’s son. Put simply, the man would be out the price of redemption with nothing to show for it, and his own family would lose the money that he had spent to redeem and to care for Naomi and Ruth.
C. Faced with these conditions, “Mr. So and So” refuses to be the kinsman redeemer.
1. It is important to realize that he was under no legal obligation to redeem. It was a voluntary act. As far as the law was concerned, he was okay. But as far as love, kindness, loyalty and compassion were concerned, he failed miserably. As far as we know, he had not helped Naomi and Ruth; now, he flatly refuses to help. His money meant more than kindness.
Apply: This is where the story can get uncomfortable! Do we too easily look for excuses not to help others in need? They might need the kindness we can show, but do we look for a way out, for a way to justify our inaction? “It might cost me too much! I might endanger my retirement fund!” Yep, you might. But where are you seeking to build up treasure?
2. So then, he handed over his rights to redeem to Boaz. Guess what? He got to keep his money! But there is something else. He vanishes from the pages of Biblical history, but God has something better in store for Boaz, though neither man knew it at the time.
Apply: In chapter one, we saw the contrast between Ruth and Orpah. Neither one had to return with Naomi to Bethlehem. Both were legally free from any obligation to help her. Orpah took the easy way and stayed in Moab. Ruth made the hard choice of faith and trusted that God would help her as she helped Naomi. And as the story has unfolded, we have seen God’s blessing on Ruth, since she trusted in him. In this chapter, we see two men, Boaz and his unnamed relative, who have a choice to make. “Mr. So and So” makes the easy, worldly wise choice, and like Orpah, he walks away from the story of God’s glory and is lost in history. Boaz made the hard, costly choice to redeem and is remembered wherever the Bible is read. What choice are you making? Are you making the easy choice to enjoy life now? Or are you making the hard choice to lay up treasure in heaven?
Apply: But we should see more. In the hard choice of Boaz, we should see the One who is greater than Boaz, the Lord Jesus Christ. He did not have to redeem us. He could justly have let us perish forever in hell. But love and kindness stirred him to make the hardest, most costly choice. He chose to take our sins upon him and die on the cross as our substitute, in order to pay the full penalty for us. He did that for us so that we might be free from sin and live forever with him in glory. Are you trusting in Christ our Redeemer? Are you praising him for dying to set you free? Are you rejoicing in his redeeming love? Today, right where you sit, turn from your rejection of God, your refusal to love God and others, and your rebellion against his ways and trust in the Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ. If you call on him, he will save you. If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9).
Pastor Dave Frampton
The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are featured here at CMC. As a Bible teacher he excels. Teachers and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church.