Ruth: Chapter 4

1. Where did Boaz go to conduct the transaction?

Now Boaz went up to the gate and sat down there” (Ruth 4:1). City gates were the customary places to do public business in those days, where the elders of the city would hold court (Deuteronomy 21:19).

2. Who all did he ask to come aside?

First, Boaz encountered the previously mentioned relative and invited him to sit down (Ruth 4:1; cf. 3:12-13). The name of the relative was either unknown to the narrator or deliberately omitted. The actual record states “Come aside so and so.” Then, he brought ten of the city’s elders (Ruth 4:2). The value of witnesses should never be forgotten (2nd Corinthians 13:1).

3. What opportunity did Boaz inform his relative of and was the man interested?

Previously unmentioned in the narrative is the fact that Naomi had sold land which belonged to Elimelech (Ruth 4:3). Evidently, more communication took place between Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz than is directly stated; else he would not have been aware of the land transaction. Boaz invited the kinsman to redeem the land as the Law provided (Leviticus 25:23-31), and the man was pleased to do so (Ruth 4:4).

4. What condition did Boaz further inform the relative of and how did that information affect his choice?

Boaz let the man know that the widow Ruth came with the land as a package deal (Ruth 4:5). If he claimed the status of redeeming relative for the land (Leviticus 25:25) he would need to do likewise for the woman (Deuteronomy 25:5-6). With this condition presented to him, the relative declined to fulfill the role of a redeemer (Ruth 4:6). Had he merely acquired the land, he would have increased his own possessions accordingly. However, with the marriage, he would have gained the financial obligation of a wife, the financial obligation of the children produced by that marriage, and the land would be inherited by Ruth’s son in the name of her late husband, not in his own name; and thus he would have lost the amount he invested in the redemption price of the land.

5. How was the transaction completed?

The unnamed relative removed his sandal and gave it to Boaz as confirmation of the deal (Ruth 4:7-8). This was customary at the time the story took place, but not when it was written down (Ruth 4:7) at least two generations later (Ruth 4:22). In later times, a written deed was customary (Jeremiah 32:6-15). The custom appears to have been derived from the Law of Levirate marriage (Deuteronomy 25:7-10), yet in this instance was clearly not an application of that Law for two reasons. First, it is here described as merely customary, not legally required. Second, the woman in this instance did not fulfill the entirety of what the Law prescribed, for she did not spit in the man’s face.

6. How did the witnesses respond?

They confirmed what they had witnessed (Ruth 4:9-11). They invoked the blessing of Jehovah that Ruth would be as fruitful as Rachel and Leah (Ruth 4:11), the matriarchs of Israel. They further invoked God’s blessing that Boaz would prosper and be famous as a Bethlehemite (Ruth 4:11). They furthermore invoked divine blessing that the house of Boaz and Ruth would be likened to that Perez (Ruth 4:12), the son of Judah by Tamar, the woman he redeemed, in a way, though dubiously (Genesis 38). Like Ruth, Tamar was a foreign woman, and she was an ancestor of Boaz’s (Ruth 4:18-21).

7. What transpired when Ruth became Boaz's wife?

When he went in to her, the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son” (Ruth 4:13). Notice that it was the Lord who gave conception; children are the gift of God (Psalm 127:3-5). Bearing a son was, of course, the goal of Levirate marriage to produce an heir for Ruth’s late husband (Deuteronomy 25:5-6).

8. Describe the reaction of the neighbor women.

They blessed Jehovah for providing Naomi an heir, asking that he be made famous (Ruth 4:14). Of course, he was, at least indirectly, famous as the grandfather of Israel’s great king David (Ruth 4:22) and was included in the ancestry of Christ Jesus (Matthew 1:5). They saw the child as a restorer of life for Naomi (Ruth 4:15) in contrast to the bitterness with which she returned to Bethlehem (Ruth 1:20-21). They also esteemed Ruth very highly, describing her love as better than that of seven sons (Ruth 4:15).

9. Who became a nurse to the child?

Naomi herself, the child’s grandmother, became a nurse to Obed (Ruth 4:16), which demonstrated a physical fulfillment of his role as her restorer, though she was the one nourishing him.

10. Who named the child?

The neighbor women gave him a name, saying, ‘There is a son born to Naomi.’ And they called his name Obed” (Ruth 4:17). Apparently, the village was very much a part of each person’s intimate life in that place and time. Even so, however, the consent of the parents was necessary for they could have overruled (Luke 1:59-63). Yet the name, which means either “Worshipper” or “Servant”, stuck.

11. Who were Obed's notable descendants?

Obed became the grandfather of King David (Ruth 4:17, 22) and an ancestor of Christ Jesus (Matthew 1:5).

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