In Part 3, we see that Ruth offers herself to Boaz, a near kinsman, desiring him to take on the role of redeemer. It was her right by Mosaic law to have a child to raise up in the name of her dead husband and be cared for while raising him. There was only one problem: there was another kinsman who was closer in relation than Boaz was. The obligation of kinsman-redeemer would have fallen to him first.
In the last part, I wrote:
Naomi counsels Ruth to “sit still” to see how things play out. She realizes Boaz will vigorously pursue his responsibilities and his desire for Ruth.
In the next chapter, we will see if Boaz is a good enough salesman to talk his way into fulfilling the role or not. We will also briefly meet this other relative. Who is he? Would he be interested? More importantly, who or what does he symbolize?
What is Ruth being redeemed from? Starvation, for one thing. In addition, this was still the time of the judges, although it apparently was during one of the most peaceful periods. The entire era of the judges was marked by chaos, confusion and lawlessness. Having a kinsman-redeemer adds stability within an unstable world.
Sound familiar? That is what is offered a Christian. A Christian is still affected by the sins and evils of this world, but he or she is also offered a port in the storm.
The question is: If there was a nearer kinsman, where has he been all this time?
11 And Boaz answered and said unto her, It hath fully been shewed me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother in law since the death of thine husband: and how thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people which thou knewest not heretofore.
~ Ru 2:11
It hardly seems that Naomi’s and Ruth’s situation was unknown. Someone had to inform Boaz of what was going on, so evidently someone knew. If there were a nearer kinsman, why wasn’t he the first to know? I intend to argue that he did know did not care. Naomi’s return to Israel was hardly done in a corner, and Ruth being a Moabitess was undoubtedly the source of talk as well. The above passage proves that it was not secret, and we will see that there is no further explanation that needs to be given to the nearest kinsman.
So, Boaz proceeds to the city gate early in the morning. It would have been early in the day when judges and kings decided matters before the heat of the day set in.
2 And Absalom rose up early, and stood beside the way of the gate: and it was so, that when any man that had a controversy came to the king for judgment, then Absalom called unto him, and said, Of what city art thou? And he said, Thy servant is of one of the tribes of Israel.
~ 2Sa 15:2
Absalom knew that matters were judged early in the day. They may have even still been heard in the open outdoors. There would have been lines waiting to see the king. Absalom worked up the crowds each day, gaining their loyalty.
So, Boaz showed up at the city gate first thing in the morning, and started pulling in the elders of the city and snags the nearest kinsman. He then begins his speech.
3 And he said unto the kinsman, Naomi, that is come again out of the country of Moab, selleth a parcel of land, which was our brother Elimelech’s:
4 And I thought to advertise thee, saying, Buy it before the inhabitants, and before the elders of my people. If thou wilt redeem it, redeem it: but if thou wilt not redeem it, then tell me, that I may know: for there is none to redeem it beside thee; and I am after thee….
So far, Boaz stresses that it is Naomi’s property. She has already had children, and she is almost surely beyond child bearing years anyhow. This is a great opportunity, the kinsman would think. He would spend some money now, and raise even more crops and make a killing.
What would possibly go wrong?
… And he said, I will redeem it.
~ v 4e
However, Boaz is not done. He now drops the hammer.
5 Then said Boaz, What day thou buyest the field of the hand of Naomi, thou must buy it also of Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance.
~ v 5
There’s a catch. Ruth, who we are reminded is a Moabitess on top of it all, needs heirs. He started off assuming the deal involved only Naomi, which wouldn’t have complicated his inheritance at all. However, Ruth was of childbearing age and without any sons!
6 And the kinsman said, I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I mar mine own inheritance: redeem thou my right to thyself; for I cannot redeem it.
~ v 6
He is obviously married with children, perhaps even grown children. He doesn’t want to “mar” his inheritance. He has responsibilities, and this will definitely complicate things.
Notice as well what he doesn’t say! He does not ask who Ruth is or what her relationship to Naomi is. Therefore, he must have heard something about the situation. If that is the case, then why wasn’t he more involved at the beginning?
Well, Boaz does redeem the land and Ruth. He fulfills the duties that an uncaring party was supposed to carry out.
We live in a world that was given over to a spirit who does not care about you and I. He is actively working against God and His plan for us. He would rather kill and destroy.
Unlike the being that should be helping out but instead does not care, our Kinsman-Redeemer does care. He has been actively working with us ever since we drew closer to Him and declared our allegiance to Him, even as Ruth declared her devotion to Naomi, Israel and God.
Now comes an odd section.
7 Now this was the manner in former time in Israel concerning redeeming and concerning changing, for to confirm all things; a man plucked off his shoe, and gave it to his neighbour: and this was a testimony in Israel.
8 Therefore the kinsman said unto Boaz, Buy it for thee. So he drew off his shoe.
~ Ru 4:7-8
The reference to “manner in former time” means it has become a ceremonial action. The original intent of loosening one’s shoe was to be done by the woman who was insulted, and it was meant as a means of shame. The shame was reinforced by her spitting in his face. Over time, it has lost its meaning, like many traditions do.
8 Then the elders of his city shall call him, and speak unto him: and if he stand to it, and say, I like not to take her;
9 Then shall his brother’s wife come unto him in the presence of the elders, and loose his shoe from off his foot, and spit in his face, and shall answer and say, So shall it be done unto that man that will not build up his brother’s house.
10 And his name shall be called in Israel, The house of him that hath his shoe loosed.
So, the elders give their witness and blessing upon the commitment that Boaz has made. It is now official.
Ruth’s courage, commitment and love to Naomi becomes the object of praise among women. She is “better to thee than seven sons” (v 15). Since sons carry the name and are the primary inheritors, this is quite a praise!
Don’t tune out yet, though. We are lastly given the famous lineage that leads up to David. Israel benefitted from the actions of Ruth in ways that Ruth, Naomi and Boaz could never have foreseen! Blessings spread out to others, and when we are doing what we are supposed to be doing, they will multiply beyond our wildest dreams.
Ultimately, as the ancestors of David, Ruth and Boaz are also the ancestors of Jesus Christ. It was not merely Israel that benefitted. It was the entire world.
The story of Ruth, then, has many levels. It is a story of tragedy and recovery. It is a story of tribulation and restoration. However, it is a story of love (Ruth for Naomi, Ruth for Boaz, and Boaz for both). It is most certainly a story of commitment (something sadly lacking in this world). It is the story of how blessings multiply and ripple out in unforeseen ways when we are doing what God’s will is.
Most of all, it contains types for the Church, being called out even from the gentiles, and for Christ, the Kinsman-Redeemer. Christ redeems us from a selfish and uncaring guardian.
What of Naomi? She represents Israel! She once was blessed by God, then she lost it all. She thought all was lost, but along comes a woman with commitment and love like she’d never seen before. God cares about her as well, but it will be through the actions of the Kinsman-Redeemer and the Church that her own redemption will take place.
Now, as Passover nears, how thankful are we for being redeemed? Are we exhibiting the positive qualities of hard work and commitment towards those depending upon us and keeping faithful to stay in the fields of our Kinsman-Redeemer? Are we looking forward to the marriage ceremony when He comes to claim what He has paid for? Are we thankful that it was He who controls our lives instead of an uncaring guardian?