RUTH: A Love Story (Part 7)

“Now Boaz went up to the gate and sat down there; and behold, the close relative of whom Boaz had spoken came by. So Boaz said, ‘Come aside, friend, sit down here.’ So he came aside and sat down. And he took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, ‘Sit down here.’ So they sat down. Then he said to the close relative, ‘Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, sold the piece of land which belonged to our brother Elimelech. And I thought to inform you, saying, ‘Buy it back in the presence of the inhabitants and the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if you will not redeem it, then tell me, that I may know; for there is no one but you to redeem it, and I am next after you.’ And he said, ‘I will redeem it.’ Then Boaz said, ‘On the day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you must also buy it from Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to perpetuate the name of the dead through his inheritance.’ And the close relative said, ‘I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I ruin my own inheritance. You redeem my right of redemption for yourself, for I cannot redeem it'” (Ruth 4:1-6).

At this point in Israelite history, the business transactions were generally conducted at the gates of the city. Thus, Boaz traveled to the city gates to tend to the important business at hand. After he found the closest relative of Elimelech’s family, Boaz opened a legal court session by gathering ten of the elders to witness the discussion between himself and the man (cf. Deut. 25:5ff).

Boaz began by mentioning property that Naomi had evidently sold at one time. It was the duty of the closest relative to buy back that property, if possible (to keep the land in the family). The man was willing to redeem Naomi’s property. However, Boaz then went on to explain that a foreign wife was included in the redemption. The closest relative may have understood that Naomi was past the age of bearing children and that therefore the marriage law of Deuteronomy 25 would not have applied to him. He initially did not understand that for him to play the role of redeemer for Elimelech’s family he would have to purchase their land and raise up an heir in the name of Elimelech. In this case, Ruth would naturally be the one to be married since Naomi had indicated earlier that she was not considering marriage for herself.

The closest relative then changed his mind after learning that there was more to the situation than merely redeeming land. He was interested in the land but not in the responsibility to raise up an heir for his deceased relative. He feared that he would ruin his own inheritance in so doing. This closest relative understood that if he acquired the field by redemption it would be his own permanent property since there was no male heir of Elimelech to receive it. Thus, this purchase would benefit him by increasing the amount of land he and his family possessed. However, initially, he didn’t figure that he’d have to raise up an heir for Elimelech through Ruth. If this was part of the redemption, it wasn’t a good deal for him anymore. In fact, he would actually lose money (i.e., part of the inheritance that would go to his sons). This is the case because if he redeemed Elimelech’s property and bore a son through Ruth, then that son would be the heir of that land and the money the closest relative spent to redeem it would leave his family forever. It is sad that the man was not willing to do the right thing for his relatives because it would hurt him financially. However, in this case, it was for the best because it would permit Boaz himself to buy back the land and marry Ruth.

“Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging, to confirm anything: one man took off his sandal and gave it to the other, and this was a confirmation in Israel. Therefore the close relative said to Boaz, ‘Buy it for yourself.’ So he took off his sandal. And Boaz said to the elders and all the people, ‘You are witnesses this day that I have bought all that was Elimelech’s, and all that was Chillion’s and Mahlon’s, from the hand of Naomi. Moreover, Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of Mahlon, I have acquired as my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead through his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brethren and from his position at the gate. You are witnesses this day'” (Ruth 4:7-10).

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