Ruth 4
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Then went Boaz up to the gate, and sat him down there: and, behold, the kinsman of whom Boaz spake came by; unto whom he said, Ho, such a one! turn aside, sit down here. And he turned aside, and sat down.
Ch. 4. Ruth’s marriage and descendants

1. Now Boaz went up] He had decided to redeem Elimelech’s estate if the next of kin refused the obligation; this is the primary meaning of the transaction about to be described. went up, i.e. from the threshing-floor; cf. go down Ruth 3:3, of the opposite direction. Bethlehem is situated on the summit of two knolls.

the gate] where family law was administered, Deuteronomy 25:7; cf. Deuteronomy 3:11 n. Boaz knew that the Go’el would be passing out of the town in the morning.

Ho, such a one!] A form of address indicating a definite person without expressly naming him; cf. 1 Samuel 21:2, 2 Kings 6:8 (of a place).

And he took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, Sit ye down here. And they sat down.
2. the elders] possessed magisterial authority, and could be summoned to deal not only with criminal charges (Deuteronomy 19:12; Deuteronomy 21:2-4, 1 Kings 21:8 ff.), but with cases affecting the rights of a family (Deuteronomy 25:7-9).

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:
3. selleth] The tense is perfect, and implies is resolved to sell; the sale does not take place till Ruth 4:9. Cf. Genesis 23:11; Genesis 23:13, for the same idiomatic use of the perfect. Naomi came into possession of her husband’s property after his death, see Ruth 4:9 n.; this was not in accordance with Pentateuchal law, which says nothing about the inheritance of widows.

our brother] in the wider sense of member of a family or race; cf. Exodus 2:11, Leviticus 19:17, Jdg 14:3 etc.

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. And he said, I will redeem it.
4. disclose it] See marg.; lit. the phrase means to draw aside the long hair covering the ear in order to whisper something; cf. 1 Samuel 9:15; 1 Samuel 20:2 and elsewhere in Samuel.

them that sit here] appear to be all the people of Ruth 4:9; Ruth 4:11, as distinct from the elders.

If thou wilt redeem it, redeem it] It was for the Go’el to decide whether he would buy the land or allow it to pass out of the family; Leviticus 25:25. A parallel case occurs in Jeremiah 32:7-9 : Jeremiah’s cousin, wishing to sell some family property, offers it first to the prophet as next of kin; the prophet exercises his right and buys in the estate.

but if thou wilt not redeem it] See marg.; a slight correction required by the context.

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.
5. thou must buy it also of Ruth] The text is certainly wrong, for it gives a misleading sense; with a small change read as in Ruth 4:10, Ruth also thou must buy, with Vulg., Pesh.; the LXX. gives both translations! Rendered strictly the whole sentence runs ‘What day thou buyest … thou wilt have bought (perf.) Ruth also’; see Driver, Tenses, § 124.

In primitive and semi-primitive societies women have no independent rights of their own; they are treated as part of the property of the family to which they belong. Hence ‘a wife who had been brought into her husband’s house by contract and payment of a price to her father was not free by the death of her husband to marry again at will. The right to her hand lay with the nearest heir of the dead’ (Robertson Smith, Encycl. Bibl., col. 4166). This was the old law in Arabia to the time of Mohammed, and that it prevailed with some modifications among the ancient Hebrews is shewn by the narrative in Genesis 38. (see on Ruth 1:13 above), by the law of levirate marriage in Deuteronomy 25:5 ff., and by the present story, which implies that for the nearest kinsman to marry the widow was regarded as an act of compassion. It is important to notice that the law of Deuteronomy 25:5 ff, applies only to the case of brothers living together on the same estate; if one dies without a son, the survivor is bound to marry the widow. But neither the Go’el here, nor Boaz, was a brother of Ruth’s late husband; this, therefore, was not a levirate marriage. Again, in the Pentateuch (Leviticus 25.) the Go’el is not required to purchase the widow as well as the land of the dead kinsman, and it is clear that in the present case the Go’el did not consider that he was under an obligation to do so; he agrees to purchase the land (Ruth 4:4), but when he is told that this involves the purchase of Ruth, he withdraws his consent. At the same time we gather from his language in Ruth 4:6, and from the applause of the people in the gate, that custom admitted the propriety of the double purchase. It was in fact a work of charity, going beyond the strict letter of the law but sanctioned by ancient usage, and thoroughly in keeping with the generous, kindly disposition of Boaz. The writer holds him up as an edifying example.

to raise up the name of the dead] Again the law of levirate marriage furnishes a parallel; the object of such a marriage was ‘to raise up unto his brother a name in Israel’ Deuteronomy 25:7, as well as to prevent the estate passing out of the family. To leave behind no name in the community was considered a grave misfortune (cf. Ruth 4:10); it meant that the dead was deprived of the reverence and service of posterity (cf. 2 Samuel 18:18). This feeling may be traced back to the religious instinct which prompted the worship of ancestors.

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.
6. lest I mar mine own inheritance] When the Go’el learns that if he redeems the estate he is expected to marry the widow, he takes back his promise (Ruth 4:4). He declares that he cannot afford to be so generous. If he were to have a son by Ruth, the child would take the name and estate of the dead, and the Go’el would have only a temporary usufruct in the property, and in the end lose it altogether (Robertson Smith l.c.).

take thou my right of redemption on thee] Since the Go’el declines, the right to redeem falls on Boaz as the next nearest kinsman.

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.
7. in former time in Israel] Cf. 1 Samuel 9:9, which begins similarly. Driver (Introd.8, p. 455) thinks that the present verse is also an explanatory gloss, because it is not needed in the narrative, and has the appearance of being a later addition; see, however, the Introduction, p. xiv.

a man drew off his shoe, and gave it to his neighbour] This old custom was not altogether intelligible in the writer’s day, so he gives an explanation of it. When property was transferred, as in the present case, to take off the sandal and hand it to the person in whose favour the transfer is made, gave a symbolic attestation to the act and invested it with legal validity (Driver, Deut., p. 283). The same symbolism was used on other occasions, and with varying significance. Thus, when a deceased husband’s brother declined to contract a levirate marriage, the widow loosed his sandal from off his foot in token that he renounced his right to make her his wife, Deuteronomy 25:9; cf. the Arabic form of divorce, ‘she was my slipper and I have cast her off’ (Robertson Smith, Kinship etc., p. 269); the action implied at the same time a feeling of contempt, which is probably denoted by the expression in Psalm 60:8; Psalm 108:9[5]. The drawing off of the sandal also symbolized among the later Arabs the renunciation of an oath of fealty to a sovereign: his authority was withdrawn as the sandal from the foot (Goldziher, Abhandl. z. Arab. Philologie, i. p. 47).

[5] Cf. the story told by Burton, Land of Midian, ii, p. 196 f.: a man who owned 2000 date-palms was asked by the leader of a band of robbers to sell them; and when he suggested that an offer should be made, the robber, taking off his sandal, exclaimed ‘with this!’ For the Jewish practice of Chalîtzah, i.e. ‘removal’ of the shoe, see Oesterley and Box, Rel. and Worship of the Synagogue (1907), p. 294 f.

Therefore the kinsman said unto Boaz, Buy it for thee. So he drew off his shoe.
And Boaz said unto the elders, and unto all the people, Ye are witnesses this day, that I have bought all that was Elimelech's, and all that was Chilion's and Mahlon's, of the hand of Naomi.
9. Ye are witnesses] Cf. Ruth 4:11. With this appeal for confirmation cf. Joshua 24:22, 1 Samuel 12:5.

I have bought … of the hand of Naomi] More idiomatically the Hebr. perf. should be rendered in English I buy, i.e. I stipulate to buy; cf. the perf. in Ruth 4:3 selleth. The purchase-money was to go to Naomi; she had inherited all the family property; even Mahlon’s and Chilion’s land had passed to their mother, not to their widows, probably because the latter were foreigners. The right of a widow to any share in her husband’s estate is not recognized in the Pentateuch2[6]; but later practice allowed provision to be made (Jdt 8:7), and permitted the husband to insert a clause in the marriage settlement giving his widow the right to dwell in his house after him, and to be nourished from his wealth all the days of her widowhood; Talm. Kethuboth iv. 8.

[6] Contrast the provision of the ancient Babylonian Code: the widow is entitled to her marriage-portion and the settlement which her husband had secured to her in writing, and is allowed to live in his dwelling place, §§ 171 and 150. In this, as in other respects, the Code of H̬ammurabi represents a more developed civilization than the Pentateuchal law.

Moreover Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, have I purchased to be my wife, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance, that the name of the dead be not cut off from among his brethren, and from the gate of his place: ye are witnesses this day.
10. Moreover Ruth … have I purchased] do I buy, the same word and tense as in Ruth 4:9. This was an additional and voluntary feature of the transaction, due to the goodwill of Boaz, and as such receives the applause and congratulations of the people.

to raise up the name of the dead] One object of the marriage was to secure the preservation of the name of the dead (see on Ruth 4:5); by a legal fiction the child of the marriage would be regarded as the son of Mahlon, Ruth 4:17 (‘a son born to Naomi’).

And all the people that were in the gate, and the elders, said, We are witnesses. The LORD make the woman that is come into thine house like Rachel and like Leah, which two did build the house of Israel: and do thou worthily in Ephratah, and be famous in Bethlehem:
11. like Rachel and like Leah] Genesis 29:31 to Genesis 30:24. May Ruth become the ancestress of a famous race! Dante ranks her fourth after Sarah, Rebecca, Judith, in Paradise; Parad. xxxii. 10 ff. For did build the house of Israel cf. Deuteronomy 25:9 and Genesis 14:2; Genesis 30:3 mg.

do thou worthily] lit. ‘achieve might’; the phrase is sometimes rendered ‘do valiantly,’ e.g. Numbers 24:18, Psalm 60:12; Psalm 118:15 f.; but here it is used in a moral sense, cf. Ruth 3:11. The reference is to Boaz, here and in the next sentence.

and be famous] To obtain this meaning the Hebr. text (lit. ‘proclaim thou a name’) must be slightly altered to ‘and let thy name be proclaimed,’ cf. Ruth 4:14. The LXX. favours this correction. How the wish was fulfilled is shewn in Ruth 4:17.

And let thy house be like the house of Pharez, whom Tamar bare unto Judah, of the seed which the LORD shall give thee of this young woman.
12. Perez] is mentioned because he was one of the ancestors of the house of Judah, Genesis 38:29, and, according to the genealogies, Boaz was his descendant, 1 Chronicles 2:4; 1 Chronicles 2:9-11.

the seed which the Lord shall give] Cf. 1 Samuel 2:20.

So Boaz took Ruth, and she was his wife: and when he went in unto her, the LORD gave her conception, and she bare a son.
And the women said unto Naomi, Blessed be the LORD, which hath not left thee this day without a kinsman, that his name may be famous in Israel.
14. On account of the words this day, Bertholet and Nowack take the near kinsman (go’el) as referring to the new-born son. It is true that the words which follow, ‘let his name be famous,’ apply to the child; but throughout the story the near kinsman is Boaz. He has done all, and more than all, that could be expected of a go’el; he has redeemed the property, and now (this day) he has secured an heir for Naomi’s family.

And he shall be unto thee a restorer of thy life, and a nourisher of thine old age: for thy daughter in law, which loveth thee, which is better to thee than seven sons, hath born him.
15. better to thee than seven sons] Ruth has proved it by her piety towards the dead and the living. Seven is a round number, cf. 1 Samuel 1:8.

And Naomi took the child, and laid it in her bosom, and became nurse unto it.
16. took the child, and laid it in her bosom] to shew that she adopted the child of Ruth as her own; cf. the phrase ‘born upon the knees’ Genesis 30:3; Genesis 50:13.

And the women her neighbours gave it a name, saying, There is a son born to Naomi; and they called his name Obed: he is the father of Jesse, the father of David.
17. the women her neighbours]. Cf. Ruth 4:14 and Ruth 1:19. In St Luke 1:58 f., the neighbours and kinsfolk propose to name the child.

There is a son born to Naomi] The child is popularly considered to belong to Naomi’s family. Cf. Genesis 30:3, where the son of Bilhah, born on the knees of Rachel, is regarded as Rachel’s child.

Obed] An abbreviated form of Obad-iah ‘servant of Jah,’ or of Abdi-el ‘servant of El.’

the father of Jesse, the father of David] The ancestry of Jesse is not given in 1 Sam. The name (Ishai) is perhaps a shortened form of Abishai. The story of Ruth thus shews how a Moabite women obtained an honourable place in the annals of Hebrew history; the rule laid down in Deuteronomy 23:3 [Hebrews 4] had at least one noteworthy exception1[7]. From 1 Samuel 22:3-4 we learn that friendly relations existed between David and the Moabites: it may not be fanciful to suppose that he would be all the move ready to entrust his parents to the care of the Moabite king because his father’s grandmother was a Moabite.

[7] The Rabbis get over the difficulty by supposing that the law of Deuteronomy 23:3 applies only to men: Talm. Jebamoth 76 b: Sifre on Deut. l.c.

With this account of the memorable issue of Ruth’s marriage the Book is brought to a suitable close. The genealogy which follows may be regarded as a later addition.

Now these are the generations of Pharez: Pharez begat Hezron,
18. these are the generations … begat] Standing formulae of P, e.g. Genesis 5:3-32; Genesis 6:9 ff; Genesis 10:1; Genesis 11:10 ff. etc. Though cast into P’s form, the genealogy is constructed out of ancient materials. It is attached to Perez, because he is named in Ruth 4:12.

And Hezron begat Ram, and Ram begat Amminadab,
19. Hezron begat Ram] The genealogy occurs with fuller details in 1 Chronicles 2:4-15; according to ib. 1 Chronicles 2:25; 1 Chronicles 2:27 Ram is the son of Jerahmeel and grandson of Hezron. In ib. Ruth 4:1 Hezron like Perez is a son of Judah.

Amminadab] i.e. my kinsman, or paternal uncle (ammi), is generous, a proper name of an ancient type; see Gray, Hebr. Prop. Names, p. 44.

And Amminadab begat Nahshon, and Nahshon begat Salmon,
20. Nahshon] i.e. serpent, a name belonging to the early period. This Nahshon son of Amminadab was a prince of Judah (Numbers 1:7; Numbers 2:3; Numbers 10:14) and a contemporary of Moses and Aaron (Exodus 6:23), according to P; here he is made the grandfather of Boaz, obviously by omitting a good many links.

Salmon] From Salmah (1 Chronicles 2:11 Salma’) or Salmon (St Matthew 1:4 f., St Luke 3:32) to Boaz is a long step, if the former is the same as ‘Salma the father of Beth-lehem’ 1 Chronicles 2:51. In St Matthew 1:5 Salmon’s wife was Rahab, obviously an anachronism.

And Salmon begat Boaz, and Boaz begat Obed,
And Obed begat Jesse, and Jesse begat David.
22. and Jesse begat David] The present genealogy was therefore designed to supply what 1 Sam. omitted, and to trace David’s descent from Perez.

Note on the genealogy in Ruth 4:18-22. The following points are to be noticed: (1) The genealogy consists of ten members, of which the first five, from Perez to Nahshon, cover the period from the entry of the Hebrew tribes into Egypt (Perez, Genesis 46:12) to the time of Moses (Nahshon, Numbers 1:7); while the last five belong to the period of the settlement in Canaan. It is obvious that the generations are not sufficient to cover this extent of time; the grandfather of Boaz cannot have been a contemporary of Moses. The genealogy, therefore, does not attempt to give a complete historical series; many links are omitted; it is artificially constructed out of traditional materials. (2) The object of the list is to connect David with the princely line of Judah. In spite of his Moabite great-grandmother, he could be shewn to come of the best Judaean stock. How this was done is explained by Wellhausen (De Gentibus et Familiis Judaeis, pp. 13–19) as follows: the ancestors of David were known as far as Boaz, but there memory failed; accordingly, as Beth-lehem was the native town of Jesse, it was natural to introduce Salma, ‘the father of Beth-lehem’ (1 Chronicles 2:51; 1 Chronicles 2:54); then David must be connected with the leading family of Judah which flourished in the time of Moses, and, through the marriage of Aaron, united itself with the priestly dignity (Exodus 6:23). This accounts for Nahshon and Amminadab; these again are traced to Ram, son or grandson of Hezron, whose very name (Ram = ‘the high one’) suggests the founder of a princely line. (3) The date at which the genealogy was drawn up Wellhausen further shews to be post-exilic. For Salma is described in 1 Chronicles 2:51 as a son of Caleb, and the Calebites in ancient times belonged to the S. of Judah (Jdg 1:20); it was not until after the exile, when they found the Edomites in possession of their original seats, that they moved northwards to Beth-lehem and its neighbourhood; so that it was not until after the exile that Salma could be called ‘the father of Beth-lehem.’ David, however, is never connected with the Calebite district in the S. of Judah, but with the older part of Israel settled in Northern Judah, near the border of Benjamin. (4) The genealogy cannot have been framed by the author of Ruth, because he recognizes Obed as legally the son of Mahlon (Ruth 4:5; Ruth 4:10); if he had drawn up the line himself he would have traced it through Mahlon and Elimelech. We may conclude, therefore, that the genealogy ‘forms no integral part of the Book, and may well have been added long after the Book itself was written in an age that was devoted to the study of pedigrees’ (Driver, Introd.8, pp. 455 f.). (5) The relation between this genealogy and the fuller one in 1 Chronicles 2:10-17 cannot be determined with certainly; for, as sWellhausen has shewn (l.c.), 1 Chronicles 2:10-24 is a secondary element, and the same source from which the Chronicler derived 1 Chronicles 2:18-24 may have contained Ruth 4:10-17, and it is quite possible that Ruth 4:18-22 was also derived from it (Nowack). It is simplest to conclude, with Robertson Smith and Cheyne in Encycl. Bibl., that a later writer borrowed the genealogy from 1 Chronicles 2:25 it stands.

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