Ruth 4
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
The writer of this book depicts for us in this passage a very picturesque scene. We observe -

1. The place of judgment and public business. "Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates... throughout thy tribes, and they shall judge the people with just judgment." The parents of the disobedient son were to "bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place." Absalom, when plotting against his father's authority, "Stood beside the way of the gate," and intercepted those that came to the king for judgment.

2. The court in whose presence important business was transacted - "the elders of the city." Such elders were prescribed, as is evident from several passages in Deuteronomy; and the early books of the Old Testament contain frequent references to them and to their duties. Allusion is made to the elders of Succoth, of Jezreel, and of this same Bethlehem in the time of Samuel. Ten seems to have been what we should call a quorum. There is wisdom, gravity, deliberation, dignity, in the proceedings here recorded.

I. HUMAN SOCIETY REQUIRES INSTITUTIONS OF LAW AND JUSTICE. The relations between man and man must not be determined by chance, or left to the decision of force or fraud. "Order is Heaven's first law."

II. LAW AND JUSTICE SHOULD BE SANCTIONED BY RELIGION. Religion cannot approve of all actions done by all in authority; but it acknowledges and respects government as a Divine institution, and awakens conscience to support justice.


1. Openness and publicity.

2. Solemn and formal ratification and record of important acts.

3. Equality of citizens before the law.

4. As much liberty as is compatible with public rights.

5. Integrity and incorruptness on the part of those who administer the law. - T.

Every nation has its own domestic and social usages. Among those prevalent in Israel was the relationship of the goel. He was the redeemer, or the next kinsman of one deceased, whose duty it was to purchase an inheritance in danger of lapsing, or to redeem one lapsed. The duties were defined in the Levitical law. According to the custom and regulation known as Levirate, he was expected to marry the widow of the deceased, and to raise up seed unto the dead, in case no issue were left of the marriage dissolved by death. From this Book of Ruth it is clear that the two duties, that with regard to property and that respecting marriage, centered in the same person. Failing the unnamed kinsman, it fell to the lot of Boaz to act the part of the near relative of Ruth's deceased husband. Usages and laws differ, but the fact of kindred remains, and involves many duties.


II. AND IS BOTH SUGGESTIVE AND ILLUSTRATIVE OF RELIGIOUS, OF CHRISTIAN TRUTH. E.g. of the fatherhood of God; of the brotherhood of man; based upon that of Christ.



V. AND, WHERE CIRCUMSTANCES RENDER IT EXPEDIENT, PRACTICAL HELP. Appeal: - Do we recognize the just claims of kindred? If we de not, is not our failure traceable to an imperfect apprehension of spiritual relationships? - T.

Lest I mar mine own inheritance. How many do this? They have noble inheritances, but in a multitude of ways they mar them.

I. THERE IS THE INHERITANCE OF PHYSICAL HEALTH. Most precious; not to be gotten for fine gold. Yet how often it is injured by sloth and sin, by intemperance and lust, or by the overtaxed brain, and neglect of the simple economy of health.

II. THERE IS THE INHERITANCE OF A GOOD NAME. This too is a priceless gift. More to be desired than gold, yea, than fine gold. Character. It takes years to win - whether for a commercial house or for a personal reputation; but it takes only a moment to lose. How many a son has marred his inheritance! The "good name" is irrecoverable in the highest sense. Forgiveness may ensue, but the memory of evil lives after.

III. THERE IS THE INHERITANCE OF A RELIGIOUS FAITH. "My father's God." Then my father had a God! There had been a generation to serve him before I was born! Am I to be the first to break the glorious chain, to sever the great procession? "One generation shall praise thy works to another." How beautiful! Is my voice to be silent, my thought to be idle, my heart to be cold and dead to God my Savior? Let me think of the unfeigned faith of my grandmother Lois and my mother Eunice, and not mar the inheritance through unbelief. - W.M.S.

By the "shoe" in the context is meant, no doubt, the sandal, which in the East was, and is, the ordinary covering of the foot, fastened by means of a thong of leather. Although in a house, or in a temple, the sandal was dispensed with, it was always used in walking and upon a journey. It was taken off at meals, in every sacred place, and in the presence of every sacred person, and on occasion of mourning. The context brings before us a symbolical use of the sandal. In early times - for even when this book was written the custom was obsolete - it was the usage of the men of Israel, in taking possession of any landed property, to pluck off the shoe. This was the survival of a still older custom - the planting the foot upon the newly-acquired soil, outwardly and visibly to express the taking possession of it, and asserting a right to it as one's own. Having, by the permission and at the suggestion of the unnamed kinsman, performed this simple symbolical act, Boaz proceeded to address the assembled elders of the city, calling them to witness two facts; his purchase of the field of Elimelech, and his resolve to take Ruth, the widow of Elimelech's son, as his own wife. The eiders, in presence of one another, formally and solemnly declared, We are witnesses.



III. PUBLICITY, THE PRESENCE OF COMPETENT AND VERACIOUS, HONORABLE WITNESSES, MAY BE REGARDED AS OF THE HIGHEST IMPORTANCE. Secret marriages and underhand proceedings with regard to property are to be avoided.


Elimelech was dead, Mahlon was dead. But to Naomi and to Ruth, who survived, and even to Boaz, the kinsmen of the deceased, the dead were sacred. Not only was their memory treasured in the hearts of the survivors; the fact that they had lived exercised an influence, and a very marked influence, over the conduct of those still living. This was human, admirable, and right.

I. THE NAME OF THE DEAD SHOULD BE SACRED IN EVERY FAMILY. We were theirs, and they are still ours - ours whilst we live. To forget them would be brutish and inhuman. Their memory should be cherished. Their wishes, within reasonable limits, should be fulfilled. Their example, if good, should be reverently studied and diligently copied.

II. THE NAME OF THE DEAD IS A NATIONAL POSSESSION AND POWER. "One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh." But each generation inherits from its predecessor. Patriotism is fostered by the traditions of the great men who have gone, and whose memory is the national pride and glory. To us in England what inspiration does "the name of the dead" afford? The heroes, statesmen, patriots, saints, discoverers, etc. have left behind them imperishable names. "Let us now," says the apocryphal writer, "let us now praise famous men and our fathers which begat us."

III. THE NAME OF THE DEAD IS THE INSPIRATION OF THE WORLD'S LABORS AND HOPES. All great names, save One, are names of the dead, or of those who soon will be such. One was dead, but lives again, and for evermore. His undying life gives true life and power to the great names of those whom he causes to live again; for he teaches us that nothing he has sanctified can ever die. Query: - What shall our name be when we are with the dead? - T.

When the marriage of Boaz with Ruth was resolved upon, the elders of the city, the bridegroom's neighbors and friends, expressed with cordiality their congratulations and good wishes. They wished well to himself, to his Wife, to his house or family, to his offspring, his seed.

I. KIND WISHES ARE FOUNDED IN A PRINCIPLE DIVINELY PLANTED IN HUMAN NATURE. Sympathy is a principle of human nature. Benevolence is as natural as selfishness, though less powerful over most minds. And we should "rejoice with those who do rejoice."

II. IT IS RIGHT THAT KIND WISHES SHOULD BE EXPRESSED IN WORDS. There is no doubt danger lest insincerity should creep into the customary salutations and benedictions of life; many compliments are utterly insincere. Yet even the most scrupulous and veracious may legitimately utter good wishes. It is churlish to withhold such utterances.

III. CHRISTIANITY GIVES A RICH, FULL MEANING TO THE KIND WISHES OF FRIENDSHIP. For our religion teaches us to turn every wish into a prayer. It is a sufficient condemnation of a wish that it cannot take this form. With Christians, "God bless you!" should be a hearty and fervent intercession. - T.

With true piety as well as justice the author of this book refers the blessings of domestic life to him Who setteth his people in families, and of whom it is said, "Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is his reward." Whenever a child is born into the world the Spirit of wisdom teaches us, as Christians, lessons of the most practical and valuable kind.

I. GRATITUDE TO GOD FOR A PRECIOUS GIFT. Christian parents feel that they receive no gifts so valuable, so dear as the children bestowed upon them by the goodness of God. Thanks are ever due for the Divine favor thus shown.

II. A SENSE OF PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITY. He must be stolid and insensible indeed who, when his firstborn is placed in his arms, has no thought of the sacred charge laid upon him. Gifts are trusts. The parent's desire and prayer should be for grace to fulfill solemn responsibilities.

III. RESOLUTIONS REGARDING EDUCATION. Remembering that for the first years of life a child is almost entirely under the parents' influence, fathers and mothers will not only at the first seriously and prayerfully dedicate their offspring to God, but will consider how they may train them up in the way they should go, that when they are old they may not depart from it.

IV. A SPIRIT OF DEPENDENCE UPON "THE FATHER OF THE SPIRITS OF ALL FLESH" FOR A BLESSING. We cannot too much connect our children with the throne of grace. Private and family prayer will be the means of domestic happiness, and will assist parents in exercising a watchful care and faithful guidance, and children in using aright the opportunities of improvement with which they are favored. - T.

And she bare a son. Memorable day that I Read to the end of the chapter: "There was a son born to Naomi; and they called his name Obed: he is the father of Jesse, the father of DAVID." The old divines used to consider that Ruth the Moabitess becoming an ancestor of David was a prefigurement of the admission of the Gentiles into the Christian Church. Certain it is that the Jews did think this a dishonor to David, and Shimei in his revilings is supposed to taunt David with his' descent from Ruth. Rut the descent of the same true spirit is the real descent of honor.

I. THE CHILD'S NAME. Obed, a servant. It may be a remembrancer of duty. Just as the motto of the Prince of Wales is - "Ich dien," I serve. Any way it is beautiful never to despise service. A Christian is to be "meet for the Master's use." How many there are who are of no use in the world I Some dislike all service, and prefer the dainty hand that is never soiled, and the life that is never separated from selfishness.

II. THE BENEDICTION ON NAOMI. Naomi was there to receive congratulations. What a time for the mother in Israel to be with the new mother! There is sacred anxiety in such hours in the household. Why should the name of mother-in-law be the butt for satire? Many can testify how precious her care and kindness is in such a season. It is easy, but wicked as easy, to satirize a relationship which, if it creates responsibilities, confers also kindness which cannot be bought.

III. THE PROPHECY CONCERNING THE BABE. How soon infancy merges into youth and manhood. In a few years Naomi will be bent and bowed. The white winter of age is coming, and then this child shall be a nourisher of Naomi's old age. A desolate time indeed for those who have no children's children to brighten their declining days, and, if needful, to succor them when friend and helper are gone. But all here is traced, as in Hebrew history all is ever traced, to the good hand of God. "Blessed be the Lord, which hath not left thee this day without a kinsman." - W.M.S.

The story of Ruth closes amidst domestic prosperity and happiness, and amidst neighborly congratulations. And it is observable that Naomi, whose trials and sorrows interest us so deeply at the commencement of this book, appears at its close radiant with renewed happiness: her daughter-in-law a mother, she herself a grand-parent, surrounded by rejoicing neighbors, expressing their congratulations, and invoking blessing upon her and those dear to her. The narrative loses sight of Ruth in picturing the felicity of her mother-in-law. The neighbors who before had asked, "Is this Naomi?" now exclaim, "There is a son born to Naomi: blessed be the Lord, which hath not left thee this day without a kinsman." She is encompassed with the blessings which, in the language of our poet, "should accompany old age" - "honor, love, obedience, troops of friends."

I. UNSELFISHNESS IS REWARDED. Naomi had all along thought more of Ruth's sorrows and of Ruth's happiness than of her own. And now this very Ruth is made the means of her prosperity, comfort, and joy in declining years.

II. HOPES ARE FULFILLED. It was Naomi's desire that Ruth might attain to "rest," and her counsels had been directed to this end. Now she sees the Moabitess a happy wife, a happy mother.

III. A JOYOUS PROSPECT IS OPENED UP. The day has been cloudy and stormy, but how brightly does the sun shine out at eventide! "A restorer of her life," "a nourisher of her old age," is given her. The child Obed becomes her delight, and her imaginations picture his manhood, and his position in an honorable line of descent.

IV. SYMPATHY ENHANCES HAPPINESS. There is mutual reaction here; Ruth, Naomi, and the neighbors, with unselfish congratulations, rejoicings, and prayers, contribute to one another's welfare. - T.

This book closes with a genealogy. Readers of the Scriptures may sometimes have felt perplexed at the frequency with which genealogical tables occur both in the Old Testament and in the New. There is a sufficient reason for this.

I. SCRIPTURE SANCTIONS THE INTEREST HUMAN NATURE FEELS IN GENEALOGY. No one is insensible to his own ancestry, especially if among his progenitors have bee: men of eminence. Interest in ancestry may be carried too far, and may spring from, and minister to, a foolish vanity, but in itself it is good. It is a witness to the dignity of human nature; it may be an inspiration to worthy deeds; it may be a incentive to transmit influences of character and culture to posterity.

II. SCRIPTURE ATTACHES SPECIAL IMPORTANCE TO THE GENEALOGY OF THE DEECENDANTS OF ABRAHAM. Israel was the chosen people, and the lineage of the tribes of Israel, and especially of Judah, was a matter of national and local, but also of world wide, importance.

III. SCRIPTURE CAREFULLY RECORDS THE GENEALOGY OF CHRIST JESUS. He was the Son of man, the Son of David, as well as the Son of God. By evincing this, provision was made for commending Jesus to the reverence of the Hebrew people; for making manifest the fulfillment of prophecy, which was thus authenticated; for presenting the Savior in all the power of his true humanity before the human race, as the object of faith, attachment, and devotion. Lessons: -

1. The obligations under which we individually may be laid by a pious ancestry.

2. Our debt to posterity.

3. The claims of the Son of man upon our hearts. - T.

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