Ruth 4
Pulpit Commentary
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.
Verse 1. - And Boaz went up, to the gate, and sat there. He "went up," for the city stood, as it still stands, on a ridge (see on Ruth 1:1; 3:6). "And sat there," on one of the stones, or stone benches, that were set for the accommodation of the townsfolk. The gateway in the East often corresponded, as a place of meeting, to the forum, or the market-place, in the West. Boaz had reason to believe that his kinsman would be either passing out to his fields, or passing in from his threshing-floor, through the one gate of the city. And lo, the kinsman of whom Boaz had spoken was passing; and he said, Ho, such a one I turn hither and sit here. And he turned and sat down. Boaz called his kinsman by his name; but the writer does not name him, either because he could not, or because he would not. The phrase "such a one," or "so and so," is a purely idiomatic English equivalent for the purely idiomatic Hebrew phrase פְלֹנִי אַלְמֹנִי. A literal translation is impossible. The Latin N.N. corresponds.
And he took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, Sit ye down here. And they sat down.
Verse 2. - And he took ten men of the elderly inhabitants of the city, and he said, Sit ye here; and they sat down. Boaz wished to have a full complement of witnesses to the important transaction which he contemplated.
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:
Verse 3. - And he said to the kinsman, Naomi, who has returned from the land of Moab, has resolved to sell the portion of land which belonged to our brother Elimelech. Boaz, it is evident, had talked over with Ruth the entire details of Naomi's plans, and could thus speak authoritatively. Naomi, we must suppose, had previously taken Ruth into full confidence, so that Boaz could learn at second- hand what in other circumstances he would have learned from Naomi herself. The verb which we have rendered "has resolved to sell," is literally "has sold," and has been so rendered by many expositors, inclusive of Riegler and Wright. The Syriac translator gives the expression thus, "has sold to me." The subsequent context, however, makes it evident that the property had not been sold to any one, and consequently not to Boaz. The perfect verb is to be accounted for on the principle explained by Driver when he says, "The perfect is employed to indicate actions, the accomplishment of which lies indeed in the future, but is regarded as dependent upon such an unalterable determination of the will that it may be spoken of as having actually taken place: thus a resolution, promise, or decree, especially a Divine one, is very frequently announced in the perfect tense. A striking instance is afforded by Ruth (Ruth 4:3) when Boaz, speaking of Naomi's determination to sell her land, says מָכְרָה נָךעמִי, literally, 'has sold' (has resolved to sell. The English idiom would be 'is selling')" ('Treatise on the Use of the Tenses in Hebrew,' pp. 13, 14). In King James's English version the verb is thus freely rendered "selleth." Luther's version is equivalent - beut feil, "offers for sale;" or, as Coverdale renders it, "offereth to sell." Vatable freely renders it as we have done, "has determined to sell" (vendere decrepit) so Drusius (vendere instituit). The kind family feeling of Boaz, shining out m the expression, "our brother Ehmelech," is noteworthy. "Brother" was to him a homely and gracious term for "near kinsman."
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.
Verse 4. - And I said (to myself). There is little likelihood in the opinion of those who maintain, with Rosenmüller, that the expression, "I said," refers to a promise which Boaz had made to Ruth (see Ruth 3:13). It is a primitive phrase to denote internal resolution. There is a point where thought and speech coalesce. Our words are thoughts, and our thoughts are words. I will uncover thine ear, that is, "I will lift the locks of hair that may be covering the ear, so as to communicate something in confidence." But here the phrase is employed with the specific import of secrecy dropt out. It is thus somewhat equivalent to "I will give thee notice;" only the following expression לֵאמֹר, i.e. to say, must be read in the light of the undiluted original phrase, "I will uncover thine ear to say. The whole expression furnishes the most beautiful instance imaginable of the primary meaning of לֵאמֹר. The thing that was to be said follows immediately, viz., Acquire it, or Buy it. It is as if he had said, "Now you have a chance which may not occur again." It is added, in the presence of the inhabitants. This, rather than "the assessors," is the natural interpretation of the participle (הַיּשְׁבִים). It is the translation which the word generally receives in the very numerous instances in which it occurs. There was, so to speak, a fair representation of the inhabitants of the city in the casual company that had assembled in the gateway. And in presence of the elders of my people. The natural "aldermen," or unofficial "senators," whose presence extemporized for the occasion a sufficient court of testators. If thou wilt perform the part of a kinsman, perform it. The translation in King James's English version, and in many other versions, viz., "If thou wilt redeem it, redeem it," is somewhat out of harmony with the nature of the case. Naomi was not wishing Elimelech's estate to be redeemed. It was not yet in a position to be redeemed. It had not been alienated or sold. She wished for it not a redeemer, but a purchaser. And as it was the right of a נֹאֵל or kinsman to redeem for a reduced brother, if he was able and willing, the estate which had been sold to an alien (Leviticus 25:25), so it was the privilege of the same גואֵל or kinsman to get, if the reduced brother was wishing to sell, the first offer of the estate. It would, in particular, be at variance with the prerogative of the nearest of kin if some other one in the circle of the kindred, but not so near, were to be offered on sale the usufructuary possession of the family estate (Leviticus 25:23, 27). Hence Boaz recognized the prior prerogative of his anonymous relative and friend, and said to him, "If thou wilt perform the part of a kinsman, and buy the property, then buy it." It is added, and if he will not. Note the use of the third person he, instead of the second thou. If the reading be correct, then Boaz, in thus speaking, must for the moment have turned to the witnesses so as to address them. That the reading is correct, notwithstanding that some MSS. and all the ancient versions exhibit the verb in the second person, is rendered probable by the very fact that it is the difficult reading. There could be no temptation for a transcriber to substitute the third person for the second; there would be temptation to substitute the second for the third. The unanimity of the ancient versions is probably attributable to the habit of neglecting absolute literality, and translating according to the sense, when the sense was clear. Boaz, turning back instantaneously to his relative, says, Make thou known to me, that I may know, for there is none besides thee to act the kinsman's part (with the exception of myself), and I come after thee. The little clause, "with the exception of myself," lies in the sense, or spirit, although not in the letter of Boaz's address, as reported in the text. And he said, I will act the kinsman's part. He was glad to get the opportunity of adding to his own patrimonial possession the property that had belonged to Elimelech, and which Naomi, in her reduced condition, wished to dispose cf. So far all seemed to go straight against the interests of Ruth.
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.
Verse 5. - And Boaz said, In the day when thou acquirest the land from the hand of Naomi, and from Ruth the Moabitess, (in that day) thou hast acquired the wife of the deceased, to establish the name of the deceased upon his inheritance. So we would punctuate and render this verse. Boaz distinctly informed his relative that if the land was acquired at all by a kinsman, it must be acquired with its living appurtenance, Ruth the Moabitess, so that, by the blessing of God, the Fountain of families, there might he the opportunity of retaining the possession of the property in the line of her deceased husband, that line coalescing in the line of her second husband. It was the pleasure of Naomi and Ruth, in offering their property for sale, to burden its acquisition, on the part of a kinsman, with the condition specified. If there should be fruit after the marriage, the child would be heir of the property, just as if he had been Machlon's son, even though the father should have other and older sons by another wife.
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.
Verse 6. - And the kinsman said, I am not able to perform, for myself, the kinsman's part, lest I should destroy my inheritance. Perform thou, for thyself, the kinsman's part devolving on me, for I am not able to perform it. The moment that Ruth was referred to, as the inseparable appurtenance of Elimelech's estate, a total change came over the feelings of the anonymous relative and the spirit of his dream. He "could not," so he strongly put it, perform the kinsman's part. The probability is that he already had a family, but was a widower. This being the state of the case, it followed that if he should acquire Ruth along with her father-in-law's property, there might be an addition, perhaps a numerous addition, to his family; and if so, then there would be more to provide for during his lifetime, and at his death an increased subdivision of his patrimony. This, as he strongly put it, would be to "destroy" his patrimony, inasmuch as it might be frittered into insignificant fractions. There can be no reference, as the Chaldee Targumist imagined, to his fear of domestic dissensions. Or, if he did indeed think of such a casualty, he certainly did not give the idea expression to Boaz and the assessors. Cassel takes another view. "It must be," he says, "her Moabitish nationality that forms the ground, such as it is, of the kinsman's refusal. Elimelech's misfortunes had been popularly ascribed to his emigration to Moab; the death of Chillon and Machlon to their marriage with Moabitish women. This it was that had endangered their inheritance. The goal fears a similar fate. He thinks that he ought not to take into his house a woman, marriage with whom has already been visited with the extinguishment of a family in Israel." But if this had been what he referred to when he spoke of the "destruction" of his inheritance, it was not much in harmony with the benevolence which he owed to Boaz, and to which he so far gives expression in the courtesy of his address, that he should have gratuitously urged upon his relative what he declined as dangerous for himself. The expressions "for myself" and "for thyself" (לִי and לְך) are significant. The anonymous relative does not conceal the idea that it would be only on the ground of doing what would be for his own interest that he could entertain for consideration the proposal of Naomi. He likewise assumed that if Boaz should be willing to act the kinsman's part, it would be simply because it could be turned to account for his own interest. He did not know that there was in Boaz's heart a love that truly "seeketh not her own," but in honor prefers the things of another.
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.
Verse 7. - And this was formerly a custom in Israel, on occasion of surrendering rights of kinship, or of selling and buying land, in order to confirm any matter; a man drew off his shoe and gave it to the other contracting party. This was attestation in Israel. We give a free translation. The custom was significant enough. He who sold land, or surrendered his right to act as a kinsman in buying land, intimated by the symbolical act of taking off his shoe, and handing it to his friend, that he freely gave up his right to walk upon the soil, in favor of the person who had acquired the possession. Corresponding symbolical acts, in connection with the transfer of lands, have been common, and probably still are, in many countries. No doubt the shoe, after being received, would be immediately returned.
Therefore the kinsman said unto Boaz, Buy it for thee. So he drew off his shoe.
Verse 8. - And the kinsman said to Boaz, Acquire for thyself; and drew off his shoe. On the instant that he said, "Acquire for thyself," viz., the land with its living appurtenant, he drew off his shoe and presented it. Josephus allowed his imagination to run off with his memory when, mixing up the historical case before us with the details of the ancient Levirate law (Deuteronomy 25:7-9), which were, in later times at all events, more honored in the breach than in the observance, he represents Boaz as "bidding the woman loose the man's shoe and spit in his face." The actual ceremony was not an insult, but a graphic and inoffensive attestation. Yet it gradually wore out and was superseded. No vestige of it remained in the days of the writer, and the Chaldea Targumist seems to have been scarcely able to realize that such a custom could ever have existed, he represents the anonymous kinsman as drawing off his "right-hand glove" and handing it to Boas. But take note of the German word for "glove," viz., Hand. schuh (a hand-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.
Verse 9. - And Boaz said to the eiders and all the people, Ye are witnesses this day that I have acquired the whole estate of Elimelech, and the whole estate of Chillon and Machlon, from the hand of Naomi. It is absolutely necessary that, at this part of the narrative, as well as in several other portions, we read "between the verses." Naomi, either personally or by representative, must have appeared on the scene, to surrender her territorial rights and receive the value of the estate that had belonged to her husband. But the writer merges in his account these coincidences, and hastens on to the consummation of his story. In the twofold expression, "the whole estate of Elimelech, and the whole estate of Chillon and Machlon," there is a kind of legal particularity. There was of course but one estate, but there was a succession in the proprietorship.
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.
Verse 10. - And likewise Ruth the Moabitess, wife of Machlon, have I acquired to myself to wife, to establish the name of the deceased upon his inheritance, so that the name of the deceased may not be cut off from among his Brethren, and from the gate of his place: ye are witnesses this day. This, to Boaz, would be by far the most delightful part of the day's proceedings. His heart would swell with manly pride and devout gratitude when he realized, amid all the cumbrous technicalities of old Hebrew law, that Ruth was his. And he would rejoice all the more, as, in virtue of her connection with Machlon and Elimelech, both of their names would still be encircled with honor, and might, by the blessing of Yahveh, be linked on distinguishingly and lovingly to future generations. Note the expression, "that the name of the deceased may not be cut off from among his brethren, and from the gate of his place." The people who assembled at the gate might on some future day be able to say, "This boy is the heir of Machlon and Elimelech, who once migrated to Moab."
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:
Verse 11. - And all the people who were in the gateway, and the elders, said, Witnesses! May Yahveh grant that the wife who has come into thy house may be as Rachel and Leah, who built, the two of them, the house of Israel! The people of the city in general, and the venerable elders in particular, were pleased with every step that Boaz had taken. They felt that he had acted a truly honorable part, at once in reference to Naomi, and to Ruth, and to the nearest kinsman, and likewise in reference to themselves as the representatives of the general population. Blessings rose up within their hearts, ascended into heaven, and came down - charged with something Divine as well as something human and humane - in showers upon his head, and upon the head of his bride. When they prayed that the woman who was the choice of their fellow-citizen's heart should be as Rachel and Leah, they simply gave expression to the intensest desire that Israelites could cherish in reference to an esteemed sister. When they spoke of Rachel and Leah - the mothers of Israel - as "building up the house of Israel, they first of all compared the people to a household, and then they passed over from the idea of a household to the idea of a house as containing the household. They added, more particularly in reference to Boaz himself, Do thou manfully in Ephratah. The expression is somewhat peculiar, ringing changes on the peculiar and remarkable term that occurs both in Ruth 2:1 and in Ruth 3:11. The expression is עֲשֵׂה־חַיִל. The people meant, "Act thou the part of a strong, substantial, worthy man." They added, in a kind of enthusiastic exclamation, Proclaim thy name in Bethlehem. They had, however, no reference to any verbal proclamation, or tribute of self-applause. The spirit of ideality had seized them. They meant, "Act the noble part - the part that will without voice proclaim in Bethlehem its own intrinsic nobleness."
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.
Verse 12. - And may thy house he as the house of Pharez, whom Tamer bare to Judah, (springing) from the seed which Yahveh will give to thee of this young woman! Pharez's descendants, the Pharzites, were particularly numerous, and hence the good wishes of Boaz's fellow-townsmen (see Numbers 26:20, 21).
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.
Verse 13. - And Boaz took Ruth, and she became to him his wife; and he went in to her, and Yahveh gave her conception, and she bore 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.
Verse 14. - And the women said to Naomi, Blessed he Yahveh, who has given thee a kinsman this day! May his name become famous in Israel. Of course it is Ruth's son who is the kinsman referred to, the nearest kinsman, still nearer than Boaz. The kinsman was given, said the women, "this day," the day when the child was born. The expression which we have rendered, "who has given thee a kinsman," is, literally, "who has not caused to fail to thee a kinsman." The sympathetic women who had gathered together in Boaz's house were sanguine, or at least enthusiastically desirous, that a son so auspiciously given, after most peculiar antecedents, would yet become a famous name in Israel. Canon Cook supposes that the kinsman referred to by the women was not the child, but his father, Boaz ('Speaker's Commentary,' in loc.). Yet it is obvious that the kinsman specified was the one who, as they said, had been given, or had not been caused to fail, "that day." He was, moreover, the one of whom they went on to say, "May his name become famous in Israel, and may he be to thee a restorer of life, and for the support of thine old age," &c. Dr. Cook's objections are founded on a too narrow view of the functions devolving on, and of the privileges accruing to, a goel.
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.
Verse 15. - And may he be to thee a restorer of life, and for the support of thine old age: for thy daughter-in-law, who loved thee, hath borne him, and she is better to thee than seven sons. The number seven suggested an idea of fullness, completeness, perfection. The whole inhabitants of the city knew that Ruth's love to her mother-in-law had been indeed transcendent, and also that it had been transcendently returned.
And Naomi took the child, and laid it in her bosom, and became nurse unto it.
Verse 16. - And Naomi took the boy, and placed him in her bosom, and she became his foster-mother. She became his nurse in chief.
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.
Verse 17. - And the women, her neigh-bouts, named the child, saying, A son has been born to Naomi; and they called his name Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. "Obed," if a participle of the Hebrew verb עָבַד, naturally means serving, or servant. No other derivation, apparently, can at present be assumed (but see Raabe's 'Glossar.'). Josephus gives the participial interpretation as a matter of course, and Jerome too. If the objective correlate of the servitude referred to were Yahveh, then the word might be equivalent to worshipper. If the name, however, as seems to be the case, was imposed first of all by the matronly neighbors who had come to mingle their joys with those of the mother, and of the grandmother in particular, then it is not likely that there would be an overshadowing reference, either on the one hand to servitude in relation to Yahveh, or on the other to servitude in the abstract. Something simpler would be in harmony with their unsophisticated, impressible, and purely matronly minds. It is not at all unlikely that, in fondling the welcome "New-come," and congratulating the overjoyed grandmother, they would, with Oriental luxuriance of speech and Oriental overflow of demonstrativeness, speak of the 'lad' as come home to be a faithful little servant to his most excellent grandmother. The infirmities of advancing age, aggravated by anxieties many, griefs many, bereavements many, toils many, privations many, disappointments many, had been one after another accumulating on "the dear old lady." But now a sealed fountain of reviving waters had been opened in the wilderness. Might it for many years overflow! Might the oasis around it widen and still widen, till the whole solitary place should be blossoming as the rose! Might the lively little child be spared to minister, with bright activity and devotedness, to the aged pilgrim for the little remainder of her journey! The word which the sympathetic neighbors, with not the least intention to propose a real name, had been affectionately bandying about, while fondling the child, was accepted by Boaz and Ruth. They would say to one another, "Yes, just let him be little Obed to his loving grandmother." Naomi, soothed in all her motherly and grandmotherly longings and aspirations, would seem to have yielded, resolving, we may suppose, to train the child up to be a servant of Yahveh.
Now these are the generations of Pharez: Pharez begat Hezron,
Verses 18-22. - And these are the lineal descendants of Pharez. Pharez begat Hezron, and Hezron begat Ram, and Ram begat Amminadab, and Amminadab begat Nahshon, and Nahshon begat Salmon, and Salmon begat Boaz, and Boaz begat Obed, and Obed begat Jesse, and Jesse begat David. This is the genealogy of King David, and it is therefore an integral part of the genealogy of King David's great descendant, his "Lord" and ours. As such it is incorporated entire in the two tables that are contained respectively in the first chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew, and the third of the Gospel according to Luke. Some of the names are somewhat Grecised and otherwise modified in those New Testament tables. Instead of Hezron we have Esrom; instead of Ram we have Aram; instead of Nahshon we have Naason; instead of Boaz we have Boos; in 1 Chronicles 2:11 we have Salma instead of Salmon. It has been keenly debated by chronologists and genealogists whether we should regard the list of David's lineal ancestors, given here and in 1 Chronicles 2:10-12, as also in Matthew 1:3-5, and Luke 3:31-33, as complete. It is a thorny question to handle, and one not ready to be finally settled till the whole Old Testament chronology be adjusted. It is certain that in the larger tables of our Lord's genealogy there was, apparently for mnemonic purposes (Matthew 1:17), the mergence of certain inconspicuous links (see Matthew 1:8); and it would not need to be matter of wonder or concern if in that section of these tables which contains the genealogy of King David there should be a similar lifting up into the light, on the one hand, of the more prominent ancestors, and a shading off into the dark, on the other, of some who were less conspicuous. It lies on the surface of the genealogy that the loving-kindness and tender mercies of Yahveh stretch far beyond the confines of the Hebrews, highly favored though that people was. "Is he," asks St. Paul, "the God of the Jews only? Is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes," the same apostle answers, "of the Gentiles also" (Romans 3:29).

And Hezron begat Ram, and Ram begat Amminadab,
And Amminadab begat Nahshon, and Nahshon begat Salmon,
And Salmon begat Boaz, and Boaz begat Obed,
And Obed begat Jesse, and Jesse begat David.
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