Chapter 4-Part 1-Boaz redeems Ruth and perpetuates the family line
Can you remember the last time that you were waiting to receive your exam results? There have been further complications and pressure for youngsters sitting exams this year because of the restrictions that have affected teachers, tutors, and students. But what can be done after you have given it your best effort whilst you sit it out and wait?
Waiting is one of the hardest challenges in the life of the believer. We are not in control of what happens in the interim though of course, God is. But waiting is not an entirely passive process since we can pray earnestly and according to God’s will. We can wait on the Lord and we are commanded to do so.
The Kinsman refuses to redeem Ruth
What is the next move for Boaz? He sits down at the gate. Why did he go to ‘the gate’ and what is its significance? The gate of the town or village was where legal matters were settled and it served as a courthouse. People went in and out and passed through there regularly. It was also a place for commerce; hence the fish gate and sheep gate were names for those purposes in ancient times.
A few examples from Scripture include Absalom who presided at the gate (1 Samuel 15:2), Job described himself as being sorrowful at the gate (Job 29:7-8) and in Lamentations 5:14 Jeremiah bewailed that the elders had ceased gathering there and the young men were no longer playing music there.
These events were crucial in the lives of Ruth and Boaz though further down the line these circumstances would be a part in the chain of events resulting in the coming of the Son of Man.
Boaz left the threshing floor for the gate. This was an intensive farming season and would have been unusual. Even today in specific agricultural seasons when you are working the land from early in the morning until late in the evening little else gets done. Interestingly both Scripture and archaeology (1 Kings 22:10; Jeremiah 38:7) reveal that there was room at the gate.
Our Lord is the gate of the sheep (John 10:7). He is the door (John 10:9) and the good shepherd (John 10:14). We need to do business with Him, yet we can only approach on His terms. We have to sit down at His feet and find our rest, counsel, and guidance in Him. He is the lawgiver and fulfils the law. He is the great redeemer.
The unnamed ‘close relative’ whom Boaz had spoken of came by, but what was happening? In one sense if you ‘wait’ long enough he would pass by but that is missing the point. This ‘coincidence’ was really a designated ‘coincidence’, you might even call it a ‘God-incidence’ though it is probably better explained as ‘providence’, or in other words the exercising of God’s sovereignty in human affairs. Has that ever happened in your life? Could you have mistaken providence for coincidence?
Boaz then selected ten men to act as witnesses and conduct his business. These ten were elders of the city. Ten men were required for a business quorum and today a minyan involves ten men at the synagogue. The closer relative is generally understood to typify the law though the law cannot redeem (Romans 8:3). Only the blood of Messiah and God’s grace can redeem our souls. In our affairs, we would be wise to choose carefully, those who we partner with in business matters or confide with in personal dealings.
When everyone was sat down Boaz explained the two reasons why he had gathered them, though interestingly he commenced by discussing the land which Naomi has sold that belonged to their brother Elimelech. This land would be transferred for a certain value for a set time (Leviticus 25:14-16). Naomi was about to sell the land since she needed money to live until jubilee came round (Leviticus 25:28). Sometimes rulers did not obey that rule and the prophets rebuked them from stealing from the poor. The abuse of this land was also one cause of the captivity. How careful we should be concerning our integrity with our business affairs.
Note that Boaz did not mention the land and Ruth in the same breath. His desire to acquire Ruth was a more personal matter. In addition, the response from the near kinsman helps us to consider who and what we value most.
“I will redeem it” said the closer relative (Ruth 4:4), but Boaz continued (Ruth 4:5-6). The closer relative would have to buy the field from Ruth the Moabitess and he thought twice. Ruth’s background as a Moabitess was a hindrance (Deuteronomy 23:3). After all, Mahlon and Chilion had married Moabites and they died! Would he be next? Ironically, he would live but he would be neither named in the narrative nor remembered. Similarly Orpah remained in Moab and we hear nothing further of her.
Marrying Ruth would compromise his inheritance and would involve extra property maintenance. Ultimately the land would return to Ruth’s heirs and not his. He had to count the cost. He had not taken the initiative, so he probably wanted to avoid the responsibility. What spiritual blessings we may so frequently forfeit, if we insist on clinging onto things of worldly value?
So the exchange was made and confirmed by one giving a sandal to the other. It is easy to describe this custom though more difficult to state why it occurred. It involved passing rights onto another. It may have pertained to walking and possessing land. On meeting the Lord both Moses and Joshua were required to remove their sandals since they were on holy ground and those events occurred before they took possession of the land.