For the past four weeks we have been going through the book of Ruth in our sermon series Redeemer of Ordinary. As this story has transpired, we have seen the marvelous love that Ruth has for her mother-in-law. Her intense loyalty is shown to her mother-in-law when he refuses to let her leave Moab alone and go back to her homeland of Judah and die as a bitter old woman. Ruth the Moabite is fiercely loyal to Naomi as she gives up everything (friends, family, and faith) to be with her mother-in-law. She is radically obedient as she does all Naomi asks her to do. Our main character is genuinely humble as she meets her future redeemer, finds grace and favor in his eyes. Last week we saw Ruth obediently, boldly and humbly enter the presence of her redeemer as she appeals and ultimately proposes to Boaz and in response, she receives from her kinsman a blessing and an abundance of wheat for Naomi
Today, we will conclude our series in Ruth as we look at the final chapter of this account. In this passage we will see that the narrator gives us the details of the process by which Ruth is betrothed to Boaz. This tale is important for us as it is one of a few documents from the ancient world that demonstrates how the legal process of a kinsman redeemer, betrothal and the marriage process worked. It is in this chapter we will see the story of Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz come together and in doing so God’s divine plan is established with the concluding genealogy that establishes the lineage of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Vs 1 – 5:
Vs. 1: “Boaz went to the gate” – The gate was an integral part of a city. It is believed that in the ancient Israel cities they were built close together and there were few or no large open areas (unlike the Roman forum or the Greek agora). Instead there was room in the gate, thus the gate became the central part of a city. It was the place of important assembly and most likely the place where legal business was conducted. It is also believed that people were condemned before the elders at the city gate, there are even mentions of executions at the gate. It was also a place to do public business, and more specifically for the kind of business described in Ruth 4.
“Soon the family redeemer… came by.” – There is no indication that the eligible family redeemer knew who Boaz was, but Boaz certainly knew him. He calls him to come over and sit with him.
Vs. 2: “Boaz took ten men of the towns elders.” – Elders exercised judicial functions. The elders often had powerful influence in the city, but in this scenario, they are only used as witnesses. It would be extremely important for Boaz to have the elders present so the outcome of the transaction between the two kinsmen would be undeniable. There doesn’t seem to be any significance to the number “ten” in this account, but ten witnesses would definitely give a concrete collective of witnesses.
Vs. 3: Naomi is “selling a portion of the field…” – Up until this point there is no mention of land, nor are we let in on the time when Naomi told Boaz about it or where this conversation happened.
The portion of the field was Elimelech’s share of the common field. Being part of a field in common ownership it may well have been difficult for Naomi to realize on it. This may be the reason she still had it despite the poverty to which she and Ruth had been reduced.
“belonged to our brother” – means that Elimelech was a friend and doesn’t suggest any close relative relationship.
What we can gather is that Naomi had rights to this field/land, but we have no understanding of how she could have obtained the rights. The best answer is there must have been some sort of common-sense custom that gave it to her.
In talking to the kinsman, whose name we do not know, Boaz decides to approach the matter in the way he does. He mentions to the kinsman the land but leaves out the part about Ruth. There was probably a tactic behind this since he may have feared that if it was only a matter of marrying Ruth, or redeeming the field the kinsman would have carried out his responsibility. But by linking the two together he presented the man with a dual financial burden.
Boaz, of course is ready, willing, and able to redeem the land and marry Ruth, but he wants to stay true to the customs and laws in regard to redeeming land as a kinsman.
So how does Ruth become a financial burden? I mean it seems like a good deal, buy the land and get the girl, right? Two for one! Well, there was the issue of paying a dowry for Ruth, either to her parents in Moab or to Naomi and that could have been a financial burden the kinsman could not bear.
Vs. 6 - 12
Vs 6: “I cannot redeem it myself” – Upon realizing that the land redemption also entailed marrying Ruth the kinsman says he cannot redeem it. Notice, it does not say he won’t redeem, but he can’t. This insinuates that the kinsman was probably not a wealthy man.
“it will ruin my inheritance” – This suggests that he would have to pay for the land, and the dowry and this would be quite an expenditure. But ultimately the land would not belong to his own family, but to the son or heir of Ruth. The reality is he may have been willing to marry Ruth, or he may have been willing to buy the land, but he could not do both. Unfortunately for him the two went together.
Vs 7: The giving of the sandal was an ancient practice that the narrator finds necessary to explain the custom and thus also suggests the author wrote this sometime after the actual events took place. Either way, as a confirmation to what was agreed upon this curious custom took place in from of a crowd of witnesses.
Vs 9: “You are witnesses today” – Boaz is establishing his right to the family possessions.
Vs 10: Boaz comes to the heart of the matter that not only is he redeeming the land, but he is acquiring Ruth as his wife. Boaz gives the justification for his marriage as to “to perpetuate the deceased man’s name on his property” i.e., to provide a son who would carry on the name of the deceased. Then, “so that his name will not disappear among his relatives or from the gate of his hometown” this means the relatives will be the whole family, all his relations.
Vs 11: The elders pronounce a blessing on Boaz and his bride. They pray that God will make her like Leah. This is a prayer for fruitfulness. Then to Boaz a blessing because of his godly actions they give a blessing that Boaz’s name will be renown.
Vs 12: Perez was one of Boaz’ ancestors and is the most suitable person to be mentioned. In fact, it seems that Perez was the ancestor of the Bethlehemites in general. Even more Perez gave his name to the section of the tribe of Judah that was descended from him.
“because of the offspring the Lord will give you by this young woman.” – this refers to one child, which would most likely be the Messiah.
Vs 13 - 17
A son is born to Ruth and Boaz and this son is regarded as a gift from God. What is interesting is in the concluding verses Naomi is the one featured and not Ruth. The women of the city come to Naomi most likely because they know her much better than Ruth. They come to congratulate her
Vs 14: “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you without a family redeemer today.” – Up to this point we would assume that Boaz was the kinsman. However, as we read, we can conclude that it is in fact the baby who is Naomi’s kinsman. They also pray that his name would be well-known in Israel.
Vs 15: “He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age.” This new baby will give Naomi a new lease on life. The child has brought hope for the future. Plus, the love of Ruth for her mother-in-law shines through this book and it is appropriate that it be given this recognition at the end. The tribute, which is better to you than seven sons is symbolic for the perfect family.
Vs 16: For Naomi this child is special. At the death of her sons and husband she was expecting to die a lonely bitter death. But because of her daughter-in-law’s loyalty, obedience and humility Naomi has a new purpose in life. The love for this child was so great that Naomi recognized and treated this child as if he were her own.
Vs 17: The women name the child “Obed” means servant. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. The son of Ruth and Naomi would one day be the grandfather of David, the greatest king of Israel.
Vs 18 – 23
So, why does Ruth end with a genealogy it could be that there is a truth that God is supreme, and he directs all things. A genealogy is one way to bring before us the continuity of God’s purpose throughout the ages. This process of history is not random. There is a purpose in it all. And the purpose is the purpose of God
In Ruth we see two key ingredients as to why she (in particular) is an important character in the O.T. that plays into both the Kingdom of God and the coming Messiah. We see in this the story the concept of redemption and the truth of God’s sovereignty.
First, symbolically Boaz is a type of Christ as he is the willing and able redeemer of one who is poor, widowed and abandoned. He is capable and willing to allow this person, who really didn’t have much of a future, to be redeemed and accept into his family and to eventually take her as a wife. This is very similar to what Jesus has done for us. He came to redeem those who are spiritually deprived and lost individuals in the world. Jesus is the ultimate kinsman redeemer as he is the rightful, willing and able redeemer of those whom the Father has given to him. His way of paying the debt is through giving his life for the lost and dying on the cross so that those who believe may be redeemed through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Not only was Jesus willing to become our redeemer he was also able as he was the perfect and chosen redeemer of all humanity.
Secondly, we see God’s providence in Ruth. None of what happened in this story was by accident. Every detail was orchestrated by God. In this we see that with all the tragedy and uncertainty in the lives of these women, God had a plan. The plan served his purpose because it was through Ruth’s offspring that the Messiah would come. What is even more astounding is that in the Genealogy of the Messiah four women are mentioned (all except for one were women who had some sort of noted sin that is recorded). Ruth – is our good girl but had suffered the pain of loss. Tamar had an illegitimate child by her father-in-law as she tricked him by dressing up as a prostitute. Rahab was a prostitute and the mother of Boaz. Bathsheba had an adulterous affair with King David who had her husband killed in battle. Three of the four women were of “ill-repute” yet God in his sovereignty used them for his plans and his purposes. This is how God’s providence works.
Sometimes we may not understand why certain things happen or even how God could work in some circumstances, but God loves to defy the odds. He is a God who uses the underdog. He loves to make the impossible, possible and He does it all on His own terms. This should be encouraging to us all. Why? Because I know some of us are in situations in life where things seem bleak, hopeless or just downright depressing. God knows this and he is a God who can make amazing things happen. If God can use a conniving daughter-in-law, a prostitute, an adulterer and a widow to bring the redeemer of humanity into this world, then he certainly can use us for his plans and purposes regardless of where we are today. As a closing I would invite you to pray with me for God to do some amazing things in our lives personally and as a congregation. For some of us things may look bleak right now, but this does not mean God has abandoned. He is simply waiting for the right time to magnify his name and show you that He has a plan and purpose. Let us pray in expectation for God to do some amazingly miraculous things in our lives and in this church.
Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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