Ruth 4

 

Today we conclude our journey through the book of Ruth, in which we have focussed on the ebb and flow of blessing and good fortune in life.

Remember Naomi and her husband Elimelech and their 2 sons Mahlon and Chilion went from the place of prosperity – Bethlehem and went to the land of their enemy the Moabites because of famine. They became refugees.

Remember that the two sons Mahlon and Chilion took Moabite wives, contrary to Jewish law.

Remember that calamity struck – all the males in the family died – Elimelech and the 2 sons.  Destitute and without a male to support her, Naomi decided to return to her home city. Orpah and Ruth, the Moabite daughters in law came with her.  Now she was a widow without hope. Her tide was fully at the ebb.

Remember that she changed her name from Naomi, meaning pleasant, to Mara meaning bitter.  And that she blamed God for the situation she was in.

Remember Naomi told the daughters in law to go back to their home because they would have a better chance of finding a new husband from among their own Moabite tribe.  Orpah went but Ruth decided to stay with Naomi whatever the outcome.

 

Remember that Ruth ended up gleaning in the field of Boaz, who as it turned out was a relative.

And we talked about the concept of a kinsman-redeemer – a go’el- - that is a close relative that takes on the widow and possessions of a deceased brother to continue his bloodline.

Remember that Ruth had gone to Boaz in the hope that he would be that person for her (and by extension, for Naomi as well).

Remember that Boaz was smitten by Ruth and wanted to do that for her but he needed to iron out a few things first. 

That thing to be ironed out was a male more closely related to Elimelech and therefore with greater rights to be that go’el.

We continue:

No sooner had Boaz gone up to the gate and sat down there than the next-of-kin,[a] of whom Boaz had spoken, came passing by. So Boaz said, ‘Come over, friend; sit down here.’ And he went over and sat down. 

The city gate was where all business transactions and major ddecisions were made by the elders of the community. I guess the modern equivalent would be the City Council chambers or something like that.

You know by now that nothing in this book happens by chance, and when on the very next day the next-of-kin happens to pass by the gate where Boaz has sat down, this too is attributable to the timing and hand of God.

Then Boaz took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, ‘Sit down here’; so they sat down. He then said to the next-of-kin,[b]‘Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, is selling the parcel of land that belonged to our kinsman Elimelech. So I thought I would tell you of it, and say: Buy it in the presence of those sitting here, and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if you will not, tell me, so that I may know; for there is no one prior to you to redeem it, and I come after you.’ So he said, ‘I will redeem it.’

The guy, unnamed even in the original – actually translated by the moniker of Mr so-and-so, leapt at the chance to increase his landholding.

If Ruth had been present for the legal proceedings in the gate, her heart would have sunk as the man with first rights announces he would claim Elimelech’s land. However, Boaz reminded him that Ruth goes with the land. 

 Then Boaz said, ‘The day you acquire the field from the hand of Naomi, you are also acquiring Ruth[c] the Moabite, the widow of the dead man, to maintain the dead man’s name on his inheritance.’ At this, the next-of-kin[d] said, ‘I cannot redeem it for myself without damaging my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it.’

 

 

Perhaps he was thinking of  Psalm 127:3 which says “Behold the heritage of the Lord is sons,” or perhaps he was thinking of the stigma of associating with Ruth the Moabite, as it is said (Deut. 23: 4): “An Ammonite or a Moabite shall not enter the congregation of the Lord,[1]

But more probably he realised that if he took the land, there were strings and those strings were Naomi and Ruth, and that he would be working to increase the land and prestige of the dead Elimelech rather than his own empire.

There is a story from earlier in the Old Testament which also highlights this point.

In Genesis 38 is a situation where Onan should have become the kinsman-redeemer for his deceased brother Er but he chose not to take his sister in law Tamar as duty required, with disastrous consequences for the family.

Any son born to Tamar would be deemed the heir of the deceased Er, and able to claim the firstborn's double share of inheritance. However, if Er were childless, Onan would have inherited as the oldest surviving son. So Onan chose not to do as he should have

Clearly the repercussions of taking the land, and therefore Ruth were in the mind of Mr so and so – they would not be increasing his landholding and wealth but increasing the estate of his dead brother Elimelech, so he said no he would not exercise his option to be the go’el.  This let the way clear for Boaz to become the Go’el for Ruth.

Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging: to confirm a transaction, one party took off a sandal and gave it to the other; this was the manner of attesting in Israel. So when the next-of-kin[e] said to Boaz, ‘Acquire it for yourself’, he took off his sandal.

I think I prefer our method – a handshake rather than a smelly sandal.

 Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, ‘Today you are witnesses that I have acquired from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and Mahlon. 10 I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, the wife of Mahlon, to be my wife, to maintain the dead man’s name on his inheritance, in order that the name of the dead may not be cut off from his kindred and from the gate of his native place; today you are witnesses.’

The formalities were complete. The deal was struck.

 11 Then all the people who were at the gate, along with the elders, said, ‘We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your house like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you produce children in Ephrathah and bestow a name in Bethlehem; 12 and, through the children that the Lord will give you by this young woman, may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.’

The blessing that the people gave to Boaz was a blessing of prosperity. Perez was the forefather of one of 5 families of Judah and founder of Bethlehem. They prayed a blessing on Boaz and Ruth that they would have many children

So the tide is now in, it is at the high water mark.  Not only is fortune restored but also inheritance and relationship.

God did not bring Elimelech or Mahlon or Kilion back from the dead. He didn’t give Naomi a happy prosperous life with her husband, sons and their children as she had hoped. But he planted new seeds where those 3 trees had died.[2]

13 So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When they came together, the Lord made her conceive, and she bore a son. 14 Then the women said to Naomi, ‘Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without next-of-kin;[f] and may his name be renowned in Israel!15 He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has borne him.’ 16 Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse. 17 The women of the neighbourhood gave him a name, saying, ‘A son has been born to Naomi.’ They named him Obed; he became the father of Jesse, the father of David.

Naomi is once again the centre of attention in the story.  The focus is again on the ebb and flow of Naomi’s life. 

She went away full and came back empty.  She is now full again.

She may not have a husband but she had a daughter in law and a grandchild. She had financial security in her old age by belonging to the household of Boaz.

The tide is back in.  The tides have completed their cycle.

Now about the twist that I told you was coming:

18 Now these are the descendants of Perez: Perez became the father of Hezron, 19 Hezron of Ram, Ram of Amminadab, 20 Amminadab of Nahshon, Nahshon of Salmon, 21 Salmon of Boaz, Boaz of Obed,22 Obed of Jesse, and Jesse of David.

A list of names, is that it?  He begat so and so, and so and so begat thingie and so on and so forth.

No, look at the last three names…

Ruth is the grandmother of King David and King David is the ancestor of Jesus our Saviour.

Matthew 1:17

So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.

Ruth the foreigner is the great (16x times) grandmother of Jesus through the bloodline of Mary’s husband Joseph.

All the way through the narrator has been highlighting the foreign-ness of Ruth, that she was an outsider.

Here we have that Ruth is not on the outside looking in, she is integral in the life of our Saviour.

We too, according to Judaism, are foreigners and we are outsiders, unable to enter the inner sanctum of the temple but God has grafted us into his kingdom, just as Ruth was grafted into the kingdom.

God did not give Naomi a new family – Boaz, Ruth and Obed – to replace the beloved people she had lost. He gave Naomi himself. He filled the void in her life that no person had ever been able to fill, and he did it through both her loss and his unexpected abundance.[3]

That is a twist we can be eternally thankful for.

The tide for Naomi and Ruth had come in.  Our tide is also in because we are with our Saviour,

 



[1] http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16456/jewish/Chapter-4.htm#showrashi=true

[2] Erin Gieschen “When God doesn’t give you what you want” In Touch August 2005 21-24

[3] ibid