Ruth 4

In ancient times, public business was conducted not in city hall, but at the city gate through which most citizens would pass sometime during a given day. Not wasting any time, Boaz went to the city gate to take care of his business. “Meanwhile Boaz went up to the town gate and sat there. When the kinsman-redeemer he had mentioned came along, Boaz said, ‘Come over here, my friend, and sit down.’ So he went over and sat down.” (v. 1).  God was continuing to guide the whole story. 

1. Kinsman-Redeemer Business (vv. 1-12)

Boaz also called together 10 elders of the town to be witnesses and asked them to all sit down. He addressed his relative and said, “Naomi, who has come back from Moab, is selling the piece of land that belonged to our brother Elimelech. I thought I should bring the matter to your attention and suggest that you buy it in the presence of these seated here and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, do so. But if you will not, tell me, so I will know. For no one has the right to do it except you, and I am next in line” (vv. 3-4).

This was not an outright sale of Naomi’s land. A better rendering would be, “to surrender the rights of the field.” It seems Naomi’s deceased husband, Elimelech, mortgaged the land before moving to Moab some ten years before. Naomi wanted to buy it back, but was too poor to do so. She needed her kinsman-redeemer to redeem it (buy it back) for her. “I will redeem it,” he said. This would have been an easy decision for the man. He realized that the purchase price would be offset by its yearly production. It was a win-win decision. He couldn’t lose. When Naomi eventually died without a male heir, it would become his property. He could carry out his family responsibility while looking good to the community.  

But Boaz wasn’t finished. He went on to remind the man about the small print (additional details of the agreement).  On the day you buy the land from Naomi and from Ruth the Moabitess, you acquire the dead man’s widow, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property (v. 5). This was too much for the man.  “Then I cannot redeem it because I might endanger my own estate. You redeem it yourself. I cannot do it” (v. 6). This man continued to think only about himself and how this arrangement would affect him. He declined the offer. After all, his heirs would have to share their inheritance with any additional heirs this marriage might produce. 

What a shrewd negotiator! Boaz is now next in line to purchase the property and obtain Ruth as his bride! He was willing to redeem the land and carry on Naomi and Elimelech’s line by marrying Ruth. Interestingly, instead of shaking hands on the deal or signing their name to finalize a transaction, “Now in earlier times in Israel, for the redemption and transfer of property to become final, one party took off his sandal and gave it to the other. This was the method of legalizing transactions in Israel” (v. 7). So the man took off his sandal and gave it to Boaz.

Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, ‘Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelech, Kilion and Mahlon. I have also acquired Ruth the Moabitess, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from the town records. Today you are witnesses!’” (v. 9-10).

We don’t often hear about courtrooms giving blessings, but we do here: “Then the elders and all those at the gate said, ‘We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. Through the offspring the Lord gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah’” (v. 11).

2. A Wedding and a Baby  (vv. 13-17)

So Ruth became Boaz’s wife. What an amazing love story! And yet, the story isn’t over. “And the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son” (v. 13). (This is only the second time that God has been mentioned in the whole book of Ruth; the first was in 1:6 and now in 4:13.) God enabled Ruth to conceive. After all, she had been unable to conceive the entire time she was married to Mahlon. God is sovereign even over conception.

Perhaps the same women whom Naomi had told to call her Mara, when she had returned to Bethlehem (1:20), now “said to Naomi: ‘Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth” (v. 14). The “he” is Obed, Naomi’s new grandson. What a wonderful blessing to have a grandson to carry on the family name, to inherit the family’s land and to provide for Naomi in her old age! Naomi was no longer bereft and bitter. Her lap was full with a bouncing baby boy!

Verse 16 says, “Then Naomi took the child, laid him in her lap and cared for him. The women living there said, ‘Naomi has a son.’ And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.” This baby boy would grow up to be the father of Jesse, the grandfather of King David, out of whose lineage would one day come the Lord Jesus Christ! What an honor for Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz! 

Notice the women called Obed Naomi’s son, not Ruth’s son. This was the way it was when the first son became the child of the dead husband’s estate. This would not have been easy for Ruth. She had carried and given birth to this child. She may have thought, “This is my baby, Naomi can’t have him!” But I don’t think so. True to her giving and caring nature, Ruth may have had some emotional struggle, but she would have willingly shared her baby with her mother-in-law. They likely both lived in the home of Boaz so Obed would be nearby.

3. The Family Line  (vv. 18-21)

The last important item the author wants us to know is the golden ancestry of Naomi’s long-awaited grandchild. Why does this beautiful love story end with a genealogy?  Because the reader needs to take the long look. God wants us to consider the bigger picture. What is happening today and next week is important, but much bigger things can be on the horizons of our lives. Was Naomi aware that her great-great grandson would become the mighty David, the standard for all future kings? Was Ruth aware that by marrying Boaz she would become a part of the lineage of the Messiah?  No.  We, likewise, have little awareness of the bigger picture in world history of which we are quietly becoming a part. 

This short genealogy is the most important part of the book (even though it probably was shortened, it represents 700 years of actual time).  The point is that Obed’s birth wasn’t just a family matter; it carried national and eternal significance.

Notice that though the name of God is mentioned only twice in this book, His fingerprints are everywhere. We have seen him guiding Naomi and Ruth, timing their return to Bethlehem at barley harvest time, directing Ruth to Boaz’s field on just the right day and time, and timing the arrival of the nearest relative at the city gate. God was orchestrating the whole account! And not only did He provide an heir for Naomi, He redeemed Ruth from a life of idolatry in Moab!  (Even though I believe Elimelech should have remained in Bethlehem, God used his lack of faith to reach out to Ruth. If he had stayed in Bethlehem, we can be sure that God would have reached out to Ruth some other way.) 

Does God do these kinds of things for us too? Yes! We are often unaware of what God is doing in our lives. We need to slow down enough to reflect on what God is doing. 

God was sovereign over it all!  God’s providence is cause for praise. The book of Ruth opens with three funerals and closes with the birth of a baby. It begins with weeping, but closes with praise and joy. Psalm 30:5 says, “Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” Who can understand the mind of God and put His plans together? The more we see His ways, the more we shake our heads in amazement. Isaiah 55:8 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.”

Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz had no idea they were part of God’s greater plan in the coming of the future Messiah. We know the rest of the story, but they did not! They simply lived a life of faithful obedience and God took care of the greater plan. What greater plan does He have in your life?  By taking the long look we find encouragement in Ruth to trust and obey the living God one ordinary day at a time. 

Jesus Christ is our Kinsman-Redeemer. He assumed the role of our closest relative and paid the price we couldn’t pay to buy us back. He is our Elder Brother who sacrificed Himself for us, for our redemption from a life without hope, as Boaz did with Ruth. Hebrews 2:17 says, “For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.”

Ruth is one of Scripture’s best examples of living by faith. Ruth left all she knew to return with Naomi. She was willing to risk herself to step out for God. She established a good reputation in her adopted homeland and won the approval of all who knew her, including Boaz. She was also a woman with marvelous capacity for love and loyalty. 

While Ruth is a beautiful love story, it is far more than a cheap, romantic novel, which mostly emphasizes passion and physical attributes. Ruth and Boaz’s love grew out of their commitment to values far more significant than mere good looks. As far as we can tell, Ruth was a woman of faith … all of the time. 

Take Home Truth: The child of God is never out of His providential care.