TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. THE CONTEXT OF RUTH
I.1. The Settings of Ruth: Author, Date, Outline and Message
I.2. The Outline and Message of Ruth
I.3. The Structure of Ruth 4:1-6
II.1. The gathering at the gate (4:1-2)
II.1. The Case Explained Resulting in a Complication (4:3-4)
II.3. The Case Clarified and the Resolution (4:5-6)
III. LESSONS AND APPLICATION
III.1. Comparing the African and Jewish traditions on Levirate Marriage
III.2. Lessons from 4:1-6 and their Application
In this work, I am going to study the Encounter of Boaz with his fellow unnamed kinsman in Ruth 4:1-6, which is an essential part of the process towards his marriage to Ruth. My thesis is that, through an inner-battle likened process and regardless of the pressure which he experienced, Boaz tactfully, yet faithfully underwent the necessary legal process toward his marriage to Ruth. I will have four main parts in this work. First, I will briefly present the context of Ruth. Second, I will engage in the analysis and commentary of the passage. Third, I will compare the African and Israelite traditions on levirate marriage and apply lessons study to the African context.
I. THE CONTEXT OF RUTH
I.1. The Settings of Ruth: Author, Date, Outline and Message
Both the authorship and the date of Ruth have been the objects of many studies but without any dogmatic results. On the one hand, some people have been suggested to be the authors of the book of Ruth, including Samuel, the prophet Nathan and Tamar, daughter of David (Block, Daniel 1999, 592-598 & Hubbard, Robert 1988, 23). Here, Hubbard says that the tradition that Samuel is the author comes from the Talmud. And I think it is a possibility to consider, although some scholars like Hubbard himself find the view inadequate. Since the book does not give any “hint of interest in the identity of the author” (Block, 590), I chose to stand with Bush who says that, “any attempt to discuss in any concrete manner the authorship of the book of Ruth is an exercise in futility” (Bush, Frederic 1996, 17). In the same way, just like many others, talking about the challenge of dating Ruth, Hubbard admits that, “there is no decisive evidence to settle the matter finally” (Hubbard, 35). Thus, trying to make a stand on these two issues will require long discussions which I do not intend to make in this work.
I.2. The Outline and Message of Ruth
There are three main parts in the book of Ruth. The first part (chap. 1) narrates the sorrows and sufferings of Naomi and her family. However, this sorrowful period ends with a glimpse of hope, when Naomi returns to Bethlehem together with the converted Ruth. The fact that she had converted from her gods to the God of Naomi is testified by her confession in 1:16-17. The second part (chap. 2-3) is a story of hope, showing the hope of Naomi and Ruth after their times of sorrows. The last part (chap. 4) is a story of joy, as the hope of part two is perfected.
Auld Graeme (1984, 274) tittles 4:7-22 “A happy end.” However, this “happy end” of the book would not be possible without the account narrated in 4:1-6. The passage is all about the legal process Boaz undertook in order to marry Ruth. It is the application of both the levirate tradition instituted in Deuteronomy 25:5-10 and the Law about the kinsman-redeemer given in Leviticus 25:35-55. These are the processes that Boaz undertook and which led to what was both needed and desired: fulfilling the hope of Naomi, Ruth and Boaz.
From the outline above, the message of Ruth comes out very clearly. First, the God of Israel is an ever-present God: present with his people even in times of sorrows of all types, that he may give the people hope and carry it to fulfillment. Second, God rewards those who are loyal to Him to the end, regardless of their background. In conclusion, the message of the book of Ruth calls to faith in God and faithfulness to God, with their subsequent hope and satisfaction.
We are living in a time when this message is highly needed. On the one hand, many people in the Global South are very desperate due to their increasing multidimensional misery. On the other hand, many Westerners are very desperate due to the deceptions of materialism and humanism. The common situation is that everywhere in the world, people are desperate for having not known or experienced a relationship with the unique God of Naomi. Therefore, the need to read, to study, to live out and proclaim the message of the book of Ruth is great all over the world, since it will inspire faith in and faithfulness to God and result into hope and satisfaction even in this desperate world.
I.3. The Structure of Ruth 4:1-6
Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten
1 Meanwhile, Boaz went up to the gate and sat there. And behold, the kinsman-redeemer whom Boaz had spoken about was passing by. And he said: “turn aside, such one, and sit down here.” So he turned aside and sat down. 2 Then he took ten men from the elders of the city and said: “please sit down here.” And they sat down. 3 And he said to the kinsman-redeemer: “Naomi who has returned from the land of Moab has decided to sell a portion of the land which belonged to our brother Elimelech. 4 And I said I ought to inform you, saying that I wish you buy it before the elders of my people. If you want to redeem, redeem! If you do not want to redeem, please let me know, because there is no one except you to redeem it and I am after you.” And he said, “I will redeem it.” 5 And Boaz said, “on the day you buy the land from the hand of Naomi, you will have to buy Ruth the Moabite, the wife of the deceased in order to raise up the name of the deceased upon his possession.” 6 And the kinsman said: “No, I will not be able to redeem it for me so that I may not ruin my inheritance. Redeem it for yourself with my right of redemption, because I will not be able to redeem.”
Structure of 4:1-6
The Gathering and Settlement at the Gate (4:1-2)
The case explained resulting in a complication (4:3-4)
The Case Explained
The case clarified resulting in a resolution (4:5-6)
The Case Clarified
II.1. The gathering at the gate (4:1-2)
Boaz, the kinsman-redeemer and the elders meet at the city gate.
Chapter three of Ruth ends while recounting what happened after Boaz had released Ruth from his threshing floor (Ruth 3:14-15). She went, early in the morning back to Naomi, and started telling her the stories of her night at Boaz’s threshing floor. When she finished recounting, Naomi encouraged her, saying that the day would not end before Boaz worked out the redemption process (3:18). Immediately, we read: “Meanwhile, Boaz went up to the gate and sat there” (4:1a).
The sentence begins with the conjunctionו, which I view in this context to mean “meanwhile.” The fact that the sentence begins with the particleוmay have one of these two significances. On the one hand, it would show that the story continues the preceding chapter’s story and thus be translated “now” as in the New American Standard Bible (NASB) and King James Version (KJV), “and” or “and it came to pass.” On the other hand, it would show that what is going to follow in the story happened at the same time as the last event of the preceding chapter, and thus be translated “meanwhile” as in the New International Version (NIV) (See Brown, Driver and Briggs, 1907, 251-255). The first translation would be supported by the fact that Ruth rose up very early before people woke up, which means that Boaz would not go to the gate that early. But it is also possible to consider that while Ruth was going to Naomi’s house the day would have been clearer enough for Boaz to go to the gate, especially that he had promised to Ruth to work on the matter in the morning (Ruth 3:13). That is why I go for the second possibility, which implies that the very moment when Naomi was telling Ruth of Boaz that “the man will not rest until he has settled it [the question of redemption] today” (Ruth 3:18), Boaz moved towards the gate where he could meet the kinsman-redeemer he had mentioned to Ruth (Ruth 3:12-13). However, Bush (p.196) prefers to leave the translation ambiguous (now Boaz went up) because he wonders whether the use of the conjunction is also ambiguous in terms of time: is the “going up” to the gate prior, simultaneous or later than the event of 3:23? Even though, I believe the context may allow one to make a decision as I have done above.
In fact, when theconjunction וoccurs before a labial, it takes the form of a shurek (û) (see Seow 1995, 58). As we have discussed above, it conveys that, as Naomi was encouraging Ruth that morning, Boaz also left the threshing floor and went up to the gate, to do exactly what Naomi was sure of: working on the redemption process.
In the Hebrew Bible, Boaz (בעז) occurs twenty-four times (Ruth 2:1, 3, 4, 5, 8, 11, 14, 15, 19, 23; 3:2, 7; 4:1(x2), 5, 8, 9, 13, 21(x2); 1Kings 7:21; 1Chro. 2:11, 12; 2Chro. 3:17), of which two occurrences refer to the temple’s left-side pillar which Solomon named “Boaz.” In the 1Kings and 2 Chronicles passages, the use of the name Boaz refer to the left pilar of the left side of the temple. However, NIV seems not right to translateשמאלי as “north,” thus rendering the passage “the one to the north.” This would be right if the left side pillar was located in the northern side of the temple. Even though, the NIV might be right if it understands the door of the temple to be on the West side, and the holy of holies to be toward the East. Thus, the North pillar would be to the left of the door, when looking at it from the outside (looking from west to east). Brown, Driver and Briggs (p.127) present different views from different materials. First, the pillar in 1Kings 7:21 & 2Chro. 3:17 might have been given the name of its architect or the donor for its building. Second, it might have derived from a sentence engraved on the pillar, “He (God) establisheth in strength.” Third, the inscription might have been an exclamation “in strength!” “expressing the satisfaction of the architect.” What is unknown is the reason for such naming of the pillars. Nevertheless, Boaz is an important character in Scriptures mainly due to his role as an ancestor of both David and Jesus-Christ (1Chro. 2:12-13; Matt. 1:5).
In the book of Ruth, Boaz is one of the main characters. He is very active, especially from chapter two of the book to its end. His main contribution in the story is his function as the kinsman-redeemer of Naomi. Through him, God led the sorrowful life of Naomi to a happy end. Of course, this raises a number of questions. Was Boaz single before he married Ruth? Did he have a wife or wives and was seeking Ruth as an additional wife? Was he married and then divorced? Was he a widower? While Biblical material both within and without Ruth is unclear about these questions, the option of him being a widower seems to have speculative support from some scholars. Among them are Fewell and Gunn (1990, 40-41) who think that Boaz was once married, but his wife died while delivering their first born.
Boaz went up (עלה) to the gate. The verb is thus translated because it conveys a past perfect action, looking at a past event as a whole. Big cities usually had more than one gate. For instance, Jerusalem seem to have had more than one gate (2Kings 14:13; Jer. 37:13 and Zeph. 1:10). However, Bethlehem does not prove to have been big enough to have many gates.
City gates had many usages. They mainly served as entrances into the city, that is, for people or animals to come in or go out (Gen. 23:10; 23:18). In addition, they were used for: confrontational speech with the enemies would happen at the gate (Gen. 34:20, 24); refugees from another city would stop and explain their case to the elders before entering the city (Josh. 20:4); from the gate, one would see the enemies from afar (Jdg. 9:35); gates were built in ways to make easier the guardians’ task (2Kings 7:10); therefore, the gate was a strategic place for battles (Jdg. 9:44; 16:2). Moreover, city gates served as places for assemblies (2 Chro. 32:6).
However, one of the many usages of city gates in the Ancient Near East was to serve as a court place (Deut. 22:15, 24; 2 Samuel 15:2). Thus, adding to the fact that there is a definite article the (ה) before gate (שער) proves this to have been the unique city gate of Bethlehem. In that light, to some extent, the phrase “to go up to the gate” meant in ancient Israel, “to go to court” (Hubbard, 231, foot note 1). Since judgments were mainly conducted by the elders of the city, the gate seem to have been a daily ‘residence’ for the elders, because people would go there probably any time in the day, expecting to find them (Deut. 21:19).
In conclusion, the gate seems to have been the “center of the city life.” This is supported by Job 29:7-10 where he says: “When I went out to the gate of the city, when I took my seat in the square, the young men saw me and hid themselves, and the old men arose and stood. "The princes stopped talking and put their hands on their mouths; the voice of the nobles was hushed, and their tongue stuck to their palate” (NASB). This passage suggests that the young men, the old men, the princes and the nobles would be found at the gate (See Gray, John 1986, 397). We also see that when Prophets address the gate (Isa. 14:31; etc.), they actually address the people who are there, and particularly the elders and other officials. To end, according to Morris Leon (“An Introduction and Commentary” 1968, 297), there are many other passages which provide more details on the usage of the gate in Ancient Israel: Deut. 15:7; 22:15, 24; 2Sam. 15:2; 1Kings 22:10; Ps. 127:5; Pro. 22:22; Jer. 38:7; Lam. 5:14; Am. 5:10, 12, 15; etc.)
This general overview will help our understanding of the next episodes. Boaz did not just to up to the gate, but he went up “and sat there.” It is known that city gates had chambers inside. There were benches built as foundations, were people used to sit (Campbell, Edward 1975, 101-104). The phrase and he sat (וישב) shows a definite past action. The context suggests that he sat at the gate in order to see Naomi’s closest kinsman-redeemer. But what is it that made Boaz certain that he would meet the kinsman-redeemer at the gate? It is likely because the gate was likely the busiest part of the city in that people went back and forth, since many public activities and businesses were held there. Hubbard (p.232), suggests that it seems that Boaz did not go to the gate initially to meet the kinsman, but to do business as usual and as other people. However, he admits that the gate was “the best place to locate the other kinsman, and Boaz’s top priority was to find him.” In addition, the kinsman himself went to gate for business, and he had to “set aside his day’s agenda to sit down to deal with Boaz,” as we shall soon see. On turn, Morris suggests that “Boaz knew that he [the kinsman] was bound to pass the gate, so he awaited him there” (Morris, 298). Thus, it was most probable to meet with the kinsman there.
“And behold, the kinsman-redeemer whom Boaz had spoken about was passing by” (4:1b).
The fact that the clause begins with and behold (והנה) implies that what is going to be said next should be given particular attention. Bush (p.196) renders it “and just then.” It is the passing by of the kinsman-redeemer whom Boaz was seeking to meet. It deserves attention because his passing by fulfilled Boaz’s goal of going up to the gate (3:12-13). The word kinsman-redeemer (הגאל), is simply translated “kinsman” in the KJV and some other versions. Such translation seems to be incomplete because it does not openly incorporate the “redemption” idea, but simply means “the close relative,” as the NAS translates it. Yet the word name comes from the rootגאל “to redeem.” In addition, apart from Ruth 4, the formהגאלoccurs only in Genesis 48:16 where it is used for an angel who “redeemed” or “delivered” Jacob from “all harm,” thus suggesting that this word firstly connotes the idea of redemption before that of family closeness. “Kinsman-redeemer” is therefore a better translation. In fact, being a participle fromגאל, the word functions as a substantive-subject of the clause. In this quality, it is mainly used for the “avenger of blood” (Num. 35:12, 19, 21, 24, 25, 27; Deut. 19:6, 12; Josh. 20:3, 5, 9; 2Sam. 14:11; etc.) and the “kinsman-redeemer” (Lev. 25:25, 26; Num. 5:8; Ruth 2:20; 3:9, 12; 4:1, 3, 6, 8, 14; etc.), which is the case here. Nevertheless, in some passages, it may also simply mean “a relative” (1 Kings 16:11) or can be used of God as the redeemer of His people (Job 19:25).
In Israel, the “kinsman-redeemer” was a tradition rooted in the law, since it was instituted by God when He instructed His people on the kind of life they should live in the Promised Land, as far as the care for one another was concerned. The role of the kinsman-redeemer was to redeem property and the people bound to it or to redeem people and the property bound to them, so that no one would forever lose their inheritance or remain slaves (Lev. 25:25; Num. 5:6-8; Ruth 4:3-5). According to Auld (p.274), the “essence of ‘redemption’ in the story of Ruth is family solidarity and responsibility.” One was another person’s kinsman-redeemer depending on how close they were. Boaz was one of Naomi’s kinsmen redeemers, but there was one who was closer than him (Ruth 3:12). The rule was that the closest should redeem. In case he does not, then the other kinsmen would decide to redeem (Ruth 3:13). When “Boaz went up to the gate” that morning, it was in order to meet with this kinsman, so that he may know whether the kinsman would decide to redeem for Naomi or whether he would allow Boaz to redeem.
This kinsman-redeemer is described as the one “whom Boaz had spoken about.” This relative clause introduced by whom (אשר) which may also be translated “which, who, that, because, when, since”. But due to the context which makes it to refer to a person, I prefer “whom”. Thus, it suggests that Boaz had already spoken – to Ruth – about the kinsman (Ruth 3:12). So, he “was passing by.”עבר is a participle fromעברwhich means to pass over, to pass by. Functioning here as a predicate, it shows the action of the kinsman-redeemer as having been continuous. While it is improbable that he was coming into the city through the gate, especially since it was early in the morning, we may better think that he was either walking around near the gate, or that he was coming to the city gate, or even that he was heading outside the city, thus passing by where Boaz was sitting at the gate.
Boaz said (ויאמר) to the kinsman-redeemer “turn aside (סורה) . . . and sit down here (שבה).” The imperfect waw-consecutiveויאמרfunctions as a definite past, reason for the translation “and he said.” Bothסורה(turn aside) fromסורandשבה(sit down) fromישבare imperatives. However, while the first works better as an imperative of invitation, the second seem to be an imperative of request. The relationship which existed between Boaz and the anonymous kinsman does not allow me to view the two imperatives as imperatives of command. The entire story shows that Boaz had respect to the kinsman. Therefore, it is difficult to see him as commanding the kinsman to “turn aside and sit down.” Instead, he invited him to turn aside and requested him to sit down. Boaz requested the man to sit down here (פה), that is, near him on benches within a chamber of the gate.
Boaz addressed the kinsman as such one פלני אלמני, which both NIV and NASB translate ‘friend’. Bush (p.196) prefers the translation “so and so.” In addition, he points that in Jewish Aramaic, in Syriac and Arabic, the wordפלניmeans “someone, a certain one.” In fact, the constructionפלני אלמניoccurs three times in the Hebrew Bible (Ruth 4:1; 1 Sam. 21:3; 2 Kings 6:8), and in two of the occurrences it is used for unmentioned names of places (1 Sam.21:3; 2 Kings 6:8). In Ruth, it is used to refer to the kinsman, and although translated variously, it indicates that the kinsman’s name is unmentioned. Both Hubbard (p.234-235) and Bush (p.197) also see the possibility for the word to have been used by the author of Ruth in lieu of the kinsman’s name.
Having been invited to turn aside and requested to sit down at the gate, the kinsman “turned and sat down.” Both turned (ויסר) and sat down (וישב) are definite past actions conveying that the author reported them as completed actions, but not to imply that the kinsman was object to Boaz’s commands.
“Then he took ten men from the elders of the city” (4:2a).
After having the kinsman-redeemer sat down, Boaz looked around for some elders of the city so that they could join him and the kinsman. In fact, “To sit down” at the gate also seems to have the sense of sitting in Legal Assemblies (See Hubbard, 236). This connection between the sitting down of the kinsman and the taking of the elders by Boaz is marked by the conjunctionו, which may be translated variously. Here, marking a ‘chronological’ order, it is best translated then. The verbויקחfromלקחmeaning to take is used here in the sense of “to bring together, to gather.”
The ten men were taken from the elders of the city (זקני העיר), which means that the ten were also elders of the city. This construction occurs twenty-nine times (Deut. 19:12 ; 21:2-4, 6, 19-20 ; 22:15, 17-18 ; 25:8 ; Jos. 20:4 ; Jdg. 8:16; Ruth 4:2; 1 Sam. 16:4; 1 Kings 8:1; 1 Kings 21:8, 11; 2 Kings 10:5; 2 Chr. 5:2; Ezr. 10:14; Lam. 1:19.), while the word “elder” itself occurs more than 120 times in the Hebrew Bible (Willis, Timothy 2001, 8-13). In fact, Willis found that there were three categories of elders in Ancient Israel: the elders of tribes, the elders of the city and national elders. He says that the Elders of the tribes were present in villages and tribal cities, while the Elders of cities were in inter-tribal cities and the National Elders were attached to Kings in capital cities. The following paragraph will provide an overview of different functions of the elders.
They served as judges (Deut. 19:12; 21:2; 21:3, 4, 6, 19, 20; 22:13-30), as witnesses to marriages (Deut. 25:8), as protectors of refugees (Deut. 24:20), as the guardians of the city (Jdg 8:5; 1 Sam. 16:4; cf. 2 Kings 10:5), etc. However, about how the team of the elders of the city was made up, we have no clear information. Bush (198) suggests that the elders were a “governing body” in Ancient Israel, that they were officials of the people, not necessarily the aged ones.
The question of why Boaz took precisely ‘ten’ elders remains debatable. In fact, there is no rule as to how many elders should be in a court for its quorum to be acceptable. Some scholars, having tried to study the significance of the number “ten” in the Old Testament have concluded that it is a number of small completeness, and that it was the quorum for a legal process at the gate (Hubbard, 236. Cf. Morris, 299). However, this is not very clear in Scriptures.
Due to their role in the Israelites’ society, Boaz would not go further in his project to marry Ruth without involving the elders. So, he invited ten from among them and said to them to please sit down here (שבו־פה). The verbשבוis an imperative of request, not of command, since I view that Boaz could not command the elders of his people. For that reason I have translated it “please sit down here,” thus viewing it as an imperative of request. The elders’ response to Boaz’s request was positive, since “they sat down.” The next episodes (4:3-6), are referred to by Hubbard (p.236) as the “Legal Process”.
II.1. The Case Explained Resulting in a Complication (4:3-4)
Boaz exposes his concern to the kinsman-redeemer in front of the elders of the people, which unfortunately will result in the complication of the matter.
The Case Explained
3 And he said to the kinsman-redeemer: “Naomi who has returned from the land of Moab has decided to sell a portion of the land which belonged to our brother Elimelech. 4 And I said I ought to inform you, saying that I wish you buy it before the elders of my people. If you want to redeem, redeem! If you do not want to redeem, please tell me, that I may know, because there is no one except you to redeem it and I am after you.” And he said, “I will redeem” (4:3-4).
After having all the needed people around him, Boaz presented the reason why he invited the man and the elders. Verse 3 begins with “and he said to the kinsman.” It is interesting to see that while he had brought together the kinsman and the elders, he did not address the elders, but only the kinsman. This suggests that the elders were to serve as witnesses to the exchange between Boaz and the kinsman.
Boaz described Naomi as the one “who has returned from the country of Moab...” The word Naomi (נעמי) is used twenty-one times in the Hebrew Bible, and all the occurrences are found in the book of Ruth (1:2-3, 8, 11, 19-22; 2:1-2, 6, 20, 22; 3:1; 4:3, 5, 9, 14, 16-17.). Although we do not know other people called Naomi in the Hebrew Bible, the fact that Boaz gives some explanations on the Naomi he is talking about may suggest that there were other people with the same name in Bethlehem. But it seems that he simply wanted to remind the elders of the recent story of Naomi.
The verbמכרהis a perfect from to sell (מכר). While there might be different views as to what is its function, in this verse it is a perfective of resolve, conveying that Naomi had resolved to sell the portion of land in the near or immediate future. It is therefore rendered “has decided to sell.” Even though, some versions have “is selling” (NIV), “has to sell” (NASB), and “selleth” (KJV). In addition, there is a concern here related to the means by which Boaz was informed about the sale of the land, since there is no episode in the story where Boaz had met with Naomi for a conversation, nor had Ruth told him about it in their talks. While the question has remained unanswered, Hubbard (p.54) suggests that perhaps this was Boaz’s own initiative for the sake of Naomi, since he not only was also her kinsman-redeemer, but also he had known well about her situation and struggles through his conversations with Ruth.
The fact that Naomi had recently come from the country of Moab can be the reason why she had decided to sell the land, probably so that she may have some capital to begin with her new life in Bethlehem. In fact, there is a debate to whether Naomi had authority over the property so that she may sell it. It should be noted that the real problem was not the land, but Ruth who needed a husband. Willis (p. 263-268) has proved that, in fact, widows had a choice to make as to whom among her kinsmen would marry her daughter-in-law. He shows this by pointing to the fact Naomi, knowing that there was a closest kinsman (2:20), chose to send Ruth to “seduce” Boaz. It is seen by the fact that Naomi asserted to Ruth that Boaz was “one of those who have the right to redeem them”.
In addition, Boaz told Ruth how surprised he was to see Ruth coming to him rather than going to younger men (3:10). All this suggest that widows had a choice to make not only in deciding who would marry their daughter-in-law, but also what to do with their deceased husband’s property. While numerous scholars question Naomi’s authority over the property, Hubbard (p.52-56) proves that in ancient Israel, a widow had the right over her husband’s property, and she should manage it until the heirs, that is, the children become mature enough to manage it themselves. However, Morris (p.301) argues that if Naomi did have any rights as we see she had, there was not “legal process” in the Old Testament, “by which she could have obtained them.”
Naomi had decided to sell “a portion of the land which belonged to Elimelech.” The question here is to know the meaning of the “portion of the land.” Does it mean a part of a large allotment of land or is it the entire portion of land which belonged to Elimelech? The wordחלקהwith no article means “a portion,” while the wordהשדהmeans “the field” or “the land.” The construction of the two words occurs nine times in the Hebrew Bible (Gen. 33:19; Jos. 24:32l Ruth 2:3; 4:3; 2 Sam. 23:11; 2 Kings 9:25; 1 Chr. 11:13.). Generally speaking, in these occurrences, the construction refers to a piece of land without focusing on whether it is a portion or a totality. However, the context of Ruth 4:3 makes us think it is referring to a portion of “the common field” which was Elimelech’s share (Cf. Morris, 300).
This field belonged toאלימלך Elimelech, whom Boaz described to have beenלאחינו, literally, a brother to us. The suffixed pronounנוis a genitive of relationship. It conveys that Boaz and the kinsman were all relatives, being brothers to Elimelech. In fact, there would be no way for them to be kinsmen redeemers of Naomi without being related to Elimelech. However, as to what kind or level of brotherhood they had, it is not clear in the text. Part of the reason for the ambiguity is that the name Elimilech is found only in Ruth (1:2-3 ; 2:1, 3 ; 4:3, 9.), in addition to the anonymity of the kinsman-redeemer. Even though the text is not very clear on the question, I do not agree with Morris (p.299) who views the term to simply mean “our friend”. In fact, there is not provision in the Law that one would have a friend as a redeemer. Instead, the redeemer must be a blood relative, which seems to be the meaning of the word ‘kinsman’ (Lev. 25:26; Num. 5:8). What is at least clear is that the man was closer to Elimelech’s nuclear family than Boaz since he was found to be the closest kinsman.
The literal translation of the phraseאגלה אזנךis “I will uncover to your ear.” The KJV renders it, “I thought to advertise thee;” the NIV has, “I thought I should bring the matter to your attention;” and the NASB has, “I ought to inform you,” which I have maintained. The basis of this choice is that I view the verbאגלהto be an imperfect functioning as a non-perfective of obligation. This suggests that having heard that the land of their brother was put up to sale, Boaz took it as his obligation to inform the closest brother, since he had the first right to redeem it.
In fact, “uncovering something” to someone should mean informing someone about the thing. This verbגלה“to uncover” or in this context “to inform” suggests that the kinsman-redeemer had not yet heard that Naomi was planning to sell the piece of land. In fact, as far as the text is concerned, Naomi had not yet declared clearly that she wanted to sell the land. If this was the case, the kinsman-redeemer would probably have heard, especially that he is a closer kinsman than Boaz. Now, does this mean that Boaz was “lying” in the name of Naomi? We cannot have such a conclusion because though Naomi was not talking directly to Boaz, she was expressing her heart through Ruth. In fact, Ruth, being a Moabite and probably a first-timer in Bethlehem would not know by herself that Boaz was one of the kinsmen-redeemers and declare it to Boaz (chapter 3). In addition, through their repetitive dialogues Ruth might have reported to Boaz what Naomi was planning. Therefore, Boaz was telling the kinsman-redeemer exactly what was in Naomi’s heart, though we know the piece of land was only a means for her to get Ruth married.
Boaz wanted inform the kinsman so that he may consider buying, which means here to redeem, the land. The verb to buy, to get (קנה) is used here as an imperative. It is difficult to see it as implying that Boaz commanded the kinsman to buy the land. Instead, as the context tells, the kinsman was not commanded, but suggested to buy the land. This is made more explicit in the next episode, as we will see. Thus, we are facing here a different kind of imperative, which I view to be an imperative of wish, in that Boaz wished that the kinsman-redeemer buys the land. Here we see Boaz’s inner battle: while he desired to buy the land, he gave the kinsman a chance according to the Law. So he wished that the kinsman buys it “before the elders of my people.” This points to the fact already mentioned that the elders were not to take a decision in this matter, but to bear witness to what would be the end of the encounter. The “elders of my people” here are the same as the “elders of the city.” It seems that the appellation “elders of the people” or “elders of Israel” was mainly common from the exodus period to the time of the conquest. Exod. 17:5-6; 18:12; 19:7; 24:14; Num. 11:16, 24; Deut. 27:1; Jos. 8:10, 33. On turn, the appellation “elders of the city” was used later-on, since the people already had cities. Jos. 20:4; Jdg. 2:7; 11:5, 8, 11; 4:4, 9, 11; 1 Sam. 4:3; 15:30; 2 Sam. 3:17; 1 Kings. 12:6, 13; 20:8; 2 Chr. 10:6; Ezr. 10:14; Ps. 107:32; Prov. 31:23; Isa. 3:14; Jer. 19:1; 26:17; 29:1; Joel 2:16.
Boaz continued and said “If you want to redeem, redeem!” The clauseאם־תגאל גאלis a real conditional clause introduced by if (אם־), since the condition is capable of being fulfilled in the present, that is, when Boaz was speaking. The imperfectתגאלfunctions as a non-perfective of desire. It conveys that redeeming or not redeeming depends on the kinsman’s desire. However, the imperativeגאלputs a kind of limitation to the timing of the action of the kinsman. It is an imperative of request. Therefore, Boaz meant that the kinsman to feel free to redeem or not and that the decision should be made on that occasion.
At this point, Boaz started to show why he requested the kinsman to redeem on the spot: “If you do not want to redeem, let me know.” The fact that Boaz was not commanding, but suggesting the kinsman to redeem is once more made clear with the phrase “if you do not want to redeem.” This is another real conditional clause. It conveys that there was a possibility for the kinsman not to redeem, reason why Boaz insisted, so that he may know what position the kinsman wanted to take. The verbהגידה, is an imperative fromנגד(to declare, to tell). Since I view it to be an imperative of request, I choose to render it “please tell me.”
Boaz wanted to be told so that he “may know.” The verbואדעהfrom to know (ידע) serves here as a cohortative of purpose. The purpose for which Boaz wanted to be told the kinsman’s decision was that he may know. However, knowing was not an end by itself. The word because (כי) shows that he wanted to know since “there is no one except you to redeem it and I am after you.” The adverb there is not (אין), marks non-existence, that is, “there is not except you (זולתך)” a person having the right to redeem for Naomi at the first position. Boaz added, “and I am after you (ואנכי אחריך).” By this, Boaz made it clear to the kinsman that he was also ready to redeem, so that the kinsman may consider this as he answers (Morris, 302).
“And he said, “I will redeem” (4:4d).
The labor of Boaz explaining the matter to the kinsman resulted in a positive response that the kinsman would redeem. The verb and he said (ויאמר) introduces a quotation, that is, the kinsman-redeemer’s response. The imperfect I will redeem (אגאל) is a specific future. It conveys that the kinsman promised to redeem, of course, specifically in due time. To finish, this response complicated the matter to Boaz, because the possibility for him to redeem was being cancelled.
II.3. The Case Clarified and the Resolution (4:5-6)
Thus, Boaz took again the flour in order to clarify what is the implication of the kinsman decision, which resulted in the resolution of the complication in favor of Boaz, Ruth and Naomi.
The Case Clarified
“And Boaz said, ‘on the day you buy the land from the hand of Naomi, you will have to acquire Ruth the Moabite, the wife of the deceased, in order to raise up the name of the deceased upon his possession”’ (4:5).
In fact, the sale of the land was a minor issue in the story. The real issue was Ruth. Here, Hubbard (p.238) shows how surprising it is that Boaz did not begin with the question regarding Ruth, but with the field. However, he also demonstrates that it might have been because the most familiar task of kinsmen redeemers was to redeem properties. Morris (p.303) also points that Ruth was the real interest of Boaz in the matter. Thus, it was good to start there. Then, Boaz unveiled the real issue to the kinsman, which was the implication of buying land. The phrase on the day (ביום־) focuses on a particular day which is the time-frame of a particular action. On the day you buy (קנותך) the land (השדה). It is the portion of land which belonged to Elimelech that was to be bought from the hand of Naomi (מיד נעמי). This suggests that Naomi was responsible for the land. It means that the land was to be bought by her decision and the money should be given to her.
On that same day, the kinsman would also have to acquire Ruth (רות). The name ‘Ruth’ occurs twelve times in the Hebrew Bible, and all the occurrences are found in the book of Ruth (1:4, 14, 16, 22; 2:2, 8, 21-22; 3:9; 4:5, 10, 13). It also occurs once in the New Testament, as part of the genealogy of Jesus Christ (Matt. 1:5). The fact that she appears in the genealogy of the Christ is significant. It shows her importance together with Boaz in the story of Israel. No wonder, the book of Ruth ends with the mention of her union with Boaz, making them the ancestors of King David (Ruth 4:17). Hubbard (p.39) views the purpose of the book of Ruth to be linked with David.
I have preferred the translation “acquire” rather than “bought,” because no form of “dowry” would be required for Ruth, since she would be acquired with the redemption of the land. In fact, Morris (p.303-304) suggests that the “redemption of the field and the marriage with Ruth went together.” Boaz talked to the kinsman of Ruth as the Moabite (המואביה). It is easy to think of this formula as a simple description of Ruth. However, Auld (p.276) thinks that the kinsman did not know Ruth, thus the need for Boaz to describe her as the Moabite. However, I do think the kinsman, though might have not interacted with Ruth, already knew about her. In fact, how could people be amazed about the return of Naomi from Moab (Ruth 1:19) without paying attention to the young lady she came with? If the kinsman did not know about it, how would that be yet he was the closest kinsman of Naomi? Thus, it seems to be more than a simple description. The fact that the name Ruth was not an Israelite’s name suggests it was uncommon in Bethlehem. This may be supported by the fact that there is no occurrence of this name in the Old Testament.
Therefore, the mention of Moab here seems to have intended to influence the kinsman’s final decision. The fact that Ruth was a “Moabite,” that is, from a pagan nation, would be significant to the kinsman and make him rethink his previous declaration. Ruth is talked of as the wife of the deceased (אשת־המת). If the name “Ruth” had not been mentioned, this description would be confusing since there were many deceased in the story.
The phrase and from (ומאת) may suggest that the land was to be bought from the hand of Naomi and from Ruth. However, the verbקניתהfrom to buy, to get (קנה), is the action of the kinsman. This is the Qere. The Kethib isקניתי, and it is in Qal perfect first person common singular. In fact, the Kethib is not right, since it does not fit the context. On the contrary, the Qere is relevant to the context, and that’s what I maintained in my translation. This position equate the consensus established by Hubbard (p.237 f.n.9) after his interaction with a number of scholars, included Beatie and Sasson. And, the particleאתinומאת, shows that Ruth is the direct object, not indirect object of the verb. What is conveyed is that if the kinsman maintains that he would redeem, he would receive both the land and Ruth from the hands of Naomi.
The reason for which Ruth had to be acquired together with the land was “in order to raise an inheritance to the deceased.” The Hiphil infinitive construct to raise (להקים) is used in this verse to introduce a purpose clause, showing why Ruth would be acquired with the land. The purpose is “in order to raise the name (שם) of the deceased upon his inheritance.” In fact, the portion of land of Elimelech was an inheritance of his children. For that reason, in order to raise the name of a child of Elimelech upon his inheritance, the wife of the child should be acquired by the one who redeemed the inheritance. Raising the name of the deceased upon his inheritance meant to have children in his name, and who would inherit on his behalf. In fact, for Hubbard (p.49,f.n.2), the purpose of the levirate marriage in ancient Israel was to raise heirs for one’s deceased brother. However, Hubbard (p.125-129) does not prefer to call Boaz’s marriage to Ruth a “levirate marriage,” but simply a “Legal Practice.” A number of scholars hold the same position. Thus, when Boaz mentioned this, the kinsman-redeemer understood what it meant: marrying Ruth and having children with her for the sake of his late husband. Of course, this would make the kinsman have Ruth’s children as heirs of the field which he was going to buy.
“And the kinsman said: ‘No, I will not be able to redeem it for me so that I may not ruin my inheritance. Redeem it for yourself with my right of redemption, because I will not be able to redeem’” (4:6).
Boaz’s explanation of the implications of the initial decision of the kinsman led the latter to rethink and come up with a different decision, which, of course, resolved the complication. While the first reply was positive, this one is negative, but is good news for Boaz! Auld (p.276) recognizes that, “the story gives us no clue as to whether this mysterious unnamed character [the kinsman] acted responsibly or irresponsibly. He certainly pleased Boaz and Ruth–their marriage could go forward and their love prosper.”
The reply is an effect-reason-conclusion sentence, in the Hebrew text. While the first part of the sentence provides the effect, the second provides the reason of the effect and the last part gives a conclusion on the basis of the first and second parts. The effect is that the kinsman would not be able to redeem. The verb I will not be able (אוכל) from to be able (יכל) possibly functions as a specific future, which conveys that the kinsman actually mean he will certainly not redeem.
The reason of the effect is the fear of having his inheritance spoiled or ruined (Ruth 4:6). Auld (p.275) says that “it seems that taking the initiative towards ‘redemption’ was more of a responsibility than a right.” In fact, the Hiphil I ruin, spoil (אשחית), communicates an intensification of the action. It is not just losing, but ruining his inheritance! A question remains here, to know how the kinsman’s inheritance would be ruined by him acquiring Ruth. There seem to be two possibilities. First, the simple fact of buying the portion of the land probably demanded a lot of money. But the first answer of the kinsman showed that he was able to buy it. However, adding to that the responsibility of providing both for Ruth and her children who would be Mahlon’s, would be greater burden. Morris (p.304) imagines that it is probable that the kinsman was not very rich to the point of bearing all these responsibilities. In addition, Campbell (p.159) assersts that while acquiring Ruth would have not been the problem of the kinsman-redeemer, it is its consequences including the heavy responsibility of taking care of Naomi, Ruth and her children that made the man to decline what he had accepted to do, that is, to redeem.
Second, it is probable that the kinsman would imagine what intermarriage would mean not only for him as an Israelite, but also for his inheritance. Since the Moabites were enemies to the Israelites (Judges 3:28), it would not be easy for the kinsman to think of getting united to a Moabitess. Morris (p.305) refers to an incident through which an Israelite’s family was extinguished “subsequent to Moabite intermarriage”; thus, the kinsman did not want “to repeat the experiment”. For Hamilton (2001, 188), to the Israelites, the Moabites were the equivalent of the Samaritans in the time of Jesus Christ, that he calls Ruth “the good Moabite” in comparison to “the good samaritan”. Lacocque (2004, 110) says that, “marriage in the ancient Near East, as in ancient and modern agrarian societies, is considered the most effective means of preserving the inheritance of land within familial domain.” Therefore, the kinsman would consider his inheritance ruined if it was entrusted to children resulting from an exogamic marriage.
Thus, the kinsman concluded: “Redeem it for yourself with my right of redemption, because I will not be able to redeem.” To make it emphatic, as sees Morris (p.305), the kinsman adds for yourself (לך), probably to mean “I am out of this affair!” This decision of the kinsman is also a response to Boaz’s request in 4:4, in that it helps him “know” and get ready to redeem, for he is the one after the kinsman.
- Quote paper
- Jean Musavuli (Author), 2015, Old Testament Exegesis. Anthology of 4 Essays, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/416982