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Ruth 3-4: The Redemption of Boaz Print E-mail
Sunday, 04 December 2011

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The book of Ruth is a book about redemption. The smaller story and the larger story are both about the redemption of God’s people. The fortunes of Naomi and Ruth turn upon the person of Boaz, whom Naomi calls one of our redeemers (2:20). Some versions translate this Hebrew term as ‘kinsman redeemer.’ What does this mean? What does it mean for Boaz to be Ruth and Naomi’s ‘kinsman redeemer?’ The idea stretches back to the Law of God, where family and land were highly valued. The ‘redeemer’ was charged with serving in several possible ways. They made sure that land remained in the proper family’s possession (particularly in cases of death). They bought out of slavery any family member who had sold themselves to provide. They sought justice for any member of the family who was murdered. The redeemer was called to protect the good name of the family. Although the ‘redeemer’ is never explicitly told to marry widows, it is easy to see the connection between this practice and the practice of levirate marriage, which did provide a husband for a widow who was childless (see Deut. 25:5-10). Thus, Boaz, as a ‘kinsman redeemer’, might possibly have certain responsibilities to fulfill towards Ruth and Naomi. Ruth 3-4 tell the story of the redemption of Boaz.

Before we look at that story together this morning, we must note that this is not the only story of redemption in the book of Ruth.  As we have noted in weeks past, there is a greater story at work in this book, the story of God redeeming a people by sending His Son.  After looking at Boaz’s redemption of Ruth and Naomi, I want to come back and once again consider this larger story.  So then, let’s begin by walking through chapters 3-4.

Naomi’s Plan (ch. 3):

In one sense, Ruth 3 tells us about Naomi’s plan to marry off Ruth.  She prayed for Ruth to find rest and get married in 1:9 and now she seeks to find this rest for Ruth.  Look at 3:1.  Thus, her plan is to send Ruth to Boaz in hopes that their encounter will result in a future marriage.  She explains to Ruth that he will be on the threshing floor tonight and that Ruth should clean up, put on some warm clothes, and go after him.  When she finds him, she is to uncover his feet and lie down, at which point he will tell you what to do (3:4).  What are we to make of this plan?  Some believe that Naomi is trying to get Ruth to play the part of a prostitute.  Although the language could be taken in such a way, it seems like a contradiction in the story.  Why would Naomi come up with such a plan and why would Ruth, whose character is praised throughout, go along with it?  Perhaps by using this language, the author is simply demonstrating how risky the plan really is.  If Boaz does not give Ruth the benefit of the doubt, then Ruth’s situation could go from bad to worse.  Yet, even so, she agrees to following Naomi’s plan.

We are then told of Ruth’s execution of the plan.  She goes and finds Boaz and when he has eaten and drunk (he is not actually drunk, but simply full and merry), she follows him to where he lays down for the night.  Just as Naomi said, she uncovers his feet and waits.  At midnight, Boaz wakes up, apparently because his feet were cold, and finds a woman laying there.  He immediately asks who she is and Ruth tells him.  But instead of waiting for further instructions, she seemingly takes some initiative and states her purpose for being there.  Look at 3:9b.  With this phrase, Ruth makes her intentions clear, she is not there to play the prostitute, she is there to seek marriage with Boaz.  Earlier, Boaz had prayed that God would provide for Ruth and spread His wings of protection over her.  Here, Ruth asks him to answer his own prayer.  This is a climactic moment in the book. 

What will Boaz do?  How will he respond?  Look at what he says in verses 10-11.  Just as Ruth was amazed at Boaz’s kindness (see 2:8-13) so is he amazed at hers.  Instead of going after younger, wealthier men, she has chosen to go after him, one of her ‘kinsman redeemers.’  Boaz speaks of her reputation as a worthy woman and all seems to be going well.  Yet, he goes on to introduce another conflict in the story.  Look at 3:12-13.  Yes, Boaz is a ‘redeemer’, but he is not the first in line.  His integrity demands that he not ignore this other potential ‘redeemer.’  He tells Ruth to wait and sends her home to report to Naomi what has happened and to deliver his gracious gift of grain, which Ruth obediently does (see 3:14-18).  Before looking at how the conflict plays out in chapter 4, we must note one more connection with earlier in the book.  Look at 3:16-17.  I point these verses out just to show the contrast between Naomi’s earlier ‘emptiness’ (1:21) and now her ‘fullness.’  Indeed the Lord has provided for her.  And to be sure, He is not done yet.

Boaz’s Plan (ch. 4):

Chapter 4 immediately picks up the story of Boaz.  He goes to the gate and waits for the other ‘redeemer’ to show up so that he can speak with him about the situation.  Of course, not long after his arrival, behold, the redeemer, of whom Boaz had spoken, came by.  It is another one of those places in the book where the author points us to the hidden hand of God at work in these circumstances.  After gathering the elders of the town, Boaz speaks to the redeemer.  Look at 4:3-4a.  Boaz tells him of a field that is Naomi’s and asks if he is going to redeem it to keep it in the family.  The man responds: “I will redeem it” (4:4b).  We are taken back by this response.  This is not what we expect to happen.  Yet, before we get too far down that road, Boaz speaks again.  Look at 4:5. 

Boaz seemed to know that this was a potential deal breaker for the other man, which is confirmed by his response in verse 6.  Look at that with me.  The man refuses to redeem the land and Ruth because he does not want to impair my own inheritance.  Just redeeming the field would have been something that the man could have done financially (and would have potentially been beneficial to him).  But when you add to that the fact that he would have to marry and Ruth and she might produce offspring who would then inherit the field (and more) the man decides that he cannot afford such a move.  Thus, he officially waves his right to redeem the field and marry Ruth.

Now the road is clear for Boaz to marry Ruth.  All of the obstacles have been removed.  We read of the legal transaction in 4:7-8.  Look at those with me.  The transaction is sealed by the giving of the sandal.  This makes Boaz the lawful redeemer.  He then explains the transaction to the elders and witnesses in 4:9-10.  Look at that with me.  Here we see the story coming full circle.  The book began with what appeared to be the ending of Elimelech’s line.  Yet, through these various circumstances, we see that there is now hope for the continuation of that line.  Boaz intends to redeem his name.  The elders and the witnesses then bless Boaz and pray that those intentions will be realized.  Look at 4:11-12.  They pray for Ruth to bear many children like Rachel and Leah.  And they pray that Boaz’s house will be like the house of Perez.  And they recognize that only the Lord can do this.  He must give the offspring.

And the Lord does just that.  Look at 4:13.  The Lord gives Ruth and Boaz offspring, in particular, a son.  He will be Elimelech’s heir and will carry on his name.  This connection is made clear in 4:14-17.  Look at those verses with me.  Naomi will play an important role in raising Obed and he will be to her a ‘servant’ (which is what his name means in Hebrew).  The women give praise to God for providing this child for Naomi.  One of my commentators says of this verse: “Theologically, this is significant: the women gave Yahweh total credit for everything that had happened.  In so doing, they probably voiced the author’s view that Yahweh alone had brought these events about.  Though he reported mainly human acts, he viewed them all as Yahweh’s acts as well.” 1  The Lord had worked throughout this story to provide this descendent, this particular descendent, for Naomi and the line of Elimelech. 

Do we need a Redeemer?

Boaz faithfully serves as a ‘kinsman redeemer’ for Ruth and Naomi.  Yet, do we need such a redeemer?  In one sense, our answer could be ‘no.’  We do not need someone to carry on our family line and preserve our land.  But in another sense, of course we need a redeemer.  Yes, Naomi and Ruth’s situation was desperate.  They needed food and family and land.  But our situation is worse.  We need forgiveness.  Because of our sin, we need provision for our pardon.  Not only that, we need a new family and a new home as well.  According to John, as sinners, we are all children of the Devil (1 John 3:8-10) and we are part of the world, which lies in the power of the evil one (1 John 4:19).  We dwell in the kingdom of darkness (Colossians 1:13, 1 Peter 2:9).  We are a people who are desperate for a Redeemer because of our sin and rebellion.

And the glorious good news of the gospel is that our Redeemer has come.  Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came in the flesh, lived a perfect life, and died on the cross for our sins.  He took our place at the cross, suffering under the judgment of the Father that we deserved.  Three days later the Father raised Him from the dead to make it clear that His payment for our redemption was indeed enough.  Paul writes of God: He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:13-14).  And make no mistake about, this is what the book of Ruth is ultimately about: God sending us our Redeemer.  For Ruth and Boaz would have a son whose descendent would be none other than Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God.

So then, how should we respond to this story of redemption?  Indeed, how should we respond to our Redeemer?  The Bible teaches that only those who turn from their sins (repentance) and believe in Jesus Christ (faith) will be saved.  Only those who repent and believe in Christ will be redeemed.  To reject Christ would be like Ruth refusing to marry Boaz.  In fact, it would be even worse, for rejecting Christ means rejecting our only hope for the forgiveness of our sins.  There is no other Redeemer who can truly deal with our sins.  Only Christ can do that.  If you are here and you have not trusted in Christ, then I encourage you with everything that I am to repent and believe in Him.  If you are here and you are a believer in Christ, then I encourage you to live in the joy of your glorious redemption.  Obey your Savior because you can.  Love your neighbors because you can.  Bring glory to the Name of Your Redeemer, a name far greater than that of Boaz, because you can.  May we live the life of the redeemed to the glory and praise of Jesus Christ, our glorious Redeemer.  Amen

1 Robert L. Hubbard Jr., The book of Ruth NICOT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 1988), p. 270.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Thursday, 15 December 2011 )

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