Read the Passage: Ruth 3:1-4:22
Promise of Redemption (3:1–18)
Ruth chapter 2 begins with dire circumstances, but ends with great promise. After the introduction of Boaz, as well as Ruth and Naomi’s encouraging dialog in Ruth 2:20–23, the reader is left wondering about the outcome of the story. In Ruth 3:1–4, we learn that Naomi is a woman of action. She schemes to facilitate a marriage between Ruth and Boaz, while it is yet still the time of the Barley harvest (cf. Ruth 3:2). At most, then, a few days—perhaps only a few hours—have passed since Ruth had met Boaz. Naomi’s plan was for Ruth to dress in her best clothing, to approach Boaz after he had labored and had dinner, to lie down at his feet, and to indicate her desire for him to marry her. All of this was to take place that very evening. The fact that Boaz’s “heart was cheerful” (Ruth 3:7) after eating and drinking is not an indication of drunkenness, but of contentment and joy.
The text reports that Ruth followed Naomi’s instructions exactly. In an almost comical dialog, Boaz awakens at midnight and is startled by Ruth’s presence. Ruth makes her request of Boaz, saying, “Spread the corner of your garment over your maidservant, for you are a close relative” (Ruth 3:9). In biblical times, a garment was a word-picture that represented marriage (cf. Ezek. 16:8; Mal. 2:16). Boaz understood Ruth’s request and he commended her for her kindness, purity, reputation, and virtue. Further, Boaz promises to grant Ruth’s request by introducing her to a closer relative or, if that relative would not marry her, by being a kinsman-redeemer himself. Note the additional evidence of Boaz’s godly character, as he did not engage in sexual immorality or take advantage of Ruth. Further, Boaz took steps to be sure that there wasn’t even any appearance of evil.
Act of Redemption (4:1–12)
Ruth had returned home to Naomi in the early morning with six measures of barley—likely 60 or 70 pounds of grain—and a promise that Boaz would work to resolve her situation. As Naomi expected (cf. Ruth 3:18), Ruth 4:1–7 reports that Boaz set out to see to Ruth’s redemption that very morning. Recall that under Hebrew civil law, redemption include three aspects: redeeming a relative from slavery (cf. Lev. 25:47–49), redeeming property sold due to economic need (cf. Lev. 25:25–28), and redeeming family lineage through levirate marriage (cf. Deut. 25:5–10). In this narrative, Boaz asked the nearer relative if he would redeem Elimelech’s land. While the unnamed relative first agreed, he later turned down the opportunity to redeem the land once he learned that it would involve marrying Ruth. The stage was now set for Boaz and Ruth to unite in marriage.
Ruth 4:8–12 records the legal proceeding that led to Boaz’s marriage to Ruth. Since the unnamed closer relative—possibly Elimelech’s brother—did not exercise his right of redemption, it left Boaz as the next in line to redeem Elimelech’s land and Mahlon’s widow. Note that it is not until Ruth 4:10 that we learn Ruth was married to Mahlon, which means Chilion had been married to Orpah. Boaz’s exercise of his rights took place in the city gate, before ten witnesses, which was the place where court was held in biblical times. Ruth 4:8 records that the unnamed relative removed his sandal, which was a sign he was refusing his right of redemption (cf. Deut. 25:7–10). After exercising his rights to be a kinsman-redeemer, the men of the court bestowed a blessing upon Boaz and Ruth, wishing that their household would be full of descendants (cf. Ruth 4:11–12).
Results of Redemption (4:13–22)
In Ruth 4:13–22 we read that the marriage of Boaz and Ruth resulted in the birth of a son who was to be named Obed. As is the case with other women in the Old Testament, such as Rachel (cf. Gen. 30:22) and Leah (cf. Gen. Gen. 29:31), so here it is reported that “the Lord gave Ruth conception, and she bore a son” (Ruth 4:13). The response of the neighborhood women is interesting. First, they bless God for his provision (cf. Ruth 4:14); second, they describe Obed as a nourisher and restorer (cf. Ruth 4:15a); and third, they characterize Ruth as being better than seven sons (cf. Ruth 4:15b). The fact that it is the neighborhood women who named the child Obed (cf. Ruth 4:17) is interesting, as this is the only time in the Bible where a child is not named by family members. Note that the name Obed means “servant,” which is an appropriate name given that Obed stands in the lineage of Jesus.
- In thinking over the many events in your own life, can you trace God’s sovereign hand of providence? What does God not reveal his plans to us in advance?
- Does Naomi’s plan to unite Ruth and Boaz seem hasty? Why did Boaz not offer to redeem Ruth after first meeting her?
- What can we discern from the fact that Boaz had ready knowledge of there being a relative closer to Ruth than himself (cf. Ruth 3:12)?
- Given their generational age difference, and the practical cost of redemption, why is Boaz so willing to redeem Ruth and serve as her kinsman-redeemer?
- How do you think the arrival of Obed changed Naomi’s perspective on God, as well as her understanding of suffering?