John A. Heys is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.

One of the striking things in the book of Ruth is not what we find written on its pages, but what we are not told, and what God does not want us to know. Apart from the groups of people—such as the women who met Naomi when she returned to Bethlehem; the people who witnessed the fact that Boaz said that he would redeem the land of Elimelech by marrying Ruth; and the women who spoke so glowingly when the son, Obed, was born to Boaz and Ruth—the individuals whose words and actions are recorded were identified by means of their names. We read of the words and works of Elimelech, Naomi, Mahlon, Chilion, Ruth, Orpah and Boaz. But the nearest of kin to Elimelech, although he is referred to no less than fifteen times in Ruth 4—not now including what is written of him in Ruth 3—does not have his name given to us even once. Amazingly enough, when Boaz met him in the city the morning after telling Ruth that he would take care of this matter, Boaz greets: him with the words, “Ho, such a one!” Boaz did not even call him by his name.

This was not due to a slip on the part of the one who wrote this book. The Primary Author, the God of our salvation, Who moved the secondary author to write this book and guided him infallibly to write it exactly as God wanted it written, and so that he did not leave out of it as much as one word, or letter of a word that God wanted in it, He saw to it that the name of this kinsman is not written in this book. The simple fact is that he, because of his carnality and unspirituality, was not worthy of having his, name given.

Yes, there are sinners, base, vile members of the human race, who are mentioned by name. Satan has his name written no less than fifty times; and so does Judas Iscariot, who betrayed the Son of God, have his name penned down in Holy Writ. But this nearest of kin to Elimelech and Mahlon is not mentioned even once by name. And God has His reason for this omission in our Bibles. The God of our salvation has the names of His elect children written in the Lamb’s book of life. And He is the One Who will not reveal to us the name of this nearest of kin to Elimelech and Mahlon. Why? What is His reason? We do well to look carefully at what we read about him, the things God does want us to know about his works.

Living in the land of Canaan was, since the day God brought the Israelites there through Joshua—whose name is the Old Testament form of the New Testament name Jesus—a type and picture of being a citizen in the kingdom of heaven that is coming in the day of Christ. (Incidentally, a better translation ofPhilippians 3:20 is, “For our citizenship is in heaven; from whence we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Our translation, that is, the King James Version, declares the truth: “our conversation is in heaven”; but that is exactly because our citizenship is there. And thus being a citizen of the kingdom of Israel was a picture and type of having one’s name in the Lamb’s book of life. The name Israel, which was given to Jacob after he wrestled with the angel, means Prince of God. And is Jesus not called the Prince of God in Isaiah 9:6 as well as Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father? The Israelites, then, in name, although not always in fact, were princes of God.

Having one’s name in Israel had great significance; and that is also why Naomi is so concerned about having a grandson through Ruth who will continue the name of Elimelech, on that piece of land that God had given to him.

Having a piece of land in Canaan in that day of types and shadows was a picture of having a place in the kingdom of God. Elimelech and Naomi left that land with the intent of coming back after the famine was over in the land. They left the kingdom of heaven for material advantages, although they did not sell the land and erase their name from it. And we can understand that this nameless kinsman was eager to buy it now from Naomi and consider himself to have a bigger place in the kingdom of heaven. Plainly he had the wrong idea of what that kingdom of heaven is, and for him it was a kingdom of fleshly advantages.

Nor is this nameless kinsman the only one with a wrong idea of the kingdom that God has established for His people in Christ, Who is The King of all kings, and The Lord over all Lords. There is so much effort in some church circles to pray for healing of the body and of claiming that their prayers have been heard and answered. But where today do we have intensive and really spiritual prayers for deliverance from the love of sin, from carnality, and all the weaknesses of the flesh? Speaking in other tongues seems to be the sure sign of having received the Holy Spirit. The salvation that God promised in the Mother Promise ofGenesis 3:15, namely, that He would make those He chose as citizens in the kingdom of heaven to hate sin and the devil, who is constantly causing us to walk in sin, rather than in love to God, they ignore or minimize. Love of God, to them, means talking but not doing. What one does with the mouth counts, and the rest of the body from the heart outward means far less to them. But no; walking in love to God, not merely talking about His love, reveals whether the Spirit of Christ has caused one to be born again and to have the life of that kingdom of heaven.

This nameless kinsman would gladly keep the letter of God’s law, if it would enrich him in this earth’s goods as they were found in the land of Canaan in that day. Without hesitation he tells Boaz that he will redeem that land. He will keep the letter of the law that one of the same tribe and same family should buy that land from the widow, Naomi. He would get a bigger place in that shadow of the kingdom of heaven. But when a bit more of God’s law is presented to him, he will not walk as a citizen of that kingdom. He will speak enthusiastically about redeeming that land; but he will not perform one act of heeding the word of God that he marry Ruth and raise up seed that will inherit that land and keep Elimelech’s name upon it.

What shall we say about this nameless kin of Elimelech? Was he not correct in refusing to marry a Moabitess? Was he more sinful than Boaz, who is ready to keep his promise to marry such a Moabitess? Boaz’ name is mentioned no less than sixteen times in this book of Ruth. What really is the difference between them?

As already pointed out in a previous article, he is not a Jew that is one outwardly, but he that is one inwardly, Romans 2:28. Boaz rightly saw Ruth as a Jew inwardly; and this nameless kinsman had an abundance of proof that this was the case, and that God looked down upon her as a citizen in His kingdom of heaven. Did Ruth not leave her father and mother and their idol, Chemosh, to come with Naomi here to Canaan to worship Jehovah, the one and only God? Did she not come to dwell with those who represented the citizens of that kingdom? What is more, did he not know what Boaz declared, when he praised Ruth for choosing widowhood rather than following after young men, whether rich or poor, for fleshly reasons?

There can be no doubt about it that Naomi had informed her relatives there in the region of Bethlehem why Ruth came with her, and why Orpah did not. We may believe that these women of Bethlehem asked her why Orpah had not come with her. We should not forget either those words of Boaz to Ruth, namely, “It hath fully been shewed me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother-in-law since the death of thine husband; and how thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people which thou knewest not heretofore. The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under Whose wings thou art come to truth,” Ruth 2:11, 12. And Boaz had not yet seen her when he had heard all these things about her. He did not recognize her when she came to glean in his fields, and had to ask who she was. This nameless kinsman might never have seen her, either, before Boaz told him that he must marry her to buy that land. But it is hard to believe that he had never heard anything about her in such a small community as that little town of Bethlehem and the fields that were nearby.

The very answer of this man to Boaz, when he told him that he must marry Ruth to buy that land, reveals that he knew who she was. He does not ask, “Who is she?” He does not say, “Let me think it over and visit her before I make up my mind.” He has his answer ready at once. And that very answer reveals that it was not because he was betrothed to another Israelite and had a strong natural love that would not let him set her aside. He states, “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I mar mine own inheritance.” And we do well to take note of the fact that he says that he cannot, not that he does not want to do so. It is also important to note that he presents his own inheritance as the reason for his quick decision, not some other person whom he planned to marry.

To keep his own inheritance he will go against the ordinance of God that he must remember and keep. His inheritance means more to him than God’s will. The things of this earth mean more to him than the things of God’s kingdom. When it comes down to it, he said that earthly things mean more to him than God and His sovereign will. God’s name does not mean as much to him as his own name upon the land which God gave him. Is there anything strange, then, that God does not want his name mentioned in this account, and that God disapproves completely of his behavior and desires?

Why would this nameless kinsman lose his inheritance if he married Ruth? Would not that child born to them be his son and continue his name in that promised land? No, Elimelech’s and Mahlon’s names would be continued on that piece of land; and he would be marrying Ruth so that this would take place, if God gave them a son. But the money he would pay for that land he would lose. And he was not a rich man like Boaz. He might even have to borrow money to buy that land. This money he would never get back, because all the crops of this land would be his only in a small measure. It could support his earthly life, but the percentage of what it produced would not be his. He could, as he also said, lose his own inheritance which he got from his father, because he could not pay off the debt that became his because he borrowed to buy this inheritance. Serving God meant for him losing material possessions; and that he would not do.

When we lose our respect for him and believe that we must label him as a sinner, we do well, and in fact, must look at ourselves. Let us remember the words of Jesus: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust corrupt, and where thieves do not break through and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” We are so often quite ready to say of others that they should not and do not have their names in the Lamb’s book of life, and are nameless kinsmen because they seek the things here below. That their citizenship is in the kingdom of heaven we may question. But what about ourselves? What means most to us? Do houses and land; clothing and sumptuous meals mean more to us than the cause of God’s kingdom here below?: Will we go against God’s law in order to keep our earthly possessions and add to them, while the cause of spreading the gospel and of striving to bring other Ruths, other Moabites into the kingdom of heaven, calls for more financial support?

What really are we seeking? The kingdom of heaven or of laying up treasures on this earth that we cannot take along when we die? This nameless kinsman does not have his personal name mentioned even once in Scripture; but the Word of God does give the name of the class to which he belonged. His name, as far as this act is concerned, was that of sinner, law breaker, and seeker of the things here below. But that is also our name so often; and this whole incident ought to teach us to seek first things first and be concerned with a place in heaven where we can have on our feet the shoes of the righteousness of Christ, and enjoy the blessedness of an everlasting life of keeping Gods law, living in perfect love before Him. And be thankful for that grace of God that gives us a name free of charge, a name which can be ours only because His own Son lost so much for us when He was nailed to His cross and was forsaken in the torments of hell. He married us, the spiritual Ruths, that have in ourselves no right in the land of promise. He took us as His bride and gives us an everlasting name and place in the kingdom of heaven.

That this nameless kinsman took off his shoe and gave it to Boaz was also significant. It symbolized the transfer of a possession. Here this kinsman gave Boaz the right to buy that inheritance. Giving him the ownership of that shoe symbolized giving him right to the ownership of that land of Elimelech. It means that he would not walk in that land and claim it to be his but recognizes the right for Boaz to walk there and say that it belongs to him. No name; but acting in spiritual shame. A man with only one shoe, and acting as though only outwardly is he a Jew.