Rev. Haak is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Lynden, Washington.
Boaz had promised Ruth that he would see to her rights as a widow in Israel. Naomi had assured her that Boaz would not rest until he had done it. And so it was; the very same day found Boaz at the gate of Bethlehem, representing the cause of Ruth before the elders of the city.
The gate of the city in that day was the near equivalent of our present county court house. Here all business was transacted. There contracts were publicly verified, trials were held, judgment made, verdicts were given and carried out. Boaz evidently was one of the elders of the city, and went to take up his seat at the gate of the city. By this action he gave notice that he had a legal matter on his mind, which he wanted transacted. (On the “gate of the city” seeDeut. 16:18; Deut. 17:9ff.; Deut. 22:15ff.; Job 29:7ff.; Prov. 31:23; II Sam. 15:2, etc.)
It was not long before the nearer kinsman answered. His name is never mentioned. That is not without significance; for the man shows that, though outwardly a member in Israel, he has no true inheritance, his name is not found written (Phil. 4:1– 4). In the presence of ten elders, Boaz asked the man if he was prepared to buy back Naomi’s property for her. The man declared that he was willing to do so. He had it all figured out; although he was buying the field for Naomi, it would surely revert to him and his family when Naomi died. Boaz responded that the man would also have to take Ruth as his wife. This the man refused to do, for the field would then wind up in the hands of Elimelech’s family, which would be represented in the first son Ruth bore. If he married Ruth and she bore him a son, the parcel of land would be lost. In fact, he would “mar his own inheritance,” that is, jeopardize it by mortgaging it for the money to redeem Naomi’s plot, and all for naught as far as he would be concerned. For the nameless kinsman, it was simply a financial consideration. Love for the covenant and continuation of Elimelech’s family played no role in his consideration (Matt. 6:19-21).
Following the custom prevailing in Israel, Boaz then asked the man to take off his shoe, the shoe with which he would otherwise step onto the field to be redeemed. The removal of the shoe was a sign that he waived his right to the parcel of land and his right to serve as redeemer (see Ps. 60:8). In the presence of the elders and the people standing at the gate, Boaz solemnly accepted the obligation to serve as the redeemer of Elimelech’s family by marrying Ruth and returning the land to its original owners. The people and elders call upon the Lord to bless Boaz and Ruth.
Do not fail to see the underlying truth here of redemption. The passage is a beautiful shadow of things to come, our redemption by Jesus Christ. Rev. Heys touches on this when he writes, “wonderfully, this was a shadow of the reality that Christ would come and take His church to Himself as His bride, so that she can live with Him in His house of many mansions. He takes her away from Satan and the firm grip that he has upon us. This he did in a very legal way of buying us by His precious blood from the awful punishment we deserve, and from the spiritual death into which we fell with Adam.”
“Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;
“But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”
1. From your understanding of the principles of “redemption” by the “near kinsman” as given in the book of Ruth, formulate the doctrine of our redemption by our “elder brother,” Jesus Christ. (Look up New Testament passages on Redemption, Redeem, Ransom and try to state in 4-5 steps what it means to be redeemed by Jesus Christ.)
2. What went on at the “gate”?
a. What was the nature of this meeting place?
b. How did Boaz know the kinsman would be there?
c. Was this gathering the same as a court?
3. Is there significance in the fact that the kinsman is never named? (What does it mean to have one’s name mentioned in God’s book?)
4. Why did the kinsman first say he would redeem Naomi’s land and then change his mind?
a. Was the kinsman wrong in turning down the opportunity to redeem Naomi? b. How would he have “marred his own inheritance”?
c. Give an evaluation of the motives and principles governing the near kinsman, and apply them to ourselves as temptations we face and warnings we must heed.
5. What did the taking off and giving of the shoe signify?
6. What is the significance of Boaz’s calling the people to be witnesses of the transaction that has taken place?
a. How are we faithful witnesses to each other?
b. What obligation does this place on the people and us?
7. Review your memory work. Now write it from memory!