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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Ruth 4

 

 

Verses 1-22


The Marriage of Boaz and Ruth. The Birth of their Child

1. Boaz went up from the threshing floor to the open space by the city-gate, where the business he had in hand would have to be done, where, too, he would catch the other kinsman on his way out to the field. The author does not know this man's name, and therefore contents himself with calling him 'So and So.'

2. Ten was considered a perfect number (Jeremiah 6:27; 1 Samuel 25:5; 2 Samuel 18:15): where ten Jews live there should be a synagogue; these ten elders are heads of the community, sheikhs, as they would be called today.

3-5. Elimelech was not their brother in the strict sense, but was a member of the same family (Genesis 13:8; 1 Samuel 20:6, 1 Samuel 20:29; 2 Samuel 19:13). Naomi had already sold the land. Ruth's being under the necessity of gleaning shows that her mother-in-law was no landowner: Ruth 2:18 is an eloquent testimony to their poverty. The kinsman had now the opportunity of buying it back for them, and it is plain from Ruth 2:5 that this transaction would take the form of a purchase from Naomi: the presence of the elders and the other inhabitants, 'them that sit here,' would make it a valid bargain. But if he bought the land he must also purchase Ruth as his wife. There can be no doubt that Boaz said: 'Thou must also buy Ruth': Ruth has nothing to do with the sale; see also Ruth 2:10. The money which the bridegroom used to give to the bride's family was compensation for the loss of her valuable services. And at the present time in Syria 'No marriage is strictly legal among the Mussulmans without a Mahr or settlement from the bridegroom to the bride. It may consist of only a few silver pence, still it must be made.' Jacob's services to Laban were prices paid for Leah and Rachel.

6. The kinsman draws back. The Rabbinic commentator thought that he was afraid of dying by God's judgment for marrying a Moabite, as Mahlon and Chilion had perished. But his motive seems to have been an unwillingness to encroach on his own property for the sake of a son by Ruth, who would be heir of the newly acquired land and would not be accounted his child.

7-10. In the case described at Deuteronomy 25:9 the woman removes the shoe of the man who declines to act; here the man himself takes it off: there, by that symbolic act, she takes away the right he will not exercise; here, he renounces it. At Psalms 60:10; Psalms 108:10 the shoe thrown over the land is a sign that possession is taken: see on Amos 2:6; Amos 8:6. Similar customs have existed amongst the Hindoos, the ancient Germans, and the Arabs. When an Arab divorces his wife, he says: 'She was my babuj (slipper) and I cast her off.' Boaz declares it to be his purpose to prevent the name of the dead from being cut off: if Ruth should bear a son he would be the representative of Mahlon, and men would remember the father's name whilst they called the child Ben-Mahlon, Mahlon's son.

11, 12. No Hebrew woman could desire a better fortune than to resemble the two wives of Jacob from whom the entire people had sprung. And the wish of the Bethlehemites for Boaz was that he might win a name which should be famous amongst them as the head of a powerful and illustrious house. Perez, whom they go on to mention, was the child borne by Tamar to Judah, when the latter unwittingly did her the justice (Genesis 38) which Boaz was so willing to render to Ruth. The cases were also parallel as regards the respective ages of the man and the woman.

13-16. It was an honour and a mark of divine favour to have a son, a discredit and curse both to husband and wife to be without: 'He who has not left a son to be his heir, with him the Holy One—blessed be He—is angry.' This son would take upon him all the duties of near kinsman to Naomi. He would be a 'restorer of life' (RV), reviving the fainting soul, inspiring fresh hope, joy, courage (Psalms 19:8; Proverbs 25:13; Lamentations 1:16). His mother had been better to Naomi than seven (i.e. any number of) sons. And now the grandmother puts the child in her bosom, to indicate that he belonged to her (Genesis 30:3; Genesis 50:23), as a Roman father took up the child from the ground and thus owned him.

17. The women are still to the front. As a rule the father or mother named the child. But it is the neighbours who here call him Obed, 'Servant,' anticipating that he would minister to all the wants of the aged woman who had been a true mother to Ruth. The book originally ended with the simple intimation of the manner in which all good wishes were fulfilled in him: 'He is the father of Jesse, the father of David.' The verses which follow may have been borrowed from 1 Chronicles 2:9-15 : in any case they were added later to bring out clearly the place of Boaz and David in the line of Judah. It is interesting to notice that notwithstanding Ruth 4:5, Ruth 4:10, though in agreement with 1 Chronicles 2:12, they do not regard Obed as Mahlon's son, but give him, to Boaz.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Ruth 4:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/ruth-4.html. 1909.

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