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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

Ruth 4

 

 

Verses 1-12

CHAPTER FOURTH

Ruth 4:1-12

The Israelite without Guile

1Then went Boaz [And Boaz went] up to the gate, and sat him down there: and behold, the kinsman [redeemer] of whom Boaz spake[FN1] came [passed] by; unto whom he said, Hosea, such a one! turn aside, sit down here. And he turned aside, and sat down 2 And he took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, Sit ye down here. And they sat down 3 And he said unto the kinsman [redeemer], Naomi, that is come again out of the country [territory] of Moab, selleth [sold] a parcel of land4[the field-portion], which was our brother Elimelech’s: And I thought to advertise thee [determined to inform thee [FN2]], saying, Buy it before the inhabitants [the sitters, i.e. those present[FN3]], and before the elders of my people. If thou wilt redeem it, redeem it; but if thou[FN4] wilt not redeem it, then tell me, that I may know: for there is none to redeem it besides thee; and I am after thee. And he said, I will redeem it. 5Then said Boaz, What day thou buyest[FN5] the field of the hand of Naomi, thou must buy [thou buyest] it also of Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance 6 And the kinsman [redeemer] said, I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I mar [injure] mine own inheritance: redeem thou my right [my redemption, i.e. that which it is my right or duty to redeem] to thyself; for I:7 cannot redeem it. Now this was the manner [custom] in former time in Israel concerning [in cases of] redeeming and concerning [in cases of Exodus -] changing, for to confirm all things [every matter]; a man plucked off his shoe, and gave it to his 8 neighbour: and this was a [omit: a] testimony[FN6] in Israel. Therefore [And] the kinsman [redeemer] said unto Boaz, Buy it for thee. So [And] he drew off his shoe 9 And Boaz said unto the elders, and unto all the people, Ye are witnesses this day, that I have bought all that was Elimelech’s, and all that was Chilion’s and 10 Mahlon’s, of the hand of Naomi. Moreover, Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, have I purchased [acquired][FN7] to be my wife, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance, that the name of the dead be not cut off from among his brethren, and from the gate of his place: ye are witnesses this day 11 And all the people that were in the gate, and the elders, said, We are witnesses. The Lord [Jehovah] make the woman that is come [that cometh] into thine house like Rachel and like Leah, which two did build the house of Israel: and do thou worthily [lit. make thou 12 strength] in Ephratah and be famous [and get a name] in Beth-lehem: And let thine house be like the house of Pharez [Perets, Perez], whom Tamar bare unto Judah, of the seed which the Lord [Jehovah] shall give thee of this young woman.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

1 Ruth 4:1.—Sc. “to Ruth,Ruth 3:12. אֲשֶׁר is the accus. after דִּבֶּר־, cf. Genesis 19:21; Genesis 23:16.—On the forms סוּרָה and שְׁבָה, cf. Ges48, 5; 72, Rem3; 69, 3, 2; on וַיָּסַר, 72, Rem4.—Tr.]

2 Ruth 4:4.—Lit. “And I said, I will uncover thine ear,” i. e. I determined to inform thee. אָמַרְתִּי, is the same in sense as the fuller אָמַרְתִּי בְלִבִּי, Genesis 17:17, etc, cf. Exodus 2:14, etc. It might be supposed to refer to what Boaz said to Ruth, Ruth 3:12 f.; but as Ruth is not spoken of until the next verse, this is less likely. The expression “to uncover the ear,” originated in the practice of removing the hair that hangs over the ear, for the purpose of whispering a secret to a person. In general it means to communicate anything confidentially, but is here used in the wider sense of imparting information. The suffix of the second per. in *אָזְכְךָ is perhaps best explained by regarding the whole clause after אָמַרְתִּי as mentally uttered by Boaz, while considering how to proceed in the matter of Ruth. In this consideration, the nearer kinsman was present to his mind, and to him he addressed the conclusion, which he now only rehearses, “I will inform thee,” etc.—Tr.]

3 Ruth 4:4.—So Dr. Cassel. Keil: “Many translate הַיּשְׁבִים by ‘inhabitants,’ sc. those of Bethlehem. But although according to Ruth 4:9, a goodly number of the people, besides the elders, were present, this can scarcely be conceived to have been the case with the inhabitants of Bethlehem generally, so as to meet the requirement of גֶנֶד. Nor would the inhabitants have been named before, but as in Ruth 4:9, after, the elders as principal witnesses [but cf. Ruth 4:11]. For these reasons יָשַׁב is to be taken in the sense ‘to sit,’ and הַיּשְׁבִים is to be understood of the same persons who form the subject of ויֵּשׁבוּ in Ruth 4:2, the elders. The following וְנֶבֶד זִקני is to be taken explicatively: before those who sit here, even before the elders of my people.”—Tr.]

4 Ruth 4:4.—The Text. Recept. reads יִגְאַל, third per, concerning which Keil remarks, that “it strikes one as singular, since one expects the second person, תִּגְאַל, which is not only read by the LXX, but also by a number of MSS, and seems to be required by the context. It is true, the common reading may (with Sebastian Schmidt, Carpzov, and others) be defended, by assuming that in uttering this word Boaz turned to the elders, and so spoke of the redeemer as of a third person: ‘if Hebrews, the redeemer here, will not redeem;’ but as this is immediately followed by a resumption of the direct address, this supposition—to our mind at least—seems very artificial.”—The substitution by the Keri of וְאֵדְעָה for וְאֵדָע is not necessary, cf. Ges127, 3 b.—Tr.]

5 Ruth 4:5.—קכיתי. Keil: “According to sense and connection, this form must be the second per. masc.; the י at the end was either added by a slip of the pen, or it arose from an original ו, so that we must read either קְנִיתָ (with the Keri) without an accusative, or, with an accusative, קְנִיתוֹ, ‘thou buyest it.’ ”—Tr.]

6 Ruth 4:7.—תְּעוּדָה. Gesenius and Fürst define this word here as “custom having the force of law,” “attested usage.” Dr. Cassel’s rendering, Weissthum, is probably intended to convey the same idea (cf. Hoffmann’s Wörterb.). But it seems better to take the word here in its proper sense of “attestation,” as in E. V. So the ancient versions, Bertheau, Keil, etc. Cf. the root עוּד.—Tr.]

7 Ruth 4:10.—The Heb. קָכָה is less specific than our word “purchase.” It means to obtain, to acquire; which may be done in a variety of ways. The rendering “purchased” is unfortunate in this particular case, as it tends to convey the erroneous idea that Ruth was treated as a chattel, or at least as a sort of adscripta glebœ. The same word is used also in Ruth 4:4-5; Ruth 4:9, where there is no particular objection to represent it in English by “buy,” although “acquire” would be preferable for the sake of uniformity.—Tr.]

EXEGETICAL AND DOCTRINAL

Ruth 4:1. And Boaz went up to the gate, and seated himself there. Very early, even before Ruth with her burden of barley had yet started for home ( Ruth 3:15), Boaz, energetic in deed as he was kind in word, took the way to Bethlehem. It was necessary to set out so early, in order to be sure of reaching the gate before the person with whom he wished to speak, and who like himself was probably in the habit of coming to the city from the country. The gate, it is well known, was the place where judicial business was transacted and markets were held ( Deuteronomy 21:19 ff.; cf. Psalm 127:5). This is still the case in the East. In Zechariah 8:16, the prophet says: “Judge truth and the judgment of peace in your gates;” on which Jerome (ed. Migne, vi. p1474) remarks: “It is asked, why among the Jews the gate was the place for administering justice. The judges sat in the gates that the country-people might not be compelled to enter the cities and suffer detriment. Sitting there, they could hear the townsmen and country-people as they left or entered the city; and each Prayer of Manasseh, his business finished, could return at once to his own house.” At the gate was the proper forum; and it is certainly more satisfactory than all other explanations of the Latin word, to derive it, notwithstanding the later central situation of the place to which it was applied, from the archaic fora, gate, whence foras, cf. biforis, septiforis.

Certain Some-one, come and seat thyself. We have here the whole course of an ancient legal procedure before us, with its usages and forms. The fact that Boaz sat at the gate, plainly declared that he sought a judicial decision. When the person for whom he waited made his appearance, he made no delay to seat himself as requested, for the language addressed to him was a formal judicial summons. His name is not mentioned. Peloni almoni is a formula like our German N. N. [used as in English we now generally use a simple—or “blank.”—Tr.] In former times, it was customary among us, in legal documents, to use in the same way names that were very common, such as Hans, etc. (cf. my Erf. Bilder u. Bräuche, p29). The underlying idea of Peloni almoni is a different one from that of δεῖνα (cf. Matthew 26:18) or quidam. It intimates that the name is unknown and hidden. It conveys the idea of anonymus, in every sense of the word. There is an ancient explanation to the effect that the name of the first goel is not given, because he was unwilling to raise up a name for his deceased relative. This is the reason, probably, why the LXX. here have κρύφιε, “hidden one.” Without maintaining this, but even supposing that the narrator omitted the name merely because he did not know it, it remains none the less an instructive fact that he who was so anxious for the preservation of his own inheritance, is now not even known by name.

Ruth 4:2. He took ten men of the elders of the city. That the number of elders in any city was not necessarily limited to ten, may be inferred from Judges 8:14; but ten were sufficient to form a college of witnesses. In post-biblical times it was a maxim that an assembly for religious worship (עֵדָה, “congregation”), must consist of ten persons (cf. the Jerus. Targum on Exodus 12:4); but the attempt of the Mishna (Sanhedrin, 1:6) to ground this biblically on the supposed fact that the ten faithless spies are spoken of as a congregation ( Numbers 14:27), can hardly be deemed satisfactory. The custom, however, of selecting exactly ten men for such service as was here required, was so old and well-established among the Jews, that the term מִנְיָן, “number,” by itself, meant ten persons. Others, it is true, as we learn further on, had assembled about the two relatives; but the ten elders formed, so to speak, the necessary official witnesses.

Ruth 4:3. The inheritance of our brother[FN8] Elimelech, Naomi has sold. The expositors, with one consent, demand by what right Naomi could sell the inheritance of Elimelech, since the Mosaic law contains nothing to indicate that it considered the widow as the rightful heir of her deceased husband. But this view of the law is incorrect.[FN9] The whole system of leviratical marriage presupposes that the title of the deceased husband’s property vests in the widow. When a man dies childless, leaving a widow, the brother of the deceased is to marry her, in order “that the first-born may enter upon the name of the dead,” i.e. that the name of the dead may continue to be connected with the inheritance which he has left behind, for in no other sense can the expression “to raise up the name of one” have any meaning in Israel; and, accordingly, in Ruth 4:5 the words of the law, “to raise up the name of the dead,” are supplemented by the addition, “upon his inheritance.” But in case the brother-in-law refused to marry the widow, and consequently refused to raise up the name of his brother, he thereby also gave up all right to enter on the inheritance of his brother. The duty and the right were indissolubly connected. The law would have been illusory, if the brother, notwithstanding his refusal to marry the widow, had obtained the inheritance. In that case, possession remained with the widow, who, albeit childless, carried within herself, so to speak, the embryonic right of the heir. Of the symbolical act of drawing off the shoe, we shall speak farther on. But it is to be noted here that when the widow drew off the shoe of the recusant brother-in-law, she thereby declared that he must withdraw his foot from the possessions of his brother.

Naomi was a widow. But although she herself says ( Ruth 1:12) that she is too old to become a wife, even this fact gives no right to her property to any blood-relative, without marriage. Undoubtedly, the name of her husband would vanish from his estate as soon as she died; but until then it remained upon it, and Naomi had the same right and power to dispose of the property as the law gave to the husband himself. Now, in Leviticus 25:25, we read: “If thy brother become impoverished and sell his possession, let his nearest blood-relative (גֹאֲלוֹ הַקָּרֹב) come to him, and redeem that which his brother sold.” This contingency was here actually come to pass. Naomi had become impoverished,—she had sold. The name of Elimelech was still on the property: consequently the law demanded its redemption, and directed this demand to the nearest blood-relative. It is on the basis of this prescription, that Boaz begins his negotiation with the unnamed kinsman, in the interest of Naomi.

The sale of the land had hitherto not been mentioned. Nothing was said about it in the conversation between Ruth and Boaz on the threshing-floor. The fact that Boaz knew of it, confirms the surmise that before Ruth came to him with her great request, he and Naomi had already had some communication with each other. These communications, having reference to the sale of the land, and the necessity of its redemption according to law, may be regarded as having ultimately led to the proposition made by Naomi in Ruth 3:1. Naomi advanced from the redemption of the land to that of the widow, just as Boaz does here in his negotiation with the nearer kinsman.

Ruth 4:4. Buy it before these who sit here, and before the elders of my people. Boaz had said to Ruth, that he would ask the nearest kinsman whether he “will redeem thee; and if not, then will I redeem thee.” But this is not the way in which he opens his address to the man. He does not mention the name of Ruth at first. He desires of him apparently only the redemption of the land. This testifies to the uncommon delicacy of legal proceedings at that time, as conducted by pious and believing persons. The cause is entirely saved from appearing as if Boaz had begun it only in behalf of the woman. Nor does Boaz put the nearer kinsman under any constraint; for he says at once: “If thou wilt not redeem it, then will I, for I come next.” He admonishes the other of the duty imposed on him by the law, by the recognition of his own; while, on the other hand, he facilitates the other’s decision, by intimating his readiness to render the service demanded, if the other should prefer to be excused. He says nothing of Ruth’s connection with the matter. He leaves it to the kinsman himself to take the open and generally known relations between Naomi and Ruth into consideration, and to shape his answer accordingly. His address is gentle, noble, and discreet. It brings no complaint that the kinsman as nearest relative has not troubled himself about the matter in hand. It asks nothing of the other, that he is not willing to do himself. It is sufficiently discreet to wait and see how far the other will limit his duty. And withal, the interest and decision with which he urges the matter to a conclusion, make the transaction a forcible example to the people, teaching them to make the law a living spirit, and openly to acknowledge the duties which it imposes.

And he said, I will redeem. The kinsman, therefore, acknowledges the right of Naomi to sell, and also his own duty to redeem. But he thinks only of the land. He answers the question of Boaz only according to the literal import of its terms. By saying, “I will redeem,” he declares his readiness to buy back the land left by Elimelech, but his words do not indicate whether he is conscious of the further duties therewith connected. Boaz may have expected that he would make further inquiry concerning them; but as he did not do this, Boaz could not rest contented with the brief reply, “I will redeem,” seeing that he was chiefly solicitous about the future of Ruth, and that the duty to redeem not only the land but also the widow must be expressly acknowledged before all who were present. Hence he says farther:

Ruth 4:5. In the day that thou buyest the field of Naomi, thou buyest it also of Ruth the Moabitess, …. to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance. With these words, the law of entailment as recognized in Israel, becomes perfectly clear. Elimelech had left sons, who, had they lived, would have been the proper heirs. But they died. Now, if Ruth had not come from Moab with Naomi, Naomi would have been the sole possessor of the land. Having no means to cultivate it, she could hare sold it and the blood-relative could have bought it back without taking upon himself levirate duties, since her age rendered it improbable that they would answer the purpose for which they were instituted. But Ruth did come; and having entered into the Israelitish community, she also possesses Israelitish rights. She Isaiah, consequently, the heiress of Mahlon; and no one can redeem her inheritance, without at the same time providing for the continuance of the name of the dead. In her case, considerations like those which applied to Naomi, have no existence. Her husband Mahlon, whether he were the younger or the older brother, was an heir. Since Orpah remained in Moab, the claims of Chilion as heir, were also transferred to the estate of his brother. Separate possessions of their own, the sons of Elimelech probably had not, as long as they lived in Israel. Consequently, the land was the joint possession of Naomi and Ruth. And just because Ruth was part proprietress, the obligation existed not to let the names of Elimelech and Mahlon perish. The inheritance alone could not, therefore, be redeemed, as the anonymous relative proposed to do.

Ruth 4:6. . And the redeemer said, I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I injure mine own inheritance. Thus far the kinsman has accurately acknowledged his duty as prescribed by the Mosaic law. He is ready to redeem the land. Nor does he challenge the right of Ruth, as wife of the deceased Mahlon. Why then does he think that the performance of levirate duty to her will damage his own inheritance? For although accepted even by the most recent expositors, the idea that he is influenced by the thought that the land which he is to buy with his own money will one day belong not to himself, but to his son by Ruth, has no great probability. There is something forced in an exegesis that makes a father regard it as a personal detriment and injury when his own son enters upon an inheritance. Nor could the kinsman justify himself with a ground so external, before the assembly present. No; as he has hitherto not failed to honor the requirements of the law, it is to be assumed that he deems his present refusal also to be not in contravention of its provisions. Boaz here expressly speaks of Ruth as the “Moabitess.” It must be her Moabitish nationality that forms the ground, such as it Isaiah, of the kinsman’s refusal. Elimelech’s misfortunes had been popularly ascribed to his emigration to Moab; the death of Chilion and Mahlon to their marriage with Moabitish women. This it was that had endangered their inheritance. The goel fears a similar fate.[FN10] He thinks that he ought not to take into his house a woman, marriage with whom has already been visited with the extinguishment of a family in Israel. To him, the law against intermarriage with Moabites, does not appear to be suspended in favor of Ruth. He is unwilling to endanger his own family and inheritance; and as Ruth is a Moabitess, he holds it possible to decline what in any other case he would deem an imperative duty.

The man appears to be superstitious, and devoted to the letter of the law. He sees only its formal decisions, not the love that animates it. He fears; but love knows no fear. From anxious regard to the lower, he overlooks the higher duty. He thinks of Moab; whereas Ruth has taken refuge under the wings of the God of Israel. He does not comprehend the difference of the conditions under which Mahlon once married her, and those under which he is now called upon to act toward her. He knows not how to distinguish times and spirits. The legal severity which he would bring to bear on the noble woman, recoils on himself. He is unwilling to endanger his name and inheritance, and—history does not even know his name. While the guilt of Elimelech and his sons is removed through the love of Ruth, so that their name survives, his lovelessness toward Ruth is visited by namelessness.[FN11] What a priceless lesson is hereby taught! What an honor does it award to love, and what a punishment does it hold out to the superstitious Pharisee!

Ruth 4:7 f. Formerly,[FN12] in cases of redemption and exchange, a man pulled off his shoe and gave it to the other. The symbolism of the shoe, as it existed in Israel and among other nations, has been so wretchedly misunderstood and perverted, especially in the books of a man whose distorted and dishonest compilations will be injurious to many (Nork’s Mythol. der Volkssagen, p459, etc.), that it will be worth the trouble to explain it, at least in outline.

The shoe is the symbol, first, of motion and wandering; secondly, of rest and possession. The following may serve to illustrate the first of these significations: When Israel is directed to eat the Passover in a state of readiness for instant departure, among other specific injunctions, is this: “your shoes on your feet” ( Exodus 12:11). With reference to the wanderings through the desert, it is said: “thy shoe did not grow old” ( Deuteronomy 29:4 (5)), etc.[FN13] The wanderings of the gods form a singular feature of the old heathenism, in its search after God. The fact of their passage was often supposed to be attested by the footprints they left behind; but in Chemmis in Egypt, a blessing ensued (as Herodotus tells us, ii91) whenever the gigantic shoe of Perseus was seen. It was not the shoe, but the god, who brought the blessing. Heathendom, especially Germanic heathendom, continued to search and wander even after death. The dead, when buried, were provided with an helskô, or shoe, for the journey they had to make (Grimm, Myth. 795). Even until comparatively recent times, there were popular legends concerning deceased persons who lament that they received no shoe (Stöber, Elassische Sagen, p34). In certain districts, any last token of respect shown the dead Isaiah, perhaps to this very day, called “the dead-man’s shoe.” The sorrowful idea expressed in the practice was that the dead must be helped on in his last journey. Simrock’s explanation concerning good works is entirely erroneous (Myth. 154). The passage of Pope Gregory on Exodus 12:11, means something altogether different. Gregory intends there to refer to the example of pious persons who have gone before. The Christian Church opposed, rather than favored, the heathen usage.

Of cognate and yet very different signification are certain passages of the Talmud and the Midrash (Jerus. Talmud, Kelajim, § 9, p23, b; Midrash Rabba, § 100, p88 a), where the aged teacher desires that when he is buried sandals may be fastened to his feet, in order that he may be able to follow after the Messiah as soon as He comes.

Luther gave utterance to the saying: “Tie a pair of sandals to his door, and let them be called ‘Surge et ambula.’ ” Hence also the still current popular superstition of throwing the shoe on New Year’s day, the alighting of which with its toe pointing outward, is considered to be indicative of departure (cf. my Weihnachten, p273).

The shoe was the symbol, secondly, of rest and possession. With the shoe one trod the earth, whence on holy ground it must be pulled off; over it, one had complete control, and hence it symbolized the power of the possessor over his possession. In the Psalm (60:10 (8); 108:10 (9)), God casts his shoe over Edom. Rosenmuller (Morgenland, n483) has already directed attention to the practice of the Abyssinian Emperor, who throws his shoe over that which he desires to have. That which in ecclesiastical architecture is called Marienschuh[FN14] points to nothing else than the dominion ascribed by the mediæval church to the mother of God. The custom of kissing the pope’s slipper, likewise refers to his dominion. The idea of the old Scandinavian legend, according to which, at the last day the wolf finally submits to Widar, who sets his shoe upon him, is that of the victory of the new earth over the old wicked enemy.

The shoe symbolized a possession which one actually had, and could tread with his feet, at pleasure. Whoever entered into this possession conjointly with another, put his foot into the same shoe, as in old German law was done by an adopted child and the wife (Grimm, Rechtsalterth. p155). Hence, when in our passage the goel pulled off his shoe and gave it to Boaz, he therewith surrendered to him all claims to the right of possession which would have been his had he fulfilled its conditions. Nor has that use of the shoe, of which the law speaks, in connection with the leviratical institute, any different meaning. The widow, whose brother-in-law refuses to marry her, is authorized to pull off his shoe, and to spit in his face. His house, hence-forth, is “the house of him that hath had his shoe pulled off.” Had he performed his duty, he would have set his shoe upon the inheritance of his brother (including wife and estate) as his own. But having contemned this, he undergoes the shame of having his shoe drawn off by the widow. The shame of this consisted in the fact that he must submit to it at the hands of the woman. A man might pull off his own shoe, and hand it to another, without suffering degradation. This was done in every instance of exchange. It was but the exercise of his manly right. But when the shoe was taken from him, he was, as it were, declared destitute of every capacity and right toward the widow symbolized by the shoe, and in this consisted the disgrace.

Now, although in our passage, strictly speaking, a similar case to that contemplated by the law in Deuteronomy 25:7 ff. occurs—for the kinsman refuses to marry Ruth—yet the ceremony of the kinsman’s delivering his shoe to Boaz was significant only of his simple, voluntary renunciation of his rights. On the one hand, Ruth was not his sister-in-law; and although custom, in accordance with the spirit of the Mosaic law, acknowledged the duty even in cases of more distant relationship, the letter of the law did not reach him. On the other hand,—and this was undoubtedly a point of real weight,—his refusal to marry Ruth was itself based on regard for the law, albeit narrow and unspiritual; for from his readiness to redeem the land, it is but fair to infer that he would have been equally ready to do his duty by her, had she been an Israelitess. Inasmuch, therefore, as he thinks it possible to separate the redemption of the land from that of the woman, he comes off more honorably than would under ordinary circumstances have been the case. His language refers explicitly only to the estate, which had the effect of lessening the dishonor done to Ruth, especially as Boaz declares himself ready to take his place. Finally, according to Ruth 3:18, Ruth was not present at the negotiation, the representation of Josephus to the contrary notwithstanding.[FN15]

Ruth 4:9 f. And Boaz said, Ye are witnesses this day that I have acquired (do acquire), etc. The kinsman having drawn off his shoe, in token of his renunciation of his rights as nearest goel, Boaz arose, and declared, fully and formally, that he acquires everything that belonged to Elimelech, and (as is now expressed at full length) everything that belonged to Chilion and Mahlon. He acquires it from Naomi; but as he cannot acquire it without also marrying the wife of Mahlon, as Ruth is here for the first time called,—for which reason he made special mention of the possession of the sons,—he adds that he takes her “to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance, in order that his name be not cut off from among his brethren, and from the gate of his place.” In these words, he thoroughly, albeit indirectly, refuted the motive by which the anonymous kinsman was actuated in his refusal. When the name of a brother is to be rescued from oblivion among his own people, all scruples vanish. The fulfillment of a duty so pious, lifts a man up beyond the reach of fear. Boaz apprehends no damage to his own inheritance; but hopes rather, while taking Ruth under his wings, to repair the evil which the migration to Moab has inflicted upon the house of Elimelech. This pious magnanimity, this humble acceptance of duty, this readiness to act where the nearer kinsman hesitates, and this true insight of faith, which looked not at the birthplace of Ruth, but at what she had done for Israel and now was in Israel, and thus dissolved all superstitious fear in the divine wisdom of love, win for him also the approbation of all present. The public voice spoke well of Ruth; all knew how loving, virtuous, and self-sacrificing she was (cf. Ruth 2:11; Ruth 3:11). Hence, not only the elders who had been summoned as witnesses, but also all the people, unitedly invoked the blessing of God upon him.

Ruth 4:11. Jehovah make the woman that cometh into thy house, like Rachel and Leah which two did build the house of Israel. From Rachel and Leah came the tribes of Israel. As these built the house of Jacob, Song of Solomon, say the people may Ruth build thy house. The extent of the general delight, may be measured by the fact that it wishes for Ruth the Moabitess a blessing equal to that of the wives of Jacob who were Israelitesses. The Jewish expositors point out that Rachel stands before Leah, although younger and less blessed with children, and although the tribe of Judah, and Bethlehem with it, descended from Leah. It is probable that the whole sentence was already at that time, the usual formula of blessing in Israelitish marriages. However that may be, the traditions of Israel made Rachel more prominent than Leah. Rachel was Jacob’s first and best beloved Rachel took away her father’s idol images. As she suffered many sorrows up to her death, so the prophet represents her as weeping bitterly after death for her children ( Jeremiah 31:15; Matthew 2:18). It was Rachel, too, who after she had been long unfruitful, as Ruth in Moab, had brought forth most of those sons in whom Jacob was most highly blessed. But the people desire not merely that many children may adorn her house; they proceed: עֲשֵׂה חַיִל, may she make, produce, strength, ability, heroism.[FN16] They wish that sons may be born, who, like Boaz, shall be heroes of strength (cf. Ruth 2:1), so that “great names” may proceed out of Bethlehem.[FN17] The blessing was most abundantly fulfilled.

Ruth 4:12. And be thy house like the house of Perez. After the general comes the special wish, which in this instance is of peculiar importance. Boaz was descended from Perez, and Perez was the son of Tamar. Now, although the history of Tamar ( Genesis 38) is not as pure as that of Ruth, it yet contained features which might have served as precedents to Boaz. Tamar’s first two husbands had died on account of their sins, and Judah, their father, would not give her the third, “lest he also die as his brethren.” This was the same motive as that which must have influenced the nearer kinsman. The very fact that he had this history before him, confirms the conclusion we have already reached concerning the grounds of his refusal. Tamar suffered injustice, her right being withheld from her. The same thing happened to Ruth. No one thought of her rights, until she laid claim to them. Tamar did the same, albeit not in the pure and graceful manner adopted by Ruth. Nevertheless, Judah, when he found himself outwitted by her, said: “She is more righteous than I,” thus acknowledging his injustice. Boaz had not been guilty of any such injustice; but he felt it his duty, in behalf of the members of his family, to see that that which had hitherto been neglected was neglected no longer. His proceeding involved an admission that Ruth had not received what was her rightful due in Israel. The confession of injustice draws after it a blessing; especially here in the case of Boaz, whose kind and noble conduct is beyond all praise.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

Ye are witnesses this day that I take Ruth the Moabitess to be my wife.” What a noble pair confront each other in the persons of Ruth and Boaz! They are types for all times of the mutual relations of man and woman. The remark of Pascal, that the Old Testament contains the images of future joy, is here especially applicable. Ruth acts to the utmost of her power out of love: Boaz is a man of unfeigned faith. Ruth takes voluntary duties upon herself from love to Naomi: Boaz meets these duties in the spirit of obedience to the commands of God. Ruth, moved by love, dares to risk the delicate reserve of woman; and Boaz offsets her deed by a delicacy of faith which would comply, if it were but to avoid wounding, and gives all, in order to satisfy. He promises everything, if only he may relieve Ruth from fear. Ruth followed into poverty from love; and Boaz, though rich, regards only the duty prescribed by faith. Ruth was ignorant of the prejudices that stood in her way; Boaz knew and overcame them. Ruth thought she had a right to claim; Boaz was under no obligation, and yet acted. The nearest redeemer retreated, most probably because Ruth was a Moabitess; Boaz. says, “Ye are witnesses that I take the Moabitess to wife.” An ancient church-father says: “Boaz, in accordance with the merito-riousness of his faith received Ruth for his wife, in order that from so sanctified a marriage a royal race might be born. For Boaz, well advanced in years, received his wife, not for himself, but for God; not to fulfill the desires of the flesh, but to fulfill the righteousness of the law, in order to raise up a seed for his relative. He was inflamed more by conscience than by passion; he was old by years, but youthful by faith,—and for this perhaps he was called, Boaz—’in him is virtue.’ ”

Footnotes:

FN#1 - Ruth 4:1.—Sc. “to Ruth,Ruth 3:12. אֲשֶׁר is the accus. after דִּבֶּר־, cf. Genesis 19:21; Genesis 23:16.—On the forms סוּרָה and שְׁבָה, cf. Ges48, 5; 72, Rem3; 69, 3, 2; on וַיָּסַר, 72, Rem4.—Tr.]

FN#2 - Ruth 4:4.—Lit. “And I said, I will uncover thine ear,” i. e. I determined to inform thee. אָמַרְתִּי, is the same in sense as the fuller אָמַרְתִּי בְלִבִּי, Genesis 17:17, etc, cf. Exodus 2:14, etc. It might be supposed to refer to what Boaz said to Ruth, Ruth 3:12 f.; but as Ruth is not spoken of until the next verse, this is less likely. The expression “to uncover the ear,” originated in the practice of removing the hair that hangs over the ear, for the purpose of whispering a secret to a person. In general it means to communicate anything confidentially, but is here used in the wider sense of imparting information. The suffix of the second per. in *אָזְכְךָ is perhaps best explained by regarding the whole clause after אָמַרְתִּי as mentally uttered by Boaz, while considering how to proceed in the matter of Ruth. In this consideration, the nearer kinsman was present to his mind, and to him he addressed the conclusion, which he now only rehearses, “I will inform thee,” etc.—Tr.]

FN#3 - Ruth 4:4.—So Dr. Cassel. Keil: “Many translate הַיּשְׁבִים by ‘inhabitants,’ sc. those of Bethlehem. But although according to Ruth 4:9, a goodly number of the people, besides the elders, were present, this can scarcely be conceived to have been the case with the inhabitants of Bethlehem generally, so as to meet the requirement of גֶנֶד. Nor would the inhabitants have been named before, but as in Ruth 4:9, after, the elders as principal witnesses [but cf. Ruth 4:11]. For these reasons יָשַׁב is to be taken in the sense ‘to sit,’ and הַיּשְׁבִים is to be understood of the same persons who form the subject of ויֵּשׁבוּ in Ruth 4:2, the elders. The following וְנֶבֶד זִקני is to be taken explicatively: before those who sit here, even before the elders of my people.”—Tr.]

FN#4 - Ruth 4:4.—The Text. Recept. reads יִגְאַל, third per, concerning which Keil remarks, that “it strikes one as singular, since one expects the second person, תִּגְאַל, which is not only read by the LXX, but also by a number of MSS, and seems to be required by the context. It is true, the common reading may (with Sebastian Schmidt, Carpzov, and others) be defended, by assuming that in uttering this word Boaz turned to the elders, and so spoke of the redeemer as of a third person: ‘if Hebrews, the redeemer here, will not redeem;’ but as this is immediately followed by a resumption of the direct address, this supposition—to our mind at least—seems very artificial.”—The substitution by the Keri of וְאֵדְעָה for וְאֵדָע is not necessary, cf. Ges127, 3 b.—Tr.]

FN#5 - Ruth 4:5.—קכיתי. Keil: “According to sense and connection, this form must be the second per. masc.; the י at the end was either added by a slip of the pen, or it arose from an original ו, so that we must read either קְנִיתָ (with the Keri) without an accusative, or, with an accusative, קְנִיתוֹ, ‘thou buyest it.’ ”—Tr.]

FN#6 - Ruth 4:7.—תְּעוּדָה. Gesenius and Fürst define this word here as “custom having the force of law,” “attested usage.” Dr. Cassel’s rendering, Weissthum, is probably intended to convey the same idea (cf. Hoffmann’s Wörterb.). But it seems better to take the word here in its proper sense of “attestation,” as in E. V. So the ancient versions, Bertheau, Keil, etc. Cf. the root עוּד.—Tr.]

FN#7 - Ruth 4:10.—The Heb. קָכָה is less specific than our word “purchase.” It means to obtain, to acquire; which may be done in a variety of ways. The rendering “purchased” is unfortunate in this particular case, as it tends to convey the erroneous idea that Ruth was treated as a chattel, or at least as a sort of adscripta glebœ. The same word is used also in Ruth 4:4-5; Ruth 4:9, where there is no particular objection to represent it in English by “buy,” although “acquire” would be preferable for the sake of uniformity.—Tr.]

FN#8 - אָחִינוּ. It is only necessary to refer to the Commentaries of Bertheau and Keil, to perceive in what respects I have deemed it needful to depart from their expositions of this passage. Benary (de Hebrœorum Leviratu, Berlin, 1835, p 23 ff.), following Jewish example, has made Boaz a nephew, and the Peloni a brother, of Elimelech. But no great stress is to be laid on this tradition. אָח, brother, as our passage itself shows, is often used where the relationship is more distant than that which exists between sons of the same parent. Blood-relatives, and even friends, are also “brothers.” The very law, by which the usage now under consideration is sanctioned, uses the term in a wider sense, Deuteronomy 25:5 (cf. Hengst. Pentateuch, ii 83 ff, Ryland’s ed.).

FN#9 - Compare the later determinations in the Mishna (Jebamothְ 4, 3), the spirit of which, at least, confirms what is said in the text. Both Rabbinical schools admit that a wife can sell.

FN#10 - This view of the reason of the refusal is also indicated by the Midrash (Ruth Rabba 35 a). Le Clerc is very far from the right understanding. Other opinions, to which he refers, come no nearer to it. Cf. Selden, Uxor Hebrœa, lib. i. cap9.

FN#11 - The Greeks also spoke of an οἶκος ἀνώνυμος γενόμενος, in case a family died out without leaving heirs to its name, Cf. Isocrates, 19:35.

FN#12 - לְפָנִים. Formerly it was customary to pull off the shoe on every occasion of exchange or barter; now, i.e. at the time when the writer of our Book lived, it was done only in the special case contemplated in Deuteronomy 25:7 ff, and then it was removed not by the man himself, but by the woman. The present case does not fall under the latter head (Cf. the Introd. p8).

FN#13 - Wordsworth: The returning prodigal in the gospel has shoes put on his feet ( Luke 15:22): he is reinstated in the lost inheritance. We, when reconciled to God in Christ, have our “feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace” ( Ephesians 6:15).—Tr.]

FN#14 - Marienschuh, “Our Lady’s slipper.” A sculptured representation of the flower or plant usually called “Lady’s slipper?”—Tr.]

FN#15 - Although, singularly enough, Grotius has adopted it an the manner in which the law against the recusant goel was executed in the times of the second temple, cf. the Mishna, Jebamoth, cap. xii.

FN#16 - It is perhaps superfluous to remark, that our author intends this as an interpretation, not as a translation. His translation is bracketed in the text.—Tr.]

FN#17 - These great names, as sprung from Boaz, would of course redound to his honor. To be nameless was to be fameless, as is illustrated in the Peloni. The Greeks also used ἀνώνυμος as the opposite of κλεινός, i.e. in the sense of fameless, like בְּלִי שֵׁם. Cf. Schleussner, Lex. on the LXX, i315.


Verses 13-22

Ruth 4:13-22

The Completion of the Blessing.

13So Boaz took Ruth, and she was [became] his wife: and when [omit: when] he went in unto her, [and] the Lord [Jehovah] gave her conception, and she bare a Song of Solomon 14And the women said unto Naomi, Blessed be the Lord [Jehovah], which hath not left thee this day without a kinsman [redeemer], that his name may be [and may his name be] famous in Israel 15 And he shall [may he] be unto thee a restorer of thy life [soul], and a nourisher [support][FN18] of thine old age: for thy daughter-in-law, 16which loveth thee, which is better to thee than seven sons, hath borne him. And Naomi took the child, and laid it in her bosom, and became nurse unto it 17 And the women her neighbors gave it a name, saying, There is a son born to Naomi; and they called his name Obed: he is the father of Jesse, the father of David.

18Now these are the generations of Pharez: Pharez begat Hezron, and 19 Hezron begat Ram, and Ram begat Aminadab, 20and Aminadab begat Nahshon, and Nahshon begat Salmon [Salmah],[FN19] 21and Salmon begat Boaz, and Boaz begat Obed, 22and Obed begat Jesse, and Jesse begat David.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

1 Ruth 4:15.—Lit. “and may he support thine old age.” On the form of כַּלְכֵּל (from כּיּל), cf. Ges55, 4; on its construction after הָיָה, which here however has the force of the jussive (optative) through its connection with the preceding verb, Ges132, 3, Rem1.—On the forms אֲהֵבָתֶךְ and יְלָדַתּיּ, cf. Ges59, Rem3.—Tr.]

2 Ruth 4:20.—Salmah (שַׂלְמָה or *שַׂלְמָא, 1 Chronicles 2:11) appears in Ruth 4:21 as Salmon, which many MSS. read here also. Originally, the name was probably used indiscriminately either with the termination *–ׇן or וֹן cf. Ges84, 15). By detrition of the שַׂלְמָן,כ became שַׂלְמָה.—Tr.]

EXEGETICAL AND DOCTRINAL

Ruth 4:13. And she brought forth a son. With this happy event the last shadows disappear from the checkered lives of the two women. The fears of superstition are shown to have been groundless. Sorrow in Moab has been changed into happiness in Israel. The reward of love has begun, and Jehovah mercifully owns the daughter of Moab, who has left home and native land for his people’s sake. Great are the joys which surround the cradle of the child of such parents as Boaz and Ruth. The father of Nero is said to have made the terrible exclamation: “What shall come of a son who has me for his father and Agrippina for his mother!” But here, where love had been married to piety, humility to heroism, innocence to believing insight, everybody must look for a future of blessings. A child of Ruth and Boaz had no need of goddesses and fairies to come to its cradle, in order, according to popular legends, to bring wealth and good wishes. The blessing of the Almighty God, who locks not at the person, but at the heart, has spread out its wings over the child.

Ruth 4:14. And the women said unto Naomi. What a difference between the beginning and the end of Naomi’s life in Israel since her return! When she came back, poor and lonely, where were the women and neighbors, who ought to have comforted, supported, and stood by her in her necessity? Nothing is heard of them. Nobody was with her but Ruth. But now they appear with their good wishes for Naomi and praises to God; for adversity has vanished. Ruth is no longer the poor gleaner, who painfully gathers a living for her mother, but the happy wife of Boaz. A new name has been raised up for the inheritance of Elimelech.

Who hath not left a redeemer to be wanting to thee this day. It is one of the peculiar beauties of our narrative that its last words are almost wholly devoted to Naomi ( Ruth 4:14-18). And justly so; for it was Naomi who by her exemplary life in Moab had been the instructress of Ruth. For her sake, the noble woman had come to Israel. Upon her, affliction had fallen most severely ( Ruth 1:13), bereaving her of both husband and children. Against her, the hand of Jehovah had gone forth, so that she bade acquaintances to call her, not Naomi, but Mara. Moreover, a heart-union existed between herself and Ruth, such as is not often to be found between even natural mother and daughter. The happiness of Ruth would have been her happiness also, even if no national usages and habits had come in to make it such. How tender and delicate is the feeling which these usages and habits set forth, of the sacred and indissoluble character of the marriage bond. And yet modern self-conceit—that, and not Christian self-knowledge—perpetually talks of the inferiority of woman’s position under the old covenant! Boaz had married Ruth, as a blood-relative of her former husband, in order to raise up the name of the latter upon his inheritance. The childless widow did not, as happens so often among us, leave the family of her deceased husband, as if she had never become a member of it. The blood-relative obtains a son by her, and the birth of this son becomes an occasion for congratulations to the mother of the former husband. The child borne by Ruth to Boaz as a blood-relative, although not the nearest, of Naomi’s husband, is called by the women the goel of Naomi, and they praise God that he has not left Naomi without him. There Isaiah, no doubt, a legal ground for this. For the child inherits the estate of Elimelech, because its mother was formerly the wife of his Song of Solomon, and with this estate the life of Naomi also is connected. Not Boaz, who has redeemed the inheritance, but the child for whom he redeemed it, is the real goel of Naomi—the person, that Isaiah, in whom her sinking house again raises itself; for he is the son of her son’s wife, albeit by another husband. He is the grandson of her family, though not of her blood. Ruth’s goel was Boaz, but Naomi’s the son of Ruth; for Ruth lives in the house of Boaz, but Naomi in that of the child, which belongs to him by virtue of his birth from Ruth. These are practical definitions of the leviratical law; but how thoroughly moral the views on which they rest! how close the sympathy and brotherhood they seek to establish, and how indissoluble the marriage covenant which they presuppose!

Undoubtedly, the most moral law can become torpid, and receive only an external fulfillment or even be evaded. Laws are living and active among a people only so long as the spirit that gave them, being continues to live. The conduct of the unknown blood-relative has sufficiently shown, that the law alone could have afforded no help to Ruth and Naomi. The whole history of Naomi in Israel, after her return from Moab and up to the intervention of Boaz, testifies to the inability of the letter of the law to avert misery and distress. Boaz followed, not the letter of the law, but its spirit; and hence did more than the letter demanded. In the persons of those with whom our narrative is mainly concerned, the doctrine verifies itself that there is no law so strong as the law of love. It is this doctrine which the women also have come to recognize when they say to Naomi:—

Ruth 4:15. For thy daughter-in-law, who loveth thee, and who is better to thee than seven sons, hath borne him. The child, say the women, shall refresh thy soul,—the soul נֶפֶשׁ, animus, of Naomi was bowed down with sorrow, the child will restore (הֵשִׁיב) her courage,—and support thy old age; and this, they add, not because the law makes him heir to the estate of his mother’s family, but because Ruth has borne him. The revivication of Naomi’s happiness through the birth of this child, was more securely guaranteed by the love of Ruth, than by friendship and blood-relationship. True, Naomi herself is childless; but seven sons could not have done for her what Ruth did. The women acknowledge now how far short the legal friendship of Israel towards Naomi has fallen, in comparison with the self-sacrifice of the daughter of Moab. And thus there comes to view here so much the more plainly, the doctrine—in its higher sense prophetic, under the old covenant—that love, living, active, self-forgetful, self-sacrificing love, transcends all law and family considerations. Christ announces the same doctrine in its highest form, when he says: “Whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother” ( Matthew 12:50). Ruth’s love for Naomi takes the place of physical descent. It engrafts her child, as it were, into the heart of Naomi. In itself the child is only the grandson of her family and estate; on account of Ruth’s love, it becomes to her a veritable grandchild of love, nearer to her heart than if a daughter of her own had given birth to it. The power of pure and self-forgetful love, such as Ruth had entertained, could not be more beautifully delineated.

Ruth 4:16. And she became foster-mother to it. She took it into her lap, like an actual grandmother. She formed the child in Israelitish life and customs. She became to it what Mordecai was to Esther, an instructress in the law and Israelitish culture. The son of Ruth became to her an actual grandchild of love. For this reason the female neighbors give him a name whose signification is equivalent to Naomi’s son.

Ruth 4:17. They called his name, Obed. There are several noteworthy points connected with this. The female neighbors, in order to give pleasure to Naomi, give the child a name. But beside this, he doubtless received a name from his parents, probably one that belonged to the family. But that given by the women continued to be his usual name, and by it he was inserted into the family genealogy. Consequently, the idea enunciated in it must have been specially characteristic. The text says: “They gave him a name, namely, a son is born to Naomi;” and hence they called him Obed. Now, whether the name Obed be explained as servant of God or servant of Naomi, the sense in either case remains insipid.[FN20] What the women mean Isaiah, not that the child is the servant of Naomi, but that he is to her as a son.[FN21] If the words of Ruth 4:17 are to have a plain sense; nay, if the preservation of just that name which the female neighbors gave him is to have an explanation, the name Obed must in some way express the idea of the word “son.” For in this name “ Song of Solomon,” given with reference to Naomi, there is contained the idea that the sin which lay at the base of her evil fortune had been atoned for. She who lost the children of her own body, had now a son in the spirit of true love. It is true, that from the philological stores extant in the Bible, the explanation of Obed in the sense of “son” is not possible; but it may be done by the assistance of other languages. It is sufficiently clear that Obed is to be connected with the Greek παιδίον (παῖς, παιδός), Latin putus, Sanskrit pôta, putra, Persian puser.[FN22]

The circumstance that Obed was used in the sense of “ Song of Solomon,” justifies the conjecture that in the Hebrew of that day there were various foreign words in use, probably introduced through Aramaic influences, without postulating a closer contact of the Song of Solomon -called Semitic with the Indo-germanic tongues than is usually assumed.

He is the father of Jesse, the father of David. In these words the doctrine of the whole Book reaches its point of culmination. They point out the completion of the blessing pronounced on Ruth by Boaz. The name of the superstitious kinsman, who thought that marriage with the Moabitess would endanger his inheritance, is forgotten; but from Boaz descends the Hero (גִּבּוֹר חַיִל), the King of Poets, David, the Prophet, and type of the Messiah. Prom him Christ comes through the promise, even as Obed was the son of Naomi through the love of Ruth.[FN23] The doctrine of the whole narrative is expressed in the words of the Apostle, “Love is the fulfilling of the law.”

Note.

Verses18–22are an addition from the genealogical tables of the House of David. The chronological question involved in them must be considered in connection with the other analogous data, for which reason we refer here to 1 Chronicles 2:8 ff.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

Naomi took the child.” Whoever was once capable of true love, preserves its power forever after. Throughout her history, until the close of the narrative, Naomi’s name is truly descriptive of her character. Her love is the cause of the blessing that finally ensues; for by it she won love. It sustained her in suffering,—it prompted her to action in behalf of her daughter-in-law. Now in the end she enjoys its blessing, and becomes the loving foster-mother of the child of her who was better to her than seven sons.

Naomi is everywhere an image of the Church of Christ, which wins, confesses, and fosters through, love. Men whose natural hearts are hostile to her, become her obedient children. When there is apostasy and misery in the church, it is for priests and preachers to repent, as Naomi did, and not to excuse themselves. If they really have the spirit of love, they cannot but feel that they have to blame themselves first of all. When the church does not make converts among heathen and Jews, the attempt to lay the guilt of this judgment on them, and to excuse ourselves, is a sign of a hard heart. Alas! God alone knows what heavy loads of guilty responsibility rest on the church for having herself given the impulse by which thousands were kept from coming to the Saviour. And how greatly she sins, when she does not rightly, foster those who do come, exhibiting neither love, nor Wisdom of Solomon, nor faith in her treatment of them,—that too will one day be made manifest. Impatience is not in love; and a little money does not make amends for the coldness of consummate self-righteousness. They are children, who are laid in the lap of the church,—children according to the spirit, that is to say real children, who, by God’s grace, bring a greater blessing to the church that seven sons according to the flesh.

Pascal: “Two laws are sufficient to regulate the whole Christian Church more completely that all political law could do: love to God, and love to one’s neighbor.”

“They said, there is a son born to Naomi, and called his name Obed; he is the father of Jesse, the father of David.” Boaz predicted a blessing for Ruth, and the faith through which he did it was rewarded by his being made a sharer in it. All he did was to utter a word of prophecy, prompted by his faith in the grace of his God, and lo, he was made the progenitor of David, the prophet! He who firmly relies on the love of God, is always a seer. Boaz had faith enough to bring about, in due time, the fulfillment of his own benediction, and became the ancestor of Him in whom all the prophecies of David are fulfilled. Of Boaz himself no warrior deeds are known, and yet the greatest of Israel’s heroes, the conqueror of Goliath,[FN24] sprang from him. He conquered himself, and on that account became the ancestor of Him who triumphed over sin and death. Similarly, Ruth had nothing but a heart full of love, and yet to her, once a daughter of Moab, there was given what neither Deborah nor Jael obtained,—to become the mother of Him by whom all the nations are redeemed.

Jerome (on Isaiah 16:1): “O Moab! out of thee shall come forth the unspotted Lamb, which bears the sins of the world, and rules over the whole earth! From the rock of the wilderness, i.e. from Ruth, widowed by the death of her husband, Boaz derived Obed. … and from David came Christ.”

Gerlach: “Thus the coming of the great King is prepared for, upon whom the Lord had determined to confirm the dominion over his people for evermore; and the converted Moabitess, who entered as a worthy member into the commonwealth of the people of God, became the mother of David and of Christ.”

______________________

The Jewish tradition which makes Ruth a descendant of Eglon, the Moabitish king who oppressed Israel as a punishment for its sins, contains an allegory worthy of notice. The daughter of the oppressor, becomes the mother of the Liberator, the Redeemer out of the House of David. According to the Jewish expositors the name Ruth is derived from a root which signifies to give drink, to assuage thirst (Berachoth, 7 a); and from her, say they, David came, who with his songs and psalms supplied the wants of those who thirst after God. And from David, we may add, came the Saviour who gave to the Samaritan woman when she thirsted, of that fountain which springs up unto everlasting life.

The ancient church selected the sixteenth of July as the day on which to commemorate Ruth.[FN25] The reason for this is probably to be found in the following considerations: In Deuteronomy 23:3, it is said: “An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of Jehovah; even to their tenth generation they shall not enter.” This was supposed to have been fulfilled in Ruth. In the genealogy of the Gospel according to Matthew, Boaz, through whom Ruth was received into the congregation of Jehovah, is the tenth from Abraham. But it was the Lord and Saviour, whose day Abraham saw, and who according to the flesh descended from Ruth, who first took away the curse from Moab also. This was announced by Isaiah, when in addressing Moab, he says ( Isaiah 16:5): “In mercy shall a throne be prepared, that one sit upon it in truth, in the tabernacle of David, and Judges, and seek judgment, and hasten righteousness.” Now, as the ancient church set apart the sixth of July for Isaiah, because he prophesied of Christ, who suffered on the sixth day of the week, and whose incarnation was celebrated on the sixth of January, it fixed the anniversary of Ruth ten days later, on the sixteenth of July. Thus her name and the number of her day are symbolical of prophecy and grace. But ten days farther on, the twenty-sixth, is the day of Anna, whom tradition makes to be the mother of the Virgin Mary. Thus the name of Ruth stood ten days after the prophecy and ten days before its approaching fulfillment, equally distant from him who prophecied of the Virgin and from her who was the Virgin’s mother. The Moabitish stranger finds herself in the middle between the seer who beheld the wilderness of Moab become fruitful, and the nearest ancestress of Him who delivers Moab and all the world from barrenness and thirst.

Pictorially, the ancient church represented Ruth with a sheaf in her hand. As was natural, she was always conceived as youthful. She might be represented with a rose, in accordance with what may be the meaning of her name (see on Ruth 1:4). The Rose of Bethlehem was the ancestress of the Rose of Jesse (Mary), whom ancient pictures represent sitting in a rosebush. Both rose and sheaf are symbols of the truth that though love may sow in tears, it will through God’s compassion reap in joy.

Footnotes:

FN#18 - Ruth 4:15.—Lit. “and may he support thine old age.” On the form of כַּלְכֵּל (from כּיּל), cf. Ges55, 4; on its construction after הָיָה, which here however has the force of the jussive (optative) through its connection with the preceding verb, Ges132, 3, Rem1.—On the forms אֲהֵבָתֶךְ and יְלָדַתּיּ, cf. Ges59, Rem3.—Tr.]

FN#19 - Ruth 4:20.—Salmah (שַׂלְמָה or *שַׂלְמָא, 1 Chronicles 2:11) appears in Ruth 4:21 as Salmon, which many MSS. read here also. Originally, the name was probably used indiscriminately either with the termination *–ׇן or וֹן cf. Ges84, 15). By detrition of the שַׂלְמָן,כ became שַׂלְמָה.—Tr.]

FN#20 - The subterfuge of Le Clerc, who proposes to read אוֹבד, in the sense of “unfortunate, poor one,” with reference to the poverty once suffered by Ruth, is entirely wrong, to say nothing of the fact that the word itself does not have the sense which he assigns to it.

FN#21 - But is not the emphasis to be laid on “to Naomi” rather than on “son?” It is true, that analogy leads us to expect the name to contain specifically the same idea expressed by the women (cf. however Genesis 29:32); but it must also be admitted (with Berth.) that Obed in the sense of “one that serves,” sc. Naomi, harmonizes well with the words in Ruth 4:15 : “May he be to thee a soul-restorer, and a support of thine old age.”—Tr.]

FN#22 - As regards the ע in עֹבֵד, its value (best compared perhaps with a spiritus asper) is exactly the same as in עלץ to be compared with lœtari and lœtus,, עמל with moliri, עמק with μῆκος, etc.

FN#23 - The reference of Grotius to the traditionary history of Ocrisia, who became the mother of Servius Tullius, is very unfortunate. Ocrisia was a slave. Her story has no ethical background. The legends concerning her were only designed to glorify the derivation of the king. Cf. Niebuhr, Röm. Gesch. i376 (2d edit.).

FN#24 - It is on the ground of this contrast that Jewish tradition homiletically advanced the idea that Goliath descended from Orpah, who returned to Moab, as David from Ruth. The early teachers of the church were acquainted with this tradition, and Prudentius even introduced it into his poem, Hamartigenia, 4:782:—

“Sed pristinus Orphæ

Fanorum ritus præputia barbara suasit

Malle, et semiferi stirpem nutrire Goliæ.

Ruth, dum per stipulas agresti amburitur æstu

Fulcra Booz meruit, castoque adscita cubili

Christigenam fecunda domum, Davidica regna

Edidit atque deo mortales miscuit ortus.”

FN#25 - Cf. my article in the Berl. Wochenblatt, 1863, Numbers 32.

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Ruth 4:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/ruth-4.html. 1857-84.

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