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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

Ruth 4

 

 

Introduction

Boaz Negotiates For Ruth And Make Her His Bride (Ruth 4:1-11 a).

In order to further his cause with Ruth Boaz made his way to the city gate. The gate of any city, in which there would often be an enclosed space between an inner and outer gate, and a gate house, together with rooms/alcoves for conducting official matters, was the place where much business took place and where the elders of the city met to make decisions and act as judges. Markets would be held there. It was a centre of activity. Knowing that the near kinsman he sought would almost certainly pass through there he sat down and waited, and sure enough the man whom he sought approached. Sitting him down, and calling for the elders as witnesses, Boaz then began to put to him the situation. The land of Elimelech was for sale and he as the nearest kinsman had the first right to buy it, but what he had to recognise was the fact that whoever bought it would be obliged by custom to take Ruth the Moabitess as wife in order to beget a son for the dead husband. Learning of this the man declined and granted Boaz permission to take his place as near kinsman, at which Boaz announced to the elders that he would be purchasing Elimelech’s land, and marrying Ruth in order to bear sons on behalf of the deceased Elimelech and his deceased sons in order to perpetuate their names.

Analysis.

a Now Boaz went up to the gate, and sat himself down there, and, behold, the near kinsman of whom Boaz had spoken came by, to whom he said, “Ho, such a one! Turn aside, sit down here.” And he turned aside, and sat down. And he took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, “You sit down here.” And they sat down (Ruth 4:1-2).

b And he said to the near kinsman, “Naomi, who is come again out of the country of Moab, is selling the parcel of land, which was our brother Elimelech’s” (Ruth 4:3).

c “And I thought to disclose it to you, saying, “Buy it before those who sit here, and before the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it. But if you will not redeem it, then tell me, so that I may know, for there is none to redeem it besides you, and I am after you” (Ruth 4:4 a).

d And he said, “I will redeem it” (Ruth 4:4 b).

e Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you must buy it also of Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to raise up the name of the dead on his inheritance” (Ruth 4:5).

d And the near kinsman said, “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I mar my own inheritance. You take my right of redemption on you, for I cannot redeem it” (Ruth 4:6).

c Now this was the custom in former time in Israel concerning redeeming and concerning exchanging. To confirm all things, a man drew off his shoe, and gave it to his neighbour, and this was the manner of attestation in Israel. So the near kinsman said to Boaz, “Buy it for yourself.” And he drew off his shoe (Ruth 4:7-8).

b And Boaz said to the elders, and to all the people, “You are witnesses this day, that I have bought all that was Elimelech’s, and all that was Chilion’s and Mahlon’s, from the hand of Naomi. Moreover Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, have I purchased to be my wife, to raise up the name of the dead on his inheritance, that the name of the dead be not cut off from among his brethren, and from the gate of his place. You are witnesses this day (Ruth 4:9-10).

a And all the people who were in the gate, and the elders, said, “We are witnesses.” (Ruth 4:11 a).

Note that in ‘a’ Boaz approaches the Gate and calls the elder as witnesses, and in the parallel the people who were in the Gate, and the elders, declare that they are witnesses. In ‘b’ Boaz explains that Naomi is selling the family land which was Elimelech’s, and in the parallel he states that he is buying all that was Elimelech’s, both land and woman. In ‘c’ Boaz calls on the near kinsman to buy the land, and in the parallel the near kinsman tells him to buy the land. In ‘d’ the near kinsman says he will redeem the land, and in the parallel he says that he cannot redeem the land. Centrally in ‘e’ Ruth the Moabitess goes with the land. Although not outwardly apparent, this was in fact the central point at issue with the writer.

Boaz Marries Ruth And They Produce A Son Whom They Name Obed, A Son From Whom Will Be Descended The Great King David (Ruth 4:11-17).

The story now builds up to its conclusion. The passage commences with the pious expression, no doubt by a leading elder, that Boaz’s house should be like the house of Perez, as a result of the ‘seed of YHWH’ being implanted in him by Ruth, and ends by describing the genealogy of Perez which finally results in the birth of David. It is this parallel which explains why the genealogy begins with Perez rather than Judah.

Analysis.

a “YHWH make the woman who is come into your house like Rachel and like Leah, which two did build the house of Israel, and do you worthily in Ephrathah, and be famous in Beth-lehem, and let your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, of the seed which YHWH will give you of this young woman” (Ruth 4:11-12).

b So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife, and he went in unto her, and YHWH gave her conception, and she bore a son (Ruth 4:13).

c And the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be YHWH, who has not left you this day without a near kinsman, and let his name be famous in Israel” (Ruth 4:14).

d “And he will be to you a restorer of life, and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him” (Ruth 4:15).

c And Naomi took the child, and laid it in her bosom, and became nurse to it (Ruth 4:16).

b And the women her neighbours 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 (Ruth 4:17).

a Now these are the generations of Perez: Perez begat Hezron, and Hezron begat Ram, and Ram begat Amminadab, and Amminadab begat Nahshon, and Nahshon begat Salmon, and Salmon begat Boaz, and Boaz begat Obed, and Obed begat Jesse, and Jesse begat David (Ruth 4:18-22).

Note that in ‘a’ Boaz’s house is to like the house of Perez, and in the parallel the house of Perez is described. In ‘b’ Ruth bears a son, and in the parallel the son is seen as coming from Naomi. In ‘c’ Naomi is no longer left alone because the new born son will be her near kinsman, and in the parallel Naomi lays the son in her bosom and becomes nurse to it. Central in ‘d’ is what the son will mean to Naomi as the restorer of life and the nourisher of her old age.


Verse 1

Now Boaz went up to the gate, and sat himself down there, and, behold, the near kinsman of whom Boaz had spoken came by, to whom he said, “Ho, such a one! Turn aside, sit down here.” And he turned aside, and sat down.’

Boaz knew that his first task was to track down and talk to the one who was a nearer kinsman than himself. So in order to do this he went to the gate of the city. It was, of course, morning (Ruth 3:15), and he was clearly aware that the man must shortly come through there, possibly on his way to his fields. The gate of a city was the hub of the city’s activities. It was there that the elders met to deliberate, and act as judges where it was necessary, and it was there that important business activities took place, especially those which involved witnesses. The gateway would include an enclosed between two gates, with the gatekeeper’s house on one side, and other rooms on the other side. There would also be areas for storage. The city itself would be a warren of houses crowded in on each other in unplanned fashion. It was thus only at the gate, together with the city square in front of the gate if there was one, that space could be found for such activities.

Sure enough he soon spotted the nearer kinsman passing through, and called on him to turn aside and sit near him. The nearer kinsman would recognise that Boaz had something official to say, or ask, and he therefore had no hesitation in taking a seat, intrigued as to what Boaz may want. The writer deliberately leaves out he name of the nearest kinsman, possibly because he is to be seen as disgraced for having refused to carry out his kinsman’s duties (compare Deuteronomy 25:9-10).


Verse 2

And he took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, “You sit down here.” And they sat down.’

The mystery deepened when Boaz requested that ten city elders should also sit with them. They were there to act as witnesses to the transaction that was about to take place. It may, however, be that ‘ten’ indicates ‘a reasonable number’ (compare Jacob’s ‘he has changed my wages ten times’ - Genesis 31:7).


Verse 3

And he said to the near kinsman, “Naomi, who is come again out of the country of Moab, is selling the parcel of land, which was our brother Elimelech’s.”

Then Boaz explained his purpose. He explained to the near kinsman that Naomi, who had recently come out of the country of Moab, was selling the family land which had belonged to her deceased husband, Elimelech. But as we have seen above, it was not as simple as that. For the land belonged to YHWH, and it had been allotted by Him to a family in Israel who was represented by the head of the family (who had in this case been Elimelech). What was therefore seen as of crucial importance was that ‘the name’ of that family, in this case the family of Elimelech, should be maintained in Israel, and that would be done by the redeemer who bought the land begetting children through the surviving females in the family, where all the menfolk had died. This was the responsibility of the goel (redeemer).

As can be seen, the survival of the ‘name’ of the family was seen as of vital importance. A man lived on in his sons, and no family was to be allowed to die out in Israel. It was the equivalent in the Old Testament of ‘eternal life’. Every means therefore had to be used in order to ensue the survival of the family name.

The question may arise as to whether Naomi was able to sell the land. Legally speaking it was not hers, and had it been a question of simply selling the land the answer would probably have been ‘no’. But that is not the case here. The land was being sold conditionally on the purchaser producing a male heir to finally inherit the land. In fact the right of women to inherit was declared in Numbers 36. There the daughters of a deceased man were able to inherit his land where there were no sons, the only condition being that they would then marry within their tribe so that possession of the land would not go outside the tribe. So it would appear here that legally the land could be seen as Ruth’s, as wife of Elimelech’s heir, but on that basis she would only enjoy the right as long as she married within her dead husband’s tribe. While the position was not quite the same, Numbers 36 did suggest that where all male direct heirs within a family were dead, women could have an inheritance in the land of that family as long as when they married it remained within ‘the family’. This was probably the basis on which the sale here was able to proceed, with the sale being restricted to someone who could produce sons on behalf of the dead. In consequence the land would finally pass on to male heirs of Elimelech and Mahlon. From the point of view of the story what, of course, matters is not what exactly the Law said, but how it was being interpreted at this time in the light of custom.


Verse 4

And I thought to disclose it to you, saying, “Buy it before those who sit here, and before the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it. But if you will not redeem it, then tell me, so that I may know, for there is none to redeem it besides you, and I am after you.” And he said, “I will redeem it.”

Boaz then called on the near kinsman, in front of ‘those who sit here, even before the elders of my people’, acting as witnesses, to buy the land if he wished to do so, so that it could remain in the family (that is why he was said to ‘redeem it’). If he was not willing to do so then the right passed on to the next nearest kinsman, which in this case was Boaz.

As we have seen the purpose of redemption was so that the land might remain in the family and not go to outsiders, but even more specifically it was in order for it finally to be restored to the near family of its original owners. This would require the maintaining of the name in Israel of the original owner (Ruth 4:10), and that would be the duty of the purchase. So what was being bought in this case was the right of use of the land until it could revert back to its original owners, that is, to a son of the dead man as begotten through the goel (the kinsman redeemer). Thus the redeemer, being a near kinsman, had the responsibility to ensure that the family and name of the original owners survived, and he did it by himself begetting sons through any womenfolk who were left of the original family. The purpose of this was in order to ensure that the name of the original owners survived in Israel, along with their ownership of their land as originally allotted to them by YHWH.

On hearing that the land was available the near kinsman immediately said that he would ‘redeem’ it. The rights to land were very valuable, especially land which probably bordered on his own as a near kinsman, and the possibility of obtaining it did not come up very often because of the rigid customs that prevailed. It seemed too good an opportunity to miss. But he had not thought out the consequences, possibly because he was not familiar with the Law, or possibly because he had not connected Ruth with the situation (not how Boaz had spoken of Naomi as the ‘seller’). That would not indicate that the law did not exist, only that people are often very vague as to what exactly the law requires. It will be noted that once it was drawn to his attention (and no doubt confirmed by the listening elders) he yielded to Boaz’s arguments.

“I thought to disclose it to you.” Literally, ‘I have said (to myself) I will lay bare (disclose) in your ear’, a good example of translator’s licence which is common in translating Old Testament Hebrew.


Verse 5

Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you must buy it also of Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to raise up the name of the dead on his inheritance.”

Then Boaz pointed out what this redemption involved. On the day that he bought the land he would have the responsibility of ‘raising up the name of the dead on his inheritance’, by begetting sons through the remaining womenfolk who were selling the land, in this case Naomi and Ruth, the wives of the deceased menfolk. That son would then take the name of the deceased (he would be ‘ben Mahlon, ben Elimelech’). Note that it is made quite clear here that Ruth, though a Moabitess, was now an essential part of Israel with certain rights of land ‘ownership’ of YHWH’s land. Thus the continual stress on her being a Moabite (not only in his use of the descriptive title, but also in comments continually made - Ruth 2:6; Ruth 2:11) is patently a part of the writer’s purpose. He wants to stress that the great King David was descended from a Moabite, and his purpose in this must have been in order to make clear that a foreigner, even a Moabite woman, could become an essential part of Israel (compare how he later describes her seed as ‘the seed which YHWH gives her’ - Ruth 4:12).


Verse 6

And the near kinsman said, “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I mar my own inheritance. You take my right of redemption on you, for I cannot redeem it.”

As soon as the near kinsman learned what would be involved in the redemption of the land he withdrew his offer. He made the excuse that he could not buy it because he did not have the money available and arranging the purchase would put him in debt, thus badly affecting the position of his own inheritance. He may also have had in mind that on his death the land would pass to Ruth’s son, begotten through him, with his own inheritance, which he planned to pass on to his other sons, meanwhile having been diminished by the price of the land. It was his other sons who would lose out. He was therefore unwilling to take on himself the responsibility of being ‘kinsman redeemer’, and was now willing to pass on the right to Boaz. The fact that he had originally been so eager to redeem the land (Ruth 4:4) might, however, suggest that this was just an excuse, presumably made because he did not want to marry a Moabite woman, even though she was now an ‘adopted’ Israelite. Racism still prevailed in some, as it always does. As no wife of his is mentioned it would appear that that was not his reason for refusing, but that contrary to the Law (consider Exodus 12:48) he was not willing to accept the proselyte Ruth as a genuine Israelite and marry her, giving her his seed. It may be because of the shame of that that he was not named (his name was blotted out of Israel). This will shortly then be contrasted with the fact that YHWH had so accepted Ruth as a genuine Israelite that He gave her ‘His seed’ and caused her to be the ancestor of His chosen king. The man is clearly depicted as being at fault.


Verse 7

Now this was the custom in former time in Israel concerning redeeming and concerning exchanging. To confirm all things, a man drew off his shoe, and gave it to his neighbour, and this was the manner of attestation in Israel.’

The writer then pauses in order to explain an ancient custom, which presumably in his day had ceased to apply, so as to explain what happened next (Ruth 4:8). Where a man refused to act as kinsman redeemer (to act ‘concerning redeeming and concerning exchanging’) he evidenced it by publicly taking off his shoe and handing it over to the one on whom he devolved the right. This was final confirmation in the sight of witnesses that he had withdrawn his own right to act as kinsman redeemer, and had passed it on to his neighbour.

This custom may be connected with the fact that it was the shoe which trod on the land denoting the owner’s possession. Compare YHWH’s words to Abraham in Genesis 13:17, and His words to Joshua in Joshua 1:3. The result being that the handing over of the shoe was seen as devolving possession. But it was also perhaps an adaptation of the original Law. For in the Law of Moses, where a person refused to act as kinsman and beget children through the wife of a deceased relative in order to preserve the name of her family, the wife had the right to loose his shoe and spit in his face (Deuteronomy 25:9), and his family would from then on be known as ‘the family of him who had had his shoe loosed’ (Deuteronomy 25:10). By this he would be ‘branded’ as having failed to fulfil his responsibility towards his wider family. It may be that the custom had now been altered in order to make it less openly offensive. If this is the case it was seemingly mainly followed in the time of the Judges, whilst no longer being so in the time of David. That would not, however, lessen the continual importance of the law of Levirate marriage.


Verse 8

So the near kinsman said to Boaz, “Buy it for yourself.” And he drew off his shoe.’

Ruth 4:7 explains why the near kinsman did what he did. He devolved on Boaz the right to act as kinsman redeemer and demonstrated the fact in front of witnesses by taking off his shoe, and no doubt handing it to Boaz. We are not told how much it was at that stage seen as an act of shame, as opposed to being just evidence of the transaction (Deuteronomy 25:9-10). But it does bring out that the law of Levirate marriage was still seen as being of great importance (which is why it is mentioned).


Verse 9-10

And Boaz said to the elders, and to all the people, “You are witnesses this day, that I have bought all that was Elimelech’s, and all that was Chilion’s and Mahlon’s, from the hand of Naomi. Moreover Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, have I purchased to be my wife, to raise up the name of the dead on his inheritance, that the name of the dead be not cut off from among his brethren, and from the gate of his place. You are witnesses this day.”

By accepting the shoe Boaz would be declaring to those present that he was accepting the responsibility for redeeming the land and begetting a son through the wife of the deceased in order that Mahlon’s name might be perpetuated (the son could be called ‘ben Mahlon’). And he now therefore turned to the elders whom he had summoned as witnesses, and to all the people gathered in the gateway, and called on them to be witnesses to the fact that he had bought the land that had belonged to Elimelech, which had been inherited by his two sons, from Naomi, Elimelech’s wife, (the eldest surviving near relative) and that with it he had bought the privilege of begetting sons through the wife of Mahlon in order to preserve the name of the family of Elimelech and Mahlon. That land would eventually devolve on the son produced by Boaz and Ruth, so that the name of the family of Mahlon would have been preserved in Israel. He would be known as ‘Obed ben Mahlon ben Elimelech’ as well as ‘Obed ben Boaz’. Note the repetition of ‘you are witnesses this day’.

Being ‘cut off from the gate of his place’ probably indicates being removed from the permanent genealogical records of the place which was his home city. Where a family died out there would be no purpose in maintaining the records. The city records would probably be held in the gatehouses.


Verse 11

Ruth 4:11

And all the people who were in the gate, and the elders, said, “We are witnesses.”

Then all the people in the gateway gathered together with the elders, and declared ‘we are witnesses’. This parallels Boaz’s statement in Ruth 4:9, ‘you are witnesses this day’, and combined with the twofold ‘you are witnesses’ in the Ruth 4:9-10 it indicates a threefold, and therefore complete, testimony. From then on the legality of what Boaz was doing could not be questioned, for there would be many witnesses who could declare that he had acted rightly. The whole episode underlines his integrity, and his determination to do what was right, indicating why he was a chosen vessel of YHWH.

Ruth 4:11-12

“YHWH make the woman who is come into your house like Rachel and like Leah, which two did build the house of Israel, and do you worthily (or ‘powerfully’) in Ephrathah, and be renowned in Beth-lehem, and let your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, of the seed which YHWH will give you of this young woman.”

We are not told who spoke these words, but they were presumably spoken by one of the leading elders on behalf of all the people. It is a plea to YHWH on behalf of Boaz and his house. The initial plea is that Ruth, having come into Boaz’s house, will be as fruitful as Leah and Rachel who, together with their maidservants, came into Jacob’s house, and produced, the twelve sons of Jacob/Israel, thus laying the foundations for the multitude of the house of Israel. These women whom Jacob married were, although related to him, from outside the tribe, and came from a family which worshipped false gods. And yet God used them as builders of the house of Israel, just as He would now use Ruth. It is also a plea that Boaz may have many influential sons. And the attention then turns directly on Boaz with the desire that he will be prominent in righteousness (‘do -- worthily’) or power (‘do valiantly’ - Psalms 60:12), in Bethlehem Ephratha (see note on Ruth 1:2), and that his house will be like the house of Perez, the son whom Judah begat through Tamar, and this as a consequence of the ‘seed which YHHW will give him’ through Ruth. This is preparatory to the final listing of the descendants of Perez in Ruth 4:18-22 (which the chiasmus makes clear is an essential part of the book). The word for ‘worthily’ is chayil, which is used of Boaz in Ruth 2:1 and of Ruth in Ruth 3:11. Thus the virtues of both are to be reflected in their future lives. The writer may have intended us to see this as being finally fulfilled to the fullest extent in the life of David. So the basic plea is that Boaz will be both successful and fruitful, and will have sons who are equally prominent.

The plea that his house might be like the house of Perez almost certainly had in mind the fact that Perez could be seen as parallel to the son who would be born to Boaz and Ruth in that he was the eldest son born as a consequence of Judah impregnating Tamar when he was (unknowingly) acting as her near kinsman in begetting a son for her dead husband (Genesis 38). Furthermore while Tamar is not said to be a Canaanite, Judah certainly mistook her for a Canaanite harlot, and she was married to one of Judah’s sons who was born as a result of his marriage to a Canaanite. Perez was thus seen as the ‘son’ of a half-Canaanite. Yet this had not prevented his house being fruitful. Indeed, as we soon learn, it was so fruitful that it produced King David. (But this last fact would not, of course, be known to the elders. It was his birth through a near kinsman, and his foreign connections, that in their eyes paralleled what would happen to Ruth).


Verse 13

So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife, and he went in unto her, and YHWH gave her conception, and she bore a son.’

The consequence of what had happened was that Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife, and as a result of his having impregnated her ‘YHWH gave her conception’, and she bore a son. This is the second time that it has been made clear that YHWH was with Ruth, and that the son to be born was of His doing (compare Ruth 4:12). It made clear that YHWH had accepted her, a Moabitess, as a true member of the covenant.


Verse 14

And the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be YHWH, who has not left you this day without a near kinsman, and let his name be famous in Israel.”

As a consequence of the birth of a son the women were able to say to Naomi, ‘blessed be YHWH Who has not left you without a near kinsman’. They were referring to the new born baby who would grow up to be head of Naomi’s family, and would inherit the family property. Whilst Boaz would take her into his house (she becomes nurse to the baby) she was not strictly of his family. But the new born baby was in the eyes of the Law her son’s son (in consequence of the law of Levirate marriage) and inherited the family land. Once he was of age he would thus have family responsibility for her.

“Let his name be famous in Israel.” Literally ‘and let his name be named in Israel’. The idea was that they hoped that he would ‘make a name for himself’ by his success and godliness, so that he would be a successful family head.


Verse 15

And he will be to you a restorer of life, and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him.”

And they assured Naomi that once he was old enough he would ‘restore her life’ by giving her encouragement and a reason for living. And secondly that he would be a ‘nourisher of her old age’, ensuring that she was provided for and that all her needs were met. So the woman who had left Moab in such despair was now assured of a safe and happy future. And this was because her own daughter-in-law had borne him, a daughter-in-law who loved her and had indeed been better to her than seven sons, seven indicating the divinely perfect number. To have seven sons would be the ideal, giving total confidence and provision for the future, and the idea here is thus that Ruth was such a wonderful daughter-in-law that she was of greater value than seven sons, because Naomi could have such confidence in her. Brought up under such a mother, they are saying, how could the son not be similar?


Verse 16-17

And Naomi took the child, and laid it in her bosom, and became nurse to it. And the women her neighbours 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.’

And Naomi already had cause for blessing, for she acted as his nurse, coddling him and watching over him. And her women neighbours supplied a name for him because he was ‘a son born to Naomi’, not literally, but because he was her grandson. The name means ‘servant’ and the idea in the neighbours’ minds would be that he would be like a true servant to his grandmother. But the writer probably also saw it as signifying that he was the servant of God, an that he proved to be a true servant of God, for he begat Jesse, who begat the great King David. He could in terms of those days perform no greater service.

Note that in Ruth 1:11-13 Naomi had made clear that it as unlikely for her to have a son. But now we learn from these verses that she did have ‘a son’. Even though he was not from her womb, she nursed him in her womb. God had heard the cry of her heart.


Verses 18-22

Now these are the generations of Perez: Perez begat Hezron, and Hezron begat Ram, and Ram begat Amminadab, and Amminadab begat Nahshon, and Nahshon begat Salmon, and Salmon begat Boaz, and Boaz begat Obed, and Obed begat Jesse, and Jesse begat David.’

The writer now closes his book in triumph. We have noted already that he has often liked to repeat ideas, and here he does so by adding the genealogy of Perez (already mentioned in Ruth 4:12) which leads up to the birth of King David (already spoken of in Ruth 4:21). King David was the king of Israel/Judah par excellence. He united the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah, established Jerusalem, and expanded his empire in all directions, leaving a rich and powerful empire for his son Solomon to inherit. And it was to him that God made the promise that his seed would rule over God’s people for ever (2 Samuel 7:11-17). In consequence of this ‘everlasting covenant’ (Isaiah 55:3) the coming expected king (Genesis 49:10-11) was seen in terms of his name (Jeremiah 30:9; Ezekiel 34:23-24; Ezekiel 37:24-25; Hosea 3:5), the prophecies finally finding their fulfilment in our Lord Jesus Christ, ‘born of the seed of David according to the flesh, but declared to be the Son of God with power -- by the resurrection from the dead’ (Romans 1:3-4).

The commencement of the genealogy with Perez connects back to the story that we have been considering, for in Ruth 4:12 the elders had prayed that Boaz’s house might be as the house of Perez, who had also been born of a widow by means of a kinsman redeemer (Ruth 4:12). In this genealogy it is seen, therefore, that the house of Perez, and the house of Boaz, had both produced King David. And so the prophecy of the elders was fulfilled. That this genealogy is to be seen as an integral part of the narrative comes out in the chiasmus.

To us this genealogy is just a list of names, but to Israel, brought up to know their history, it was of deeper significance. They would be aware that the wife of Perez was Tamar (see on Ruth 4:12), and that Salmon married Rahab the Canaanite prostitute who saved the spies (Joshua 2; compare Matthew 1:5), and would recognise the parallel with Ruth the Moabitess. It will be noted that the genealogy is carefully worked out. There are ten generations from Perez to David, ten indicating a complete divine period, with five coming before the Exodus, and five following it. This reminds us of the ten generation for the patriarchs up to Noah (Genesis 5), and the ten generations from Noah to Abraham (Genesis 11), which probably similarly had omissions.

Perez was the son of Judah, begotten through Tamar (Genesis 38:29), with Tamar, by trickery, making Judah act as near kinsman. Thus Perez was born of a Levirate marriage. It is this parallel which explains why Perez and not Judah is highlighted. Perez then begat Hezron who is spoken of in Genesis 46:12 as being among the ‘sons’ of Judah who emigrated to Egypt (being seen as in the loins of Judah, because he was not yet born but was required to make the number up to seventy, the number of intensified divine completeness). Hezron begat Ram, and Ram’s son Amminadab is described as the father-in-law of Aaron, Aaron having married his daughter (Exodus 6:23). Amminadab was the father of Nahshon who is spoken of as a leading prince of Judah at the Exodus (Numbers 1:7; Numbers 2:3; Numbers 7:12). Thus the period from Perez to Nahshon, in other words from the departure from Canaan into Egypt, to the Exodus, is, if we ignore names that have been left out, described as consisting of four-to five generations. Timewise this is quite insufficient, but the answer to that is that only the prominent descendants are listed, Perez, as leader of the sub-tribe, Hezron as leader of one of the clans arising from the sub-tribe, Ram as the leader of the extended family, Amminadab as the leader of the family, and Nahshon the prince of Judah a the Exodus.

Nahshon then begat Salmon (or Salmah, a variation of the name - 1 Chronicles 2:11), whom Matthew 1:5 tells us became the husband of Rahab. Thus Salmon was involved in the Conquest. Salmon begat Boaz. That means that two generations at the most are supplied to cover the period from the Exodus to the time of Boaz, and only one generation from the Conquest. From this it will clearly be seen, and the writer would have been aware of it, that if Boaz is considered to be operating in the time of Gideon, some names must have been omitted. If he is seen as operating during the period of the late Judges period even more names have been omitted. But this is not surprising in that such deliberate omissions were in fact quite common in ancient genealogies (Matthew quite patently leaves names out of his genealogies in Matthew 1). Only the crucial names were often included, heads of tribes, heads of sub-tribes, heads of clans, and heads of wider families.

The final section, from Boaz to David, is then seen to consist of three to four generations. This would be sufficient if Boaz was operating in the late Judges period, but not if he was operating during the period of Gideon.

So the genealogy confirms that God’s purpose in producing David was fulfilled through levirate marriage (Tamar and Ruth) and through ‘foreign women’ (Rahab and Ruth), all of whom were then seen as true Israelites, indicating that God in His goodness reaches outside Israel and incorporates into His people those who are from other nationalities. And it was because of Ruth’s involvement in the birth of David that the story of Ruth became accepted as Scripture.

Thus we may sum up what this verse teaches us:

· Firstly, that these are the antecedents of the great King David.

· Secondly, that God accepts foreigners and incorporates them into His chosen people Israel (this would turn into a flood when Jesus called the new Israel, the believing remnant, out of the old, resulting in the incorporation of many Gentiles into the true Israel as seen in Acts).

· Thirdly, that such proselytes, like Ruth, are seen by God as an integral part of His people and not just as second rate, and that their full acceptance is thus guaranteed (Genesis 12:48; this would have been important in the reign of David when many of his most loyal supporters were not native born Israelites, and when as part of his empire other peoples were faced with the claims of the covenant).

· Fourthly, that God works in mysterious ways in the bringing about of His purposes. Who would have seen the tragic circumstances of Naomi, who had deserted Israel and had gone into the land of Moab, and whose deceased sons had married Moabite women, as fertile ground for the birth of Israel’s greatest King, and subsequently for the birth of the Messiah (Matthew 1).

· Fifthly, that God hears the heart cry of His people, bringing them from barrenness to fruitfulness. Compare how in Ruth 1:11-13 Naomi bewailed the fact that God had left her without sons, and how in the closing section of Ruth 4 He gave her a son (Ruth 4:17).

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Ruth 4:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/ruth-4.html. 2013.

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