corner graphic

Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries

Ruth 4



Verses 1-22


Ruth 4:1

And Boaz went up, to the gate, and sat there. He "went up," for the city stood, as it still stands, on a ridge (see on Ruth 1:1; Ruth 3:6). "And sat there," on one of the stones, or stone benches, that were set for the accommodation of the townsfolk. The gateway in the East often corresponded, as a place of meeting, to the forum, or the market-place, in the West. Boaz had reason to believe that his kinsman would be either passing out to his fields, or passing in from his threshing-floor, through the one gate of the city. And lo, the kinsman of whom Boaz had spoken was passing; and he said, Ho, such a one I turn hither and sit here. And he turned and sat down. Boaz called his kinsman by his name; but the writer does not name him, either because he could not, or because he would not. The phrase "such a one," or "so and so," is a purely idiomatic English equivalent for the purely idiomatic Hebrew phrase פְלֹנִי אַלְמֹנִי. A literal translation is impossible. The Latin N.N. corresponds.

Ruth 4:2

And he took ten men of the elderly inhabitants of the city, and he said, Sit ye here; and they sat down. Boaz wished to have a full complement of witnesses to the important transaction which he contemplated.

Ruth 4:3

And he said to the kinsman, Naomi, who has returned from the land of Moab, has resolved to sell the portion of land which belonged to our brother Elimelech. Boaz, it is evident, had talked over with Ruth the entire details of Naomi's plans, and could thus speak authoritatively. Naomi, we must suppose, had previously taken Ruth into full confidence, so that Boaz could learn at second- hand what in other circumstances he would have learned from Naomi herself. The verb which we have rendered "has resolved to sell," is literally "has sold," and has been so rendered by many expositors, inclusive of Riegler and Wright. The Syriac translator gives the expression thus, "has sold to me." The subsequent context, however, makes it evident that the property had not been sold to any one, and consequently not to Boaz. The perfect verb is to be accounted for on the principle explained by Driver when he says, "The perfect is employed to indicate actions, the accomplishment of which lies indeed in the future, but is regarded as dependent upon such an unalterable determination of the will that it may be spoken of as having actually taken place: thus a resolution, promise, or decree, especially a Divine one, is very frequently announced in the perfect tense. A striking instance is afforded by Ruth (Ruth 4:3) when Boaz, speaking of Naomi's determination to sell her land, says מָכְרָה נָ' עמִי, literally, 'has sold' (has resolved to sell. The English idiom would be 'is selling')". In King James's English version the verb is thus freely rendered "selleth." Luther's version is equivalent—beut feil, "offers for sale;" or, as Coverdale renders it, "offereth to sell." Vatable freely renders it as we have done, "has determined to sell" so Drusius (vendere instituit). The kind family feeling of Boaz, shining out m the expression, "our brother Ehmelech," is noteworthy. "Brother" was to him a homely and gracious term for "near kinsman."

Ruth 4:4

And I said (to myself). There is little likelihood in the opinion of those who maintain, with Rosenmüller, that the expression, "I said," refers to a promise which Boaz had made to Ruth (see Ruth 3:13). It is a primitive phrase to denote internal resolution. There is a point where thought and speech coalesce. Our words are thoughts, and our thoughts are words. I will uncover thine ear, that is, "I will lift the locks of hair that may be covering the ear, so as to communicate something in confidence." But here the phrase is employed with the specific import of secrecy dropt out. It is thus somewhat equivalent to "I will give thee notice;" only the following expression לֵאמֹר, i.e. to say, must be read in the light of the undiluted original phrase, "I will uncover thine ear to say. The whole expression furnishes the most beautiful instance imaginable of the primary meaning of לֵאמֹר . The thing that was to be said follows immediately, viz; Acquire it, or Buy it. It is as if he had said, "Now you have a chance which may not occur again." It is added, in the presence of the inhabitants. This, rather than "the assessors," is the natural interpretation of the participle ( הַיּשְׁבִים ). It is the translation which the word generally receives in the very numerous instances in which it occurs. There was, so to speak, a fair representation of the inhabitants of the city in the casual company that had assembled in the gateway. And in presence of the elders of my people. The natural "aldermen," or unofficial "senators," whose presence extemporized for the occasion a sufficient court of testators. If thou wilt perform the part of a kinsman, perform it. The translation in King James's English version, and in many other versions, viz; "If thou wilt redeem it, redeem it," is somewhat out of harmony with the nature of the case. Naomi was not wishing Elimelech's estate to be redeemed. It was not yet in a position to be redeemed. It had not been alienated or sold. She wished for it not a redeemer, but a purchaser. And as it was the right of a נֹאֵל or kinsman to redeem for a reduced brother, if he was able and willing, the estate which had been sold to an alien (Le 25:25), so it was the privilege of the same גוֹאֵל or kinsman to get, if the reduced brother was wishing to sell, the first offer of the estate. It would, in particular, be at variance with the prerogative of the nearest of kin if some other one in the circle of the kindred, but not so near, were to be offered on sale the usufructuary possession of the family estate (Le 25:23, 27). Hence Boaz recognized the prior prerogative of his anonymous relative and friend, and said to him, "If thou wilt perform the part of a kinsman, and buy the property, then buy it." It is added, and if he will not. Note the use of the third person he, instead of the second thou. If the reading be correct, then Boaz, in thus speaking, must for the moment have turned to the witnesses so as to address them. That the reading is correct, notwithstanding that some MSS. and all the ancient versions exhibit the verb in the second person, is rendered probable by the very fact that it is the difficult reading. There could be no temptation for a transcriber to substitute the third person for the second; there would be temptation to substitute the second for the third. The unanimity of the ancient versions is probably attributable to the habit of neglecting absolute literality, and translating according to the sense, when the sense was clear. Boaz, turning back instantaneously to his relative, says, Make thou known to me, that I may know, for there is none besides thee to act the kinsman's part (with the exception of myself), and I come after thee. The little clause, "with the exception of myself," lies in the sense, or spirit, although not in the letter of Boaz's address, as reported in the text. And he said, I will act the kinsman's part. He was glad to get the opportunity of adding to his own patrimonial possession the property that had belonged to Elimelech, and which Naomi, in her reduced condition, wished to dispose of. So far all seemed to go straight against the interests of Ruth.

Ruth 4:5

And Boaz said, In the day when thou acquirest the land from the hand of Naomi, and from Ruth the Moabitess, (in that day) thou hast acquired the wife of the deceased, to establish the name of the deceased upon his inheritance. So we would punctuate and render this verse. Boaz distinctly informed his relative that if the land was acquired at all by a kinsman, it must be acquired with its living appurtenance, Ruth the Moabitess, so that, by the blessing of God, the Fountain of families, there might he the opportunity of retaining the possession of the property in the line of her deceased husband, that line coalescing in the line of her second husband. It was the pleasure of Naomi and Ruth, in offering their property for sale, to burden its acquisition, on the part of a kinsman, with the condition specified. If there should be fruit after the marriage, the child would be heir of the property, just as if he had been Machlon's son, even though the father should have other and older sons by another wife.

Ruth 4:6

And the kinsman said, I am not able to perform, for myself, the kinsman's part, lest I should destroy my inheritance. Perform thou, for thyself, the kinsman's part devolving on me, for I am not able to perform it. The moment that Ruth was referred to, as the inseparable appurtenance of Elimelech's estate, a total change came over the feelings of the anonymous relative and the spirit of his dream. He "could not," so he strongly put it, perform the kinsman's part. The probability is that he already had a family, but was a widower. This being the state of the case, it followed that if he should acquire Ruth along with her father-in-law's property, there might be an addition, perhaps a numerous addition, to his family; and if so, then there would be more to provide for during his lifetime, and at his death an increased subdivision of his patrimony. This, as he strongly put it, would be to "destroy" his patrimony, inasmuch as it might be frittered into insignificant fractions. There can be no reference, as the Chaldee Targumist imagined, to his fear of domestic dissensions. Or, if he did indeed think of such a casualty, he certainly did not give the idea expression to Boaz and the assessors. Cassel takes another view. "It must be," he says, "her Moabitish nationality that forms the ground, such as it is, of the kinsman's refusal. Elimelech's misfortunes had been popularly ascribed to his emigration to Moab; the death of Chillon and Machlon to their marriage with Moabitish women. This it was that had endangered their inheritance. The goal fears a similar fate. 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." But if this had been what he referred to when he spoke of the "destruction" of his inheritance, it was not much in harmony with the benevolence which he owed to Boaz, and to which he so far gives expression in the courtesy of his address, that he should have gratuitously urged upon his relative what he declined as dangerous for himself. The expressions "for myself" and "for thyself" ( לִי and לְךָ) are significant. The anonymous relative does not conceal the idea that it would be only on the ground of doing what would be for his own interest that he could entertain for consideration the proposal of Naomi. He likewise assumed that if Boaz should be willing to act the kinsman's part, it would be simply because it could be turned to account for his own interest. He did not know that there was in Boaz's heart a love that truly "seeketh not her own," but in honor prefers the things of another.

Ruth 4:7

And this was formerly a custom in Israel, on occasion of surrendering rights of kinship, or of selling and buying land, in order to confirm any matter; a man drew off his shoe and gave it to the other contracting party. This was attestation in Israel. We give a free translation. The custom was significant enough. He who sold land, or surrendered his right to act as a kinsman in buying land, intimated by the symbolical act of taking off his shoe, and handing it to his friend, that he freely gave up his right to walk upon the soil, in favor of the person who had acquired the possession. Corresponding symbolical acts, in connection with the transfer of lands, have been common, and probably still are, in many countries. No doubt the shoe, after being received, would be immediately returned.

Ruth 4:8

And the kinsman said to Boaz, Acquire for thyself; and drew off his shoe. On the instant that he said, "Acquire for thyself," viz; the land with its living appurtenant, he drew off his shoe and presented it. Josephus allowed his imagination to run off with his memory when, mixing up the historical case before us with the details of the ancient Levirate law (Deuteronomy 25:7-9), which were, in later times at all events, more honored in the breach than in the observance, he represents Boaz as "bidding the woman loose the man's shoe and spit in his face." The actual ceremony was not an insult, but a graphic and inoffensive attestation. Yet it gradually wore out and was superseded. No vestige of it remained in the days of the writer, and the Chaldea Targumist seems to have been scarcely able to realize that such a custom could ever have existed, tie represents the anonymous kinsman as drawing off his "right-hand glove" and handing it to Boas. But take note of the German word for "glove," viz; Handschuh (a hand-shoe).

Ruth 4:9

And Boaz said to the eiders and all the people, Ye are witnesses this day that I have acquired the whole estate of Elimelech, and the whole estate of Chillon and Machlon, from the hand of Naomi. It is absolutely necessary that, at this part of the narrative, as well as in several other portions, we read "between the verses." Naomi, either personally or by representative, must have appeared on the scene, to surrender her territorial rights and receive the value of the estate that had belonged to her husband. But the writer merges in his account these coincidences, and hastens on to the consummation of his story. In the twofold expression, "the whole estate of Elimelech, and the whole estate of Chillon and Machlon," there is a kind of legal particularity. There was of course but one estate, but there was a succession in the proprietorship.

Ruth 4:10

And likewise Ruth the Moabitess, wife of Machlon, have I acquired to myself to wife, to establish the name of the deceased upon his inheritance, so that the name of the deceased may not be cut off from among his Brethren, and from the gate of his place: ye are witnesses this day. This, to Boaz, would be by far the most delightful part of the day's proceedings. His heart would swell with manly pride and devout gratitude when he realized, amid all the cumbrous technicalities of old Hebrew law, that Ruth was his. And he would rejoice all the more, as, in virtue of her connection with Machlon and Elimelech, both of their names would still be encircled with honor, and might, by the blessing of Yahveh, be linked on distinguishingly and lovingly to future generations. Note the expression, "that the name of the deceased may not be cut off from among his brethren, and from the gate of his place." The people who assembled at the gate might on some future day be able to say, "This boy is the heir of Machlon and Elimelech, who once migrated to Moab."

Ruth 4:11

And all the people who were in the gateway, and the elders, said, Witnesses! May Yahveh grant that the wife who has come into thy house may be as Rachel and Leah, who built, the two of them, the house of Israel! The people of the city in general, and the venerable elders in particular, were pleased with every step that Boaz had taken. They felt that he had acted a truly honorable part, at once in reference to Naomi, and to Ruth, and to the nearest kinsman, and likewise in reference to themselves as the representatives of the general population. Blessings rose up within their hearts, ascended into heaven, and came down—charged with something Divine as well as something human and humane—in showers upon his head, and upon the head of his bride. When they prayed that the woman who was the choice of their fellow-citizen's heart should be as Rachel and Leah, they simply gave expression to the intensest desire that Israelites could cherish in reference to an esteemed sister. When they spoke of Rachel and Leah—the mothers of Israel—as "building up the house of Israel, they first of all compared the people to a household, and then they passed over from the idea of a household to the idea of a house as containing the household. They added, more particularly in reference to Boaz himself, Do thou manfully in Ephratah. The expression is somewhat peculiar, ringing changes on the peculiar and remarkable term that occurs both in Ruth 2:1 and in Ruth 3:11. The expression is עֲשֵׂה־חַיִל . The people meant, "Act thou the part of a strong, substantial, worthy man." They added, in a kind of enthusiastic exclamation, Proclaim thy name in Bethlehem. They had, however, no reference to any verbal proclamation, or tribute of self-applause. The spirit of ideality had seized them. They meant, "Act the noble part—the part that will without voice proclaim in Bethlehem its own intrinsic nobleness."

Ruth 4:12

And may thy house he as the house of Pharez, whom Tamer bare to Judah, (springing) from the seed which Yahveh will give to thee of this young woman! Pharez's descendants, the Pharzites, were particularly numerous, and hence the good wishes of Boaz's fellow-townsmen (see Numbers 26:20, Numbers 26:21).

Ruth 4:13

And Boaz took Ruth, and she became to him his wife; and he went in to her, and Yahveh gave her conception, and she bore a son.

Ruth 4:14

And the women said to Naomi, Blessed he Yahveh, who has given thee a kinsman this day! May his name become famous in Israel. Of course it is Ruth's son who is the kinsman referred to, the nearest kinsman, still nearer than Boaz. The kinsman was given, said the women, "this day," the day when the child was born. The expression which we have rendered, "who has given thee a kinsman," is, literally, "who has not caused to fail to thee a kinsman." The sympathetic women who had gathered together in Boaz's house were sanguine, or at least enthusiastically desirous, that a son so auspiciously given, after most peculiar antecedents, would yet become a famous name in Israel. Canon Cook supposes that the kinsman referred to by the women was not the child, but his father, Boaz ('Speaker's Commentary,' in loc.). Yet it is obvious that the kinsman specified was the one who, as they said, had been given, or had not been caused to fail, "that day." He was, moreover, the one of whom they went on to say, "May his name become famous in Israel, and may he be to thee a restorer of life, and for the support of thine old age," &c. Dr. Cook's objections are founded on a too narrow view of the functions devolving on, and of the privileges accruing to, a goel.

Ruth 4:15

And may he be to thee a restorer of life, and for the support of thine old age: for thy daughter-in-law, who loved thee, hath borne him, and she is better to thee than seven sons. The number seven suggested an idea of fullness, completeness, perfection. The whole inhabitants of the city knew that Ruth's love to her mother-in-law had been indeed transcendent, and also that it had been transcendently returned.

Ruth 4:16

And Naomi took the boy, and placed him in her bosom, and she became his foster-mother. She became his nurse in chief.

Ruth 4:17

And the women, her neigh-bouts, named the child, saying, A son has been born to Naomi; and they called his name Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. "Obed," if a participle of the Hebrew verb עָבַד, naturally means serving, or servant. No other derivation, apparently, can at present be assumed (but see Raabe's 'Glossar.'). Josephus gives the participial interpretation as a matter of course, and Jerome too. If the objective correlate of the servitude referred to were Yahveh, then the word might be equivalent to worshipper. If the name, however, as seems to be the case, was imposed first of all by the matronly neighbors who had come to mingle their joys with those of the mother, and of the grandmother in particular, then it is not likely that there would be an overshadowing reference, either on the one hand to servitude in relation to Yahveh, or on the other to servitude in the abstract. Something simpler would be in harmony with their unsophisticated, impressible, and purely matronly minds. It is not at all unlikely that, in fondling the welcome "New-come," and congratulating the overjoyed grandmother, they would, with Oriental luxuriance of speech and Oriental overflow of demonstrativeness, speak of the 'lad' as come home to be a faithful little servant to his most excellent grandmother. The infirmities of advancing age, aggravated by anxieties many, griefs many, bereavements many, toils many, privations many, disappointments many, had been one after another accumulating on "the dear old lady." But now a sealed fountain of reviving waters had been opened in the wilderness. Might it for many years overflow! Might the oasis around it widen and still widen, till the whole solitary place should be blossoming as the rose! Might the lively little child be spared to minister, with bright activity and devotedness, to the aged pilgrim for the little remainder of her journey! The word which the sympathetic neighbors, with not the least intention to propose a real name, had been affectionately bandying about, while fondling the child, was accepted by Boaz and Ruth. They would say to one another, "Yes, just let him be little Obed to his loving grandmother." Naomi, soothed in all her motherly and grandmotherly longings and aspirations, would seem to have yielded, resolving, we may suppose, to train the child up to be a servant of Yahveh.

Ruth 4:18-22

And these are the lineal descendants of Pharez. Pharez 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. This is the genealogy of King David, and it is therefore an integral part of the genealogy of King David's great descendant, his "Lord" and ours. As such it is incorporated entire in the two tables that are contained respectively in the first chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew, and the third of the Gospel according to Luke. Some of the names are somewhat Grecised and otherwise modified in those New Testament tables. Instead of Hezron we have Esrom; instead of Ram we have Aram; instead of Nahshon we have Naason; instead of Boaz we have Boos; in 1 Chronicles 2:11 we have Salma instead of Salmon. It has been keenly debated by chronologists and genealogists whether we should regard the list of David's lineal ancestors, given here and in 1 Chronicles 2:10-12, as also in Matthew 1:3-5, and Luke 3:31-33, as complete. It is a thorny question to handle, and one not ready to be finally settled till the whole Old Testament chronology be adjusted. It is certain that in the larger tables of our Lord's genealogy there was, apparently for mnemonic purposes (Matthew 1:17), the mergence of certain inconspicuous links (see Matthew 1:8); and it would not need to be matter of wonder or concern if in that section of these tables which contains the genealogy of King David there should be a similar lifting up into the light, on the one hand, of the more prominent ancestors, and a shading off into the dark, on the other, of some who were less conspicuous. It lies on the surface of the genealogy that the loving-kindness and tender mercies of Yahveh stretch far beyond the confines of the Hebrews, highly favored though that people was. "Is he," asks St. Paul, "the God of the Jews only? Is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes," the same apostle answers, "of the Gentiles also" (Romans 3:29).


Ruth 4:1-12

The bridal of Boaz and Ruth.

I. THERE WERE SOME OBSTACLES IN THE WAY. There were none, indeed, in Boaz's heart; it was full of pure esteem and love for Ruth. There were none in his financial circumstances; he was able to provide amply for her comfort, and for all his own necessities and conveniences. There were none in his physical condition; he had been temperate in all things, and was in the enjoyment of health and strength. Neither were there any obstacles in Ruth's heart. It had already sought for refuge under the wings of Boaz's protection and sympathy. Nor were there any in her physical, intellectual, or moral condition. She was exceptionally "capable" in every respect, and eminently virtuous and good. She was filled, and had for long been filled, with the love "that seeketh not her own things." Although reduced in circumstances, she really belonged to the very class in society in which Boaz himself was moving. Nor were there obstacles on the part of Boaz's friends on the one hand, nor on the part of Ruth's one precious friend on the other. The obstacles were technical, arising out of the legal prerogative of a third party. Boaz set himself, in full concert with Ruth and Ruth's mother-in-law, to deal with these obstacles.

II. HE DID NOT LOITER OVER THE MATTER, or protract the proceedings unfeelingly from day, to day, week to week, month to month, and even year to year, until "hope deferred" ate out every atom of enthusiasm from his own spirit, and made the heart of Ruth grow "sick." He took steps, without a single day's delay, to get his prospects and the prospects of Ruth righteously settled (see verses 1-4).

III. Yes, "RIGHTEOUSLY SETTLED?" For it was not so much the simple settlement as the righteousness of it that he longed for. He would not gratify his desire to obtain Ruth—greatly as he esteemed, prized, and desired her—if he could not get her righteously and honorably. Hence the forensic scene in the gateway of the city.

IV. It is AN OLD-WORLD PICTURE that is drawn in the narrative, unveiling to view the grave, solemn manners of primitive but well-mannered times. The city had but one gate, through which, therefore, every one who went out or came in must needs pass. It would hence become the principal place of concourse for the townsfolk. It was the place of primitive marketing and bartering. It was the place of primitive judicature. It was, as it were, the senate-hall or parliament-house of the town. The elders and fathers "did congregate" there, in the presence of the casual public, to discuss the incidents-that were transpiring, or the topics that were interesting the public mind. It was the place of morning and evening lounge. Boaz was careful to be early in the morning at this gateway, and immediately on arrival he took steps to secure a judicial settlement, if needed, and, at all events, a complete attestation of the facts of any nuptial arrangement that might be made. The people would begin to assemble leisurely. They would salute one another courteously. Every one would be of staid demeanor. There would be no rush, or push, or panting haste. The true Oriental likes to be self-possessed and leisurely. Some would be passing out, some passing in; but all would be ready to pause and hail one another respectfully. Kindly salutations would be directed to Boaz, and returned. It would be manifest from his countenance, from the tones of his voice, from his entire demeanor and manner, that he meant business that morning. See him as he moved about, stable, yet elastic, and wound up. He invites certain venerated fathers to be seated on the stone benches set in a row at the base of the city wall, as he had an affair to transact which he wished them by their presence to attest. Other citizens, meanwhile, one by one, would be arriving on the scene, some of them younger men and some older. They are grouped about. They feel that something unusual is in the air.

At length there is a full conclave, and Boaz opens his case with his kinsman. It was this:—Naomi, who had so recently returned from the land of Moab, was now unfortunately in such reduced circumstances that she had resolved to sell the property which had belonged to her deceased husband. Now then was the opportunity of the nearest kinsman. In virtue of being the nearest in kinship, he was entitled to the first offer of the property. "Buy it, therefore," said Boaz, "before the inhabitants, and before the elders of my people. If thou wilt act the part of the nearest kinsman (as thou art entitled to do), then act it, and buy the property" (verse 4). The kinsman seemed glad that he should have such an opportunity of adding to his patrimonial estate, and accordingly, in presence of the elders and other, inhabitants, he heartily said, "I will act the kinsman's part." As he thus spoke there would, in all likelihood, be murmurs of applause round and round. Who could object to the kinsman getting the estate if he should offer to pay a liberal price to the reduced widow? It was, in its own little sphere of things, quite a crisis. Deep-drawing interests, affections, and desires were trembling in the balance. Boaz looked grave. But it was evident to perceptive eyes that he had not yet unfolded the whole case to view. After the briefest possible pause he resumed, and said, in the presence of the judicial conclave, "In the day when thou buyest the land from Naomi, thou must buy it not from her only, but from Ruth also, as prospective heiress; and more, thou must buy it with Ruth at present upon it, as its inalienable appurtenant, in order that the name of her deceased husband may, by the blessing of the God of Israel, descend with it in the line of her posterity (verse 5). It was only for a moment that the fate of the gentle Moabitess trembled in its scale. The kinsman was not prepared to accept the property on Naomi's terms. He feared that new interests would spring up to fritter into insignificant patches the property which he already possessed. Hence he said to Boaz, in the presence of the elders and the other citizens, "I cannot act the part of the nearest kinsman; do thou it, Boaz, in my room" (verse 6). Boaz would triumph in his heart; and so, when she became informed of the decision, would Naomi; and so would Ruth. But some legal formalities required to be observed ere the renunciation of the prerogative attaching to the nearest kinsman became absolutely binding in law. "This," says the writer, "was formerly a custom in Israel on occasion of surrendering rights of kinship, or selling and buying land, in order to confirm every matter. A man drew off his shoe and gave it to the contracting party. This was attestation in Israel" (verse 7). Accordingly, the nearest kinsman in the case before us drew off his shoe and tendered it to Boaz, in testimony that he therewith resigned all right to walk upon the ground in question (verse 8). After this formality had been completed, and Boaz had courteously, in presence of the assembled witnesses, returned the symbolic shoe, he seems to have sent for Naomi and Ruth, and to have finished with them, in the presence of the people, the arrangement which was the most momentous into which he had ever entered, and which promised to be big with blessing to others as well as to himself. It was not only a marriage settlement; it was a bridal ceremony. The antique benisons of the elders and the other citizens fell round him thick and fast (verses 9-12), and that blessing which maketh rich, and to which no sorrow is added, the blessing of the God of families and of all family love, descended and crowned the union.

V. It is infinitely becoming that all things in marriage should be done "DECENTLY," "IN ORDER," and ABOVE-BOARD. Let everything clandestine be sensitively avoided. Whenever there is anything in marriage or its preliminaries that needs smothering up, the wind is sown, and the whirlwind will need to be reaped.

VI. If stable HAPPINESS AFTER MARRIAGE be desired, care should be taken to have all preliminaries duly, clearly, and righteously pre-arranged, more particularly such as have reference to possessions, money, rights, or prerogatives. There should be also, especially in these modern times, distinct preliminary arrangements regarding the chief manners and customs of the home, and the relationship that is to be sustained to Churches, and Church assemblies and ordinances. Much indeed must be left to future and incidental adjustment; but great regulative principles should be mutually settled.

VII. If, in "the estate of marriage," there be, as there should be and might be, on both sides a continual aim after whatsoever things are true, honest, seemly, honorable, just, pure, lovely, virtuous, and praiseworthy, then the light of life will shine in the home and in the heart with inexpressible sweetness and brightness. But if there be suspicion, jealousy, hard authority, tyranny, a dictatorial spirit, or any grossness, or secret faithlessness, or the neglect of courtesy, or the extinguishment of kindness and daily benevolence, if there be hard selfishness, however glitteringly glozed over with a semblance of good manners, then the light of life will be not only partially, but totally eclipsed. When the selfishness unmasks itself to the full, the last feeble flame, flickering in the socket, will die out, and be succeeded by a darkness that is the very "blackness of darkness." The true ideal of conjugal relationship is presented by St. Paul in his Epistle to the Ephesians (Ruth 5:25-33). The husband's love should be as the love of Jesus to his Church. The love of the wife should be as the love of the Church to Jesus. Then the marriage is "in the Lord;" and, what is better still, the life after the marriage is life "in the Lord," and life to the Lord. It was from ages and generations "a great mystery," but now it is made manifest in every Christian home that is Christian indeed.

Ruth 4:13-22

Little Obed.

A birth, and in particular a first birth, in the homes of the "excellent of the earth" is always an interesting and exciting event. What multitudes of beginnings there are in childhood! What multitudes of buds and beautiful rose-buddings! What possibilities and uncertainties! What wonderful littlenesses of hands and feet, and other organs, all so marvelously harmonized and complete! What wondrous and wondering eyes, looking, and still looking, as if they would really read your very heart! What winsome smiles and early recognitions!

I. LITTLE OBED WAS A FORTUNATE CHILD. He had three great privileges. He had a good father, a good mother, and a good grandmother. What a blessing! His father was one of the most upright, most honorable, most gracious of men. His mother was "one among a thousand." She had a large heart, full of singular affection and self-denying devotedness. His grandmother was a woman with bold outline of character, but with a capability of yearning and attachment unfathomably deep.

II. If little Obed grew up, as is likely, IN THE FEAR AND FAVOR OF GOD, then what was long afterwards said of Timothy might by some one be said of him, "I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt at first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice, and I am persuaded in thee also" (2 Timothy 1:5).

III. FROM HIS VERY BIRTH HE WOULD BE CRADLED IN LOVE, the threefold love of Ruth, Boaz, and Naomi, intertwined into a delightful unity of affection.


1. Ruth would think of Machlon, and rejoice.

2. Naomi would think of Elimelech, and rejoice.

3. Boaz would think of both the deceased, and rejoice that their names were not to be cut off from among their brethren.

Then again

V. In another respect would there be peculiar rejoicings over Obed's advent. HE WAS THE MUCH LONGED-FOR HEIR OF TWO DISTINCT ESTATES. Let us hope that he would be trained up to think of the responsibilities as well as of the privileges that would come to him in virtue of being born into a good position in society.

VI. HIS NAME WOULD BE BEAUTIFULLY SIGNIFICANT TO HIM IN PROPORTION AS HIS MIND UNFOLDED AND EXPANDED. He would have various ministries to fulfill. A ministry to his grandmother. A ministry to his mother. A ministry to his father. A ministry to his dependents. A ministry to his friends and neighbors, and countrymen in general. Above all, he would have a ministry to the God of his fathers and of their children's children. It would be his business to be OBED in all relations. Even Jesus, out of all compare the greatest of his descendants, became OBED, and took upon himself "the form of a SERVANT," and took far more than the form; he came "not to be ministered unto, but to minister."

VII. It was the hope of the congratulatory matrons who fondled the welcome child, that he would be to his grandmother "a restorer of life" and "a nourisher of her old age" (verse 15). High is the privilege of children and grand-children thus to brighten to the aged the evening of life, when the long shadows are stretching far away. Happy they who count this a privilege!

VIII. What a charm is thrown over infant life by the action of Obed's great descendant in reference to children. He said, "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven." He took them up in his arms, laid his hand upon their heads, and blessed them. At another time he called a little child to him and set him in the midst of his ambitious disciples, and said, "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:2, Matthew 18:3). In this love for little children Jesus, as in so many other respects, was "the imago of the invisible God." He shows us exactly what is the heart, and what are the heart affections, of God. Such as was the visible Jesus in feelings and character, such is the invisible God. He, therefore, he, even he, is a lover of little children, without distinction or exception.


Ruth 4:1, Ruth 4:2

A primitive council.

The writer of this book depicts for us in this passage a very picturesque scene. We observe—

1. The place of judgment and public business. "Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates throughout thy tribes, and they shall judge the people with just judgment." The parents of the disobedient son were to "bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place." Absalom, when plotting against his father's authority, "Stood beside the way of the gate," and intercepted those that came to the king for judgment.

2. The court in whose presence important business was transacted—"the elders of the city." Such elders were prescribed, as is evident from several passages in Deuteronomy; and the early books of the Old Testament contain frequent references to them and to their duties. Allusion is made to the elders of Succoth, of Jezreel, and of this same Bethlehem in the time of Samuel. Ten seems to have been what we should call a quorum. There is wisdom, gravity, deliberation, dignity, in the proceedings here recorded.

I. HUMAN SOCIETY REQUIRES INSTITUTIONS OF LAW AND JUSTICE. The relations between man and man must not be determined by chance, or left to the decision of force or fraud. "Order is Heaven's first law."

II. LAW AND JUSTICE SHOULD BE SANCTIONED BY RELIGION. Religion cannot approve of all actions done by all in authority; but it acknowledges and respects government as a Divine institution, and awakens conscience to support justice.


1. Openness and publicity.

2. Solemn and formal ratification and record of important acts.

3. Equality of citizens before the law.

4. As much liberty as is compatible with public rights.

5. Integrity and incorruptness on the part of those who administer the law.—T.

Ruth 4:3-8

The goel.

Every nation has its own domestic and social usages. Among those prevalent in Israel was the relationship of the goel. He was the redeemer, or the next kinsman of one deceased, whose duty it was to purchase an inheritance in danger of lapsing, or to redeem one lapsed. The duties were defined in the Levitical law. According to the custom and regulation known as Levirate, he was expected to marry the widow of the deceased, and to raise up seed unto the dead, in case no issue were left of the marriage dissolved by death. From this Book of Ruth it is clear that the two duties, that with regard to property and that respecting marriage, centered in the same person. Failing the unnamed kinsman, it fell to the lot of Boaz to act the part of the near relative of Ruth's deceased husband. Usages and laws differ, but the fact of kindred remains, and involves many duties.


II. AND IS BOTH SUGGESTIVE AND ILLUSTRATIVE OF RELIGIOUS, OF CHRISTIAN TRUTH. E.g. of the fatherhood of God; of the brotherhood of man; based upon that of Christ.




Appeal:—Do we recognize the just claims of kindred? If we de not, is not our failure traceable to an imperfect apprehension of spiritual relationships?—T.


Ruth 4:4, Ruth 4:6

Our own inheritance.

"Lest I mar mine own inheritance." How many do this? They have noble inheritances, but in a multitude of ways they mar them.

I. THERE IS THE INHERITANCE OF PHYSICAL HEALTH. Most precious; not to be gotten for fine gold. Yet how often it is injured by sloth and sin, by intemperance and lust, or by the overtaxed brain, and neglect of the simple economy of health.

II. THERE IS THE INHERITANCE OF A GOOD NAME. This too is a priceless gift. More to be desired than gold, yea, than fine gold. Character. It takes years to win—whether for a commercial house or for a personal reputation; but it takes only a moment to lose. How many a son has marred his inheritance! The "good name" is irrecoverable in the highest sense. Forgiveness may ensue, but the memory of evil lives after.

III. THERE IS THE INHERITANCE OF A RELIGIOUS FAITH. "My father's God." Then my father had a God! There had been a generation to serve him before I was born! Am I to be the first to break the glorious chain, to sever the great procession? "One generation shall praise thy works to another." How beautiful! Is my voice to be silent, my thought to be idle, my heart to be cold and dead to God my Savior? Let me think of the unfeigned faith of my grandmother Lois and my mother Eunice, and not mar the inheritance through unbelief.—W.M.S.


Ruth 4:9-11

Honorable conduct honorably witnessed.

By the "shoe" in the context is meant, no doubt, the sandal, which in the East was, and is, the ordinary covering of the foot, fastened by means of a thong of leather. Although in a house, or in a temple, the sandal was dispensed with, it was always used in walking and upon a journey. It was taken off at meals, in every sacred place, and in the presence of every sacred person, and on occasion of mourning. The context brings before us a symbolical use of the sandal. In early times—for even when this book was written the custom was obsolete—it was the usage of the men of Israel, in taking possession of any landed property, to pluck off the shoe. This was the survival of a still older custom—the planting the foot upon the newly-acquired soil, outwardly and visibly to express the taking possession of it, and asserting a right to it as one's own. Having, by the permission and at the suggestion of the unnamed kinsman, performed this simple symbolical act, Boaz proceeded to address the assembled elders of the city, calling them to witness two facts; his purchase of the field of Elimelech, and his resolve to take Ruth, the widow of Elimelech's son, as his own wife. The eiders, in presence of one another, formally and solemnly declared, We are witnesses.



III. PUBLICITY, THE PRESENCE OF COMPETENT AND VERACIOUS, HONORABLE WITNESSES, MAY BE REGARDED AS OF THE HIGHEST IMPORTANCE. Secret marriages and underhand proceedings with regard to property are to be avoided.


Ruth 4:10

The name of the dead.

Elimelech was dead, Mahlon was dead. But to Naomi and to Ruth, who survived, and even to Boaz, the kinsmen of the deceased, the dead were sacred. Not only was their memory treasured in the hearts of the survivors; the fact that they had lived exercised an influence, and a very marked influence, over the conduct of those still living. This was human, admirable, and right.

I. THE NAME OF THE DEAD SHOULD BE SACRED IN EVERY FAMILY. We were theirs, and they are still ours—ours whilst we live. To forget them would be brutish and inhuman. Their memory should be cherished. Their wishes, within reasonable limits, should be fulfilled. Their example, if good, should be reverently studied and diligently copied.

II. THE NAME OF THE DEAD IS A NATIONAL POSSESSION AND POWER. "One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh." But each generation inherits from its predecessor. Patriotism is fostered by the traditions of the great men who have gone, and whose memory is the national pride and glory. To us in England what inspiration does "the name of the dead" afford? The heroes, statesmen, patriots, saints, discoverers, etc. have left behind them imperishable names. "Let us now," says the apocryphal writer, "let us now praise famous men and our fathers which begat us."

III. THE NAME OF THE DEAD IS THE INSPIRATION OF THE WORLD'S LABORS AND HOPES. All great names, save One, are names of the dead, or of those who soon will be such. One was dead, but lives again, and for evermore. His undying life gives true life and power to the great names of those whom he causes to live again; for he teaches us that nothing he has sanctified can ever die.

Query:—What shall our name be when we are with the dead?—T.

Ruth 4:11, Ruth 4:12

Good wishes.

When the marriage of Boaz with Ruth was resolved upon, the elders of the city, the bridegroom's neighbors and friends, expressed with cordiality their congratulations and good wishes. They wished well to himself, to his Wife, to his house or family, to his offspring, his seed.

I. KIND WISHES ARE FOUNDED IN A PRINCIPLE DIVINELY PLANTED IN HUMAN NATURE. Sympathy is a principle of human nature. Benevolence is as natural as selfishness, though less powerful over most minds. And we should "rejoice with those who do rejoice."

II. IT IS RIGHT THAT KIND WISHES SHOULD BE EXPRESSED IN WORDS. There is no doubt danger lest insincerity should creep into the customary salutations and benedictions of life; many compliments are utterly insincere. Yet even the most scrupulous and veracious may legitimately utter good wishes. It is churlish to withhold such utterances.

III. CHRISTIANITY GIVES A RICH, FULL MEANING TO THE KIND WISHES OF FRIENDSHIP. For our religion teaches us to turn every wish into a prayer. It is a sufficient condemnation of a wish that it cannot take this form. With Christians, "God bless you!" should be a hearty and fervent intercession.—T.

Ruth 4:13

The birth of a son.

With true piety as well as justice the author of this book refers the blessings of domestic life to him Who setteth his people in families, and of whom it is said, "Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is his reward." Whenever a child is born into the world the Spirit of wisdom teaches us, as Christians, lessons of the most practical and valuable kind.

I. GRATITUDE TO GOD FOR A PRECIOUS GIFT. Christian parents feel that they receive no gifts so valuable, so dear as the children bestowed upon them by the goodness of God. Thanks are ever due for the Divine favor thus shown.

II. A SENSE OF PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITY. He must be stolid and insensible indeed who, when his firstborn is placed in his arms, has no thought of the sacred charge laid upon him. Gifts are trusts. The parent's desire and prayer should be for grace to fulfill solemn responsibilities.

III. RESOLUTIONS REGARDING EDUCATION. Remembering that for the first years of life a child is almost entirely under the parents' influence, fathers and mothers will not only at the first seriously and prayerfully dedicate their offspring to God, but will consider how they may train them up in the way they should go, that when they are old they may not depart from it.

IV. A SPIRIT OF DEPENDENCE UPON "THE FATHER OF THE SPIRITS OF ALL FLESH" FOR A BLESSING. We cannot too much connect our children with the throne of grace. Private and family prayer will be the means of domestic happiness, and will assist parents in exercising a watchful care and faithful guidance, and children in using aright the opportunities of improvement with which they are favored.—T.


Ruth 4:13

The birth-hour.

"And she bare a son." Memorable day that I Read to the end of the chapter: "There was a son born to Naomi; and they called his name Obed: he is the father of Jesse, the father of DAVID." The old divines used to consider that Ruth the Moabitess becoming an ancestor of David was a prefigurement of the admission of the Gentiles into the Christian Church. Certain it is that the Jews did think this a dishonor to David, and Shimei in his revilings is supposed to taunt David with his' descent from Ruth. Rut the descent of the same true spirit is the real descent of honor.

I. THE CHILD'S NAME. Obed, a servant. It may be a remembrancer of duty. Just as the motto of the Prince of Wales is"Ich dien," I serve. Any way it is beautiful never to despise service. A Christian is to be "meet for the Master's use." How many there are who are of no use in the world I Some dislike all service, and prefer the dainty hand that is never soiled, and the life that is never separated from selfishness.

II. THE BENEDICTION ON NAOMI. Naomi was there to receive congratulations. What a time for the mother in Israel to be with the new mother! There is sacred anxiety in such hours in the household. Why should the name of mother-in-law be the butt for satire? Many can testify how precious her care and kindness is in such a season. It is easy, but wicked as easy, to satirize a relationship which, if it creates responsibilities, confers also kindness which cannot be bought.

III. THE PROPHECY CONCERNING THE BABE. How soon infancy merges into youth and manhood. In a few years Naomi will be bent and bowed. The white winter of age is coming, and then this child shall be a nourisher of Naomi's old age. A desolate time indeed for those who have no children's children to brighten their declining days, and, if needful, to succor them when friend and helper are gone. But all here is traced, as in Hebrew history all is ever traced, to the good hand of God. "Blessed be the Lord, which hath not left thee this day without a kinsman."—W.M.S.


Ruth 4:14-17

The benevolent happiness of old age.

The story of Ruth closes amidst domestic prosperity and happiness, and amidst neighborly congratulations. And it is observable that Naomi, whose trials and sorrows interest us so deeply at the commencement of this book, appears at its close radiant with renewed happiness: her daughter-in-law a mother, she herself a grand-parent, surrounded by rejoicing neighbors, expressing their congratulations, and invoking blessing upon her and those dear to her. The narrative loses sight of Ruth in picturing the felicity of her mother-in-law. The neighbors who before had asked, "Is this Naomi?" now exclaim, "There is a son born to Naomi: blessed be the Lord, which hath not left thee this day without a kinsman." She is encompassed with the blessings which, in the language of our poet, "should accompany old age"—"honor, love, obedience, troops of friends."

I. UNSELFISHNESS IS REWARDED. Naomi had all along thought more of Ruth's sorrows and of Ruth's happiness than of her own. And now this very Ruth is made the means of her prosperity, comfort, and joy in declining years.

II. HOPES ARE FULFILLED. It was Naomi's desire that Ruth might attain to "rest," and her counsels had been directed to this end. Now she sees the Moabitess a happy wife, a happy mother.

III. A JOYOUS PROSPECT IS OPENED UP. The day has been cloudy and stormy, but how brightly does the sun shine out at eventide! "A restorer of her life," "a nourisher of her old age," is given her. The child Obed becomes her delight, and her imaginations picture his manhood, and his position in an honorable line of descent.

IV. SYMPATHY ENHANCES HAPPINESS. There is mutual reaction here; Ruth, Naomi, and the neighbors, with unselfish congratulations, rejoicings, and prayers, contribute to one another's welfare.—T.

Ruth 4:18-22

The lineage of David.

This book closes with a genealogy. Readers of the Scriptures may sometimes have felt perplexed at the frequency with which genealogical tables occur both in the Old Testament and in the New. There is a sufficient reason for this.

I. SCRIPTURE SANCTIONS THE INTEREST HUMAN NATURE FEELS IN GENEALOGY. No one is insensible to his own ancestry, especially if among his progenitors have bee: men of eminence. Interest in ancestry may be carried too far, and may spring from, and minister to, a foolish vanity, but in itself it is good. It is a witness to the dignity of human nature; it may be an inspiration to worthy deeds; it may be a incentive to transmit influences of character and culture to posterity.

II. SCRIPTURE ATTACHES SPECIAL IMPORTANCE TO THE GENEALOGY OF THE DEECENDANTS OF ABRAHAM. Israel was the chosen people, and the lineage of the tribes of Israel, and especially of Judah, was a matter of national and local, but also of world wide, importance.

III. SCRIPTURE CAREFULLY RECORDS THE GENEALOGY OF CHRIST JESUS. He was the Son of man, the Son of David, as well as the Son of God. By evincing this, provision was made for commending Jesus to the reverence of the Hebrew people; for making manifest the fulfillment of prophecy, which was thus authenticated; for presenting the Savior in all the power of his true humanity before the human race, as the object of faith, attachment, and devotion.


1. The obligations under which we individually may be laid by a pious ancestry.

2. Our debt to posterity.

3. The claims of the Son of man upon our hearts.—T.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Ruth 4:4". The Pulpit Commentary. 1897.

Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology