The Court Room
Ruth 4:1-12- The Court Room
Last week we looked at the promise made by Boaz to Ruth on the threshing floor, that he would redeem her if the relative closer to her would not. The chapter ended with Ruth’s return to her home with Naomi. Naomi said, “Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out, for the man will not rest but will settle the matter today.” Ruth returns home in the early morning, and we will see if Boaz is true to his word. Sometimes chapter divides in the Bible are helpful. Other times they can create a pause in the story that is not there. Character-wise there is a change that the chapter divide helps to point out, but in reality, it is the same time. No time has passed. While Ruth returned home, Boaz went to the gate. In Hebrew, the first word in the sentence is Boaz. Usually the sentence structure is verb, noun, object. However, Boaz is mentioned first, bringing attention to his role in this chapter. Boaz becomes the active character in this chapter, Naomi and Ruth are passive.
I. The Hearing
Boaz goes to the gate and sits down. This is the epicenter of town politics. If you wanted to speak to someone, you would go to the gate. Lot was found sitting at the gate of Sodom as a city leader (Gen 19:1). Suppose you had a stubborn and rebellious son who would not obey his parents, even after disciplining him. The son should be bought to the city’s elders at the gate (Deut 21:18-19). The gate was the political hub of the town and the courtroom of the town. The elders would preside over disagreements or legal matters. Boaz goes early in the morning to follow through with his promise to Ruth. Just as Boaz sits down, the close relative Boaz spoke about (Ruth 3:12) comes by. Boaz tells him to sit down.
Interestingly, we know the names of Orpah, Elimelech’s two sons, but the redeemer is un-named. Mr. No-Name sits down. Boaz then calls ten elders to sit down as well. The court is now in session. Boaz explains to Mr. No-Name the situation of Naomi and Elimelech’s land.
We find two aspects of this ‘court case’ that need to be addressed. The first is the preservation of the genealogical line of Elimelech and the maintenance of the estate of Elimelech. Boaz begins with the latter. Boaz gives Mr. No-Name the option to redeem it, meaning the land. This is a great business opportunity because Naomi has no offspring. In legal terminology, this is called ‘Usafruct,’ meaning two things; the person can use the property or item as long as they don’t alter the property. The second aspect is that they can profit from the property object (use-fruit). Mr. No-Name would be able to use Elimelech’s land and profit from it while supporting Naomi and Ruth. The great benefit of this for Mr. No-Name is that Naomi and Ruth have no offspring, so once they pass away, he would have gained property and made money while they were still alive. So Mr. No-Name accepts the proposal from Boaz.
However, Boaz then explains the second aspect of the ‘court case,’ the preservation of the genealogical line of Elimelech. Boaz said, “The day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the widow of the dead, to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance” (Ruth 4:5). This throws a spanner into Mr. No-Name’s plan. Because he would need to provide a son through Ruth, the son would then become the right heir to Elimelech’s property. So now, Mr. No-Name would have to support Naomi, Ruth, and the Son but would not get to keep the property. Previously he would gain from redeeming the land, but now he would be at a loss. Mr. No-Name is not like Boaz. Boaz was not concerned about himself, but Naomi and Ruth. Mr. No-Name, on the other hand, sees the act of redeeming for benefiting himself he said, “I cannot redeem it for myself.” He saw the role of kinsman-redeemer as a law to gain wealth and not to help others less fortunate than himself. He wanted to build his portfolio, not to care for his brother or sister. His response is that of Cain, “Am I my brothers’ keeper?” (Gen 4:9). Boaz is like Abram, who fought an army of four kings with 318 men when he heard his kinsman was kidnapped (Gen 14:14-16). He was concerned with his possessions and earthly inheritance. Mr. No-Name, in the presence of ten elders, hands his right of redemption to Boaz.
II. The Contract
As the agreement between the two parties was settled. Mr. No-Name takes off his sandal and hands it to Boaz. This might be a bizarre thing to witness, as someone buys a car or a house, and instead of giving a handshake, you get handed a piece of footwear. Providentially the author of Ruth explains why Mr. No-Name is handing a sandal to Boaz. This was their custom when someone would redeem or exchange anything. This was their proof of purchase or receipt. In Deuteronomy chapter 25, it explains the process if a kinsman-redeemer refuses to perpetuate his brother’s name, the wife of the deceased is to bring him to the gate and pull off a sandal and spit in his face as an image of what would happen to his house. And his house would be called “The house of him who had his sandal pulled off” (Deut 25:5-10). Even as he hands his sandal to Boaz, he still thinks Boaz is doing this for himself. Mr. No-Name said, “but it for yourself.”
Throughout the book of Ruth, we have seen Boaz has done far more than the law required. He was generous in many ways, providing protection, food, drink, and security. Boaz is not required to redeem Naomi and Ruth. He could have seen this as Mr. No-Name did, as a business opportunity or as a means to get a more significant inheritance. Boaz goes above and beyond to love his neighbor as himself. Boaz turns to the elders and all the people. Maybe the crowds began to gather as they heard this high-profile case was in session—Naomi, who had left full and come back empty. The town had heard about Naomi (Ruth 1:19) and Ruth (2:6, 11). Now all the people gathered at the gate to listened to what would happen.
Boaz explains what the legal outcome of this court case was, that he brought from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and Mahlon. The elders and the people are witnesses. When you sign a marriage license, you need witnesses. Even when you sign a will, you need witnesses. Boaz has this with the ten elders who observed the discussion between Mr. No-Name and Boaz. However, Boaz makes specific mention that he has redeemed Ruth, the Moabite and the widow of Mahlon, to be his wife. He does so not for his benefit or his inheritance but that the name of the dead will not be cut off. His motive for redeeming Naomi is not for the property but the preservation of the genealogy of the line of Elimelech.
Boaz was a man of his word; within 24 hours, he had done what he promised to Ruth on the threshing floor. He has a sandal in his hand to prove it. Naomi was true when she said, “the man will not rest but will settle the matter today.”
III. The Witnesses
After the last words of Boaz are recorded, all the people and the elders, previously it was the other way around, but now all the people at the gate and the elders attest to what they have witnessed that day. They proclaim three blessings on Boaz and his household.
a) House will stand in the future
The first blessing is that Boaz’s house would be built through Ruth like Rachel and Leah. Rachel and Leah are the mothers of the tribes of Israel. Previously Abram had Isaac, and Isaac had Esau and Jacob, but when the line gets to Rachel and Leah, it grows to 12 sons. The pattern would suggest 1, 2, 4; however, instead of doubling the number of sons, it sextuples. Their first blessing would see an increase in Boaz’s line through the Lord’s doing. The blessing is not that Boaz and Ruth might have a lot of children, but the Lord would build up the house of Israel. Interestingly David, Boaz’s great-grandson, will be given a promise by God that one of David’s descendants would “build a house for my name, and God would establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Sam 7:13).
b) House will stand firm as it is in the present
The second blessing speaks of continuing their current house and seeks Boaz and Ruth’s house to continue to be a house of worth. Boaz and Ruth are both called worthy men and women (Ruth 2:1, 3:11). The blessing seeks that their house remain on the course it is now. So that their name might be renowned in Bethlehem, we know this did come to pass because we have the book of Ruth. We know the name of Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz. Boaz is the name of one of the pillars that stood outside the temple that Solomon built (1 Kings 7:21).
c) House will continue what was in the past
Lastly, the blessing is one of strange honor. That Boaz’s house would not only be built like like Rachel and Leah’s house through Ruth. But also their house would be like the House of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah. We will look at this more when we look at the genealogy (Ruth 4:18-22). However, we can note some similarities. Tamar was a foreign woman (an Adullamite), Perez was born to perpetuate the lines of the deceased and to perpetuate the family line of Judah. We will look at this more in detail in two weeks.
Some people believe that Boaz is a type of Christ. A type of Christ is a shadow of Christ in the old testament pointing forward to Christ to come. However, I am cautious of calling something a type of Christ that does not have clear Biblical connections. You can see the similarities between Boaz and Christ; Boaz upholds the law and even fulfills the law. Boaz pays the high price to redeem Naomi and Ruth. However, I am cautious about saying that Boaz is a type of Christ when the Scripture does not make that clear connection between the two. However, Boaz does demonstrate, like any believer should, Christlikeness. Boaz is generous, compassionate, a man of his word, kind, and does what the law required him, and more.
I am willing to say, though, that Christ is our redeemer. Paul writes in Titus 2:14 that Christ “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” Christ redeemed us not with money but with his life. Christ came to redeem his people from the debt which they had incurred with no way of paying out debtors. Christ came as a servant to give his life as a ransom for many (Matt 20:28). The book of Ruth is not about Boaz, Ruth, or Naomi, not even David. The book of Ruth is about God’s providence in the coming of the Messiah who will crush the head of the serpent, who would come from the line of Perez, Boaz, and David. These three men are merely holding a sign pointing to the one to come, Jesus Christ.