THE BOOK OF RUTH
Lesson 3: Chapters 3:6-4:22
Boaz Becomes Ruth's Blood Redeemer

Beloved Lord God,
It was Your intention that mankind live in fellowship with You eternally, but in Adam's fall from grace that bond of eternal fellowship was broken and for the first time man was in need of a Redeemer. Thank you, merciful Father, for not abandoning us, Your children, to the ravages of sin and death. Thank you, Lord, for providing a Blood Redeemer-a man of flesh and blood uniquely related to us and yet more than a man who willing battled, suffered and overcame sin for the sake of a fallen humanity. Please send Your Holy Spirit to guide us, Lord, in our last lesson on the Book of Ruth as we study the decision of Your servant Boaz who willingly offered himself as a Blood Redeemer to Ruth in an act of mercy that had an impact on the future liberation of all men and women in the drama of sin and redemption. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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The blessing followed as Boaz said it would. For Ruth received the full reward from God, so that she was the progenitor of the blessing of the nations.
Theodoret, Bishop of Cyr (393-466), Questions on Ruth

Boaz took Ruth to be his wife because of the merits of her faith, so that a royal nation might be born out of so holy a marriage. For Boaz, an old man, did not take a wife for himself but for God; not on account of his corporeal passions but on account of the justice of the law, to revive the seed of his kinsman, not serving love so much as religion. He was old in age but youthful in faith.
Homily 1, Incomplete work on Matthew, author unknown

~CHAPTER 3:6-4:18~

Outline:

  1. The Threshing-floor in Bethlehem
    1. Ruth stays with Boaz on the threshing-floor
    2. Ruth's request for Boaz to be her Go'el Haddam
    3. Boaz's reply
    4. Ruth returns to Naomi's house
  2. The Gate of Bethlehem
    1. Boaz's proposal to the other kinsman in front of witnesses
    2. The other kinsman declines the right of redemption
    3. Boaz declares his right of redemption over Ruth and Naomi's lands
    4. The people of Bethlehem and the elders bless Ruth and Boaz's marriage
  3. Boaz marries Ruth
    1. Yahweh gives Ruth a son
    2. The Bethlehem women bless Naomi who adopts her grandson as her heir
    3. The women of Bethlehem name the child
  4. The genealogy of ten names from Perez to David

In chapter 2 we have observed that Ruth and Boaz are two extraordinary people.

Question: Ruth and Boaz exemplify a number of virtues; how would you list them?

Answer: Some of the virtues they exhibit: Ruth exhibits faith in the God of Israel, obedience, courage, humility and chastity. Boaz embodies faith in God, strength of character, virtue, mercy and obedience to the Law of the covenant.

In 2:8-9 Boaz gave Ruth a series of five commands, and in 2:15-16 he gave a second series of five commands to his young men concerning Ruth. Then in 3:3-5 Naomi also gave Ruth a series of five commands.

Question: In 3:3-5 what does Naomi tell Ruth to do before and after she goes to the threshing-floor that night?
Answer: Naomi tells Ruth to:

  1. Wash, perfume yourself and put on your cloak
  2. Go to the threshing-floor
  3. Do not let Boaz recognize you during the feasting
  4. When he sleeps, lie down at his feet and uncover him
  5. Do whatever he tells you to do

Question: What is Naomi's reason for telling Ruth not to let Boaz see her during the feast before he sleeps for the night? Remember to "uncover" someone is to have intimate relations with that person. See Lev Chapter 18 in which the literal Hebrew euphemism for sexual intercourse is "to uncover the nakedness of ..." and Dt 23:1 where "he must not withdraw the skirt of his father's cloak from her" refers to a sexual violation.
Answer: Is it possible that Naomi does not want Boaz to know which young woman is offering herself sexually to him in the night? If he recognizes Ruth or smells her perfume and identifies with her from earlier in the evening, Boaz may refuse her because he will not take advantage of the widow of a kinsman.

It appears Naomi wants Boaz to unknowingly have relations with Ruth and then feel obligated to marry her. If so, it is not a righteous deed. According to the Catholic Catechism, evil cannot be rightly perpetrated with the intention of a future good for "evil never becomes a good" (CCC 312). The drama builds as the reader wonders, "What will Ruth do; will she do everything her mother-in-law has instructed?"

Ruth 3:6-15 ~ Ruth and Boaz at the Threshing-floor
6 So she went down to the threshing-floor and did everything her mother-in-law had told her. 7 When Boaz had finished eating and drinking, he went off happily and lay down beside the pile of barley [at the end of the heap]. Ruth then quietly went, turned back the covering at his feet and lay down. 8 [And it was] In the middle of the night, he woke up with a shock [trembled] and looked about him [and turned himself]; and there lying at his feet was a woman. 9 'Who are you?' he said; and she replied, 'I am your servant [handmaid] Ruth. Spread the skirt of your cloak over your servant [handmaid] for you have the right of redemption over me [for you are a ga'al/redeemer over me].' 10 'May Yahweh bless [baruk] you, daughter,' he said, 'for this second act of faithful love [hesed] of yours is greater than the first, since you have not run after young men, poor or rich. 11 Don't be afraid, daughter, I shall do everything you ask, since the people at the gate of my town all know that you are a woman of great worth. 12 But, though it is true that I have the right of redemption over you, you have a kinsman [ga'al] closer than myself. 13 Stay here for tonight and, in the morning, if he wishes to exercise his right over you, very well, let him redeem you. But if he does not wish to do so, then as Yahweh lives, I shall redeem you. Lie here till morning.'
[..] = literal translation (IBHE, vol. I, page 408).

Ruth 3:6 ~ So she went down to the threshing-floor and did everything her mother-in-law had told her.

Up to this point Ruth has obeyed Naomi, meaning she has bathed, perfumed herself, dressed in her best garments, avoided contact with Boaz and after he has fallen asleep, she has laid down at his feet after uncovering him.

Ruth 3:8 ~ In the middle of the night, he woke up with a shock [trembled] and looked about him [and turned himself]; and there lying at his feet was a woman.

The Hebrew word charad is a prime root meaning "to shudder" or "to tremble." As the temperature dropped and the night grew cold, Boaz probably awoke from the chill of being uncovered and turning over discovered a woman lying by him. This is another "turning point" in the story and the tension increases as the reader asks "what will Boaz do and how will Ruth react? Will Naomi's plan be successful?"

Naomi's plan is preempted by the chastity and virtue of both Boaz and Ruth.

Question: What act first reveals Boaz's virtue when he realizes that he is uncovered and a woman is lying next to him in a way to suggest a sexual invitation? See verse 9.
Answer: He "asks" before "acting" whereas many men would have acted first. He asks "who are you?"

Ruth 3:9 ~ 'Who are you?' he said; and she replied, 'I am your servant [handmaid] Ruth. Spread the skirt of your cloak over your servant [handmaid] for you have the right of redemption over me [for you are a ga'al/redeemer over me].'

Question: Naomi told Ruth to say nothing but to do whatever Boaz told her to do; however, once again, how does Ruth demonstrate both her courage and her virtue?
Answer: Ruth asks Boaz to be her Go'el Haddam by marrying her.

Naomi told Ruth to offer herself sexually to Boaz by uncovering him, but Ruth has taken the initiative by asking Boaz to "spread the skirt of your cloak over your handmaid"-to cover her in the covenant bond of marriage. It is the same symbolic language used in the Book of Ezekiel when Yahweh took Israel as His bride: ... Your time had come, the time for love. I spread my cloak over you and covered your nakedness; I gave you my oath, I made a covenant with you-declares the Lord Yahweh-and you became mine (Ez 16:8).

Question: With this request, Ruth links what two acts of redemption that are not otherwise linked in the Law? See Lev 24:23-27 and Dt 25:5-10.
Answer: She has linked the obligation of the Go'el Haddam to the redemption of Naomi's lands and to a levirate marriage with her.

Boaz is not directly obligated under the Law to provide a levirate marriage to Ruth since he is not Mahlon's brother; however, it could be argued that in the absence of a brother, a blood kinsman was acceptable if he was willing.

Ruth 3:10 ~ 'May Yahweh bless [baruk] you, daughter,' he said, 'for this second act of faithful love [hesed] of yours is greater than the first, since you have not run after young men, poor or rich.

This is the second time the Hebrew words "bless" (baruk) and "covenant love" (hesed) are used together (see 2:19-20).

Question: What is Boaz's reaction to Ruth's proposal of marriage?
Answer: In verse 10 Boaz invokes Yahweh's blessing upon Ruth and commends her for the second act of hesed in seeking an heir for Naomi by asking him to be her redeemer. He is both impressed with her initiative and honored that she has asked him and has not sought out younger men, either rich or poor.

It is not lost on Boaz that Ruth in invoking the go'el custom herself as a non-Israelite is demonstrating her hesed for Naomi by sacrificing her own personal happiness for the family duty of giving Naomi an heir. Naomi sent Ruth on a romantic mission but her independent initiative in asking Boaz to be the go'el not only shows remarkable courage but places her in the position as the heroine who is the true bringer of salvation in God's divine plan for this family. It is an act that demonstrates that she is fully worthy of membership in God's covenant family Israel.

This is Boaz's second act of blessing Ruth in Yahweh's name; also see his earlier blessing in 2:12 for Ruth's compassion for Naomi and for seeking refuge in Yahweh the God of Israel.

Ruth 3:11-12 ~ Don't be afraid, daughter, I shall do everything you ask, since the people at the gate of my town all know that you are a woman of great worth. 12 But, though it is true that I have the right of redemption over you, you have a kinsman [ga'al] closer than myself.

Boaz's words of assurance to Ruth "I shall do everything you ask" seem to echo Ruth's words to Naomi in which she said "I shall do everything you tell me." It is not Naomi or Ruth or Boaz who is controlling events, however, it is God.

Boaz agrees to Ruth's proposal, and assures her that there is nothing to fear from the reaction of the people of Bethlehem, since the elders who meet at the town's gate have evaluated her and judged her to be a woman of worth. But just when everything seems to be working out for Ruth, Boaz reveals that there is a closer kinsman who has the first right of redemption over her as Mahlon's widow. As much as Boaz is willing to be Ruth's go'el, he is a righteous man and righteousness is defined as one who is obedient to the Law. Boaz will settle the question of who is to take on the responsibility as Ruth's Go'el Haddim through the proper channels and leave the outcome to God.

Ruth 3:13 ~ Stay here for tonight and, in the morning, if he wishes to exercise his right over you, very well, let him redeem you. But if he does not wish to do so, then as Yahweh lives, I shall redeem you. Lie here till morning.'

As evidence of his honorable intentions, Boaz instructs Ruth to remain under his protection the rest of the night, and he swears an oath by the Divine Name that he will be her Blood Redeemer if the other man declines his right.

Ruth 3:14-18 ~ Boaz's regard for Ruth's reputation and Ruth returns home to Naomi
14 So she lay at his feet till morning, but got up before the hour when one man can recognize [know] another; and he thought, 'It must not be known that this woman came to the threshing-floor.' 15 He then said, 'Let me have the cloak you are wearing, hold it out!' She held it out while he put six measures of barley [six of barley] into it and then loaded it on to her; and off she went to the town. 16 When Ruth got home, her mother-in-law asked her, 'How did things go with you, daughter?' She then told her everything that the man had done for her. 17 'He gave me these six measures of barley [six of barley] and said, "You must not go home empty-handed to your mother-in-law."' 18 Naomi said, 'do nothing, daughter, until you see [know] how things have gone; I am sure he will not rest until he has settled the matter this very day.' [..] = Literal translation (IBHE, vol. I, page 706).

Question: Why did Boaz consider it necessary that Ruth leave before anyone saw her with him? See 2:11 and 3:10.
Answer: He wanted to protect her good reputation.

From his supply of grain, Boaz personally filled Ruth cloak. She probably brought the cloak that was secured around her neck forward to hang in front of her. Then, as she held up the edges of the cloak, Boaz filled the cloak with grain which she held in front of her as she carried the bundle home to Naomi.

As at the end of chapter 2, Ruth returned to Naomi with a large quantity of grain. While the approximately four gallons in 2:17 was a large amount of grain, it was not impossible for a woman to carry or drag. This time the kind of measure is not identified-the Hebrew text reads "six of barley" (verses 15 and 17). Is it six ephah, an amount that is between 175 and 285 pounds depending on which standard for an ephah is used, or six seah that is one-third of an ephah weighing between 58 and 95 pounds depending on the standard (Hubbard, page 222)? The second seems more likely, but still it is an incredibly large amount for a woman to carry. Perhaps the very generous amount is symbolic rather than literal, the generous "seed" representing that Boaz is still capable of providing his "seed" for the future birth of children. This interpretation seems to be implied in Ruth 4:12 where in the literal Hebrew text the people bless Boaz for the "seed," meaning future children, Yahweh will give him in his marriage.

After Ruth reports the events of the evening to Naomi, Naomi is very encouraged by the turn of events and advises Ruth to do nothing until she hears from Boaz, who Naomi believes will settle the matter that very day (verse 18).

~ CHAPTER 4 ~

Ruth entered the church and was made an Israelite and [she] deserved to be counted among God's greatest servants; chosen on account of the kinship of her soul, not of her body.
St. Ambrose (Exposition of the Gospel of Luke, 3.30)

Ruth 4:1-4 ~ Boaz's proposal to the other kinsman in front of witnesses
1 Boaz, meanwhile, had gone up to the gate and sat down, and the relative of whom he had spoken then came by. Boaz said to him, 'Here my friend, come and sit down'; the man came and sat down. 2 Boaz then picked out ten of the town's elders and said, 'Sit down here'; they sat down. 3 Boaz then said to the man who had the right of redemption, 'Naomi, who has come back from the Plains of Moab, is selling the piece of land that belonged to our brother, Elimelech. 4 I thought I should tell you about this and say, "Acquire it in the presence of the men who are sitting here and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you want to use your right of redemption, redeem it; if you do not, tell me so that I know, for I am the only person to redeem it besides yourself, and I myself come after you."'

As Naomi suspected, Boaz went immediately to the gate of the town of Bethlehem to settle the matter of who had the right of redemption. In Israelite towns, as in the pagan cities of their neighbors, the town gate served as an important center of the town's public life. Heavy wooden double doors were hung on large posts and when closed were secured by bars and locks (see Judg 16:3 and Neh 3:14). The gate entrance was often roofed over (2 Sam 18:24) and in front of the gate there was an open space and the wall by the gates was lined with benches where the elders sat. It was at the town gate where matters of commerce were discussed and trade transactions made, where the local judicial court of elders met to decide issues pertaining to the town or pertaining to business and legal transactions between individuals, or where the men of the town met to hear and discuss town matters (Gen 19:1; 23:10, 17-18; Dt 25:10; Rt 4:1-2, 4, 10). It was also where elders delivered verdicts either exonerating or punishing individuals in violation of the Law, and it was outside the town gate that the guilty were punished (Dt 17:5; 21:19-21; 22:23-24; Josh 20:4).

Some towns had gate systems with roofed double gates where the inner gate had twin guard-towers on either side of the gate with roofed chambers where meetings could be held to discuss economic issues and where the town elders settled judicial cases (2 Chr 26:9). The more elaborated gates systems also had stations above the roofed outer gate where sentries were posted and where trumpets could be blown to sound an emergency (2 Sam 18:24-27; Ez 33:2-3). The open field in front of the gate was often used for important gatherings for the entire town or for festivities (2 Chr 32:6; Neh 8:1, 3, 16), and the open area outside the town's gate was where some towns located their threshing-floors.

Question: Going to the town gate, how many elders did Boaz select to serve as witnesses?
Answer: He asked ten men of the town's elders.

Question: The number ten figures prominently what three times in the Book of Ruth?
Answer:

  1. Ten years in Moab (Rt 1:4)
  2. Ten elders as witnesses at the gate (Rt 4:2)
  3. Ten name genealogy (Rt 4:18-22

In the symbolic significance of numbers in Scripture, ten is the number that signifies divine order. It is from this passage in Ruth (among others) that the Jewish rabbis determined ten as the divinely ordered number of a quorum (Heb. = minyan), "the least number of men above Bar Mitzva age to be present at a religious service where the holiness of God and His kingship is to be proclaimed" (The Jewish Book of Why, vol. I, page 141).

The name of the kinsman with the first right of redemption is never given. Jewish rabbis maintain that this is one of the blessings God gave Boaz for his generosity, charity and obedience to the Law in that it is his name that is remembered and not the name of the man who refused the right of redemption over Ruth (Jewish Study Bible, page 1584).

Ruth 4:3 ~ Boaz then said to the man who had the right of redemption, 'Naomi, who has come back from the Plains of Moab, is selling the piece of land that belonged to our brother, Elimelech.

For the first time we learn that Elimelech's land needs to be redeemed in order to provide for Naomi and Ruth. It is unclear from the Hebrew text if their kinsman "brother" Elimelech sold his ancestral land when he left for Moab and it needs to be redeemer from the buyer, or if the land is still in Naomi's possession and she must sell it to support herself and Ruth.

The ancestral lands could never be permanently sold (Lev 25:23). They could be temporarily sold until the time of the 50th year Jubilee when the land reverted back to the original landholder (Lev 25:13, 23-28). Any land purchased between the Jubilees was valued on the number of years until the next redemption year (Lev 25:14-17). While it is true that Naomi's lands could be restored at the time of the next Jubilee, if Naomi was dead and there was no heir to receive the land, the man currently occupying the land could receive it permanently his property.

Question: What are the rules of redemption according to the Law in Leviticus 25:23-34; 47-55; also see Jer 32:6-15.

Answer: Only a close blood relative can serve as the redeemer. He must have the means to redeem and he must be willing to redeem. A legal document seals the agreement in the presence of witnesses.

Ruth 4:4b-6 ~ 4bThe man said, 'I am willing to redeem it.' 5 Boaz then said, 'The day you acquire the field from Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the man who has died, to perpetuate the dead man's name in his inheritance.' 6 The man with the right of redemption then said, 'I cannot use my right of redemption without jeopardizing my own inheritance. Since I cannot use my right of redemption, exercise the right yourself.'

We again reach another of those climatic moments in the story. At first the closer kinsman expresses his desire to serve as Naomi's blood redeemer. However, Boaz has been inspired by Ruth's interpretation of the Law and the role of the Go'el Haddim in the request she made to him for marriage on the threshing-floor the night before.

Question: What does Boaz say to his kinsman that changes the man's offer to serve as the blood redeemer?
Answer: Like Ruth, he ties the redemption of the land to a levirate marriage with Ruth. The kinsman is not willing to marry Ruth and so declines his offer.

Both Ruth and Boaz have linked the redemption of the land to marriage with Ruth. According to the Law, levirate marriage pertains only to the brother of the dead husband (Dt 25:5-10) and is not linked with redemption of ancestral lands; therefore, neither Boaz nor the other kinsman is legally bound to marry Ruth. Nevertheless, Boaz has linked the two as a kinsman's obligation, and this is accepted by the other kinsman and the town elders.

Ruth 4:6 ~ The man with the right of redemption then said, 'I cannot use my right of redemption without jeopardizing my own inheritance. Since I cannot use my right of redemption, exercise the right yourself.'

All three qualifications were necessary to fulfill the role of a blood redeemer: blood kinship, financial means, and willingness to serve.

Question: Why did Naomi's nearest kinsman refuse the right of redemption? How did his refusal leave the way clear for Boaz?

Answer: Naomi's nearest kinsman had the blood tie, and he had the necessary resources to fulfill the redemption, but he was not willing to redeem Naomi's land by marrying Ruth since, as he said, such a marriage would compromise his inheritance. Boaz, however, was willing to fulfill all three necessary requirements to be the Blood Redeemer including marriage to Naomi's daughter-in-law.

It is likely that the unnamed kinsman had daughters and it wasn't so much his right of inheritance that could be jeopardized by producing a male heir for his dead kinsman Mahlon, but that it was the inheritance of his children that was at stake. Daughters could only inherit and pass the land on to their sons if there were no other male heirs (Num 27:5-11).

The refusal of the nearer kinsman is another act of God's providence. In Ruth's case, Boaz fulfilled the role of the Blood Redeemer by meeting all the necessary qualifications and by keeping Naomi's lands within the tribe of Judah. He also wisely followed Ruth's example in linking the redemption of Naomi's land to a levirate marriage with Ruth (Num 36:5-9; Dt 25:5-10), a condition the other kinsman was not willing to fulfill (Ruth 3:11; 4:5-6).

Ruth 4:7-10 ~ Boaz declares his rights as the Go'el Haddam
7 Now, in former times, it was the custom in Israel to confirm a transaction in matters of redemption or inheritance by one of the parties taking off his sandal and giving it to the other. This was how agreements were ratified in Israel. 8 So, when the man with the right of redemption said to Boaz, 'Acquire it for yourself,' he took off his sandal. 9 Boaz then said to the elders and all the people there. 'Today you are witnesses that from Naomi I acquire everything that used to belong to Elimelech, and everything that used to belong to Mahlon and Chilion 10 and that I am also acquiring Ruth the Moabitess, Mahlon's widow, to be my wife, to perpetuate the dead man's name in his inheritance, so that the dead man's name will not be lost among his brothers and at the gate of his town. Today you are witnesses to this.

Presumably at this time the symbolic act of refusal was no longer practiced so the writer explains the action of the nearer kinsman. A sandal was used as the symbolic sign of ownership and the transfer of possession rights as in King David's claim: Moab a bowl for me to wash in, on Edom I plant my sandal. Now try shouting "victory! Over me, Philistia!' (Ps 60:8, repeated in108:9).

The only place in Scripture that mentions a similar symbolic gesture is in the shaming of a kinsman who refuses to accept the widow of his brother as a wife in Deuteronomy 25:7-10: But if the man declines to take his brother's wife, she must go to the elders at the gate and say, 'I have no brother-in-law willing to perpetuate his brother's name in Israel; he declines to exercise his duty as brother in my favor.' The elders of the town must summon the man and talk to him. If, on appearing before them, he says, "I refuse to take her," then the woman to whom he owes duty as brother must go up to him in the presence of elders, take the sandal off his foot, spit in his face, and pronounce the following words, "This is what is done to the man who refuses to restore his brother's house," and his family must henceforth be known in Israel as House of the Unshod.

However, the symbolic gesture in Ruth 4:8 is not the same as the gesture of renunciation and contempt in Deuteronomy 25. Removing one's shoe and throwing it at someone as an act of contempt is still common in the Middle East and other Moslem nations (i.e., the reporter who threw his shoe at President Bush at a news conference in Afghanistan). In Ruth 4:10 the man who refuses his rights as the redeemer gives his shoe to the other kinsman indicating the transfer of his rights from one party to another.

Acknowledging the symbolic act, Boaz then declares to the ten witnesses, the town's people and other elders, his right to act as the Go'el Haddam for Naomi and Ruth.

Ruth 4:11-12 ~ The elders and towns people give their blessings
11 All the people at the gate said, 'We are witnesses'; and the elders said, 'May Yahweh make the woman about to enter your family like Rachel and Leah who together built up the House of Israel. Grow mighty in Ephrathah, be renowned in Bethlehem! 12 And through the children [seed] Yahweh will give you by this young woman, may your family be like the family of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.' [..] = literal translation (IBHE, vol. I, page 708).

The town's people and the elders pronounce their approval as witnesses, and the elders offer a blessing in the name of Yahweh for Ruth. See Gen 38:1-30; 1 Chr 2:5-11.

Question: How is the elders' blessing of Ruth's marriage prophetic: And through the children [seed] Yahweh will give you by this young woman, may your family be like the family of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah'? See Mt 1:4-5, 16.
Answer: Their blessing looks forward in salvation history to the birth of Jesus, the promised Redeemer-Messiah in Bethlehem.

Question: What is curious about the historical allusion made in their blessing for Ruth? Why might the naming of Tamar in the blessing be significant?
Answer: First in the blessing the elders name Leah and Rachel, the wives of Jacob/Israel. These women are considered to be the mothers of the people of Israel. Then they name Tamar, a woman who insisted on her rights as a widow to become the wife of her dead husband's kinsman (in this case her father-in-law) and then bore a son (Perez) who became the ancestor of Prince Nahshon and later Boaz.

Like Ruth, Tamar's actions in securing her rights are seen as honorable and courageous. There may be another connection to Ruth. We are told in Genesis 38:1 that the story of Tamar occurred at a time when Judah left his own people to settle among the Canaanites and even married a Canaanite woman. Since Judah was still living among the Canaanites when he selected Tamar as a wife for his son, it may be that Tamar was also a Canaanite. Tamar's foreign origins are similar to Ruth's foreign origins as a Moabitess, but Tamar became a significant player in the role of the tribe of Judah's history as it is hoped that Ruth will play a similar positive role. It is interesting that the elders name Rachel before Leah, even though Leah is the mother of Judah, the founding father of their tribe. The naming of Rachel first may be because Rachel's tomb was located near Bethlehem (Gen 35:16-20).

Ruth 4:13-17 ~Boaz and Ruth marry
13 So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. And when they came together [he knew her], Yahweh made her conceive and she bore a son. 14 And the woman said to Naomi, 'Blessed [baruk] by Yahweh who has not left you today without anyone to redeem you. May his name be praised in Israel! 15 The child will be a comfort to you and the prop of your old age, for he has been born to the daughter-in-law who loves you and is more to you than seven sons.' 16 And Naomi, taking the child, held him to her breast; and she it was who looked after him. 17 And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name. "A son', they said, 'has been born to Naomi, and they called him Obed. This was the father of Jesse, the father of David.

The women of Bethlehem again serve a role similar to a Greek chorus in our story, as they have served as a backdrop to the unfolding story of Naomi and Ruth since their return to Bethlehem in 1:19-21 and now in the conclusion of the story. They are the first to declare that Israel should celebrate the birth of the child that symbolizes the rebirth of Naomi's family that was lost to her in Moab.

In the final blessing, the women of Bethlehem bless (baruk) Yahweh for His goodness to Naomi (4:14), revealing God's divine providence that has been a central theme of the story from the beginning. It is interesting the role that women have played throughout this story in what was a patriarchal society.

Question: How are the women especially generous in their praise of Ruth?
Answer: They claim that Ruth has shown her covenant love to Naomi better than seven sons!

Seven is one of the so called "perfect numbers" in Scripture, symbolizing fullness and perfection. In the allusion to "seven sons" the women are saying Naomi could not have born a son who demonstrated more devotion than Ruth.

Ruth 4:16 ~ And Naomi, taking the child, held him to her breast; and she it was who looked after him. Putting her grandson to her breast is a symbolic act of adoption. Naomi's grandson is her legal heir.

Ruth 4:17 ~ And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name. "A son', they said, 'has been born to Naomi, and they called him Obed. This was the father of Jesse, the father of David.

It is the women of the town who name the boy Obed (the Hebrew meaning of his is believed to be "servant" and may be a shortened form of Obadiah, "servant of Yahweh"). It is not unusual that the women of Bethlehem should name the child. When John the Baptist was born, the friends and relatives of his parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth, expressed their opinions about naming of the child (Lk 1:59-66). The climax of the story of Ruth is presented in the revelation that Obed is the ancestor of David (notice that David is not named as David the King as might be expected). It will be the prophet Samuel who will be told by God to anoint the young David son of Jesse of Bethlehem (1 Sam 16:1-13). The ancestral line will be further defined in the last verses of the Book of Ruth.

Question: How are Naomi, Ruth and Boaz models of hesed, loyalty and fidelity in the family bond of God's covenant?
Answer:

  1. Hesed is exemplified in the loyalty and fidelity Ruth shows for her mother-in-law, Naomi.
  2. Hesed is exemplified in the loving concern Naomi shows to Ruth in giving her a home and treating her like a daughter.
  3. Hesed is exemplified in the kindness Boaz shows to both women and his willingness to act as their Blood Redeemer.

Question: What virtues do both Ruth and Boaz demonstrate?
Answer: Ruth exemplifies a number of virtues including loyalty, fidelity, humility, obedience, piety, and chastity. Boaz embodies the virtues of compassion, mercy, chastity, faith, and obedience to the Law of God.

Ruth 4:18-22 ~ The ten name genealogy
18 These are the descendants of Perez. Perez fathered Hezron, 19 Hezron fathered Ram, Ram fathered Amminadab, 20 Amminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon, 21 Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed, 22 Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David.

The ten name genealogy may reflect that in God's divine plan these are the generations that preceded the birth of David, the future king of Israel. It is likely that other names are not included in the genealogy. Perez is one of the twin sons of Tamar and Judah son of Jacob/Israel. Compare this genealogy with the genealogy found in Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-38.

Question: If Moabites were forbidden entrance into the covenant (Dt 23:3), how was Ruth admitted into Israel's covenant with Yahweh? See Lev 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7; Num 15:40.
Answer: Ruth was not born into the covenant and was the daughter of a people who were forbidden entrance into the covenant, but she demonstrated through righteous acts in living in obedience to God's commands that she merited through her deeds consideration beyond the restriction placed on the Moabites.

The unanswered question is was Ruth restricted from worshiping at Yahweh's Sanctuary because of her Moabite blood, or did the restriction against entrance into the community of Israel apparently not apply to a willing convert like Ruth who demonstrated her loyalty and fidelity to her mother-in-law as well as her good moral character and therefore her value to the community of Israel? The full acceptance of the people of Bethlehem to Boaz's marriage and their blessings associated with the marriage and the birth of Boaz's and Ruth's child suggests that they did see Ruth's demonstration of hesed toward her mother-in-law and her demonstration of the use of the Law by applying both the obligation of the blood redeemer and the levirate marriage to her own life as evidence that she deserved to be treated as an exception to the prohibitions against Moabites.

This is the interpretation of Jewish Bible scholars. Never is it mentioned in Scripture that David's hereditary line was impure. Ruth had what Yahweh demanded of His people-a circumcised heart that was undivided in its demonstration of hesed to both God and neighbor (Dt 10:16-20; 30:6; Jer 4:4a).

That Ruth was fully admitted into the faith community was also the interpretation of the Church Fathers, including St. Ambrose: ... the law of Moses prohibits marriage to Moabites and excludes them from the church, as it is written: "No Moabite shall enter the church of the Lord even to the third and fourth generation forever." Hence, how did she enter the church unless because she was made holy and immaculate by deeds that go beyond the law? For if the law was given for the irreverent and sinners, then surely Ruth, who exceeded the limits of the law and entered the church and was made an Israelite and deserved to a be counted among the honored figures in the Lord's genealogy, chosen for kinship of mind, not of body, is a great example for us, because she prefigures all of us who were gathered from the nations for the purpose of joining the church of the Lord. We should emulate her, therefore, who merited by her deeds this privilege of being admitted to his society, as history teaches, so that we also, by our deeds and accompanying merits, might be chosen for election to the Church of the Lord (Exposition of the Gospel of Luke, 3).

Question: Five women are mentioned in St. Matthew's genealogy of Jesus Christ. Ruth is only one of four women who are named in the genealogy. Who are the other women and what fifth woman is unnamed? See Matthew 1:1-16; 2 Sam 11-12.
Answer: Ruth is the third of the four virtuous women named in Jesus' genealogy in the Gospel of Matthew: Tamar (Mt 1:3), Rahab (Mt 1:5), Ruth (Mt 1:5b) and Mary of Nazareth (Mt 1:16). Bathsheba, the mother of Solomon, is not named but is only referred to as "Uriah's wife" (Mt 1:6).

It is likely that Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bethsheba are all Gentile women. Rahab is probably the grandmother or great-grandmother of Boaz and Salmon is probably the son or possibly the grandson of Prince Nahshon, the leader of the tribe of Judah during the Exodus. Ruth's name included in Jesus' genealogy makes the Book of Ruth that much more important and points to the future righteous Gentile men and woman who will be part of the continuing story of God's plan for mankind's salvation. As St. Paul wrote: Do you think God is the God of only the Jews, and not of Gentiles too? Most certainly of Gentiles too, since there is only one God; he will justify the circumcised by their faith, and he will justify the uncircumcised through their faith (Rom 3:29-30), as He judged the Moabite woman Ruth and found her worthy of being an ancestress of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Question: How have the blessings Boaz petitioned for Ruth in Yahweh's name in 2:12 and 3:10 been fulfilled?

Answer: Boaz asked in 2:12 that God reward Ruth for her faithful covenant love of family (hesed) in staying with Naomi and leaving her own family and homeland by giving her refuge under His protective wings. The refuge Yahweh gave Ruth was marriage to Boaz. In 3:10 Boaz again petitioned Yahweh to bless Ruth for her faithful covenant love (hesed) to her adopted family. God fulfilled this blessing by increasing the family in giving Ruth a son.

Question: How did God reward Boaz for his honorable response to the request to fulfill his duty as Naomi and Ruth's Blood Redeemer? See Rt 4:21-22 and Mt 1:1, 4-6; 2:1.
Answer: God rewarded Boaz of Bethlehem with prosperity, with a son, and with the legacy of being remembered as the ancestor of the great King David and the ancestor of mankind's Blood Redeemer, Jesus of Nazareth.

Both the Virgin Mary and Joseph are descendants of Boaz and Ruth; see Mt 1:4-believed to be Joseph's genealogy and Lk 3:32-believed by tradition to be Mary's genealogy (Sala is another rendering of Salmon) . Jesus the Messiah was born over one thousand years after the story of Boaz and Ruth, perhaps on Boaz of Judah's ancestral lands near the town of Bethlehem. The Church of the Nativity marks the site of Jesus' birth today in the town of Bethlehem.

Boaz's willingness to redeem Naomi's daughter-in-law, Ruth, a woman born a pagan Gentile, prefigures Jesus Christ's willingness to redeem both His own people and the people of the Gentile nations of the earth.

Question: Using the Old Testament qualifications, how did Jesus offer Himself as mankind's Blood Redeemer? See Tit 2:14; Gal 4:4-5; Heb 2:16-17; 1 Cor 6:20; 1 Pt 1:18-19; Jn 10:15-18; 1Jn 3:16; CCC 607-9; 802, and any other relevant Scripture passages you might wish to cite.
Answer:

JESUS: MANKIND'S BLOOD-REDEEMER
He offered himself for us in order to ransom us from all our faults and to purify a people to be his very own and eager to do good. Titus 2:14 (also see CCC # 607-8; 802)
OLD TESTAMENT QUALIFICATION JESUS OF NAZARETH'S
FULFILLMENT AS THE NEW COVENANT
GO'EL HADDAM
Blood relationship
Dt 25:5, 7-10;
Lev 25:25;
Rt 2:1
Galatians 4:4, 5 ~ ...but when the completion of the time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born a subject of the Law, to redeem the subjects of the Law, so that we could receive adoption as sons.

Hebrews 2:16, 17 ~ For it was not the angels that he took to himself; he took to himself the line of Abraham. It was essential that he should in this way be made completely like his brothers so that he could become a compassionate and trustworthy high priest for their relationship to God, able to expiate the sins of the people.
Also see Jn 1:14; Rom 1:3; Phi 2:5-8
Necessary Resources
Lev 25:25-26;
Rt 2:1
1 Corinthians 6:20 ~ Are you not your own property, then; you have been bought at a price. So use your body for the glory of God.

1Peter 1:18, 19 ~ For you know that the price of your ransom from the futile way of life handed down from your ancestors was paid, not in anything perishable like silver or gold, but in precious blood as of a blameless and spotless lamb, Christ.

Also see 1 Cor 6:20
Willingness to Buy
Dt 25:7, 9;
Rt 3:11
John 10:15-18 ~ ... just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep. And there are other sheep I have that are not of this fold, and I must lead these too. They too will listen to my voice, and there will be only one flock, one shepherd. The Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me; I lay it down of my own free will, and as I have power to lay it down, so I have power to take it up again; and this is the command I have received from my Father.

1 John 3:16 ~ This is the proof of love that he laid down his life for us and we too ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.

Also see Mt 20:28; Heb 10:7; Tit 2:14
Michal E. Hunt copyright 2002, revised 2012

Both Ruth and Boaz submitted themselves to Yahweh's sovereignty over their lives. The providence of God in the Book of Ruth foreshadows the redeeming work of Jesus Christ. Through Jesus' self-sacrificial act of love on the altar of the Cross, He becomes the willing "Blood Redeemer" to all men and women of every ethnicity in every age until the end of time.

The Fathers of the Church like Isidore of Seville (c. 560-636) taught that Boaz the bridegroom and Ruth the bride prefigured John the Baptist, whose coming anticipated the union of Jesus the Bridegroom with the Church, His chaste Bride. It is in this union that God calls forth believers from among the Jews and from among the Gentile nations to form one people in Christ Jesus. The Fathers of the Church also taught that Ruth prefigured the inclusion of the Gentile nations into the Church of Jesus Christ. She willingly came out from the Gentile nation of the Moabites and, through her confession of the true God of Israel, joined the community of the Patriarchs and the saints. Her faithfulness and good deeds not only merited her entrance into the covenant community of Israel but also merited her inclusion in the genealogy of the great King David and the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ. It is in her willingness to be Boaz's bride and Boaz's willingness to become her Go'el Haddam/bridegroom that the blessing of all the nations of the earth promised to Abraham (Gen 12:3; 18:18; ; Gal 3:8) was fulfilled in the redeeming work of their descendant, Jesus of Nazareth. The marriage of Ruth and Boaz has profound symbolic significance, prefiguring the salvation of all peoples of all ethnicities in the New Covenant of Christ Jesus.

Question for group discussion:

The Hebrew word hesed is a key word found in our study. Hesed is defined as the expression of covenant love and fidelity, whether in marriage, in fulfilling family obligations or in the family bond that was the Sinai Covenant that made the children of Israel the children of God as their divine Father. However, in the New Covenant in Christ, Jesus asked for a higher level love that was willing to be expressed in self-sacrifice when He called upon His disciples to love each other as He loved them (Jn 15:12-19-7). In naming this higher order of love, Christians used the Greek word the inspired writers of the New Testament used, agape, giving it a new meaning defined in terms of Christ's self-sacrifice. How is agape different from hesed? How does "agape-love" demand more? See the document "Is Hesed the same as Agape? God's Love Defined by covenant in the Old and New Testaments" in the Documents/Scripture Study section of the website.

Michal Hunt, Copyright 2012 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

Catechism references for this study: Ruth's deeds demonstrated that she was worthy to be joined to God's covenant people:
CCC 1831-1832 (quoting Isaiah 11:1-2 and Gal 5:22-23); also see CCC 1833-45
Jesus was united in kinship to our humanity by His flesh and blood Incarnation: CCC 461, 469, 476, 478
Jesus had the means to redeem mankind: CCC 536, 606, 609, 613-17
Jesus' willingness to redeem was a free-will decision: CCC 475, 606, 607, 609, 802