Ruth 2:20 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Ruth 2:20, NIV: The LORD bless him!' Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. 'He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.' She added, 'That man is our close relative; he is one of our guardian-redeemers.'

Ruth 2:20, ESV: And Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May he be blessed by the LORD, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!” Naomi also said to her, “The man is a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers.”

Ruth 2:20, KJV: And Naomi said unto her daughter in law, Blessed be he of the LORD, who hath not left off his kindness to the living and to the dead. And Naomi said unto her, The man is near of kin unto us, one of our next kinsmen.

Ruth 2:20, NASB: Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, 'May he be blessed of the LORD who has not withdrawn His kindness from the living and from the dead.' Again Naomi said to her, 'The man is our relative; he is one of our redeemers.'

Ruth 2:20, NLT: 'May the LORD bless him!' Naomi told her daughter-in-law. 'He is showing his kindness to us as well as to your dead husband. That man is one of our closest relatives, one of our family redeemers.'

Ruth 2:20, CSB: Then Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, "May the Lord bless him because he has not abandoned his kindness to the living or the dead." Naomi continued, "The man is a close relative. He is one of our family redeemers."

What does Ruth 2:20 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

When Naomi returned to Bethlehem with her Moabite daughter-in-law Ruth, neither of them knew what to expect. Although Naomi's husband had farmland, he had died, along with their two sons. Naomi could sell the land, but she'd have to find a gōʾēl—a kinsman-redeemer. That is a longer-term plan; first they need food.

Having no other option, Ruth left early in the morning to find a landowner who would let her pick up the stray stalks of barley after his harvesters went through. Boaz had heard how Ruth abandoned her whole life to come with Naomi and quickly agreed. He told his hired hands to protect her and leave extra stalks loose so she would have enough to support them. When Ruth came home with more grain than a full worker would make in a day, Naomi knew a man must have shown her great favor (Ruth 2:2–19).

Naomi asks where Ruth has worked and pronounces blessing on the man who took notice of her. Ruth says she has worked with "Boaz" (Ruth 2:19).

When they arrived in Bethlehem, Naomi was so distraught she insisted her old friends call her Mara—"bitterness"—instead of Naomi—"pleasant"—saying, "For the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me" (Ruth 1:20). Naomi used "Adonai," emphasizing God's power, sovereignty, and authority. Next, she used "Yahweh," saying, "I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty" (Ruth 1:21), suggesting that the covenant God of Israel had forsaken His responsibility to her. Now, she realizes her "Yahweh" has been faithful all along.

"Kindness" is hesed and serves as a major theme of the book of Ruth. Despite living in a foreign country without their husbands, Naomi and Ruth gradually learn that God has not forsaken them. That power, sovereignty, and authority protects as well as judges.

There is much debate as to whose "kindness" Naomi is referring to. The ESV adds a comma after "LORD," thus indicating Boaz's kindness. The NASB has no comma, indicating God's. The NET footnote claims Boaz's kindness because of the grammatical similarity to 2 Samuel 2:5, saying that a clearer English translation would be "May he be blessed by the LORD because his kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!"

"The living or the dead" refers to Naomi and Ruth as the living and Naomi's husband and sons as the dead. The men had a responsibility to protect and provide for their wives; with their deaths, God fulfills His promise to take on that responsibility (Deuteronomy 10:18).

This verse introduces, in earnest, the role of the kinsman-redeemer. Part of the Abrahamic covenant says that God will give Abraham's descendants the land within a certain boundary (Genesis 15:18–19). This covenant is not dependent on Abraham's actions or the actions of his descendants. Israel has never held the entire territory within the specific borders, but they will do so during the millennial kingdom.

Because of the Abrahamic covenant, land is especially important in the Mosaic covenant. Ideally, when the Israelites entered the Promised Land, they were supposed to destroy the evil Canaanites and divide the land by lots to the tribes and the clans within the tribes. If the people obeyed God, God would ensure that the tribes, families, and sons would continue to hold their inheritance. Knowing that the Israelites wouldn't obey, God established the kinsman-redeemer.

One of the responsibilities of a kinsman-redeemer is to buy the land of a relative if the relative finds himself in great debt. The kinsman-redeemer will only hold the land until the year of jubilee when it will be restored to the owner or his heirs (Leviticus 25:25–28). Naomi's husband, Elimelech, has no living male heir. In one case, when a man died with no male heirs, the land went to his daughters (Numbers 27:1–11)—but Ruth is not Elimelech's daughter; she's not even an Israelite. Naomi can't keep the land without a male heir and she's too old to work it, anyway. The best she can hope for is a kinsman-redeemer to buy it and give her the money to live on.

Some think that because Naomi's words resemble Genesis 24:27 she is thinking Boaz can marry Ruth. Naomi is set on Ruth remarrying (Ruth 1:9), but whether she is thinking about Boaz at this point, it can be said that Naomi is thinking about Ruth's welfare, not a Levirate marriage. A Levirate marriage, wherein a man sires a son with his brother's widow in the name of his deceased brother, does not technically apply to Boaz; he's not Elimelech's brother.