Ruth 4:4 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Ruth 4:4, NIV: I thought I should bring the matter to your attention and suggest that you buy it in the presence of these seated here and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, do so. But if you will not, tell me, so I will know. For no one has the right to do it except you, and I am next in line.I will redeem it," he said.

Ruth 4:4, ESV: So I thought I would tell you of it and say, ‘Buy it in the presence of those sitting here and in the presence of the elders of my people.’ If you will redeem it, redeem it. But if you will not, tell me, that I may know, for there is no one besides you to redeem it, and I come after you.” And he said, “I will redeem it.”

Ruth 4:4, KJV: And I thought to advertise thee, saying, Buy it before the inhabitants, and before the elders of my people. If thou wilt redeem it, redeem it: but if thou wilt not redeem it, then tell me, that I may know: for there is none to redeem it beside thee; and I am after thee. And he said, I will redeem it.

Ruth 4:4, NASB: So I thought that I would inform you, saying, ‘Buy it before those who are sitting here, and before the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if not, tell me so that I may know; for there is no one except you to redeem it, and I am after you.’?' And he said, 'I will redeem it.'

Ruth 4:4, NLT: I thought I should speak to you about it so that you can redeem it if you wish. If you want the land, then buy it here in the presence of these witnesses. But if you don't want it, let me know right away, because I am next in line to redeem it after you.' The man replied, 'All right, I'll redeem it.'

Ruth 4:4, CSB: I thought I should inform you: Buy it back in the presence of those seated here and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you want to redeem it, do it. But if you do not want to redeem it, tell me so that I will know, because there isn't anyone other than you to redeem it, and I am next after you.""I want to redeem it," he answered.

What does Ruth 4:4 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

International Justice Mission (IJM) reports that about ninety percent of rural sub-Saharan Africans do not have proof of ownership of the land where they live and work. If a man and his sons live and work on the land, they have a chance of holding it. If the man dies and the boys are young, the widow is extremely vulnerable to land theft. In 2014, in the Ugandan territories where IJM works, about thirty percent of widows have lost their land—sometimes violently—with no hope of justice.

God's intent for the Israelites was that they would never reach this point. If they obeyed Him, their families and their land would be fertile. If a man died, his sons would care for their mother. If, by chance, a man fell into extreme poverty, his relative would buy his land and return it at the year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:25–28, 47–49). But the Israelites, especially during the time of the judges, often didn't follow God. As a result, God allowed them to experience famine and war (Deuteronomy 28). In the middle of all this, Naomi has lost her husband, Elimelech, and their sons (Ruth 1:1–5). Elimelech apparently has no brother. But there is still land in his name. Naomi cannot inherit or hold this land, especially since she is beyond child-bearing age and has no money to buy seed grain or pay for laborers.

Fortunately, Naomi's daughter-in-law has found Boaz, a relative of Elimelech's who is willing to either buy the land and use the proceeds to support Naomi or challenge a closer relative to do the same (Ruth 2—3). Because of Boaz, Naomi will not face the same fate as the widows of Uganda.

To this end, Boaz has found this closer relative and presents him with the proposition in front of ten elders and several bystanders (Ruth 4:1–3, 9). He uses legal language to provide the witnesses with a verbal "record" of the transaction. The man quickly agrees, at first. It's a good deal for the man. He'll have to support a woman who is past child-bearing age; she won't cost much. If he were buying from a man, the land would be returned on the year of Jubilee, but with no male heirs, he can keep the land for his own sons.

But Boaz isn't done. Ruth presented it to him with an addition Boaz will include: the man must marry Ruth and provide Elimelech with an heir (Ruth 3:10). Unless the man is Ruth's late husband's brother, he is not legally obligated to join her in a levirate marriage (Deuteronomy 25:5–6). But Boaz challenges him to care for a widow of Israel in front of ten city elders and a crowd of bystanders. He can't politely take the land and not take Ruth without bringing dishonor on his house. And yet, to agree would risk financial ruin if his own fields fell into another famine (Ruth 4:5–6).

So, the nameless man backs out, opening the path for what Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz wanted all along. Boaz will marry Ruth, care for Naomi, and give Elimelech an heir.