Ruth 4:5 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Ruth 4:5, NIV: Then Boaz said, 'On the day you buy the land from Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the dead man's widow, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property.'

Ruth 4:5, ESV: Then Boaz said, “The day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the widow of the dead, in order to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance.”

Ruth 4:5, KJV: Then said Boaz, What day thou buyest the field of the hand of Naomi, thou must buy it also of Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance.

Ruth 4:5, NASB: Then Boaz said, 'On the day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you must also acquire Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of the deceased, in order to raise up the name of the deceased on his inheritance.'

Ruth 4:5, NLT: Then Boaz told him, 'Of course, your purchase of the land from Naomi also requires that you marry Ruth, the Moabite widow. That way she can have children who will carry on her husband's name and keep the land in the family.'

Ruth 4:5, CSB: Then Boaz said, "On the day you buy the field from Naomi, you will acquire Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the deceased man, to perpetuate the man's name on his property."

What does Ruth 4:5 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

There's a lot of nuance in this verse, particularly with the language and the legal consequences of that language.

The gist of the verse is that a relative of Elimelech's has agreed to buy Elimelech's family land and use the proceeds to care for his widow, Naomi, as long as she lives. Boaz, who presented the offer on Naomi's behalf, isn't finished. If the man is honorable, he will also marry Naomi's daughter-in-law and give Elimelech an heir.

That he will "buy the field from the hand of Naomi" is unusual because, technically, women didn't have the right to own land. The kinsman-redeemer would buy the land from a man and either sell it back to the original owner when his fortunes changed or return it to him or his heirs on the year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:25–28, 47–49). Even on the rare occasion when women inherited their father's land, it legally went to their husbands who were from the same tribe (Numbers 36).

Then Boaz identifies Ruth as a Moabite. This is true, of course, but why does he bring it up? Is it required for legal reasons? Or, considering the scandalous reputation of Moabite women (Genesis 19:30–38; Numbers 25:1–9), is Boaz trying to discourage the man from accepting the offer?

Next, Boaz identifies Ruth as ΚΎēset ha mēt, or "wife of the deceased" even though he has already identified the landowner as Naomi who is the literal wife of the deceased. Technically, Elimelech died before his son—and Ruth's husband—Mahlon, so Mahlon would have inherited the land in absentia. But Ruth is a Moabite, and foreigners could not own land in Israel. So, Ruth isn't the agent of Mahlon's estate; Naomi is.

Boaz also tells the kinsman-redeemer he will "acquire" Ruth. The interpretation of this is problematic. Is he buying Ruth or is the King James right when it reads, "What day thou buyest the field of the hand of Naomi, thou must buy it also of Ruth the Moabitess…"? Most likely, Boaz is just continuing his legal language and asserting that Ruth is part of the transaction.