Ruth 4:7 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Ruth 4:7, NIV: (Now in earlier times in Israel, for the redemption and transfer of property to become final, one party took off his sandal and gave it to the other. This was the method of legalizing transactions in Israel.)

Ruth 4:7, ESV: Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging: to confirm a transaction, the one drew off his sandal and gave it to the other, and this was the manner of attesting in Israel.

Ruth 4:7, KJV: Now this was the manner in former time in Israel concerning redeeming and concerning changing, for to confirm all things; a man plucked off his shoe, and gave it to his neighbour: and this was a testimony in Israel.

Ruth 4:7, NASB: Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning the redemption and the exchange of land to confirm any matter: a man removed his sandal and gave it to another; and this was the way of confirmation in Israel.

Ruth 4:7, NLT: Now in those days it was the custom in Israel for anyone transferring a right of purchase to remove his sandal and hand it to the other party. This publicly validated the transaction.

Ruth 4:7, CSB: At an earlier period in Israel, a man removed his sandal and gave it to the other party in order to make any matter legally binding concerning the right of redemption or the exchange of property. This was the method of legally binding a transaction in Israel.

What does Ruth 4:7 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

The nearest kinsman-redeemer formally withdraws his claim to Naomi's land. He refuses Boaz's challenge to marry Ruth and give Naomi an heir. This could be in part because he does not want the complications which might come from marrying a woman from Moab. His stated reason is that he does not want to impair his own inheritance (Ruth 4:1–6). The man shows his decision by taking a sandal off his foot and giving it to Boaz. This specific tradition seems to have been normal for the culture but is not well documented for us. In fact, the addition of the comment infers the story's audience wasn't familiar with the tradition, either.

Deuteronomy does mention it. It says that if a woman's husband dies without an heir and his brother refuses to marry her and give her a son, "then his brother's wife shall go up to him in the presence of the elders and pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face. And she shall answer and say, 'So shall it be done to the man who does not build up his brother's house.' And the name of his house shall be called in Israel, 'The house of him who had his sandal pulled off'" (Deuteronomy 25:9–10).

It's possible the woman removes the man's shoe and keeps it as a sign that he has put the responsibility for her well-being on herself. The spit is because it's a disgraceful choice. In this specific case, the man is not Naomi's brother-in-law, and does not carry the same moral or legal obligation. It's likely he didn't incur the same family shame.