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Ruth chapter 4

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What does Ruth chapter 4 mean?

When Naomi and Ruth arrived in Bethlehem, they had nothing. Naomi's husband, Elimelech, was dead, as were her two sons, including Ruth's husband Mahlon (Ruth 1:1–5). Naomi's hope for Ruth has always been that she remarry and find "rest"—security in her place (Ruth 1:9). Ruth wants Naomi to have an heir for her husband and sons. After two months of gleaning in the fields of an honorable landowner named Boaz, both women think they see a solution (Ruth 2).

Ruth has proposed to Boaz, as Naomi wished her to. Yet she also boldly asked for a unique condition: that Boaz buy Naomi's land and give her an heir. This child would re-inherit the purchased land under Naomi's husband's name. Boaz was already in awe of Ruth. She'd forsaken her Moabite family, identity, and gods to care for Naomi. Now, she forsakes her own chance to marry a younger man, whether rich or poor but in love, for the sake of Naomi's comfort and honor. He readily agrees (Ruth 3).

First, however, Boaz must settle with a closer relative—the next person legally entitled to provide an heir for Naomi. He goes to the city gate where he waits for the man to pass by, then asks him to sit down. This is where town elders rule on or witness business and legal transactions. When Boaz offers the land, the man quickly agrees. But when Boaz challenges him to marry Ruth and give up that land for another man's heir, he demurs. Buying land in the first year after a famine has ended is risky enough; if he had to later give it away to a boy not in his family, he would risk ruin. Further, the woman in question is from Moab (Deuteronomy 23:3–6) and could bring disrepute to the family (Ruth 4:1–6).

Boaz and the closer relative complete their legal transaction. The man officially withdraws his claim, and Boaz buys Naomi's land. He announces his marriage to Ruth and declares his intention to provide an heir in the name of Ruth's late husband (Ruth 4:7–10).

The elders and the people gathered to watch the proceedings swear their witness. They then bless Boaz, Ruth, and their future children. They are impressed with Ruth's kind heart and Boaz's honorable behavior. The crowd compares them to the women and men of the past who made the nation of Israel and the tribe of Judah great (Ruth 4:11–12).

God blesses the honorable Boaz and Ruth. He allows Ruth to present Naomi with a son. The women of the city give praise to God and to Ruth. Naomi is content. The narrator reveals that this son, Obed, is more than a long-wanted child or a landowner in Bethlehem: he becomes the grandfather of King David (Ruth 4:13–17).

To emphasize the significance of these events, the author presents the genealogy of Israel's great king, David. This line begins with Perez, one of the twin sons born after Tamar assumed her legal rights by tricking her father-in-law into a levirate marriage (Genesis 38). It passes through Nahshon, the leader of the tribe of Judah during the exodus (Numbers 2:3). Two generations later is Boaz, who welcomed a levirate marriage with Ruth. And it ends with David, Israel's greatest king (Ruth 4:18–22). For Jews, this was miraculous enough. For Christian believers today, it proves that Ruth, a Moabitess, is an ancestress of Jesus the Messiah (Matthew 1:5–16; Luke 3:23–32).
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