What does Ruth 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).
Ruth 4:1–6 is the climax of the romance portion of the story. Ruth has asked Boaz to marry her, buy Naomi's land, and give Naomi an heir in the name of her husband. Boaz agrees, but first he must give Ruth's proposal to a nearer relation. Will this new man agree? Or will Ruth find rest in the home of the kind and noble Boaz? The storyteller builds the suspense.
Ruth 4:7–12 records Boaz's legal declaration. This follows parts of the law associated with Levirate marriage (Deuteronomy 25:5–6). He will buy Elimelech's land from Naomi as well as everything that belonged to their sons. He will take Ruth to be his wife. With Ruth, he will do his part to give Elimelech an heir to re-inherit his land so the family will persist. In response, the elders and the people praise him and call blessings upon Ruth.
Ruth 4:13–17 records the fulfillment of Ruth's wishes and God's plan for Naomi. Ruth and Boaz are married and have a son. He will be the heir of Naomi's late husband, continuing his name and the ownership of his land. This lifts Naomi's social stigma of not providing an heir, and the women of Bethlehem rejoice.
Ruth 4:18–22 gives the genealogy from Judah's son Perez to David. Included are Nahshon, the leader of the tribe of Judah at the time of the exodus (Numbers 2:3), and Boaz, the hero of the story of Ruth. Not listed are a woman of unknown heritage who manipulated a man into fulfilling his responsibilities to her and his family (Tamar; Genesis 38), a Canaanite woman who betrayed her city for Yahweh (Rahab; Joshua 2; 6), and a Moabite woman who sacrificed everything for her Israelite mother-in-law (Ruth). What's not clear is if every generation is listed.
Ruth 4 provides one of the happiest endings of all the books of the Bible. It begins when Boaz holds a meeting with Naomi's next of kin. The unnamed man is willing to buy Naomi's land. Yet he doesn't want the risk of marrying a Moabite woman to give Naomi an heir. Boaz is actively seeking those obligations, so the townspeople praise him and Ruth. Before long, Ruth has a son and presents him to Naomi to continue the family of her late husband. The boy becomes the grandfather of Israel's greatest king, David, and the ancestor of the Messiah, Jesus.
Ruth 4 closes the story of how a Moabite woman came to be part of the genealogy of King David. Naomi, an Israelite from Bethlehem, fled a famine with her husband and two sons. The men died and Naomi returned to Israel with Ruth, her Moabite daughter-in-law. Ruth enlists the help of Boaz, an honored landowner, to buy Naomi's land and give her an heir. After Boaz negotiates with relatives, Ruth and Boaz marry. Naomi holds the boy born in the name of her husband's family. This child becomes the grandfather of David.
Though set in a time of violence and tragedy, the book of Ruth tells one of Scripture’s most uplifting stories. Naomi, an Israelite, leaves her home during a famine. While away, in Moab, her husband and sons die. Naomi convinces one of her Moabite daughters-in-law to leave her and seek a new life. The other, Ruth, refuses, declaring her love and loyalty to Naomi. When the pair return to Israel, they encounter Boaz. This man is both kind and moral; his treatment of Ruth secures Naomi’s future and becomes part of king David’s ancestry.
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