What does Ruth 4:21 mean?
ESV: Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed,
NIV: Salmon the father of Boaz, Boaz the father of Obed,
NASB: and Salmon fathered Boaz, and Boaz fathered Obed,
CSB: Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed,
NLT: Salmon was the father of Boaz. Boaz was the father of Obed.
KJV: And Salmon begot Boaz, and Boaz begot Obed,
NKJV: Salmon begot Boaz, and Boaz begot Obed;
Verse Commentary:
David's genealogy finally reaches Boaz and Ruth's son Obed.

And yet, this verse and the next bring the most confusion to biblical scholars. Matthew's genealogy of Jesus states that Salmon married Rahab (Matthew 1:5). Rahab is Boaz's mother. Considering Salmon's father Nahshon was the chief of the tribe of Judah during the exodus (Numbers 2:3) and the only other women Matthew mentions—Tamar and Ruth—are either foreign or came into the line through dubious circumstances, there's every reason to believe this is the Rahab who hid the spies in Jericho (Joshua 2; 6).

That makes Salmon between twenty and forty years old when the Israelites entered the Promised Land likely around 1406 BC. Salmon has Boaz, Boaz has Obed, Obed has Jesse, and Jesse has David likely sometime after 1040 BC. If Salmon were thirty when he entered the Promised Land and he, Boaz, Obed, and Jesse had their sons when they were 100, this would work.

The Jewish interpretation is more likely. Jews reserved the fifth and seventh positions on a list for honor. In Ruth 4:18–21, the fifth name is Nahshon, the leader of the tribe of Judah during the exodus (Numbers 1:7; 2:3; 7:12). The seventh is Boaz, the hero of the story. In addition, ten generations—like the line from Adam to Noah in Genesis 5, then from Noah's son Shem to Abraham in Genesis 11—are symbolic of a major change in society. Jacob prophesied that Judah, the father of this tribe, would reign over his brothers (Genesis 49:8–10). Most scholars think Samuel wrote the book of Ruth. Scholar Zvi Ron indicates that "The ten-person list is to indicate the transition from the Patriarchs to the legitimate monarchy of David." That is, Samuel is shoring up support for David over Saul who was from the line of Benjamin, not Judah.
Verse Context:
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.
Chapter Summary:
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.
Chapter Context:
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.
Book Summary:
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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