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Ruth 4

Redemption is, ultimately, a love story. Here it is a love story between Boaz and Ruth; it is a sign of the love story between God and his people.

(Ruth 4 NIV) Meanwhile Boaz went up to the town gate and sat there. When the kinsman-redeemer he had mentioned came along, Boaz said, "Come over here, my friend, and sit down." So he went over and sat down. {2} Boaz took ten of the elders of the town and said, "Sit here," and they did so. {3} Then he said to the kinsman-redeemer, "Naomi, who has come back from Moab, is selling the piece of land that belonged to our brother Elimelech. {4} I thought I should bring the matter to your attention and suggest that you buy it in the presence of these seated here and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, do so. But if you will not, tell me, so I will know. For no one has the right to do it except you, and I am next in line." "I will redeem it," he said. {5} Then Boaz said, "On the day you buy the land from Naomi and from Ruth the Moabitess, you acquire the dead man's widow, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property." {6} At this, the kinsman-redeemer said, "Then I cannot redeem it because I might endanger my own estate. You redeem it yourself. I cannot do it." {7} (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.) {8} So the kinsman-redeemer said to Boaz, "Buy it yourself." And he removed his sandal. {9} Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, "Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelech, Kilion and Mahlon. {10} I have also acquired Ruth the Moabitess, Mahlon's widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from the town records. Today you are witnesses!" {11} Then the elders and all those at the gate said, "We are witnesses. May the LORD make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. {12} Through the offspring the LORD gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah." {13} So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. Then he went to her, and the LORD enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. {14} The women said to Naomi: "Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! {15} He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth." {16} Then Naomi took the child, laid him in her lap and cared for him. {17} The women living there said, "Naomi has a son." And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. {18} This, then, is the family line of Perez: Perez was the father of Hezron, {19} Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, {20} Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, {21} Salmon the father of Boaz, Boaz the father of Obed, {22} Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David.

Refusing to Redeem

Throughout the Old Testament Law we find the theme of redemption. First born sons are redeemed, as are first born animals. Land is to be redeemed; slaves may be redeemed. The essence of redemption is that something is restored to its original state. The land is redeemed in this story, and is accounted as belonging to the dead husband.

Redemption is like that for us, too. We were intended to live forever in fellowship with God. That fellowship was broken by sin. Christ came to redeem us – to restore us to that fellowship with God. Even more shall we be restored when he comes again.

With these thoughts in mind, let us see how our story plays out.

Redemption – requirement and option

It is interesting that the people of this town are descendants of Perez. In Genesis 38 we learn the story of his birth. It seems this law of redemption predates the Mosaic Law, for it is applied there. Judah has several sons. One of them marries Tamar; he dies. The next son (Onan) marries Tamar – but refuses (the sexual technique is found in Genesis; I leave it as an exercise for the reader) to have children by her. God punishes this; Onan dies. Judah is now out of sons of marrying age. He tells Tamar to stay in his household until his young son is of marrying age.

But when the lad gets old enough, Judah does nothing. Tamar takes matters into her own hand. Disguising herself as a prostitute, she lures Judah into having sex with her. He leaves his signet ring and seal behind as promise of payment. But when he tries to pay, she’s gone. Later, she’s found to be pregnant. Judah commands that she be burned to death for her sin – until she produces that signet ring! From this pregnancy come two sons, one of the Perez.

From this we can see that this people considered the redemption of a widow to be a requirement for a brother – and some of the trouble that can come from such a regulation.

Required by the Mosaic law

The Mosaic law takes this custom and puts it into code. The brother of the deceased is to take his brother’s wife. That’s mandatory. But evidently unwritten was the concept that another near kinsman could perform that duty. After all, other types of redemption were permitted (but not necessarily required) of a near kinsman. Clearly, however, the widow comes with the property.


Why would God bring up such a strange regulation? Remember that things in the Old Testament are set there as an example for us of things that would come in the New Testament. Redemption in the Old Testament is the picture of our redemption by Christ. In particular,

  • Redemption is a form of eternal life. Note that the purpose is to keep the name of the deceased brother alive in Israel, as being on the historical records. His name is there; it is not blotted out. So our names are written in the book of life, not blotted out.
  • Redemption is a form of eternal inheritance, or blessing. We are said to be joint heirs of the kingdom of God with Christ – by the redemption.

Boaz and “cousin”

We do not know the name of the nearer kinsman. This is probably deliberate; it is a way of saying that this man was not worthy of being in the ancestral line of the Messiah. It certainly is an example to us, for redemption is a form of charity and love.

The other kinsman

Why did this man decline the redemption? Clearly he intended to do it until he realized he would wind up with Ruth for a wife. His answer is that it would “endanger his estate.” This could mean one of several things:

  • He may have had several children, and the thought of having more might have discouraged him. How to divide the pie?
  • Perhaps it would have been a good financial transaction – but bringing home a new wife is not designed to encourage the existing one. That’s particularly true if you do it on the spur of the moment.

Whatever the case, he had the chance, declined it – and became anonymous. There is a parallel here for us. Many people are enthused when they first encounter the Lord. Then the cost of Christ sets in, and suddenly their enthusiasm becomes lukewarm approval.


Boaz, you will remember, is a picture of Christ. As such, we can see some things here that remind us very much of Jesus.

  • Boaz is a redeemer – not a purchaser. He could have bypassed this whole episode (and omitted the wife complication) if the price was right. But he redeemed, and in so doing blessed Ruth and Naomi.
  • He does so in an honest, fair way. There is no deception in the dealing. He “fulfills all righteousness” by doing this in the established, customary way.
  • Just in case you missed it, he’s wealthy. You have to be to be a redeemer.
  • His motivation is love.
A look to the future

The elders of the town pronounce what is probably a typical blessing of the time upon the couple. There are three things that you might look at here:

  • “Rachel and Leah” – the words mean amiable and fruitful – were the wives of Israel. So this is a wish to establish such a clan. We know that our Lord established a kingdom innumerable and of no end. They had 12 sons, creating 12 tribes; Christ had 12 apostles.
  • Perez – the one born of Tamar – was noted for his prolific number of descendants.
  • They pronounce for standing and being famous; surely this has come to our Lord as well.

Lessons on our redemption

From this word picture we can see lessons about our own redemption.

Our Lord
  • Our Lord was not required to redeem us – He did it out of love for us. He owed us nothing, but from his deep love for his people he did it.
  • He did it at great cost, out of his incredible riches.
  • And even to the timing of the death on the Cross, it was done in accordance with the Law of God. Our Lord took no shortcuts.
  • The result of this redemption is eternal life. Our names are recorded forever in the book of Life.
  • Our inheritance is eternal; it is rich and incredibly fruitful, for we are joint heirs of the kingdom of God with Jesus Christ.
  • Indeed, we are “known” – by name – to God Almighty, and that is eternal. It is a permanent relationship, just as redemption was to maintain relationships permanently in the land of Israel.
  • We are redeemed – not sold. Christ did not bring us in at bargain rates, but rather paid the full price for our salvation.
  • Many there are who pay lip service to God. But when the moment of sacrifice comes, there are many reasons they cannot come through.
  • These may even go through the motions of being a Christian – they’re here every Sunday – to relieve their conscience.
  • But ultimately they are lost – because they are lukewarm. They will not do what God commands.
  • For this, their name is blotted our of the book of Life. They are unknown, anonymous – for eternity.

This is a love story. It’s about a man and a woman, or about Christ and his bride, however you choose. But like all good love stories, the right man gets the bride. Soon – however God counts soon – our love story shall end the same way, at the wedding feast of the Lamb of God.

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