Boaz is determined to see that Ruth’s future is secure. He is MORE than willing to take her as his wife but he has to first make sure it is his right. He is determined to confirm his place as her redeemer.
The right of redeemer is a complicated one. The nearest relative of the dead man is the one who is legally allowed to exercise this right. The redeemer right is used when there are no children to inherit the property of the dead. The right also comes with responsibility. The redeemer gets the property of the dead, which includes the widow. The first child of this union between redeemer and widow is to carry forward the name and property of the dead. This is to make sure family lines don’t disappear from the roles. Elimelech and his sons were all dead. There was no one to carry on their name, except one who would exercise the right and responsibility of redeemer. Boaz is going to make sure someone carries out this role.
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After speaking with his manager regarding the things that happened in the night, Boaz returns home. He has a pressing task to perform. And he will see it completed TODAY. Everything else can wait or be seen to by his servants.
Boaz washes thoroughly, combs his hair and beard. Changes his robe and readies himself for serious business. He wants to look as serious as he feels. While he is preparing for his task thoughts of Ruth circle in his mind. “She is a beautiful woman, both inside and out. I would be blessed to call her mine. I would faithfully and joyfully complete the tasks of redeemer, if the Lord so wills it. Oh how I pray I am given this opportunity!” As soon as he is ready, Boaz heads for the city gate where he will wait until he can complete his task.
Boaz doesn’t care how long he has to wait. He is not moving until he sees the man who has right of redemption before him. He positions himself where he has a clear view of everyone coming and going through the city gate. He searches every face for the one he is looking for.
Two hours pass and still no sign of the man. Boaz has borne witness to several small transactions, children running about in the square, and a man repairing his ox cart after it lost a wheel. Just another day at the gates of Bethlehem. Finally the man whom Boaz is waiting for makes an appearance. Boaz scrutinizes the face closely to make sure before he approaches the man. The other stops walking as Boaz begins speaking.
“Turn aside, friend; sit down here” (verse 1b). Boaz points to a place just to the side of the gate within the protection of the wall. It is a place often used to conduct business and so has a well-worn area with wooden and stone seating.
These two men know one another well so the other man is happy to do as Boaz requests. Boaz hands him a wineskin. “Please tarry here while I gather witnesses for an urgent matter we must discuss.” The other man nods his head in acceptance of Boaz’s request.
Boaz had no idea how long he would have to wait before the man arrived in the city so he didn’t gather witnesses beforehand. He didn’t want to inconvenience them too long. Now he has to quickly gather men of good reputation to bear witness to this conversation and transaction. He finds ten such men who had just completed witnessing another transaction. They were readying to leave when Boaz approaches them.
“My lords, please bear witness for me also. I have an urgent matter that needs attending to. I and my party await your attention.” Boaz motions with his arm towards the other man he means to approach with this concern.
The men look from one to another and nod in agreement. “We have no other pressing matters at the moment. We will hear your concern.” Together they walk the short distance to join the other man in Boaz’s matter.
“Please sit down here” Boaz says as they approach the place of business. As soon as everyone is seated Boaz gets right to the matter at hand.
“Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, is selling the parcel of land that belonged to our relative Elimelech. So I thought I would tell you of it and say, ‘Buy it in the presence of those sitting here and in the presence of the elders of my people.’ If you will redeem it, redeem it. But if you will not, tell me, that I may know, for there is no one beside you to redeem it, and I come after you” (verses 3-4a).
Boaz has purposefully not mentioned Ruth because he wants to see where this man’s heart lies. If he chooses to redeem the land before knowing of Ruth and keeps with his decision once he knows of her, then he is a man of great honor. If he chooses to redeem the property and changes his mind once he knows of Ruth and his duty to the family, then he is a selfish man and not worthy of such a woman. If he rejects the property of Naomi as redeemer then he is a worthless man who cares nothing for his family.
Boaz has little time wait before the man’s answer is given.
“I will redeem it” (verse 4b) the man says with confidence.
Boaz holds up his hand before the man can make a move. “The day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the widow of the dead, in order to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance” (verse 5). Boaz watches intently as the man wrestles with his decision.
The man has a wife already but not sons; only daughters. If he were to take Ruth as his wife and she were to bear a son that son would not be his heir, it would be heir to Elimelech and would inherit the fields he purchased from Naomi. The woman Ruth may have more sons but there is no guarantee of this. His inheritance would be complicated by such an eventuality. It is best he not take that chance. All this runs through his mind before he gives his answer. “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I impair my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it” (verse 6).
The man quickly removes his sandal from his right foot and offers it to Boaz in the presence of the witnesses. “Buy it for yourself” (verse 8b) he says and holds out the sandal towards Boaz.
Boaz reaches out and takes the sandal. He looks around at his witnesses. “You are witnesses this day that I have bought from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and to Mahlon. ALSO Ruth the Moabite, the widow of Mahlon, I have bought to be my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brothers and from the gate of his native place. You are witnesses this day” (verses 9-10).
The men look between the two parties. They have seen the hearts of both men today and are pleased with the result. “We are witnesses” (verse 11b). They want to go beyond simply being a witness to this transaction. They want to bless Boaz for his heart. “May the Lord make the woman, who is coming into your house, like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you act worthily in Ephrathah and be renowned in Bethlehem, and may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring that the Lord will give you by this young woman” (verses 11c-12).
Boaz rises quickly and again thanks those who bore witness for him. He is excited to share this news with Naomi and Ruth. But first he has a few stops to make.
Naomi and Ruth have been grinding the barley and baking while they wait for word for Boaz. A little after noon a knock sounds at the door. Ruth goes to open the door and is surprised to see Boaz’s manager standing there.
“Has something happened to my lord Boaz” she askes, with fear in her voice.
“No my lady, he has sent me to tell you that he would like you and your mother-in-law to join him at his home for evening meal. He has something of great importance to discuss with you. Are you both available for such an appointment?”
“We would be most pleased to answer his summons” Ruth says with a bow of her head.
“Then I have been instructed to provide you with these gifts. My master would be pleased if you were to wear them tonight.” The manager motions to a young man waiting outside the gate. He brings forth beautiful headscarves for both Naomi and Ruth. One is as green as the leaves of the fig tree in full bloom and the other a blue that rivals any spring sky.
Ruth carefully reaches out and touches the material before her. She hasn’t seen such fine scarves since leaving the market places in Moab. “These are beautiful!” she breaths and then accepts them from the young man’s hands. “Thank you! Please tell your master… No. I will tell him of my gratitude myself at dinner.”
“Someone will be along this evening to bring you to the master’s house.” The manager bows and he and the young man walk away leaving Ruth still standing in the doorway.
Naomi waited at the table, working the bread while Ruth was at the door. She was able to hear all that was said. She is taking out her excitement on the dough instead of rushing Ruth. She know Ruth will share the news with her as soon as she processes it herself. Naomi can already tell it is GOOD news.
Ruth finally closes the door and turns back to Naomi at the table. She holds the scarves almost reverently as she shows them to Naomi. “They are gifts from Boaz. I… He… “ she stammers. Ruth finds her voice again; “We are invited to dinner tonight with Boaz. He has something to discuss with us.”
“Did I not tell you that he would settle the matter this day daughter?” Naomi can’t help but smile. We had better prepare ourselves for this ‘meal’ then. Those scarves look like they would be best on clean heads” she offers with laughter.
Ruth replies with a deep laugh full of joy. “I suppose you are right! Which one do you favor mother?”
“I favor the green one for you my daughter as it will flatter your skin tone.”
With that settled the two women prepare for their special engagement with Boaz and their future.
(to be continued)
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Father God, thank You for letting me enjoy Ruth’s story! I’m excited watching it unfold for her. Out of her sorrow You are bringing joy. Not only for Ruth but also for Naomi. She will soon receive a gift she only dreamt about. One that will fill her heart with joy. For now, our three main characters are filled with excitement.
I pray I do Your stories justice in the telling. I love how Your Spirit brings me into them and lets me see them in with deeper eyes. How I feel the excitement of the participants as YOU unfold Your plans for them. I’m looking forward to continuing on with Your Son’s ancestors next time.
I hear wedding bells!