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The Book of Ruth

Merwyn Wishaart, UK

Subject: The Guarantee of Redemption
Scene: At the threshing floor in

Naomi had a genuine desire for Ruth’s welfare. ‘Shall I not seek rest for thee, that it may be well with thee?’ (3:1). She acts as matchmaker in the story, in an effort ultimately to bring Ruth and Boaz together. Naomi gave instructions, and Ruth agreed to follow her advice:‘And she said unto her, All that thou sayest unto me I will do’ (v.5). The process of winnowing barley (separating the grain from the chaff) continued all night, the balmy breezes wafting over the open floor aiding the process. So vital was the work that Boaz, the owner of the threshing floor, was doing it himself. Ruth prepared as she had been told: she washed and dressed and went down to the floor. She was careful to remain undetected until Boaz had finished eating and drinking and settled down to sleep at the far end of the heap of corn. Naomi had said ‘mark the place where He shall lie’ (v. 4). When he was asleep, Ruth uncovered his feet and lay down.

At midnight Boaz stirred. Sensing Ruth’s presence, he asked ‘who are you?’ She replied, ‘I am Ruth thine handmaid: spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid; for thou art a near kinsman.’ (v. 9). This was not in the least improper. ‘Even to this present day, when a Jew marries a woman, he throws the skirt, or end of his talith [prayer shawl], over her, to signify that he has taken her under his protection’ (J. M. Flanigan, Ruth: What the Bible Teaches, p. 508). For Ruth it amounted to a proposal of marriage. Boaz said, ‘Blessed be thou of the LORD, my daughter.’ How reassuring those words of Boaz must have been to her. ‘And now, my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that thou requirest: for all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman. And now it is true that I am thy near kinsman: howbeit there is a kinsman nearer than I’ (vv. 10-12)

The role of a kinsman (Hebrew: go’el) There was a duty on the part of a kinsman to buy back the property of a relative who had been compelled to sell it because of poverty. ‘If thy brother be waxen poor, and hath sold away some of his possessions, and if any of his kin come to redeem it, then shall he redeem that which his brother sold’ (Lev.25:25). The word go’el is used to describe both redemption: to free by paying a price; and the redeemer: the one who pays the price. The word is found eleven times in the book of Ruth.

Three conditions had to be met before a person could act as a redeemer: 1. He must be a kinsman; 2. He must be able to pay the price; 3. He must be willing to complete the transaction. The Lord Jesus fulfilled all three:1. He was our Kinsman: ‘God sent forth His Son, made of a woman ... to redeem ...’ (Gal.4:4-5); 2. He was able to pay the redemption price:‘...redeemed...with the precious blood of Christ’ (1 Peter 1:18-19); 3. He was willing to pay the price: ‘Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon Him, went forth...’ (John 18:4).

The law of the levir (a husband’s brother) ‘If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband’s brother shall…take her to wife…And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel (Deut.25:5-6). Boaz was qualified to fulfil both of these roles, but an obstacle still remained, because there was a kinsman nearer than he. He must have the first option, and the matter would be decided later that day. However, Boaz gave Ruth a clear guarantee that if the nearer kinsman would not redeem her, he would: ‘Tarry this night, and it shall be in the morning, that if he will perform unto thee the part of a kinsman, well; let him do the kinsman’s part: but if he will not do the part of a kinsman to thee, then will I do the part of

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