Rth_3:10. Blessed be thou of Jehovah, my daughter! Thou hast made thy latter kindness even more beautiful than the former. This answer also opens to our view the simple, unassuming soul of Boaz, whose modesty and sincere heartiness are truly admirable. He makes no complaint of being disturbed in the night, nor of the too great importunateness, as another might have deemed it, with which the request is made. On the one hand, he entertains no thought of abusing the confidence of the woman, nor on the other does he play the modern conserver of virtue, who loudly blames another because he distrusts himself. He has only words of divine benediction for the blameless woman, so attractive in her naive humility. He knows how to value her act in its purely objective character, apart from every consideration of its relation to himself, as only a heart trained by the word of God could do. He blesses Ruth, whom like a father he addresses as “my daughter,” because he found her present kindness yet nobler and more beautiful than the former. But how is that to be understood? Ruth’s former kindness approved itself, when, after the death of her husband, she left parents and home in order to console and take care of her mother-in-law, unmoved by the certainty of misery and humiliation in a foreign land. What does she now? Young, comely, and favorably known, she might before this have looked out a husband according to her wish, rich or poor, from among the young men of Israel. Did she do it? By no means; she subordinates every such possibility to her mother-in-law and the usages of Israel. Instead of preferring the love of a young man, as were natural,—says Boaz,—thou comest to assert thy right with one more advanced in life, solely because he is a goel. Thou askest him for the protection of his wings, in order that a blood-relative may again raise up a name for thy husband and mother-in-law in Israel. In this, also, thou offerest thine own heart and happiness as a sacrifice of love to thy family! It is indeed possible that as Boaz intimates, Ruth’s present act of kindness was even a severer test of her love than the earlier. For those, done in the time of sorrow and mourning, were for that very reason easier than this, rendered at a time when perhaps a new life and fresh joy had been offered her. But the modesty of Boaz was too great. It is doubtless correct to think of him as a contemporary of Elimelech, and consequently no longer young. But in ancient as in modern times, a woman like Ruth will find a more engaging “rest” with a man like Boaz than she would find among thousands of young men.
And he said, Blessed be thou of Yahveh, my daughter; thou hast made thy latter kindness better than the former, in not going after any young man, whether poor or rich. This verse is full of satisfactory evidence that Naomi was perfectly right in conjecturing that Boas, deep in love, was restrained only by diffidence from formally declaring himself. It shows us too that the chief ground of his diffidence was his age. He had been an acquaintance, and the equal in years, of Ruth’s father-in-law, Elimelech, and the impression had got hold on him that the handsome young widow might feel repugnance to his suit. Hence, instead of being in the least degree offended by the steps she had taken, he was relieved, and felt full of gratification on the one hand, and of gratitude on the other. Blessed be thou by Yahveh. Literally, “to Yahveh,” i.e. “in relation to Yahveh” (see Rth_2:20). My daughter. His relative elderliness was in his mind. Thou hast made thy latter kindness better than the former. Michaelis has seized the true meaning of these words: “The kindness which thou art showing to thy husband, now that he is gone, is still greater than what thou didst show to him while he lived.” Her employment of the word “kinsman,” or goel, was evidence to Boas that she was thinking of the respect which she owed to her husband’s memory. Her concern in discharging that duty of ‘piety’ struck the heart of Boaz; and all the more as, in his opinion, she might easily have found open doors, had she wished for them, in quarters where there was no connection of kinship with her deceased husband. “She did not go after any young man, whether poor or rich.” She preferred, above all such, her first husband’s elderly “kinsman.” In the original the construction is peculiar—”in not going after the young men, whether a poor one or a rich one.” He does not simply mean that she was free from vagrant courses and desires. Her character lay, to his eye, on a far higher level His meaning is that she deliberately refrained from “thinking of any young man. The plural “young men” is to be accounted for on the principle that when an alternate is assumed or postulated, there is, in actual contemplation, a plurality of individuals.
Rth_3:11. And now, my daughter, fear not. Trembling with excitement, Ruth had done as she had been directed; and in the darkness of the night, the tremulous tones of her voice had informed Boaz of her anxiety. What he had hitherto said, contained no decision, but only praise. She, however, trembles for the answer to her prayer, on which so much depended. Hence, he says, again addressing her by the kindly name of daughter, “fear not.” As above he invoked on her, in Jehovah’s name, a full reward, because, led by love to Israel, she had trustfully come to take refuge under the wings of Israel’s God, so he will not deny her who has come to himself to ask for the protection of his “resting-place.” Her Moabitish nationality can offer no obstacle, since he has already commended her to the blessing of Jehovah. She has shown no Moabitish morals. There exists no ground whatever for denying her the rights of Israel. For the whole gate of my people knows that thou art a brave woman. In the words “my people,” he hints at the sole reason on which a refusal could base itself. But there is no Israelite among us in Bethlehem, who does not know how good thou art.20 Whatever thou hast a right to claim, can be unhesitatingly done for thee, for thou art loved by all.
And now, my daughter, fear not: all that thou sayest I shall do to thee, for it is on all hands known in the gate of my people that thou art a truly capable woman. The word חָיִל in the expression אֵשֶׁת חֱיִל is of many-sided import, and has no synonym in English, German, Latin, or Greek. But every side of its import brings into view one or other or more of such affiliated ideas as strength, force, forces, capability—whether mental and moral only, or also financial; competency, substantiality, ability, bravery. All who had taken notice of Ruth perceived that she was mentally and morally, as well as physically, a substantial and capable woman. She was possessed of force, both of mind and character. She was, in the New England sense, of the expression, a woman of “faculty. She was full of resources, and thus adequate to the position which, as Boaz’s wife, she would be required to fill. There was no levity about her, “no nonsense.” She was earnest, industrious, virtuous, strenuous, brave. There was much of the heroine in her character, and thus the expression connects itself with the masculine application of the distinctive and many-sided word, “a mighty man of valor.” The expression אֵשֶׁת חֲיִל occurs in Pro_12:4, where, in King James’s version, it is, as here and in Pro_31:10, translated ‘Ca virtuous woman”—”a virtuous woman is a crown to her husband.” But it is not so much to moral virtue that there is a reference as to that general capacity which consists in “large discourse, looking before and after” (‘Hamlet, ‘ Pro_4:4). Compare the masculine expression אַנְשֵׁי־חֲיִל in Exo_18:21, Exo_18:25, rendered, in King-James’s version, “able men,” and meaning capable or substantial men, who, however, as we learn from the additional characteristics that are specified, were to be likewise conspicuous for high moral worth. In Pro_31:10 there is the same reference to general capacity, as is evidenced by the graphic representation that follows—a representation that by no means exhausts itself in the idea of moral virtue. Ibn Ezra takes the whole soul out of the expression when he interprets it, both here and in Proverbs, as meaning “a woman possessed of riches.” When Boaz says, “All that thou sayest I will do to thee,” he means, “All that thou hast so winsomely and yet so modestly referred to in what thou didst say, I am prepared to do to thee. There was only one obstacle in the way, and that of a somewhat technical description. If that should be honorably surmounted, nothing would be more agreeable to Boaz s heart than to get nearer to Ruth “For,” said he, “it is on all hands known in the gate of my people that,” etc. Literally the phrase is, “for all the gate of my people know,” a strange inverted but picturesque mode of expression. It was not “the gate of the people,” but the people of the gate,” that knew.
Rth_3:12. But yet there is a redeemer nearer than I. These words teach us that what Ruth demanded was an actual objective right, which belonged to her. Although Boaz perhaps surmised that, apart from the consideration of her right, she applied with special confidence to himself for the boon desired, he modestly and considerately decides only on the question of her formal right. Her proceeding receives its unimpeachable justification only when putting aside every personal inclination, it simply regards the matter of right. Thy claim, he says, cannot be gainsaid; but I am not the one to whom it is to be directed in the first instance. There is another, who is more nearly related to Elimelech. But he does not leave her a moment in doubt, whether this be not an excuse for refusing her petition. If that other person prove not able to fulfill his duty, then he himself will do it. This he confirms with an oath by the living God. Nor will she be required to repeat the proceeding of this night. A noble, womanly heart—this is what his tenderness implies—does not dare to undertake such a mission more than once. He himself will prosecute the matter. The symbolic act with which she came to him, addressed itself not so much to him, individually, as through him to the whole family. Perhaps he knew very well that Naomi had for good reasons sent Ruth to his threshing-floor,—that the other relative would not be able to act as redeemer; but it is best for both Ruth and himself that due regard be had to formal right.
And now it is the case of a truth that while I am a kinsman, there is yet a kinsman nearer than I. Or the rendering might with greater brevity be given thus: And now of a truth I am a kinsman; and yet there is a kinsman nearer than I. The survivals of a very ancient style of elaborately-detailed composition are here preserved. The archaism, however, was not quite appreciated by the Mazorites, who, in accordance with the spirit of the age in which they flourished, took but little note of the philological development, historical and prehistorical, of the language they were handling. Hence they suppressed the אִם in K’ri, though faithfully preserving it in C’tib. The particles, standing up and semi-isolated, palaeolithic-wise, might be accounted for in some such way as is shown in the following paraphrase: “And now ‘that’ of a truth (it is the case) ‘that if’ I (am) a kinsman, and also there is a kinsman nearer than I.” Boas was of that strictly honorable cast of mind that he could not for a moment entertain any project that might amount to a disregard of the rights of others, even although these rights should fly violently in the teeth own personal desires.
Rth_3:13 ff. Abide here to-night; lie down until the morning. He repeats the same injunction twice. He cannot send her away in the darkness of night; nor is he afraid to let her remain. She, for her part, hears his words, and obeys, with equal confidence. But she is only to remain till earliest dawn. Before it was possible to recognize each other clearly, both were up; that it might not be known that the woman came into the floor. By an early departure, he hopes that Ruth may escape meeting with any one, who might put injurious suspicions into circulation. He undoubtedly speaks of “the woman,” with special emphasis. It would have been very unpleasant to Boaz to have people connect himself with any woman in a suspicious way; but scandalous rumors of this kind, with Ruth for their object, would have been exceedingly injurious. To say nothing of the fact that an undeserved stain would have been fixed on the good name of Ruth, it would have rendered it very difficult for him to prosecute her claims in Bethlehem.
Keil and Delitzsch
Boaz praised her conduct: “Blessed be thou of the Lord, my daughter (see Rth_2:20); thou hast made thy later love better than the earlier, that thou hast not gone after young men, whether poor or rich. ” Ruth’s earlier or first love was the love she had shown to her deceased husband and her mother-in-law (comp. Rth_2:11, where Boaz praises this love); the later love she had shown in the fact, that as a young widow she had not sought to win the affections of young men, as young women generally do, that she might have a youthful husband, but had turned trustfully to the older man, that he might find a successor to her deceased husband, through a marriage with him, in accordance with family custom (vid., Rth_4:10). “And now,” added Boaz (Rth_3:11), “my daughter, fear not; for all that thou sayest I will do to thee: for the whole gate of my people (i.e., all my city, the whole population of Bethlehem, who go in and out at the gate: see Gen_34:24; Deu_17:2) knoweth that thou art a virtuous woman.” Consequently Boaz saw nothing wrong in the fact that Ruth had come to him, but regarded her request that he would marry her as redeemer as perfectly natural and right, and was ready to carry out her wish as soon as the circumstances would legally allow it. He promised her this (vv. 12, 13), saying, “And now truly I am a redeemer; but there is a nearer redeemer than I. Stay here this night (or as it reads at the end of v. 13, ‘lie till the morning’), and in the morning, if he will redeem thee, well, let him redeem; but if it does not please him to redeem thee, I will redeem thee, as truly as Jehovah liveth.” אִם כִּי (Kethibh, v. 12), after a strong assurance, as after the formula used in an oath, “God do so to me,” etc., 2Sa_3:35; 2Sa_15:21 (Kethibh), and 2Ki_5:20, is to be explained from the use of this particle in the sense of nisi, except that, = only: “only I am redeemer,” equivalent to, assuredly I am redeemer (cf. Ewald, §356, b.). Consequently there is no reason whatever for removing the אִם from the text, as the Masorites have done (in the Keri).
(Note: What the ל maju sc., in לִינִי signifies, is uncertain. According to the smaller Masora, it was only found among the eastern (i.e., Palestinian) Jews. Consequently Hiller (in his Arcanum Keri et Ctibh, p. 163) conjectures that they used it to point out a various reading, viz., that לַנִּי should be the reading here. But this is hardly correct.)
Ruth was to lie till morning, because she could not easily return to the city in the dark at midnight; but, as is shown in Rth_3:14, she did not stay till actual daybreak, but “before one could know another, she rose up, and he said (i.e., as Boaz had said), It must not be known that the woman came to the threshing-floor.” For this would have injured the reputation not only of Ruth, but also of Boaz himself.
Keil and Delitzsch
“Boaz had gone up to the gate, and had sat down there.” This circumstantial clause introduces the account of the further development of the affair. The gate, i.e., the open space before the city gate, was the forum of the city, the place where the public affairs of the city were discussed. The expression “went up” is not to be understood as signifying that Boaz went up from the threshing-floor where he had slept tot the city, which was situated upon higher ground, for, according to Rth_3:15, he had already gone to the city before he went up to the gate; but it is to be explained as referring to the place of justice as an ideal eminence to which a man went up (vid., Deu_17:8). The redeemer, of whom Boaz had spoken – that is to say, the nearer relation of Elimelech – then went past, and Boaz requested him to come near and sit down. סוּר as in Gen_19:2, etc.: “Sit down here, such a one.” אַלְמֹנִי פְּלֹנִי, any one, a certain person, whose name is either unknown or not thought worth mentioning (cf. 1Sa_21:3; 2Ki_6:8). Boaz would certainly call him by his name; but the historian had either not heard the name, or did not think it necessary to give it.
Rth_4:1. And Boaz went up to the gate, and seated himself there. Very early, even before Ruth with her burden of barley had yet started for home (Rth_3:15), Boaz, energetic in deed as he was kind in word, took the way to Bethlehem. It was necessary to set out so early, in order to be sure of reaching the gate before the person with whom he wished to speak, and who like himself was probably in the habit of coming to the city from the country. The gate, it is well known, was the place where judicial business was transacted and markets were held (Deu_21:19 ff.; cf. Psa_127:5). This is still the case in the East. In Zec_8:16, the prophet says: “Judge truth and the judgment of peace in your gates;” on which Jerome (ed. Migne, vi. p. 1474) remarks: “It is asked, why among the Jews the gate was the place for administering justice. The judges sat in the gates that the country-people might not be compelled to enter the cities and suffer detriment. Sitting there, they could hear the townsmen and country-people as they left or entered the city; and each man, his business finished, could return at once to his own house.” At the gate was the proper forum; and it is certainly more satisfactory than all other explanations of the Latin word, to derive it, notwithstanding the later central situation of the place to which it was applied, from the archaic fora, gate, whence foras, cf. biforis, septiforis.
He took ten men – Probably it required this number to constitute a court. How simple and how rational was this proceeding!
1. The man who had a suit went to the city gates.
2. Here he stopped till the person with whom he had the suit came to the gate on his way to his work.
3. He called him by name, and he stopped and sat down.
4. Then ten elders were called, and they came and sat down.
5. When all this was done, the appellant preferred his suit.
6. Then the appellee returned his answer.
7. When the elders heard the case, and the response of the appellee, they pronounced judgment, which judgment was always according to the custom of the place.
8. When this was done, the people who happened to be present witnessed the issue.
And thus the business was settled without lawyers or legal casuistry. A question of this kind, in one of our courts of justice, in these enlightened times, would require many days’ previous preparation of the attorney, and several hours’ arguing between counsellor Botherum and counsellor Borum, till even an enlightened and conscientious judge would find it extremely difficult to decide whether Naomi might sell her own land, and whether Boaz or Peloni might buy it! O, glorious uncertainty of modern law!
Rth_4:2. He took ten men of the elders of the city. That the number of elders in any city was not necessarily limited to ten, may be inferred from Jdg_8:14; but ten were sufficient to form a college of witnesses. In post-biblical times it was a maxim that an assembly for religious worship (עֵדָה, “congregation”), must consist of ten persons (cf. the Jerus. Targum on Exo_12:4); but the attempt of the Mishna (Sanhedrin, 1:6) to ground this biblically on the supposed fact that the ten faithless spies are spoken of as a congregation (Num_14:27), can hardly be deemed satisfactory. The custom, however, of selecting exactly ten men for such service as was here required, was so old and well-established among the Jews, that the term מִנְיָן, “number,” by itself, meant ten persons. Others, it is true, as we learn further on, had assembled about the two relatives; but the ten elders formed, so to speak, the necessary official witnesses.
Every city was governed by elders (see Deu_19:12; Jdg_8:14). For the number “ten,” compare Exo_18:25. Probably the presence of, at least, ten elders was necessary to make a lawful public assembly, as among modern Jews ten (a minyon) are necessary to constitute a synagogue.
Rth_4:3. The inheritance of our brother Elimelech, Naomi has sold. The expositors, with one consent, demand by what right Naomi could sell the inheritance of Elimelech, since the Mosaic law contains nothing to indicate that it considered the widow as the rightful heir of her deceased husband. But this view of the law is incorrect. The whole system of leviratical marriage presupposes that the title of the deceased husband’s property vests in the widow. When a man dies childless, leaving a widow, the brother of the deceased is to marry her, in order “that the first-born may enter upon the name of the dead,” i.e. that the name of the dead may continue to be connected with the inheritance which he has left behind, for in no other sense can the expression “to raise up the name of one” have any meaning in Israel; and, accordingly, in Rth_4:5 the words of the law, “to raise up the name of the dead,” are supplemented by the addition, “upon his inheritance.” But in case the brother-in-law refused to marry the widow, and consequently refused to raise up the name of his brother, he thereby also gave up all right to enter on the inheritance of his brother. The duty and the right were indissolubly connected. The law would have been illusory, if the brother, notwithstanding his refusal to marry the widow, had obtained the inheritance. In that case, possession remained with the widow, who, albeit childless, carried within herself, so to speak, the embryonic right of the heir. Of the symbolical act of drawing off the shoe, we shall speak farther on. But it is to be noted here that when the widow drew off the shoe of the recusant brother-in-law, she thereby declared that he must withdraw his foot from the possessions of his brother.
Naomi was a widow. But although she herself says (Rth_1:12) that she is too old to become a wife, even this fact gives no right to her property to any blood-relative, without marriage. Undoubtedly, the name of her husband would vanish from his estate as soon as she died; but until then it remained upon it, and Naomi had the same right and power to dispose of the property as the law gave to the husband himself. Now, in Lev_25:25, we read: “If thy brother become impoverished and sell his possession, let his nearest blood-relative (גֹאֲלוֹ הַקָּרֹב) come to him, and redeem that which his brother sold.” This contingency was here actually come to pass. Naomi had become impoverished,—she had sold. The name of Elimelech was still on the property: consequently the law demanded its redemption, and directed this demand to the nearest blood-relative. It is on the basis of this prescription, that Boaz begins his negotiation with the unnamed kinsman, in the interest of Naomi.
The sale of the land had hitherto not been mentioned. Nothing was said about it in the conversation between Ruth and Boaz on the threshing-floor. The fact that Boaz knew of it, confirms the surmise that before Ruth came to him with her great request, he and Naomi had already had some communication with each other.
These communications, having reference to the sale of the land, and the necessity of its redemption according to law, may be regarded as having ultimately led to the proposition made by Naomi in Rth_3:1. Naomi advanced from the redemption of the land to that of the widow, just as Boaz does here in his negotiation with the nearer kinsman.
And he said to the kinsman, Naomi, who has returned from the land of Moab, has resolved to sell the portion of land which belonged to our brother Elimelech. Boaz, it is evident, had talked over with Ruth the entire details of Naomi’s plans, and could thus speak authoritatively. Naomi, we must suppose, had previously taken Ruth into full confidence, so that Boaz could learn at second- hand what in other circumstances he would have learned from Naomi herself. The verb which we have rendered “has resolved to sell,” is literally “has sold,” and has been so rendered by many expositors, inclusive of Riegler and Wright. The Syriac translator gives the expression thus, “has sold to me.” The subsequent context, however, makes it evident that the property had not been sold to any one, and consequently not to Boaz. The perfect verb is to be accounted for on the principle explained by Driver when he says, “The perfect is employed to indicate actions, the accomplishment of which lies indeed in the future, but is regarded as dependent upon such an unalterable determination of the will that it may be spoken of as having actually taken place: thus a resolution, promise, or decree, especially a Divine one, is very frequently announced in the perfect tense. A striking instance is afforded by Ruth (Rth_4:3) when Boaz, speaking of Naomi’s determination to sell her land, says מָכְרָה נָ’עמִי, literally, ‘has sold’ (has resolved to sell. The English idiom would be ‘is selling’)”. In King James’s English version the verb is thus freely rendered “selleth.” Luther’s version is equivalent—beut feil, “offers for sale;” or, as Coverdale renders it, “offereth to sell.” Vatable freely renders it as we have done, “has determined to sell” so Drusius (vendere instituit). The kind family feeling of Boaz, shining out m the expression, “our brother Ehmelech,” is noteworthy. “Brother” was to him a homely and gracious term for “near kinsman.”
According to the law Lev_25:25-28, if any Israelite, through poverty, would sell his possession, the next of kin (the גאל gā’al) had a right to redeem it by paying the value of the number of years remaining until the jubilee (see the marginal reference). This right Boaz advertises the גאל gā’al of, so as to give him the option which the law secured to him of redeeming “our brother Elimelech’s” land, i. e. our kinsman’s, according to the common use of the term brother, for near relation (see Gen_13:8; Gen_24:27; Lev_25:25; Num_27:4; Jdg_9:1).
Keil and Delitzsch
Boaz then called ten of the elders of the city as witnesses of the business to be taken in hand, and said to the redeemer in their presence, “The piece of field which belonged to our brother (i.e., our relative) Elimelech (as an hereditary family possession), Naomi has sold, and I have thought (lit. ‘I said,’ sc., to myself; cf. Gen_17:17; Gen_27:41), I will open thine ear (i.e., make it known, disclose it): get it before those who sit here, and (indeed) before the elders of my people.” As the field had been sold to another, getting it (קָנָה) could only be accomplished by virtue of the right of redemption. Boaz therefore proceeded to say, “If thou wilt redeem, redeem; but if thou wilt not redeem, tell me, that I may know it: for there is not beside thee (any one more nearly entitled) to redeem, and I am (the next) after thee.” הַיּשְׁבִים is rendered by many, those dwelling, and supposed to refer to the inhabitants of Bethlehem. But we could hardly think of the inhabitants generally as present, as the word “before” would require, even if, according to Rth_4:9, there were a number of persons present besides the elders. Moreover they would not have been mentioned first, but, like “all the people” in Rth_4:9, would have been placed after the elders as the principal witnesses. On these grounds, the word must be taken in the sense of sitting, and, like the verb in Rth_4:2, be understood as referring to the elders present; and the words “before the elders of my people” must be regarded as explanatory. The expression יִגְאַל (third pers.) is striking, as we should expect the second person, which is not only found in the Septuagint, but also in several codices, and is apparently required by the context. It is true that the third person may be defended, as it has been by Seb. Schmidt and others, on the assumption that Boaz turned towards the elders and uttered the words as addressed to them, and therefore spoke of the redeemer as a third person: “But if he, the redeemer there, will not redeem.” But as the direct appeal to the redeemer himself is resumed immediately afterwards, the supposition, to our mind at least, is a very harsh one. The person addressed said, “I will redeem.” Boaz then gave him this further explanation (Rth_4:5): “On the day that thou buyest the field of the hand of Naomi, thou buyest it of the hand of Ruth the Moabitess, of the wife of the deceased (Mahlon, the rightful heir of the field), to set up (that thou mayest set up) the name of the deceased upon his inheritance.” From the meaning and context, the form קניתי must be the second pers. masc.; the yod at the end no doubt crept in through an error of the pen, or else from a ו, so that the word is either to be read קָנִיתָ (according to the Keri) or קְנִיתֹו, “thou buyest it.” So far as the fact itself was concerned, the field, which Naomi had sold from want, was the hereditary property of her deceased husband, and ought therefore to descend to her sons according to the standing rule of right; and in this respect, therefore, it was Ruth’s property quite as much as Naomi’s. From the negotiation between Boaz and the nearer redeemer, it is very evident that Naomi had sold the field which was the hereditary property of her husband, and was lawfully entitled to sell it. But as landed property did not descend to wives according to the Israelitish law, but only to children, and when there were no children, to the nearest relatives of the husband (Num_27:8-11), when Elimelech died his field properly descended to his sons; and when they died without children, it ought to have passed to his nearest relations. Hence the question arises, what right had Naomi to sell her husband’s field as her own property? The Rabbins suppose that the field had been presented to Naomi and Ruth by their husbands (vid., Selden, de success. in bona def. c. 15). But Elimelech could not lawfully give his hereditary property to his wife, as he left sons behind him when he died, and they were the lawful heirs; and Mahlon also had no more right than his father to make such a gift. There is still less foundation for the opinion that Naomi was an heiress, since even if this were the case, it would be altogether inapplicable to the present affair, where the property in question was not a field which Naomi had inherited form her father, but the field of Elimelech and his sons. The true explanation is no doubt the following: The law relating to the inheritance of the landed property of Israelites who died childless did not determine the time when such a possession should pass to the relatives of the deceased, whether immediately after the death of the owner, or not till after the death of the widow who was left behind (vid., Num_27:9.). No doubt the latter was the rule established by custom, so that the widow remained in possession of the property as long as she lived; and for that length of time she had the right to sell the property in case of need, since the sale of a field was not an actual sale of the field itself, but simply of the yearly produce until the year of jubilee.
Consequently the field of the deceased Elimelech would, strictly speaking, have belonged to his sons, and after their death to Mahlon’s widow, since Chilion’s widow had remained behind in her own country Moab. But as Elimelech had not only emigrated with his wife and children and died abroad, but his sons had also been with him in the foreign land, and had married and died there, the landed property of their father had not descended to them, but had remained the property of Naomi, Elimelech’s widow, in which Ruth, as the widow of the deceased Mahlon, also had a share. Now, in case a widow sold the field of her deceased husband for the time that it was in her possession, on account of poverty, and a relation of her husband redeemed it, it was evidently his duty not only to care for the maintenance of the impoverished widow, but if she were still young, to marry her, and to let the first son born of such a marriage enter into the family of the deceased husband of his wife, so as to inherit the redeemed property, and perpetuate the name and possession of the deceased in Israel. Upon this right, which was founded upon traditional custom, Boaz based this condition, which he set before the nearer redeemer, that if he redeemed the field of Naomi he must also take Ruth, with the obligation to marry her, and through this marriage to set up the name of the deceased upon his inheritance.
Rth_4:9 f. And Boaz said, Ye are witnesses this day that I have acquired (do acquire), etc. The kinsman having drawn off his shoe, in token of his renunciation of his rights as nearest goel, Boaz arose, and declared, fully and formally, that he acquires everything that belonged to Elimelech, and (as is now expressed at full length) everything that belonged to Chilion and Mahlon. He acquires it from Naomi; but as he cannot acquire it without also marrying the wife of Mahlon, as Ruth is here for the first time called,—for which reason he made special mention of the possession of the sons,—he adds that he takes her “to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance, in order that his name be not cut off from among his brethren, and from the gate of his place.” In these words, he thoroughly, albeit indirectly, refuted the motive by which the anonymous kinsman was actuated in his refusal. When the name of a brother is to be rescued from oblivion among his own people, all scruples vanish. The fulfillment of a duty so pious, lifts a man up beyond the reach of fear. Boaz apprehends no damage to his own inheritance; but hopes rather, while taking Ruth under his wings, to repair the evil which the migration to Moab has inflicted upon the house of Elimelech. This pious magnanimity, this humble acceptance of duty, this readiness to act where the nearer kinsman hesitates, and this true insight of faith, which looked not at the birthplace of Ruth, but at what she had done for Israel and now was in Israel, and thus dissolved all superstitious fear in the divine wisdom of love, win for him also the approbation of all present. The public voice spoke well of Ruth; all knew how loving, virtuous, and self-sacrificing she was (cf. Rth_2:11; Rth_3:11). Hence, not only the elders who had been summoned as witnesses, but also all the people, unitedly invoked the blessing of God upon him.
Keil and Delitzsch
After the nearest redeemer had thus renounced the right of redemption with all legal formality, Boaz said to the elders and all the (rest of the) people, “Ye are witnesses this day, that I have acquired this day all that belonged to Elimelech, and to Mahlon and Chilion (i.e., the field of Elimelech, which was the rightful inheritance of his sons Mahlon and Chilion), at the hand of Naomi; and also Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, I have acquired as my wife, to raise up the name of the deceased upon his inheritance, that the name of the deceased may not be cut off among his brethren and from the gate of his people” (i.e., from his native town Bethlehem; cf. Rth_3:11). On the fact itself, see the introduction to Ruth 3; also the remarks on the Levirate marriages at Deu_25:5.
And likewise Ruth the Moabitess, wife of Machlon, have I acquired to myself to wife, to establish the name of the deceased upon his inheritance, so that the name of the deceased may not be cut off from among his Brethren, and from the gate of his place: ye are witnesses this day. This, to Boaz, would be by far the most delightful part of the day’s proceedings. His heart would swell with manly pride and devout gratitude when he realized, amid all the cumbrous technicalities of old Hebrew law, that Ruth was his. And he would rejoice all the more, as, in virtue of her connection with Machlon and Elimelech, both of their names would still be encircled with honor, and might, by the blessing of Yahveh, be linked on distinguishingly and lovingly to future generations. Note the expression, “that the name of the deceased may not be cut off from among his brethren, and from the gate of his place.” The people who assembled at the gate might on some future day be able to say, “This boy is the heir of Machlon and Elimelech, who once migrated to Moab.”
Keil and Delitzsch
And the neighbours said, “A son is born to Naomi,” and gave him the name of Obed. This name was given to the boy (the context suggests this) evidently with reference to what he was to become to his grandmother. Obed, therefore, does not mean “servant of Jehovah” (Targum), but “the serving one,” as one who lived entirely for his grandmother, and would take care of her, and rejoice her heat (O. v. Gerlach, after Josephus, Ant. v. 9, 4). The last words of Rth_4:17, “he is the father of Jesse, the father of David,” show the object which the author kept in view in writing down these events, or composing the book itself. This conjecture is raised into a certainty by the genealogy which follows, and with which the book closes.
Rth_4:17. They called his name, Obed. There are several noteworthy points connected with this. The female neighbors, in order to give pleasure to Naomi, give the child a name. But beside this, he doubtless received a name from his parents, probably one that belonged to the family. But that given by the women continued to be his usual name, and by it he was inserted into the family genealogy. Consequently, the idea enunciated in it must have been specially characteristic. The text says: “They gave him a name, namely, a son is born to Naomi;” and hence they called him Obed. Now, whether the name Obed be explained as servant of God or servant of Naomi, the sense in either case remains insipid. What the women mean is, not that the child is the servant of Naomi, but that he is to her as a son. If the words of Rth_4:17 are to have a plain sense; nay, if the preservation of just that name which the female neighbors gave him is to have an explanation, the name Obed must in some way express the idea of the word “son.” For in this name “son,” given with reference to Naomi, there is contained the idea that the sin which lay at the base of her evil fortune had been atoned for. She who lost the children of her own body, had now a son in the spirit of true love. It is true, that from the philological stores extant in the Bible, the explanation of Obed in the sense of “son” is not possible; but it may be done by the assistance of other languages. It is sufficiently clear that Obed is to be connected with the Greek παιδίον (παῖς, παιδός), Latin putus, Sanskrit pôta, putra, Persian puser.
The circumstance that Obed was used in the sense of “son,” justifies the conjecture that in the Hebrew of that day there were various foreign words in use, probably introduced through Aramaic influences, without postulating a closer contact of the so-called Semitic with the Indo-germanic tongues than is usually assumed.
He is the father of Jesse, the father of David. In these words the doctrine of the whole Book reaches its point of culmination. They point out the completion of the blessing pronounced on Ruth by Boaz. The name of the superstitious kinsman, who thought that marriage with the Moabitess would endanger his inheritance, is forgotten; but from Boaz descends the Hero (גִּבּוֹר חַיִל), the King of Poets, David, the Prophet, and type of the Messiah. Prom him Christ comes through the promise, even as Obed was the son of Naomi through the love of Ruth. The doctrine of the whole narrative is expressed in the words of the Apostle, “Love is the fulfilling of the law.”