Boaz Settles the Matter
1 Now Boaz went up#tn The disjunctive clause structure (note the pattern vav [ו] + subject + verb) here signals the beginning of a new scene. to the village gate and sat there. Then along came the guardian#tn Sometimes translated “redeemer.” See the note on the phrase “guardian of the family interests” in 3:9. whom Boaz had mentioned to Ruth!#tn Heb “look, the guardian was passing by of whom Boaz had spoken.” Boaz said, “Come#tn Heb “turn aside” (so KJV, NASB); NIV, TEV, NLT “Come over here.” here and sit down, ‘John Doe’!”#tn Heb “a certain one”; KJV, ASV “such a one.” The expression פְלֹנִי אַלְמֹנִי (pÿloni ’almoni) is not the name of the nearest relative, but an idiom which literally means “such and such” or “a certain one” (BDB 811-12 s.v. פְלֹנִי), which is used when one wishes to be ambiguous (1 Sam 21:3; 2 Kgs 6:8). Certainly Boaz would have known his relative’s name, especially in such a small village, and would have uttered his actual name. However the narrator refuses to record his name in a form of poetic justice because he refused to preserve Mahlon’s “name” (lineage) by marrying his widow (see 4:5, 9-10). This close relative, who is a literary foil for Boaz, refuses to fulfill the role of family guardian. Because he does nothing memorable, he remains anonymous in a chapter otherwise filled with names. His anonymity contrasts sharply with Boaz’s prominence in the story and the fame he attains through the child born to Ruth. Because the actual name of this relative is not recorded, the translation of this expression is difficult since contemporary English style expects either a name or title. This is usually supplied in modern translations: “friend” (NASB, NIV, RSV, NRSV, NLT), “so-and-so” (JPS, NJPS). Perhaps “Mr. So-And-So!” or “Mr. No-Name!” makes the point. For discussion see Adele Berlin, Poetics and Interpretation of Biblical Narrative, 99-101; R. L. Hubbard, Jr., Ruth (NICOT), 233-35; F. W. Bush, Ruth, Esther (WBC), 196-97. In the present translation “John Doe” is used since it is a standard designation for someone who is a party to legal proceedings whose true name is unknown. So he came#tn Heb “and he turned aside” (so KJV, NASB); NRSV “And he went over.” and sat down. 2 Boaz chose ten of the village leaders#tn Heb “and he took ten men from the elders of the town.” and said, “Sit down here!” So they sat down. 3 Then Boaz said to the guardian,#tn Or “redeemer.” See the note on the phrase “guardian of the family interests” in 3:9. “Naomi, who has returned from the region of Moab, is selling#tn The perfect form of the verb here describes as a simple fact an action that is underway (cf. NIV, NRSV, CEV, NLT); NAB “is putting up for sale.”sn Naomi…is selling. The nature of the sale is uncertain. Naomi may have been selling the property rights to the land, but this seems unlikely in light of what is known about ancient Israelite property laws. It is more likely that Naomi, being a woman, held only the right to use the land until the time of her remarriage or death (F. W. Bush, Ruth, Esther [WBC], 202-4). Because she held this right to use of the land, she also had the right to buy it back from the its current owner. (This assumes that Elimelech sold the land prior to going to Moab.) Since she did not possess the means to do so, however, she decided to dispose of her rights in the matter. She was not selling the land per se, but disposing of the right to its redemption and use, probably in exchange for room and board with the purchaser (Bush, 211-15). If this is correct, it might be preferable to translate, “Naomi is disposing of her rights to the portion of land,” although such a translation presumes some knowledge of ancient Israelite property laws. the portion of land that belongs to our relative Elimelech. 4 So I am legally informing you:#tn Heb “and I said [or perhaps, “thought to myself”], ‘I will [or “must”] uncover your ear, saying’”; NAB “So I thought I would inform you”; NIV “I thought I should bring the matter to your attention.” Acquire it before those sitting here and before the leaders of my people!#tn The phrase “before those sitting here and before the leaders of my people” appears to refer to the leaders who were specially chosen as witnesses (v. 2) and the larger group of community leaders standing by. It is possible, however, that the phrases “before those sitting here” and “before the leaders of my people” are appositional and that both refer to the ten leaders mentioned in v. 2 (cf. NLT “in the presence of these witnesses”). If you want to exercise your right to redeem it, then do so.#tn Heb “if you will redeem, redeem” (KJV, NASB, NRSV all similar); NCV “If you want to buy back the land, then buy it.” But if not, then tell me#tn Heb “but if he will not redeem, tell me.” Most English versions emend the third person verb form (“he”) to the second person form because Boaz is addressing the closer relative. But it is possible that he briefly addresses the witnesses and refers to the closer relative in the third person. See J. M. Sasson, Ruth, 118. so I will know.#tn Following the imperative, the prefixed verb form with vav indicates purpose or result. For you possess the first option to redeem it; I am next in line after you.”#tn Heb “for there is no one besides you to redeem, and I am after you” (NASB similar). He replied, “I will redeem it.” 5 Then Boaz said, “When#tn Heb “in the day”; NASB, NIV “On the day.” you acquire the field#sn Acquire the field. This probably refers to the right to redeem and use the field. See the note on the word “selling” in v. 3. from Naomi,#tn Heb “from the hand of Naomi” (so NASB, NRSV). you must also#tc The MT וּמֵאֵת (ume’et) may be understood in two ways: (1) “and from” (vav conjunction “and,” plus preposition מִן [min] “from,” plus definite direct object marker אֵת) parallel to the preceding מִיַד (miyyad, “from [the hand of]”), suggesting the field would be purchased from Naomi and from Ruth; or (2) “and” (vav [ו] conjunction “and,” plus enclitic mem [ם], plus direct object marker [אֵת]) introducing the second part of the acquisition: the nearest kinsman would be acquiring the field and Ruth (for discussion see F. W. Bush, Ruth, Esther [WBC], 202). However, the BHS editors suggest reading גם את־ (“as well as…”; emphatic particle גם [“also”] and the definite direct object marker אֵת) introducing the second part of the acquisition: He would be acquiring the field and Ruth. This alternate reading is reflected in the Vulgate reading quoque (“and also”) and supported by parallel usage in v. 9, “I am acquiring the field from Naomi, and also (גָּם אֵת־, gam ’et) Ruth the Moabitess the wife of the deceased.” acquire Ruth the Moabite,#tc The MT (Kethib) reads קָנִיתִי (qaniti, “I acquire,” Qal perfect 1st person common singular): “When you acquire the field from the hand of Naomi, I acquire Ruth the Moabitess…” However, the marginal reading (Qere) is קָנִיתָה (qanitah, “you acquire,” Qal perfect 2nd person masculine singular, reflected in 2nd person masculine singular forms in Greek, Latin, Aramaic, and Syriac): “When you acquire the field from the hand of Naomi, you must also acquire Ruth the Moabitess…” The Qere is probably original because the Kethib is too difficult syntactically and contextually, while the Qere makes perfect sense: (1) Boaz stated in 3:13 that the nearest kinsman had the first right to acquire Ruth if he wanted to do so, and only the Qere reading here presents him with that option; and (2) Boaz announces in 4:9-10 that he was acquiring the field and Ruth as a package deal in 4:9-10, and only the Qere reading here presents the nearest kinsman with the same package deal. The Kethib probably arose by a scribe trying to harmonize 4:5 with the 1st person common singular form in 4:9-10 without fully understanding the ploy of Boaz in 4:5. See F. W. Bush, Ruth, Esther (WBC), 216-17. the wife of our deceased relative,#tc The presence of two difficult textual problems in this line (see two preceding notes) has produced a combination of four different ways in which this line can be rendered: (1) “When you acquire the field from Naomi, you must acquire [it] from Ruth the Moabitess the wife of the deceased” (KJV, NKJV); (2) “When you acquire the field from Naomi and from Ruth the Moabitess, you must acquire the wife of the deceased” (JPS, NJPS, NIV); (3) “When you acquire the field from Naomi, you must also acquire Ruth the Moabitess the wife of the deceased” (NASB, NCV, TEV, RSV, NRSV, NLT); and (4) “When you acquire the field from Naomi, then I acquire Ruth the Moabitess the wife of the deceased” (REB). The third option is adopted here. sn Our deceased relative. This refers to Mahlon, viewed as Elimelech’s heir. in order to preserve his family name by raising up a descendant who will inherit his property.”#tn Heb “in order to raise up the name of the deceased over his inheritance” (NASB similar); NRSV “to maintain the dead man’s name on his inheritance.” 6 The guardian said, “Then I am unable to redeem it, for I would ruin my own inheritance#sn I would ruin my own inheritance. It is not entirely clear how acquiring Ruth and raising up an heir for the deceased Elimelech would ruin this individual’s inheritance. Perhaps this means that the inheritance of his other children would be diminished. See R. L. Hubbard, Jr., Ruth (NICOT), 245-46. in that case. You may exercise my redemption option, for I am unable to redeem it.”#tn Heb “redeem for yourself, you, my right of redemption for I am unable to redeem.”sn Here it appears that the acquisition of Ruth along with the land was an obligatory package deal (“When you acquire the field from Naomi, you must also acquire Ruth…”). On the other hand, Boaz viewed marriage to Ruth as voluntary in 3:13 (“If he does not want to redeem you, I will redeem you”), and presented the acquisition of the field as voluntary in 4:4 (“If you want to exercise your right…but if not, tell me!”). Initially, Boaz makes the transaction appear to be a mere land deal in 4:4. When the nearest relative jumped at the land offer, Boaz confronted him with the attendant social/family obligation of marrying Ruth to raise up an heir for the deceased to inherit this very land. By conducting the transaction in public where the close relative would need to save face, Boaz forced him either to reject the offer entirely or to include Ruth in the deal – but he could not take the land and reject Ruth. Either way, Ruth would be cared for and Elimelech’s line continued. But if he took Ruth, the acquisition of the land would be more economically burdensome than beneficial, so he yielded his purchase option to Boaz. For discussion, see F. W. Bush, Ruth, Esther (WBC), 229-33. 7 (Now this used to be the customary way to finalize a transaction involving redemption in Israel:#tn Heb “and this formerly in Israel concerning redemption and concerning a transfer to ratify every matter.” A man would remove his sandal and give it to the other party.#tn Heb “a man removed his sandal and gave [it] to his companion”; NASB “gave it to another”; NIV, NRSV, CEV “to the other.” This was a legally binding act#tn Heb “the legal witness”; KJV “a testimony”; ASV, NASB “the manner (form NAB) of attestation.” in Israel.) 8 So the guardian said to Boaz, “You may acquire it,” and he removed his sandal.#tc The LXX adds “and gave it to him” (cf. TEV, CEV), which presupposes the reading ויתן לו. This seems to be a clarifying addition (see v. 7), but it is possible the scribe’s eye jumped from the final vav (ו) on נַעֲלוֹ (na’alo, “his sandal”) to the final vav (ו) on לוֹ (lo, “to him”), accidentally omitting the intervening letters. 9 Then Boaz said to the leaders and all the people, “You are witnesses today that I have acquired from Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech, Kilion, and Mahlon. 10 I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, the wife of Mahlon, as my wife to raise up a descendant who will inherit his property#tn Heb “in order to raise up the name of the deceased over his inheritance” (NASB similar). so the name of the deceased might not disappear#tn Heb “be cut off” (so NASB, NRSV); NAB “may not perish.” from among his relatives and from his village.#tn Heb “and from the gate of his place” (so KJV, ASV); NASB “from the court of his birth place”; NIV “from the town records.” You are witnesses today.” 11 All the people who were at the gate and the elders replied, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is entering your home like Rachel and Leah, both of whom built up the house of Israel! May#tn Following the jussive, the imperative with prefixed vav indicates purpose or result. you prosper#tn The phrase וַעֲשֵׂה־חַיִל (va’aseh-khayil, literally, “do strength”) has been variously translated: (1) financial prosperity: “may you become rich” (TEV), “may you be a rich man” (CEV), “may you achieve wealth” (NASB), “may you prosper” (NKJV, NJPS); (2) social prominence: “may you become powerful” (NCV), “may you have standing” (NIV), “may you be great” (NLT), “may you do well” (NAB); (3) reproductive fertility: “may you produce children” (NRSV); and (4) social activity: “may you do a worthy deed” (REB). in Ephrathah and become famous#tc Heb “and call a name.” This statement appears to be elliptical. Usually the person named and the name itself follow this expression. Perhaps וּקְרָא־שֵׁם (uqÿra’-shem) should be emended to וְיִקָּרֵא־שֵׁם (vÿyiqqare’-shem), “and your name will be called out,” that is, “perpetuated” (see Gen 48:16, cf. also Ruth 4:14b). The omission of the suffix with “name” could be explained as virtual haplography (note the letter bet [ב], which is similar to kaf [כ], at the beginning of the next word). The same explanation could account for the omission of the prefixed yod (י) on the verb “call” (yod [י] and vav [ו] are similar in appearance). Whether one reads the imperative (the form in the MT) or the jussive (the emended form), the construction indicates purpose or result following the earlier jussive “may he make.” in Bethlehem.#map For location see Map5-B1; Map7-E2; Map8-E2; Map10-B4. 12 May your family#tn Heb “your house” (so NAB, NASB, NRSV). become like the family of Perez#tn Heb “and may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, from the offspring whom the Lord gives to you from this young woman.”sn Perez is an appropriate comparison here, because (1) he was an ancestor of Boaz, (2) he was born to Tamar by a surrogate father (Judah) after the death of her husband, and (3) he had an unbroken line of male descendants extending over several generations (see vv. 18-22). – whom Tamar bore to Judah – through the descendants#tn Heb “from the seed” (KJV, ASV both similar); NASB, NIV “through the offspring”; NRSV “through the children.” the Lord gives you by this young woman.”
A Grandson is Born to Naomi
13 So Boaz married Ruth and had sexual relations with her.#tn Heb “and Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife and he went in to her.” Here the phrase “went in to her” (so NASB) is a euphemism for having sexual relations (cf. NCV); NLT “When he slept with her.” The Lord enabled her to conceive#tn Heb “gave her conception” (so KJV); NRSV “made her conceive”; NLT “enabled her to become pregnant.” and she gave birth to a son. 14 The village women said to Naomi, “May the Lord be praised because he has not left you without a guardian#tn Or “redeemer.” See the note on the phrase “guardian of the family interests” in 3:9. As the following context indicates, the child is referred to here. today! May he#tn The “guardian” is the subject of the verb, as the next verse makes clear. become famous in Israel!#tn Heb “may his name be called [i.e., “perpetuated”; see Gen 48:16] in Israel.” 15 He will encourage you and provide for you when you are old,#tn Heb “and he will become for you a restorer of life and a sustainer of your old age” (NASB similar). for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, has given him birth. She#tn Heb “who, she”; KJV “which is better to thee.” is better to you than seven sons!” 16 Naomi took the child and placed him on her lap;#tn Or “breast”; KJV, NRSV “in her bosom.” she became his caregiver.#tn Heb “his nurse,” but this refers to a dry nurse, not a medical attendant. Cf. NIV “and cared for him”; TEV “and took (+ good CEV) care of him.” 17 The neighbor women named him, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed.#tn The name “Obed” means “one who serves,” perhaps anticipating how he would help Naomi (see v. 15). Now he became the father of Jesse – David’s father!
Epilogue: Obed in the Genealogy of David
18 These are the descendants#tn Or “generations” (so KJV, NASB); NIV, NLT “family line.”sn The concluding genealogy demonstrates that the prayers of blessing made earlier were fulfilled. Boaz’s line did become like the line of Perez, and both Boaz and Obed became famous. God’s blessing upon Ruth and Boaz extended beyond their lifetime and immediate family, for their great descendant, David, became the greatest of Israel’s kings, and his descendant in turn, Jesus the Messiah, became greater still. of Perez: Perez was the father of Hezron, 19 Hezron was the father of Ram, Ram was the father of Amminadab, 20 Amminadab was the father of Nachshon, Nachshon was the father of Salmah, 21 Salmon#sn Salmon appears to be an alternate spelling of Salmah in the preceding line. was the father of Boaz, Boaz was the father of Obed, 22 Obed was the father of Jesse, and Jesse was the father of David.#sn The theological message of the Book of Ruth may be summarized as follows: God cares for needy people like Naomi and Ruth; he is their ally in this chaotic world. He richly rewards people like Ruth and Boaz who demonstrate sacrificial love and in so doing become his instruments in helping the needy. God’s rewards for those who sacrificially love others sometimes exceed their wildest imagination and transcend their lifetime.