Having attended many weddings, I can’t say I enjoy sitting through the all-too-familiar wedding ceremony. But there is one part of the ceremony that I actually do enjoy—when the couple shares with everyone the unique story of how they met, fell in love, and especially how they overcame the odds to be together.
The story of Boaz and Ruth has now reached a tipping point. Whether they will marry depends now on the decision of a third person, the nearer relative (Ruth 3:12–13). Boaz is not in control of the outcome.
Boaz is on a mission, a determined man. Wanting the matter to be settled quickly, he goes straight into town from the threshing floor, seeking out the man standing between him and Ruth. The “town gate” (4:1), the space between the town’s outer and inner walls and their gates, serves as both town hall and courthouse. It is the centre of city life, where business and civil matters are settled in the presence of the town’s elders (Deuteronomy 21:19; 22:15; 25:7; Proverbs 31:23, 31).
Boaz reaches the town square “just as the guardian-redeemer he had mentioned came along” (Ruth 4:1). This is not a coincidence. We have already seen how, “as it turned out”, Ruth happened to glean in Boaz’s field (2:3), and how, “just then” Boaz came to that same field at the same time (2:4). God’s providential hand is directing the drama.
The kinsman-redeemer has two separate duties concerning Elimelek’s estate. First, involving Naomi, he has to protect Elimelek’s property (Leviticus 25:25–28). Second, involving Ruth, he has to marry Mahlon’s widow to preserve the dead man’s name and family line (Deuteronomy 25:5–10). Mosaic law does not command that the levirate marriage be carried out together with the property redemption. But Boaz asks the nearer relative to do both things, which seems to be the accepted and honourable practice of the day. By linking the two, the man must be prepared to assume a double financial burden. Perhaps Boaz wants to push the limits to see how far the nearer relative would be willing to go. Perhaps this is part of Boaz’s negotiation strategy.
Boaz tactically raises the matter of land redemption first. Since Naomi does not have any more sons to inherit the property, the land will pass to the redemeer soon enough. Understandably, because it is to his financial advantage, the nearer relative immediately agrees to buy the property.
His reply, “I will redeem it” (Ruth 4:4), is bad news for Boaz. As a man of integrity, Boaz has dealt with the matter in an honourable way. Precisely because he wanted to do the right thing, he now finds himself at a disadvantage. Boaz now risks losing everything in this matter, including Ruth.
Boaz is determined to keep God’s law (Ruth 4:4) even if it is potentially disadvantageous for him. Would you obey God’s laws even though obedience would disadvantage you? Why or why not?
Did Boaz expect the nearer relative to assume the responsibility to redeem the land? Why or why not? What might Boaz be feeling when the man agrees to buy back the land for Naomi?